Area legislators update constituents
Four area legislators updated their constituents on the first week of the 2013 Iowa Legislative session during the first installment of the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast series Saturday morning at the Fairfield Best Western Fairfield Inn.
Rep. Curt Hanson of Fairfield pointed out 37 new legislators are in Des Moines this year, so it will take a while for everyone to get settled.
“Last week wasn’t very interesting … a rehash of last year,” said Sen. Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa.
Hanson told the chamber members, their spouses and their guests, including several Fairfield and Maharishi high school students, he expects the top issues this year to be education reform, commercial property tax reform and mental health reform.
Rep. Dave Heaton said he doesn’t think the education reform will pass exactly as Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed.
“There are some things we need to talk about before we pass an education bill,” he said.
Those issues, Heaton continued, include the “domino effect.”
The domino effect, he explained, is if a beginning teacher’s salary is set by the state as $35,000, every other teacher’s salary has to go up, also.
“Where is that salary coming from?” he asked, pointing out that even a 4 percent allowable growth increase from the state wouldn’t cover the cost.
Heaton and Sen. Rich Taylor, both of Mount Pleasant, are concerned about early childhood education.
Taylor said children should start preschool as early as age 3, and that preschool should be equally available to children from all economic backgrounds.
“Where is the focus on reading?” asked Heaton. He said reading is the building block of all future learning and students should be at a certain level by third grade or they should not be promoted.
Hanson said Iowa needs to look at education with an entirely different view.
“We’re not just in competition with Mount Pleasant any more, but the whole world,” he said, adding if Iowa can’t compete globally, its jobs, economy and security will suffer.
Heaton is hoping the Iowa legislators’s approach to property tax relief is better than it was last year.
Lance Yedersberger, founder and president of LISCO, a local telecommunications company based in Fairfield, told the legislators commercial property tax is a big issue.
“We made a big investment [installing high-speed internet infrastructure] that benefits the state of Iowa and then got penalized for it … our taxes went up four or five times higher,” he said.
Chelgren said there is a punitive tax structure for those who invest in the infrastructure of Iowa, and he has invited Yedersberger to speak to legislators in Des Moines about it.
“We took a 20 percent pay cut twice,” said Yedersberger. “You guys need to work together. You guys fighting up there makes no sense.”
“You can’t be so hard driven in the line that you don’t get anything done,” added Fairfield Middle School teacher Lisa Greenig.
The chamber is planning two more Legislative Breakfasts: at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 16 and March 16 at the Best Western Fairfield Inn. Reservations are required by contacting Lori Knox at the chamber at 472-4166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.