When Iowa lawmakers kick off their legislative session on Monday, Jan. 13, they won’t be the first to have filled their seats this year.

A group of 100 Iowans from across the state met last weekend for the biannual REAP Congress, at which regional representatives develop their recommendation to the Legislature and governor regarding the Resource Enhancement and Protection program.

REAP is funded out of the Environment First Fund, which is filled by state gambling receipts and invests in hundreds of projects each year statewide.

The state is broken into regions. Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, Jones and Jackson counties make up Region 8. Residents of each region gathered in November to elect their delegates.

Dubuque County residents elected Jared McGovern, curator of conservation programs at National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque.

“What I carried into this was more or less what was talked about there (at the assembly),” he said. “I did a ton of more research into it, but the recommendations I was speaking on were what Region 8 put forward.”

Those priorities lined up with those of most of the other representatives at REAP Congress. Not surprisingly, the consensus was strong support of the program.

“The only negative was we’re not doing enough,” he said. “The people in that room don’t have different feelings when it comes to public lands. The people in that room love REAP and have only seen the benefits. Many have benefited from REAP and their work, whether they are working for the county conservation board network, city representatives, historical development, myself working at the museum and aquarium.”

REAP sunsets in 2021, so lawmakers could extend the program, roll it into another funding stream or let it die.

The REAP Congress’ recommendations including funding the program at a minimum of $20 million annually, removing the sunset date and funding the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Iowa Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, said he hopes that this year the group won’t stop with just that meeting.

“My question would be, is there going to be any organization moving forward?” he asked. “Is someone from the congress going to come to the Legislature and get in some faces? Are they going to fight for it? It’s going to take the people coming up here.”

Ernst, Duckworth tackle sexual misconduct in Coast Guard

Two area U.S. senators with military backgrounds have introduced a bipartisan bill to address sexual assault and retaliation in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa — veterans both — responded to reports of increased sexual assault and harassment claims at the Coast Guard Academy and what a press release called “a lack of leadership in regards to the Coast Guard’s handling of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.”

“The recent reports of sexual misconduct and harassment at the Coast Guard and its academy are alarming and unacceptable,” Ernst said in the release. “We must do better for the Iowans, and all Americans, who choose to serve and protect our country.”

Duckworth added, “For too long, our military has failed to adequately protect women and men from sexual misconduct and assault. As a former commander, I am committed to pushing for meaningful, effective reforms that prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place.”

Finkenauer seeks protection for mobile home residents

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, sent a letter last week to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons calling for an investigation into the “predatory and unfair business practices” occurring at Table Mound Mobile Home Park and other mobile and manufactured home parks in Iowa, according to a release.

This follows months of reports from Table Mound residents that out-of-state owners Impact MHC Management LLC bought the parks in Dubuque County, then promptly significantly hiked rent and instituted other rate increases.

Endorsements

The campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg announced several area endorsements last week. Among those endorsing him were Marquette Mayor Steve Weipert, Clayton County Democrats Chairman Brian Bruening, Elkader City Council Member Edward Josten and Maquoketa City Council Members Erica Barker and Nathan Woodward.

Calendar

• 12:30 p.m. today — Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Reps. Ami Bera and Lou Correa, both of California, will be featured at a “We Know Joe” event at the Biden for President Dubuque office, 799 Main St., Suite 100, that is part of Joe Biden’s campaign. The former vice president will not be present. Doors open at noon. People interested in attending should RSVP at https://bit.ly/2TfyBh1.

• 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 — Indivisible Dubuque will host its fourth annual Women’s March at Steeple Square, 101 E. 15th St. in Dubuque. A press release states that attendees will include Iowa Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate Kimberly Graham, Theresa Greenfield, Eddie Mauro and Cal Woods. The event also will feature live music, an information table for nonprofits and vendor tables for women-owned businesses.