What gives Iowa a great quality of life? Good schools, great jobs, access to health care, fun things to do, interesting places to go or safe neighborhoods?

They are all important to Iowans, but the most basic reason why Iowa is a great place to live is the commitment of individuals, businesses and communities.

Congressional Quarterly Press and other nonpartisan organizations consistently rank Iowa one of the most livable states. A new study from the University of Iowa's Public Policy Center found that Iowa children feel healthier, happier and safer than kids nationally.

The 2011 Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index ranks Iowa high for emotional and physical health. And when Iowans get sick, our communities offer good access to health care, prevention and treatment, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

In the Legislature, we're always looking for ways to make Iowa the very best place to live. This year, we approved efforts to:

• Invest in local communities, attractions and events. (SF 2316 )

• Increase opportunities for Iowa snowmobilers by improving and expanding trails. (HF 2467 )

• Promote hunting and fishing by lowering the cost and increasing convenience. (SF 2317 )

• Improve water quality and protect our water supply by providing $1 million for watershed improvement projects by local organizations. (HF 2465 )

• Close 18 agricultural drainage wells that allow pollution into our groundwater and aquifers. (HF 2336 )

• Support local food production and distribution. (HF 2336 )

• Help disabled farmers use modifications so they can to operate equipment and continue farming. (HF 2336 )

• Provide safe, stable homes for children and families at risk by supporting adoption, foster care, childcare and other key services. (SF2336 )

• Assist those hit hardest by the recession with support for health care providers who work with low-income Iowans and programs that help families achieve self-sufficiency. (SF2336 )

• Help more Iowans keep their homes by requiring banks and other mortgage holders to inform homeowners about mortgage mediation from the Attorney General's office. (HF 2335 )

• Protect Iowans and reputable businesses from "stormchasers," the home repair scammers who follow natural disasters from state to state. (SF 466 )

• Protect consumers and businesses by ensuring subcontractors get paid for their work and homeowners are not charged double if a general contractor fails to pay a subcontractor. (HF 675 )

• Maintain our state's nationally recognized court system, which provides efficient, high-quality legal services to Iowans. (HF 2338 )

If you have suggestions for how I can work next session to make Iowa a better place to live, work and raise a family, please call or e-mail me.

Additional information

This is a legislative update from Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm, representing Allamakee, Chickasaw, Howard & Winneshiek counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/wilhelm .

To contact Senator Wilhelm during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise she can be reached at home at 563-547-4156. E-mail her at mary.jo.wilhelm@legis.iowa.gov.

Senator Wilhelm is chair of the Local Government Committee and vice-chair of the Human Resources Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Education, and Economic Growth committees, as well as the Agriculture & Natural Resources Budget.