Capitol Comments by Rep. Curt Hanson
State Rep. Curt Hanson, represents Iowa House District 82, which includes most of Jefferson County and Davis and Van Buren counties, in the state Legislature.
Budget bills were a big part of debate at the Capitol this week.
We passed three (Justice Systems, Economic Development, and Agriculture and Natural Resources) of the 11 budget bills necessary before we may adjourn.
The funding of agriculture, education and human services are but some of the important budget areas we must address before adjournment. People have wide agreement that the services funded by these budgets are important for Iowans. The challenge is to find the balance of improving the quality of life in Iowa, while meeting the competition of a world market.
Often our views are shaped by today’s electronic media, which is very different from the print media many of us read in the past. When I view this new media, now joined by computer blogs, I am reminded of President John F. Kennedy who said, “In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”
The Economic Development Budget (HF 2460) passed on a 97-2 vote and includes funds for the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department of Economic Development, Workforce Development and the Regents Economic Development activities. I was disappointed that an amendment calling for an investigation of noncash or check payment of wages was defeated. I do not think an employee should have to pay to get paid!
The Justice Systems Budget (HF 2450) passed on a 52-47 vote. A wide range of justice related departments are included in this budget including the funding of the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections. I favor increased funding for our state troopers and this budget includes that funding. However, this budget does not include funding to increase the number of prison guards. Correctional officers (prison guards) tell us that our prisons are understaffed and the guards feel the understaffing has reached very dangerous levels. It is common sense that when you place more criminals in prison more guards are needed. I voted against this bill because I think we can develop a better budget that will reduce the risk of a prison incident.
Finally, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget (HF 2458) passed the House on a 71-27 vote. This bill had many amendments which attempted to improve this bill. I feel this bill underfunds our farmers in their efforts to improve soil and water quality. The REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) fund, a widely popular fund in both the Ag and Urban Communities, received a status quo funding in this budget. When looking at the details of this budget I found that money is removed from REAP to fund others areas. This “scooping of funds” means the real available funding is less than last year.
I received many emails sharing concern about the transparency or lack of transparency in this bill. I did not feel the language offered was a good balance between the public right to knowledge and the protection of important business information. I will continue to look for improved language that accomplishes the goal of improving water quality while not being overly restrictive of the important research coming from the Water Quality Initiative. I am concerned secrecy in Iowa’s government is becoming commonplace.
Amendment after amendment, that offered greater opportunity for our agriculture community to proceed with soil and water cost share programs, fell by the wayside in this debate. During the debate, it was pointed out that this year our farmers are in a favorable financial position to utilize many of these programs that offer taxpayers a great return on their funding. Should a possible commodity market decline occur, many of our producers may be in a less favorable position to take advantage of cost share programs designed to improve soil and water quality.
I have written about the concerns I share with many in our area about the possible spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
CWD is a contagious, infectious, always fatal disease found in deer and is now confined to a hunting preserve located near Drakesville and several other Iowa sites. These preserves are now under quarantine. However, a recent court appeal brings the continuation of the quarantine into question. Many are concerned that should CWD spread, there will be destructive economic impact on areas in Iowa that are considered premier deer hunting spots. Will hunters wish to hunt sick deer? I offered a bipartisan amendment to a bill, endorsed by members of both parties in our area. This amendment offered clear and concise language allowing the continuation of the quarantine. The majority speaker ruled the amendment non-germane by saying that just because the amendment is relevant does not mean it is germane. In short, the amendment was thrown out and no vote was taken on the containment of CWD.
Even though there were many good provisions, I feel the overall bill falls short of what Iowans expect. Therefore, I voted against final passage of the bill. It is expected that the Senate will rewrite this budget and we will again debate their version upon its return to the House.
I was pleased to see so many visitors at the Capitol this week.
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association hosted a lunch in the Capitol, and I was able to meet with Leonard Harris, Dan Delany and Sparky Wellman who represented the Cattlemen’s Association of our area.
Students, faculty, and trustees from the Indian Hills Community College also visited the Capitol and co-hosted a breakfast.
Community colleges are an important part of the education of our youth and the advanced training necessary for many to gain new skills needed for today’s job market.
The University of Iowa highlighted programs available on their campus on Wednesday. I was pleased to welcome Melanie Roth, a Fairfield resident, now attending the Dental College at the University of Iowa, to the Capitol.
I continue to read reports of Iowa economic optimism, including increased job opportunities. As the weather improves the construction industry will again be full of activity with associated job opportunities.
I will hold the last public forums of this legislative session on Saturday, April 12. I hope you will be able to join me at the Village Cup and Cakes in Keosauqua at 9 a.m. or the Rancho Centinela in Bloomfield at noon to share your ideas and concerns.
Contact Hanson anytime by email at email@example.com or by phone at 641-919-2314.
Hanson serves on the House Agriculture and Education, Natural Resources committees, as well as the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.