The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Week 8 (March 4-8) in Iowa Legislative session.
The weekend was filled with the Ottumwa area legislative forum, the annual Louden Credit Union banquet and the New Shanghai Circus. It was nice to see so many old friends at the banquet. I then rushed over to join my wife for the gymnastic and acrobatic performance at the Sondheim theater. It was a sellout crowd of young and old. The feats these young men and women performed were amazing.
Monday morning I toured the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation Laboratory. This laboratory provides vital services for law enforcement agencies all over the state. The Iowa DCI acts in much the same capacity as popular crime television shows, such as NCIS.
Early Tuesday morning, the rural caucus discussed watersheds and the need to reduce nitrate and phosphorus pollution of our streams and lakes. Generally, nitrates move with water and phosphates move with the soil. We looked at several watersheds in northeast Iowa that have experienced impressive improvements through cooperative efforts of area people. In the Natural Resource Committee, we discussed several bills. One bill, dealing with the tracking of a wounded deer by tracking dogs, turned out to be controversial as we learned of other hunter’s concerns that barking dogs may scare deer away, and landowner concerns about dogs and their handlers entering private property.
I learned that as the first funnel date nears, I am one of only five of my party to have a bill passed out of committee that will be scheduled for floor debate. I think this proves that a bipartisan bill supported by people all over the state can still be advanced by a member of the minority party.
The Agriculture Committee moved forward two bills: The first, HSB 166, would expand the exemption from paying inheritance tax to more relatives while not changing the amount of exemption. The exemption is now $5.2 million for one person and $10.4 million for a couple. In my opinion, this bill is an attempt to keep the family farm in the family. While I have concerns about this bill, I think it deserves our attention and further consideration. I will listen carefully to the floor debate before I cast a final vote on this bill.
We also passed a bill dealing with blended biofuels. This bill ensures Petroleum Marketers will have access to unblended gasoline or diesel as they currently are doing.
Tuesday evening I attended the Inaugural Iowa Agriculture Leaders Dinner where we heard the keynote speaker, Orion Samuelson, a renowned agriculture broadcaster since 1960. Samuelson stated that the biggest changes he has seen in agriculture in his lifetime are the electrification of farms and the globalization of farming. He stressed that we must make sure our food is produced within our borders where we can control its quality. Samuelson also stated that this country is capable of great things even under great stress. During our worst-ever war, the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was able to establish the Homestead Act, the Department of Agriculture, the transcontinental railroad and land grant universities. These are all programs that have withstood the test of time.
Wednesday started with a meeting with members of The Coalition for Family and Children’s Services in Iowa. Among their interests are emergency shelters for children and a rate increase for foster care providers. The children and young adults the coalition deals with often have little or no family support.
The Education Committee was interrupted by a fire alarm and decided to meet on Thursday to consider bills. It is beginning to appear that we are tilting more toward private higher education, and thereby making student aide at public state institutions less available for struggling middle class families.
The Natural Resources Committee passed several bills out for debate on the floor. HSB 209 will be of interest to those who enjoy fishing and boating (including personal watercraft). The bill deals with aquatic invasive species prevention and control. Among actions, the bill requires that people drain all water from their craft, including ballast tanks, bilges and live wells before transporting the equipment. Failure to comply may result in a scheduled fine of $75 or a $500 fine for repeat violators. The bill also provides for inspection. Aquatic invasive species of both wildlife and plants are a serious problem in Iowa. The examples that come to my mind are Silver Carp, Zebra Mussels and Eurasian Watermilfoil.
In late action Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee voted out for possible floor debate a bill based on a recent tragic case the Iowa Supreme Court reviewed dealing with a farm liability case. I felt this bill belonged in the Judicial Committee and not in the Agriculture Committee. I finished the evening discussing the funding of State Libraries with Sam Garchik who lives in Fairfield, and is a librarian in the Ottumwa School District.
Thursday morning started early with coffee with members of the Association of Iowa Fairs. I was pleased to meet Karen and Richard Workman of the Van Buren County Fair Board. Participation in my county fair and the skills I learned from that participation are some of my fondest memories of my youth. I quickly moved on to caucus and subcommittee meetings.
The Education Committee met in the afternoon and passed out a number of bills for floor debate before the funnel deadline date of Friday. The funnel is the first self-imposed deadline we use to narrow the number of bills still eligible for debate. In my opinion, the three issues that may be the hardest to resolve will be education reform, Medicare expansion and corporate property tax reform.
It’s good news that many of the divisive issues we’ve seen in past years did not make it through the funnel and hopefully will remain dead for this year.
If we can keep working together and put politics aside for the next two months, we will have a productive session.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 641-919-2314.