The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Legislative update for March 18-22, week 11, in this session.
It was nice to attend the Jefferson County Health Center Foundation fundraiser Thursday evening. I was able to gather valuable input from local constituents regarding upcoming bills. Saturday, I spoke with people from Keosauqua and Bloomfield regarding Statehouse happenings and the concerns people wished to discuss at these meetings. I will again host a “Coffee with Curt” in Keosauqua and Bloomfield on the fourth Saturday of April (April 27).
Congratulations to the Fairfield community: Fairfield made Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the best small towns to visit in 2013!
Additionally, First Street Grille in Keosauqua was named in the top 10 of Iowa’s Best Burger competition!
Monday, several legislators listened to members of the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research and Development who made a presentation about economic development.
The rate of change we are witnessing today is perhaps the fastest the world has seen – it was pointed out that the changes that once took a generation, now take but a decade to occur. For some startup businesses, the incubation period is short, while developing a new drug or medical procedure may take 10 years or more.
Uncertainty in business is very damaging and clarity of rules is very important, even if the business doesn’t agree with the rules. An entrepreneur is often someone who is not satisfied with the status quo and creates an entirely new business or job.
The presentation ended with this thought about economic growth: We must have a superior education system to promote economic growth and foster entrepreneurs necessary to compete with the billions of people in Asia and other continents in the world. If our education system is merely equal to that of the world’s masses, we will be in economic decline. We must continue to tilt the playing field to our educational and technical advantage.
The afternoon concluded with the debate of a small number of largely noncontroversial bills. After debate ended, we traveled to the State Historical Building.
Each state has two statues at our nation’s Capitol, and rarely are these statues changed. However, Iowa will soon exchange one of the present statues on display with a statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug, an Iowa native who is credited with keeping our modern world fed. His research and discoveries of new varieties of wheat has greatly increased the world’s food supply, thereby preventing mass starvation.
We had the opportunity to meet and speak with the artist, Benjamin Victor, who is creating the Dr. Norman Borlaug statue to be displayed in the U. S. Capitol Statuary Hall. The statue being replaced is that of James Harlan, a Senator and Iowa Wesleyan College President of the Lincoln era. The Harlan statue will be moved to the Iowa Wesleyan College campus in Mount Pleasant for display.
Tuesday morning the rural caucus met and discussed the issues important to rural residents before joining the larger caucus for discussion of possible bills to be debated later in the day.
The recent Supreme Court ruling regarding farm liability was discussed. We need more information about this ruling to avoid an over-reaction.
The Education Committee met and considered three Senate bills. These bills all passed unanimously after a lengthy discussion on the technicalities of the school bus inspection bill.
It was also the Iowa Regent Universities Annual Research at the Capitol Day. The Rotunda was filled with research projects from our most able young scholars. The research projects exhibited covered a broad range of subjects including agriculture, engineering, education and science. I was pleased to meet Christina Goering of Agency whose research involved education and how language accents affect the academic success of high school students.
Wednesday morning we were greeted by the Pella Tulip Festival Queen and her court. She introduced her court and invited all Iowans to the Pella Tulip Time Festival May 2-4.
Again, we debated bills that were passed without objections. In my opinion, anything that may have any opposition is not being brought forward. This could create a final-days logjam of bills that a few deem controversial, including budget bills, which may delay adjournment.
Tuesday evening, the Senate passed its version of the educational reform bill, and I am now studying the differences between the House and Senate bills. I anticipate the two bills will be sent to a conference committee consisting of an equal number of Senators and Representatives. The conference committee will then recommend a compromised version to both bodies.
I hope this process will move forward quickly as schools are in desperate need of critical budget information. School districts are to certify their budgets by April 15.
In the real world, things don’t always go as planned, and Wednesday morning’s tornado drill did not happen because the alarm system failed. Checking the equipment and the people’s response to the alarm is exactly why we have drills!
Wednesday afternoon I met briefly with students from Indian Hills Community College. These students had weather cancel two previously scheduled visits, but the third time was a charm, and it was a pleasure to meet with our future leaders.
I also met with a group of Fairfield Optimae Life Services customers. They expressed their concern for necessary funding and Medicaid support in their recovery.
The Education Committee heard from the Iowa Brain Trust. Their goal is to get parents re-engaged in educating their children.
As teachers are well aware, not only must the student be engaged in his education, but the family must also support him and be involved in his daily education.
Iowa has a very high percentage of families with both parents working, making the level of parental involvement needed difficult.
I also met with Jerry Main from Fairfield and Bert Vandenberg from Donnellson. They are representatives of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Their association is advocating a change in the corn check-off legislation.
The Senate has approved a bill to expand affordable health care to Iowans who don’t have private insurance and the governor has rolled out an alternative plan that will cover fewer Iowans and cost Iowa taxpayers $163 million more.
A coalition of 78 groups supporting expanded Medicaid is touring Iowa. The group includes AARP, doctors, hospitals, nurses, the American Cancer Society and several faith-based groups.
In the quest to get everyone home for the Easter weekend, committee meetings were cancelled for Thursday.
The Iowa economy continues to be strong. A group of non-partisan budget experts raised state revenue estimates by another $130 million for this year and next.
Iowa expects to end the fiscal year in June with more than $1.6 billion in surplus and reserves. By law, the Legislature cannot use that additional revenue in the planning of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
Other economic indicators out this week showed continued improvement of the Iowa economy.
I hope to see many of you at the Ottumwa Legislative Forum beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Bridgeview Center.