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Capitol Comments by Rep. Curt Hanson

Apr 11, 2014

State Rep. Curt Hanson represents most of Jefferson County and Davis and Van Buren counties.

In the closing weeks of this legislative session, the budget is the focus of our attention.

Of the 11 budgets we must approve, three were passed last week and the transportation budget was approved this week.

However, much of this week’s media attention has been on the secret payments made to employees who have been terminated for what some think are political purposes. Since we seem to be in the darkness of partial information and misinformation, public confidence and trust of Iowa government have been eroded.

I agree with Gov. Branstad that the firing of Mike Carroll, the Director of Administrative Services, was necessary.

The appointment of a special investigator is the next logical step in this search for truth. I have called for the appointment of an investigator skilled in such violations of law. The people of Iowa deserve an unbiased and full investigation of the charges that hush money was paid to dismiss employees for political reasons.

In the Iowa House, we passed House File 2462, dealing with secret settlements. I voted in favor of this bill, but I do not think the bill goes far enough. I voted for an amendment to include the Governor’s executive order 85 (prohibiting secret agreements) in the bill’s language. This amendment was not included, another reason why I think the appointment of a special investigator is necessary.

The House amended the Senate social host bill (adults allowing underage consumption of alcohol on private property). This bill will be sent back to the Senate for what we hope is final approval. I was assured by the floor manager of the bill we passed that it will not diminish or replace the Jefferson County Social Host Ordinance. Jefferson County and a number of other local government bodies have already adopted such an ordinance. If the Senate agrees with the House amendments, the bill will be sent to the Governor.

Solar energy was on display this week at the Capitol. Solar panels and mounting equipment for the panels were featured. Display boards showcased Iowa solar parks which allow people in apartments or homes to place their solar panels in a remote location while benefiting from the power and savings generated by their panels.

I was impressed by the number of Iowans employed in the manufacture and installation of both solar and wind generation equipment.

Discussion of the health and human services budget started this week. This budget provides funding for Departments of Aging, Human Resources, Public Health, Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Home. The budget proposed by the House Republicans totals about $1.85 billion and is about $1 million below the Governor’s recommendation. One of the many important amendments to be considered will be the proper funding of Medicaid patients entering our local hospitals. Without proper reimbursement adjustments, the losses our hospitals now experience when serving Medicaid patients may become a major financial problem.

The Iowa DNR confirmed the first case of Chronic Wasting Disease in a wild deer in Allamakee County, the northeastern most county in Iowa. The DNR is now investigating the report so they can accurately prevent the spread of CWD.

The Iowa House passed a bi-partisan bill this week to improve the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. The transportation budget bill, Senate File 2130, also addresses the problem of distracted driving in Iowa.The Iowa Department of Transportation will be required to establish educational programs to raise public awareness of the dangers and consequences of distracted driving. In 2012, there was an estimated 421,000 motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver, compared to 387,000 in 2011, a 9 percent increase.

Under the proposed budget, IDOT will receive more than $358 million from the road use tax fund and primary road fund for operations, highway maintenance and construction, and capital projects next year, which is $5.4 million more than the current fiscal year.

The passage of this transportation budget does not directly address the increased maintenance needs of our county roads and bridges.

Adequate funding of county road structure will only be addressed when the combined leadership of the Senate, House and Governor choose to move this need forward, in my opinion. With adjournment just days away, I do not expect any action that will address these needs this year.

The House and Senate have both approved a bill to help stop human trafficking in Iowa by adopting new penalties for traffickers and protections for victims. Often the victims are underage women found to be vulnerable and easily coerced by predators.

The Governor signed a bill to help teachers recognize signs of dyslexia in their students. This is but one example of the efforts we are working on to improve the reading skills of children.

I hope you are able to enjoy a safe Easter holiday with your family.

Contact Hanson by email at curt.hanson@legis.iowa.gov or call 641-919-2314.

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