Legislature convenes for another year
The 87th General Assembly opened with the usual pomp and circumstance – the chamber was packed and there was much buzz about. I was pleased to have my daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters in attendance.
As we embark on the 2017 legislative session, uncertainty reigns in both DC and Des Moines, but I hope the divisiveness and political posturing that rules DC can be avoided here. There is much to be done and I stand ready and willing to work with the majority party to make progress for all Iowans again.
This year my committee assignments include Agriculture, Education, Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. A short meeting of each committee was held and in addition to introductions of committee members and others in the room, parliamentary rules of order were adopted by each committee. On Thursday I was able to meet with Fairfield visitors Robbie Gongwer and Newlin Wilkins from Ideal Energy. I learned that their business has been expanding far beyond their expectations. Fairfield is a leader in solar energy and Ideal Energy has been recognized nationally. I believe alternative energy will play an important part in our future.
The governor gave his condition of the State speech on Tuesday. He highlighted our low unemployment rate with a record high percentage of Iowans working. He also spoke of the successful efforts of Bloomfield and Davis County to rebuild their community after the devastating farm crisis and bank collapse of the 1980s. He reported that wind power now produces 35 percent of our electrical needs and renewable fuels are an important part of our economy.
While our economy continues to grow, the growth is not as large as expected; therefore, it is necessary to cut our budget to avoid a budget deficit. The Governor recommended budget cuts to both Universities and Community Colleges while avoiding cuts to K-12 education and Medicaid.
The Governor spoke of the need to increase the education of Iowa’s workforce. His goal is to have 70 percent of the workers in Iowa educated beyond high school. Much of our advanced manufacturing companies will be searching for employees with a science and computer background.
On Wednesday, we heard Chief Justice Cady give the Condition of the Judiciary address. His theme was that we must not let justice become available to only the rich. Many of the court programs now in use are keeping adults out of prison and on the job. Drug abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence are often the top reasons people are involved in the court system. Early intervention by the court system has kept 329 fewer violators out of prison and has saved the Iowa taxpayers an estimated $22 million.
Chief Justice Cady reported the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now ranks Iowa civil courts as fourth best in the county. This ranking indicates Iowa has a business friendly civil court system. Justice Cady concluded his speech with this summary, without proper investment in our Iowa Court system we will see an increase in our prison expenses.
– 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.