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Governor Reynolds signals her priorities for 2019 session

Statehouse reporter Caroline Cummings sits down with Governor Kim Reynolds ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session.

Governor Kim Reynolds will detail her legislative priorities for the 2019 session during her forthcoming Condition of the State address, but she hinted during an interview Wednesday that workforce development, mental health and criminal justice reforms are on the table.

Reynolds, who recently secured her first, full-year term, said she wants to build off policies set in place by Iowa lawmakers during the 2018 session. The GOP successfully maintained control over both chambers of the legislature after the 2018 elections.

“Last year we talked about unleashing opportunities and I think this will be the year to really start and enact some of that. It’s time for action. We have the policy in place, the foundation," Reynolds said.

She said her number one priority is fully funding and implementing the "Future Ready Iowa" program aimed at getting 70% of Iowa's workers training or education beyond high school by 2025. The bill passed unanimously in 2018.

“That’s probably our biggest barrier to economic development. We’re hearing really positive comments from business and industry, we just need people," she said.

Sweeping mental health reform got unanimous support from both parties last year—now the lawmakers need to find a sustainable funding source to get the services up and running and maintain them, Reynolds said.

“Now we need to make sure the funding is there for the requirements that we put on the regions to have implemented by 2021 so I know that’s a big part of my conversation with the legislature this session," Reynolds said, declining to offer specifics about how the funding structure should modified. Right now, mental health programs are funded largely by local property tax dollars.

Reynolds is also eyeing building a children's mental health system, after establishing a state board in April to look at the issue. That group gave her a list of recommendations in November, but Reynolds declined to give more details on the plan she said she'll announce during her Condition of the State address Tuesday.

"I appreciate the work they did on the board. I think we had the right stakeholders at the table, the right expertise. We’ve been talking about it for a long time so it’s really important we start to take the next steps," Reynolds said.

The governor also said criminal justice reforms are on the table and signaled restoring voting rights for felons could be one of them, though she didn't provide specifics. Iowa and Kentucky are the only two states that require the governor restore rights on an individual basis.

She also will push over-the-counter birth control access without a prescription.

The legislature will convene Monday; Reynolds will address lawmakers Tuesday for her Condition of the State.

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