The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Session report for week 2.
After I finished work Thursday, I hurried back to Fairfield for my wife’s birthday. The weekend was packed full with the party, constituent work, the Fairfield Chamber Forum, as well as attending a wonderful performance of the “Dallas Brass” at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. It was a return trip to Fairfield for the “Dallas Brass” after about a 20 year absence. Their performance was outstanding and was enjoyed by a nearly packed house.
After the Martin Luther King holiday, the House convened and committee work resumed Tuesday.
I was pleased to meet with three area Soil and Water Conservation Committee members from the area. Jeani Leyden of Davis County and Jeff Fritz and Rachel Engwall of Jefferson County joined me at the Agriculture Committee meeting where we heard an overview of the work of county soil and water conservation committees as well as their budget requests for next year. The presentation stressed the importance of no-till cultivation and the use of cover crops.
I was surprised to learn that radishes and turnips are excellent cover crops because of their deep root systems. Of course, the importance of waterways, terraces, filter strips, sediment basins, and contour buffers also were discussed.
Tuesday evening was spent in committee listening to Director of Education, Dr. Jason Glass, present the governor’s education reform proposal. The proposal covers many different aspects of reform.
My concern is the improvement of rural Iowa schools. In rural Iowa, our schools must offer competitive professional opportunities as well as competitive salaries for staff. Without such opportunities, urban schools will simply rake the best teachers and leave rural Iowa the rest.
Without quality schools, our communities will suffer further economic hardships.
Wednesday morning I chaired a subcommittee dealing with the purchasing of school buses. If schools in Iowa pool their bus bids and ask manufactures for a bid on 300 or 400 busses, the savings will be considerable compared to the cost of a school district seeking a bid on one or two busses.
I’m happy to report that this bill will now advance to the full Education Committee for debate.
I would like to recognize Fred McElwee of Fairfield, Danny Roberts of Bloomfield, and Danny Thede of Indianola. Their leadership in promoting this legislation, if enacted, should save taxpayers a considerable amount of money.
Wednesday was Veterans Day at the Capitol and the Rotunda was filled with veterans. I spoke briefly with Karen Riggle Ruppert, Central Point Coordinator of Van Buren County, regarding mental health reform issues. Karen wears many hats and helping Van Buren County veterans is an important part of her work.
Wednesday afternoon the Natural Resources Committee heard from acting Department of Natural Resources Director, Chuck Gipp. Gipp gave us an overview of the workings of the DNR including a brief update on the status of the cases of Chronic Deer Wasting Disease control in Iowa.
CWD was first found on a hunting preserve near Drakesville. In addition to the depopulation of the preserve, the DNR hopes to test 500 samples of deer harvested within a five-mile radius of the preserve.
Hunting and fishing licenses, park improvements and woodland health also were covered.
We hope to diversify the tree species in Iowa. It is well-known that our forests and trees face an increasing array of diseases. Emerald Ash Borer and Oak Leak Wilt — a problem in a Fairfield City Park — are among the diseases we must deal with.
We must not wait until a disease as devastating as “Dutch Elm Disease” destroys our trees before we start planting a variety of trees.
After a working lunch dealing with education reform, the Agriculture Committee met briefly to assign bills. This meeting was followed by an Education Committee meeting.
Glass presented his thoughts and concerns for the future of education in Iowa.
In Iowa, only 21.1 percent of our students go on to earn a bachelor degree. This percentage is lower than surrounding states.
In his “State of the State” speech, the governor reported Iowa family income was rising, however, Glass reported that 47 percent of Iowa students live in poverty and receive free or reduced school fees and lunches.
In our area, schools report that 33.4 to 62.7 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch programs.
Iowa schools of today face challenges unforeseen just five or 10 years ago. Today’s teachers deserve our respect and admiration; never before have the challenges and changes they face daily been so great or occurred so rapidly, and the same can be said of parenting today.
Thursday morning I was pleased to meet John Munford of Farmington. He is the son of Marty and Grettel Munford. John is a page in the Iowa House. Pages who serve the members of the Iowa House are a very select group of young men and women. Serving as a page offers a wonderful educational opportunity that will serve them well in life.
The Education Appropriations Subcommittee met Thursday morning. This committee oversees a very large and important budget funding for the Regents institutions, community colleges, the Department of Education, and the state libraries among others. This committee does not directly fund kindergarten through high school education.
At the committee meeting, we began analysis of the governor’s proposed funding of the various universities, colleges and other institutions funded by this budget.
At a working lunch I attended, an educational meeting was highlighted by speakers from the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Soybean Growers Association and Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance. All three speakers stressed the goal of improving Iowa’s water quality by the reduction of phosphorus, nitrogen, sediment and other pollutants into Iowa’s waterways, while at the same time, maintaining the productivity of Iowa farms.
We must protect the resources we use to meet current needs without damaging the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Information about planting a second cover crop and the construction of bio-reactors (bio-filters) also was presented.
We must continue to encourage the voluntary adoption of measures to protect our waterways, and expand the education programs that lead to clean water supplies for our childrens’ children.
I hope to see a number of you at the Ottumwa Bridgeview Forum beginning at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 2.
Feel free to keep in contact with me. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 641-919-2314.