The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Session report for week 1.
The 85th Iowa General Assembly convened Jan. 14. Serving the people of my district and Iowa is an honor and a responsibility I take very seriously. After the swearing-in ceremony concluded we listened to speeches from both party leaders. Iowa is one of three states with a divided legislature. Clearly, Iowans, in my opinion, don’t wish to place all of their political eggs in one basket! Iowans expect people to work together and steer this state forward along a path, which avoids problems that may take the bus across the centerline or into the ditch.
Very early in the day we passed a resolution honoring Iowa utility workers who traveled to the east coast to aid people and communities suffering from hurricane “Sandy.” The day concluded with a joint Senate-House caucus that allowed us to introduce ourselves and meet other legislators and legislative staff.
Tuesday, we met in a joint session to listen to the governor’s “State of the State” speech. The governor praised our balanced budget. He said Iowa is in the best financial position in the history of Iowa. He reported that Iowa has a 4.9 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in four years. Iowa is emerging as a leader of the states in the new global economy. Our agricultural sector and the electronic sector of the Iowa economy were cited as glowing examples of Iowa’s economic recovery. The governor reported that Iowa families are experiencing the second highest income growth rate in the nation.
The governor’s priorities include a reduction of commercial property taxes and reforming education to meet the world challenges and provide the skilled workers necessary in today’s work force. In his travels around the state he has found, as I have found, business and industry are ready to hire employees only to find that qualified workers are not available. The governor stated that we are in a “knowledge-based global economy,” and Massachusetts is now No.1 in education of its children. He spoke of the fine job teachers are doing while working under a system designed for last century – a system that is simply inadequate for this century and the global challenges of today! We must work together to transform this system to meet today’s needs.
The governor concluded his “State of the State” speech by saying, “We stand at a place in history where many other states are burdened with debt and looming uncertainty while Iowa is well positioned for unprecedented growth. While some states across this country are choking the opportunities right out of their states through over-taxation and over-regulation, Iowa is like a lighthouse, beaming a bright light of opportunity to those seeking a better life within our borders.”
Tuesday evening I met with Rural Electrical Cooperatives directors from Access Energy, Southern Iowa Electrical Cooperative and Chariton Valley Electrical Cooperative. It was a pleasure to meet with people from my area and discuss their concerns about providing affordable power to area residents.
Wednesday morning I learned from the Department of Natural Resources that the de-population of deer at the Hunting Preserve near Drakesville is ahead of schedule. It was reported to me that only two deer remain within the preserve. As many of you know, the preserve has been contaminated with Chronic Wasting Disease, a highly contagious disease affecting only deer. The DNR’s plan is to contain this disease on the preserve and prevent the infection of the wild deer herd.
I also spoke with Rep. Jorgenson, chairman of the House Education Committee, regarding a school bus purchasing bill I have introduced. This bill, if passed, will allow local school districts to save money when purchasing school busses.
Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court spoke to a joint session of the legislature on Wednesday. In his State of the Judiciary speech he said, “Iowans can do great things when we work together.”
Justice Cady listed the priorities of the judiciary as: the protection of Iowa children, full-time access to justice, provide faster and less costly resolution of legal disputes, be open and transparent, and provide fair and impartial justice for all. The Chief Justice said that justice delayed is justice denied. The delay of justice costs businesses money and often causes even greater problems for families. He also spoke of the success of family drug courts that target families with parents who have substance-related disorders.
Justice Cady reported that the Judicial Branch of government is operated as any efficient, successful business or organization would operate, and must pay competitive salaries to judges and magistrates that reward superior performance, sustain committed service, and compete in the marketplace. Adequate employee compensation is essential in any successful operation, including the operation of our courts. In short, he asked the legislature to adequately fund the judicial branch of government!
Wednesday evening at an Iowa Association of Business and Industry function, I met informally with business leaders from the Fairfield area including representatives from Agri-Industrial Plastics and the Cambridge Investment Research Company. We had the opportunity to discuss several ideas and concerns of many people in the district.
Thursday morning I spoke to Ottumwa and Fairfield area staff from the Department of Corrections and the Board of Educational Examiners before the session gaveled in. The day included a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee and the concern many of us have regarding the possible spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. It is important that we do all we can to prevent the spread of this disease to the wild deer herd. The day concluded with a meeting regarding the quality of water in Iowa. We are making progress but we still have a long way to go to achieve the purity of the creeks and streams of my youth.
I plan to hold Saturday forums and coffees nearly every Saturday during the session.
Please check your local paper for the next meeting. You may email me at Curt.Hanson@legis.iowa.gov or call me at 641-919-2314 or home at 641-472-3349.