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Archive for April 9, 2011

At the Legislative Forum in Mount Vernon, Iowa

At the Legislative Forum in Mount Vernon, Iowa


by Paul Deaton

Iowa Press Host Dean Borg was part of the public at the League of Women Voters Legislative Forum at the Mount Vernon City Hall on Saturday. Borg lives in Mount Vernon and addressed the Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Bob Dvorsky and Mount Vernon School Board Member, Bob Penn. “What is the school district doing about preschool budgeting?” asked Borg. “Preschool will be impacted by the budget, both by allowable growth and the governor's statement that he intended to eliminate preschool.”

On allowable growth, Dvorsky said that the Senate proposes 2% allowable growth, the House is at zero percent and the governor is at zero. There is no indication anyone is willing to compromise. When the two largest employers in town are Cornell College and the school district, Mount Vernon residents are very interested in what goes on in Des Moines regarding education. Penn indicated the Mount Vernon school board is committed to preschool and that the board would have to see how things played out. Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston spoke up that people “will live with uncertainty” until the state budget is finished.

Regarding elimination of preschool, Dvorsky said the Branstad administration is wrong. “When they say we can't afford it, Baloney! What we can't afford is the consequences.” Dvorsky indicated the governor has changed his position since his campaign recommendation to eliminate preschool, and that it is shifting further. He recommended that a compromise on preschool include the ability for the governor to save face if he changed positions again to be more accommodating regarding preschool funding. Whether the Governor would change his position is uncertain.

The rest of the meeting centered around topics of interest to a small town: the Mayor, Paul Tuerler, was excited about the new sewer project and fire station improvements. He pointed out renewed interest in a U.S. Highway 30 bypass around Mount Vernon. Supervisor Langston said she was glad there was no shutdown of the federal government on Friday and the county was looking at redistricting as an opportunity to make some of the townships larger so less poll watchers were needed during elections. There was plenty for legislators to talk about, mental health reform, property taxes, Local Option Sales Taxes and there were a couple of news items:

Senator Dvorsky said he thought the Senate would vote on the first redistricting map on Thursday, April 14.

April 15 is the deadline for confirmation of Governor Branstad's appointees and some key ones may see Senate floor time this week, including Roger Lande to Department of Natural Resources, Jason Glass to Education and Isaiah McGee to Human Rights.

When asked about dove hunting, Dvorsky indicated that rule making was required by the Iowa DNR Natural Resource Commission. The NRC will take up establishment of a mourning dove season at their April 13 meeting at Honey Creek Resort State Park when there is an agenda item for public participation. Contact the NRC here to find out more.

Driving east on Highway 30 after the meeting, one couldn't help but feel glad to live in a democracy.

~Paul
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail
Paul Deaton

Iowa State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

Iowa
State Capitol News – Weekend Recap


Iowa
State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

by Paul Deaton

[Editors'
Note:
Following is a weekly recap of stories from Des Moines that
came through the Weekend Editor's in-box. Three weeks to go in the
legislative session before per diem ends on April 29. Check out the
House Democrats page for a
different take on the week here.
Senate Democrats are here.
Watch for this feature every Saturday while the legislature is in
session.]

Art Neu Did Not Get the Word

When the Pioneer Lawmakers presented their program to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on Wednesday, it appeared that moderate Republican Art Neu, former Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, did did not get the word that in the 84th General Assembly the operating principal is that conservatives should not even sit at the table with the opposition. In his speech, Neu said,

“One suggestion I might make. During the Ray Years every Tuesday for lunch the leadership of both parties met for lunch in the Governor’s office. Sometimes, early in the session there was not always a lot of talk, but we still had lunch. You did get to know each other and in some instances we became good friends. We also knew that if you said something unpleasant about a leader of the other party, that in all likelihood you would be questioned about it next Tuesday. It served as a deterrent on extreme statements.”

If we don't expect bipartisan luncheons to break out at the capitol, advocates of second amendment rights took note of Neu's statement that in 1992, Iowa repealed Section 5 of the bill of rights which barred people who had participated in a duel from holding elected office. It appeared that many freshmen legislators were not aware that Iowa is open for dueling among legislative colleagues.

Click here to read Art Neu's remarks on incivility.

They did it Mom, they did it

In a stunning move, legislators in the House and Senate began each blaming the other body for failure to get substantial work done in the 2011 Session. Said one Republican, “Senate Democrats continue to use needed policy changes as bargaining chips in negotiations to try and force House Republicans to agree to spend more money on government programs and pork projects.” A Democrat retorts, “While the… Iowa Senate can stop legislation that would hurt middle-class Iowans, the Republican majority in the Iowa House is blocking our efforts to help Iowa’s working families…”

About the only place both sides agree is on paying attorneys who provide indigent defense, both bodies having passed legislation more than once to pay legitimate bills incurred by the state. Only trouble here is that the Governor does not agree with the legislature's methods. This issue won't be resolved until the waning days of the legislature when either a budget gets passed or, God forbid, legislators will have to go without per diem. It is all a day in the life of divided government.

A State Redistricted

Despite minor debates about the four Congressional districts, whether Linn and Johnson Counties would be split again, or whether Sioux City and Council Bluffs should be in different districts, the first redistricting map appears to have few opponents. This suggests that once the formal protocols are followed it will pass the legislature.

The only real question is whether former first lady of Iowa Christie Vilsack will use redistricting as an opportunity to throw one of her hats into the ring and run for Congress. Maybe she could help the Democratic party by running against the nominee in the new 4th district. If she was serious about running for public office, where was she when Chuck Grassley needed a big money, well connected opponent in 2010? Thanks to Roxanne Conlin, we had a credible opponent while Vilsack, C. sat on the sidelines.

~Paul
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail
Paul Deaton