The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Legislative update for week 13 in the Iowa legislative session.
In a lunch and learn Monday afternoon, a team from the University of Iowa spoke of mental health redesign. Our
current system of providing for people with
disabilities has evolved from what once were called the “County Home,” which was usually a farm facility located in each
county. Typically, counties now
provide disability services in a
number of different ways including private contractors. The system has often been underfunded and the
services have varied a great deal from county to county. The big question is, how can we improve the delivery of services while using the same resources? How can we provide for the stabilization of
people in a crisis without requiring our sheriff’s department to transport patients across the state to an
available recovery bed? No one is sure what the redesign of the
services may look like or if the improvements can be achieved. Thorough meetings, it is the hope that ideas that work will be brought forward. We need to build an
nfrastructure of care and not just put money into a struggling system. Nearly 68,000 Iowa children
experienced the need of mental health services last year. Of that number, about 6,800 experienced serious problems. Any redesign of services must consider the problems of today and also provide the
so-called wrap services of the
housing, food, and clothing. Helping children to grow up with mental stability is considered a much better use of our resources than the treatment of untreated childhood-related problems throughout adult life. After
unanimous approval by a Senate committee, lawmakers are one step closer to an agreement on
redesigning Iowa’s mental health system.
Monday afternoon, the House passed 16 bills that were largely noncontroversial. The only bill I felt needed more thought was a bill dealing with the operation of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on the secondary roads and city streets. Cities will still need to authorize the use of ATVs within the city limits; however counties do not have that option. Many drivers have been surprised when they crested a hill on a county blacktop road only to find an easy-to-see, large, slow-moving vehicle. Spotting a small ATV will add a new hazard when traveling county roads.
Subcommittees and the education conference committee continued meetings on Tuesday. I was pleased to meet with Jeff Hammes and a group from his congregation as they visited the Capitol. The afternoon pace quickened as we passed 17 bills. One bill that is important to many people included an amendment that brought back to life a bill many had considered dead in the Senate. The amendment would prohibit the use of eminent domain – in which the government condemns and takes control of private property – to acquire private land for a recreational lake. However, it failed to win necessary approval in the Senate before Friday’s procedural deadline. With our action Tuesday, the language is now part of a separate bill relating to the registration and titling of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. This bill will now return to the Senate for further consideration. Opposition to this amendment has come from the city of Osceola, which is currently attempting to develop an 800-900 acre reservoir in rural Clarke County to bolster its water supply. Although the lake isn’t expected to provide recreational opportunities, officials are concerned the legislation could complicate the lake’s development.
I was appalled to learn of the KKK recruitment pamphlets and rocks found on doorsteps and near mailboxes in Van Buren County. I think a group that promotes fear and hate will find the people in our area very difficult to recruit and outspoken in near universal resistance to any attempt to establish a KKK toehold in Iowa. I thought the Van Buren County Register story of April 11 was well-written and shows the need to always be vigilant when a group with a history of hate and fear attempts to gain support among our neighbors.
Wednesday we were greeted by the many private colleges and institutions of higher learning in Iowa. Many of these institutions have scholarship programs available that enable students of modest means to attend a private college in Iowa. We debated and passed three bills by a large margin. The education conference committee met at noon, and the first of what is expected to be many counter-offers was made public. As this meeting was widely covered by the press, many people thought of this offer as a press event. I hope the committee can work quickly, as many area school boards and superintendents need to approve their budgets soon. Because the Legislature has failed to act in a timely manner, some schools in Iowa have planned their budget based on a zero percent allowable growth with the associated local property tax increases.
The 62nd Biennial Session of the Pioneer Lawmakers Association was held in the House Chamber Wednesday afternoon. The purpose of this association is to honor those elected 20 years ago or who have served at the Statehouse for 20 years. Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register staff gave the address. Kathie arrived in 1993 to begin her news coverage of the Legislature. She jokingly reminded us that 20 years ago, two of the big issues were the setting of school allowable growth and property tax reform. Twenty years ago her editor wrote a story about politicians who were criticized for compromise when that was the very thing they were elected to do! Political change is not constant like a stream of water because it often occurs with spurts and drips.
Thursday morning I was happy to meet with John Whitaker – many of you remember John as a former state representative from Van Buren County. John is now the Iowa Executive Director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Young farmer loans now represent 70 percent of the USDA’s portfolio. Many of the young farmer loans are for local food production such as fruits and vegetables. We must no longer think of the USDA as just for corn and soybean producers.
We were also briefed on the health care plan recently unveiled by the governor. After listening to details of a comparison of his plan with Medicaid expansion, the bottom line is the governor’s plan covers fewer Iowans and costs Iowa taxpayers much more. We must soon decide which plan is the right thing to do, both fiscally and morally.
In a move to encourage the use of renewable energy, the Iowa Senate approved a bill to create new state credit facilities that can refuel vehicles that run on electricity or natural gas. It also continued state income tax credits for installing solar energy systems.
Please feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 641-919-2314.