Here is my main takeaway from Tuesday’s elections: When Democrats fight, they win; when Democrats abandon their candidate, they lose. The difference between Virginia and New Jersey is a fighting Democratic Party. The difference between Chris Christie, re-elected Governor of New Jersey, and Ken Cuccinelli, loser in Virginia’s gubernatorial race is not ideologically that great. Both want to bust unions and starve the poor. Both favor tax cuts for the rich, low wages for workers, controlling women and ignoring climate change and both oppose gun controls and marriage equality. For both of them impeding implementation of the ACA is a central tenet. In short I can’t see a dimes worth of difference between the two. Yet for some reason Democrats fought Ken Cuccinelli tooth and nail in formerly very red Virginia and won. In blue New Jersey, Democrats laid down for Chris Christie – some even backed him – forsaking a true Democratic candidate in Barbra Buono and Christie won big.
Could Barbara Buono have beaten Christie? I am one who believes she could have, but we will never know. If nothing else she could have at least put a couple of dents in Christie’s armor. Remember, Christie is one of the front runners for the Republican nominations for president. Make no doubt we do not want what he has done in New Jersey replicated for the rest of the country.
One thing is for sure, next year we do not want to see any democrat simply lay down for an “inevitable” reelection of Terry Branstad. Just because he is older and has been around a long time doesn’t make him a good governor. I would consider this term a major dissappointment and just short of disastrous for Iowa families and workers. Remember that Branstad was a founding member of ALEC.
Being an ALEC devotee puts Branstad on the union-busting, blame the poor, etc. path of the Christies and Cuccinellis of the world. But he is quieter about it because he knows it doesn’t play well in Iowa. So last year he quietly cut $2 million out of the state budget for food for the poor. He also fought tooth and nail to keep Iowa out of the Medicaid portion of the ACA before finally coming up with a convoluted, business friendly and costly compromise.
So we have a year wake up Iowa’s Democrats and make sure they get their votes in. No Chris Christie treatment for Branstad! While we help move the Branstads out of Terrace Hill, we most definitely need to make sure that Bruce Braley fills that empty seat being left by Tom Harkin. I don’t know if I have ever met a more down to earth person than Bruce Braley. You can be sure that he will represent Iowans with pride.
It goes without saying that we have to keep Iowa’s state senate in Democratic hands. At a minimum they have been a real brake on Branstad’s plans. Think what Iowa could do under a Democratic governor and with a Democratic majority in the House.
So we have already seen what can happen to a good candidate without the full support of her party. We can’t let that happen in Iowa. We must at a minimum vote, but we will really need volunteers by the busload next year. Plan for a great holiday season, then let’s put our people power together in Iowa so we can have an even better holiday next year.
I always want to hear your ideas for improving state government. After all, I work for you. You can e-mail or call me any time.
You may also want to check out “Public Input: Improving State Government” on the Iowa Legislature’s website: www.legis.iowa.gov. This public comment page was set up in 2009 for Iowans to submit ideas or view the suggestions of others.
Every two years, a State Government Efficiency Review Committee, made up of 10 legislators, meets to review state government operations and consider ways to modernize processes, eliminate unnecessary work, reduce costs and increase accountability.
The public comment page is one of the resources legislators use to come up with recommendations for making state government more efficient and responsive to Iowans’ needs.
STATE GOVERNMENT IS WORKING FOR YOU
During the federal government shutdown, I get many questions about how things are working at the state level. I’m proud to say the state of Iowa is open for business.
Legislators are focused on making state government work for Iowa citizens. We’re always looking for ways to ensure government runs efficiently and offers good service to Iowans.
In fact, Iowa is considered the fifth best run state in the country, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Our strong agricultural economy, falling unemployment, excellent credit rating and well-managed budget give Iowa its good financial health, standard of living and government services.
This year, legislators continued our push for a leaner, more transparent government that is responsive to Iowans’ needs by:
1. Balancing the state budget without raising taxes. Iowa has a budget surplus of about $721 million. We also have $649 million in our reserve funds. That’s the largest amount in state history and the eighth best in the country, according to a national report by the Tax Foundation.
2. Cutting taxes to create jobs and spur economic growth. The tax reforms we approved this year include reducing commercial property taxes for all Iowa businesses while helping small businesses the most. We also voted to put some of our budget surplus back into the pockets of Iowa taxpayer and help low-income Iowans work their way out of poverty by boosting the state Earned Income Tax Credit.
3. Standing up for citizens’ right to know. Iowans now have a free, efficient method to ensure government officials comply with Iowa’s open meetings and records laws. The newly formed Iowa Public Information Board helps citizens with questions and concerns about their rights to information. In addition, we’re developing an online database that will allow Iowans to search the state’s budget expenditures and tax revenue to see how their tax dollars are spent.
4. Improving customer service and saving money through efficiencies. New initiatives include an online driver’s license renewal system and giving Iowans the option to show proof of insurance on their electronic driving record rather than carrying the documentation. These and other cost-saving efforts at the Iowa Department of Transportation are freeing up more of your tax dollars to fix our roads.
GROW MIDDLE CLASS BY KEEPING COLLEGE AFFORDABLE
One of the best ways we can expand Iowa’s middle class is by making higher education more affordable.
That’s why the Legislature approved funding to freeze tuition this fall. It was the first time in more than 30 years that tuition didn’t increase for Iowa undergrads at our state universities—University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University. In September, the Iowa Board of Regents agreed to continue the tuition freeze next year if state support increased significantly. I’m also keeping my eye on community college tuition and fees, which increased by an average of 2.8 percent this fall.
During the recession, tuition costs and student debt both skyrocketed in Iowa while the state’s investment in higher education fell by almost 25 percent. Iowa ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to the debt load of our college graduates, according to new data from College InSight. Today, 72 percent of college students in Iowa borrow to finance their education. By the time they graduate, they’ve racked up an average of $28,753 in debt.
Freezing tuition by controlling costs and increasing state investment is much better than asking struggling families to take out even more student loans. For the last three years, Senate Democrats have led the push to invest more in our state universities and community colleges. I hope we can again reach a compromise that will allow us to extend the tuition freeze at our state universities and keep our community colleges affordable.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Apply for Rural Arts Grants
Through November 1, the Iowa Arts Council is accepting applications for Rural Arts Development Grants, which provide up to $5,000 to arts projects in rural Iowa. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, schools, tribal councils, and local, county, state and federal government agencies. Complete details and an application are available at www.iowaartscouncil.org.
Apply for health care coverage
You can now explore your new health care options and apply for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov. Coverage starts as early as January 1, 2014. The Marketplace will automatically tell you if you qualify for discounts or state programs based on your income.
You can choose the health plan that’s right for you through the online plan comparison tool. If you don’t have access to a computer or need assistance, dial the 24/7 call center at 1-800-318-2596.
Tips for staying safe online
Throughout October, Iowans are encouraged to increase their cyber security. Cyber Security Awareness Month is a national campaign to educate the public, businesses, schools and government agencies about avoiding cyber security threats, as well as ways to secure their part of cyber space, computers and our nation’s critical infrastructure.
At www.us-cert.gov/home-and-business, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team offers helpful ideas and resources for keeping your home and work computers safe. You’ll get the information you need to:
• Stay safe on social networking sites
• Choose and protect passwords
• Prevent and respond to identity theft
• Effectively erase files
Need help with your heating bill?
As the weather turns colder, low-income Iowa homeowners and renters can get help paying their heating costs. The 2013-14 Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides assistance based on household income, household size, type of fuel and type of housing. For complete details, call 515-281-0859 or go to www.dcaa.iowa.gov/bureau_EA/app_acceptance.html.
State parks are open for fall fun
Good news: State parks are OPEN during the federal government shutdown!
Fall in Iowa is a great time to enjoy the outdoors. Take advantage of the beautiful days by heading to one of our state parks. For a listing of state parks, go to www.iowadnr.gov/parks.
Keep in mind, anything under federal control—facilities run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Monuments, Federal Refuges and other federal areas—are closed during the federal shutdown.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Last night, Iowa Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson resigned. This creates a vacancy in Senate District 13 that will be filled during a Special Election. We expect the Governor to announce a date very soon.
We currently hold a slim Majority in the Iowa State Senate (26-24). That means Democrats’ voice in Iowa government could be shut out if just one of our members loses his or her seat.
Senator Kent Sorenson was one of the most right-wing members of the Iowa Senate. He pushed legislation that would have rolled back women’s healthcare rights, marriage equality rights–and he even introduced “birther” legislation!
Sorenson was also a self-proclaimed leader in the battle to eliminate weapons permits and increase the number of concealed gun carriers in Iowa.
But Democrats in the Iowa Senate stood up against every one of Sen. Sorenson’s outrageous policy changes because in addition to being extreme and out of touch with most Iowans, these initiatives are a distraction from the real job of the Iowa Legislature to help Iowa families continue to find jobs, expand their economic opportunities and improve our public schools.
Now, with Senator Sorenson’s resignation, we have an opportunity not only to expand our Democratic Majority, but also to replace one of the most right-wing members of the State Senate with a progressive voice. It would be a win-win for Iowa’s working families.
But we need your help!
Please help us elect a Democrat to Iowa Senate District 13! Contribute $15, $25, $50, $100 or as much as you can afford today!
Any contribution is appreciated. You can also mail a check to:
Iowa Senate Majority Fund
5661 Fleur Drive
Des Moines, IA 50321
Iowa Senate Majority Leader
10 WAYS IOWA GOT SAFER IN 2013
Iowa is a pretty safe place. We rank among the 10 most peaceful states in America in the 2012 U.S. Peace Index report, which looks at homicide, violent crime, policing and prison rates.
We also fare well when it comes to accidents. According to the Trust for America’s Health, Iowa has the 12th lowest rate of injury deaths. Our state ranks high because we meet many recommended safety standards that keep us healthy and save lives. These include tracking the causes of injuries, prescription drug monitoring to prevent overdoses, required seat belt use and increased attention to head injuries in youth sports.
We further improved Iowa’s reputation for safety this year by:
1. Requiring criminal background checks of health care employees to prevent abuse and fraud (SF 347).
2. Requiring repeat OWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device before they can get a temporary restricted license to drive to work and substance abuse treatment (SF 386).
3. Ensuring teens get supervised driving practice in all seasons and face fewer distractions by strengthening Iowa’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing (SF 115).
4. Requiring more criminals to submit DNA samples. Research shows those who commit property crimes have a high chance of reoffending, with crimes and violence often escalating (HF 527).
5. Providing effective response to emergencies through necessary 911 funding (HF 644).
8. Toughening Iowa laws to better ensure law enforcement can prosecute and put away sex offenders (SF298).
9. Preventing recidivism through corrections education, which helps offenders acquire the skills to become productive members of their communities once they are out of prisons (SF 447).
10. Allowing Iowans to add medical information to their electronic driving record, making it immediately available to health care providers in emergencies (SF 386).
ENSURING ACCESS TO JUSTICE
In addition to protecting our physical well being, safe communities also provide justice for citizens.
The Legislature worked this year to ensure Iowans get that access to justice by providing the funding our courts need to offer full-time services, particularly through clerk of court offices and juvenile courts (SF 442).
Clerks help thousands of Iowans every day but because of staff shortages, their offices had been closed part time since the fall of 2009, making it difficult for Iowans to take care of court-related business. Clerks of court manage all court records; notify government agencies of court orders; and process fines, fees, court costs, child support, civil judgments and speeding tickets.
Nearly all court cases in Iowa begin with a filing with a clerk of court. Citizens shouldn’t find a closed sign on the door when they show up to apply for a protective order, access legal documents or pay a bill. That’s why the Legislature approved enough funding this year for the state’s 100 clerk of court offices to be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
We also made sure Iowa courts have the resources to help Iowa’s troubled youth and their families. Juvenile court officers are key to this process. They work with judges to identify the underlying problems a child may be experiencing. Hiring more juvenile court officers will help the courts meet face-to-face with all young offenders and ensure their needs are met.
This year’s court funding will continue Iowa’s tradition as one of the most responsive and respected court systems in the nation.
VOLUNTEERS HELP VULNERABLE KIDS
Thousands of children are in the Iowa court system because of family abuse and neglect. I’ve voted to help to help protect these vulnerable kids by investing in Iowa’s statewide Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program (HF 603).
The CASA program recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to serve as an effective voice in court for abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers make sure the children they work with are in safe, nurturing places. CASAs also ensure that an abused or neglected child is not further victimized by the system devised to protect the child.
While social workers, judges, and attorneys handle dozens of cases at a time, the independent CASA volunteers typically have just one. This allows them to promote the child’s best interests through investigation, assessment and advocacy. They communicate with family, attorneys, social workers, foster parents, therapists, teachers and doctors. The volunteers attend court hearings and placement and family meetings.
The CASA program has proven its effectiveness, and CASA volunteers now serve children in all 99 Iowa counties. Studies show that children in foster care who have a CASA assigned to them receive more help and are more likely to find a permanent home.
To learn how you can help a child in need as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, visit http://childadvocacy.iowa.gov.
PREVENTING ELDER ABUSE
The Iowa Department on Aging tells us that older Iowans are increasingly falling prey to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Nationally, 1 in 13 seniors report abuse, and it is estimated that 80 percent of elder abuse cases go unreported.
This fall, a special legislative committee will collect ideas to improve Iowa’s efforts to prevent this abuse. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Intervention Study Committee will examine data, look at what is working in other states, hear from experts and offer recommendations to be considered during the 2014 session of the Legislature.
Elder abuse appears in many different forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, undue influence, sexual exploitation, financial exploitation and denial of critical care. We all have a role to play when it comes to ensuring older Iowans are safe and able to enjoy the best possible quality of life.
How can you help?
• Keep in regular contact with older friends and family.
• Listen to seniors and their caregivers.
• Take action when you suspect elder abuse. In Iowa, you should call 800-362-2178 if you suspect a senior you know is at risk of being abused.
The Iowa Department on Aging is hosting a two-part Webinar series on Elder Rights & Protection. These free online seminars take place from 10-11:30 a.m. on October 22 and November 19. The sessions will provide an overview of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation; how and why it occurs; warning signs and risk factors; barriers to addressing elder abuse; and available resources. Register and learn more at www.iowaaging.gov/elder- abuse-neglect-and-exploitation.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Phone assistance for low-income Iowans Telephone service is vital in emergencies and essential for staying connected to family, employment and community resources. Low-income Iowans may qualify for help with their phone bill though federal Lifeline telephone assistance. Eligible Iowans must have an income at or below 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines or be eligible for other federal public assistance. Those who apply and qualify will receive a $9.25 monthly telephone bill credit. For complete details and an application, go here
Communities can apply for Great Places designation
Through October 1, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is accepting Letters of Intent from Iowa communities interested in seeking designation as an Iowa Great Place and funding for related projects. This year, the Legislature approved $1 million so that state and local groups can work together to cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of Iowa neighborhoods, districts, communities and regions.
Since 2005, Iowa Great Places has helped make our state an ever-better place to live and work. The return on investment has been significant, as reported in the 2010 Economic Impact Report, and Great Places projects have resulted thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs. For more information and to apply, go to www.iowagreatplaces.gov.
Grants available to rural fire departments
Through October 15, the Forestry Bureau of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is accepting grant applications from rural fire departments to help pay for equipment to battle wildfires. The grants can be used for wildfire suppression equipment, slide in units, hoses, nozzles, adapters, portable tanks and pumps, personal protective equipment and communications equipment. The Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Application package and other resources are available at www.iowadnr.gov/fire.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Expanding affordable health care for more working Iowans was a top priority during the 2013 session.
Our bipartisan work led to the Iowa Health & Wellness Plan. It’s Iowa’s approach to implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires states to provide health care coverage to everyone below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 a year for a single person).
The goals of the Iowa Health & Wellness Plan include:
1. Making quality health care coverage available to 150,000 low-income Iowans who are currently uninsured.
2. Controlling health care costs for everyone by reducing the $1 billion in charity care provided each year by Iowa hospitals and rewarding health care providers for keeping costs down.
3. Focusing on prevention and improving health, which will help Iowa achieve the title of healthiest state in the nation.
The Iowa Health & Wellness Plan will begin on January 1, 2014. Iowans can sign up for coverage under this Plan or get private insurance through the “Health Insurance Marketplace.” Those with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $48,000 a year for a single person) will be eligible for help paying for their health insurance to ensure it is affordable.
Iowans can sign up for coverage beginning October 1. In the meantime, if you want to learn more or start looking into your insurance options, go to www.healthcare.gov. This official federal government site will answer your questions about premiums, purchasing insurance, qualifying for help and more.
More than 75 Iowa organizations fought for this expanded access to affordable health care. AARP Iowa describes the Iowa Health & Wellness Plan as “a victory for Iowa’s working poor, including more than 17,000 Iowans age 50-64 that are between jobs or in jobs without health coverage.”
Business organizations, including local Chambers of Commerce, say that access to affordable health care is a workforce priority for the business community that will improve both quality of life and worker productivity.
2013 SUCCESSES WILL IMPROVE HEALTH, WELLBEING
Our efforts to expand access to quality, affordable health care got a lot of attention this year, but it wasn’t Iowa’s only health care success. Legislators listened to Iowans and worked together on a variety of initiatives that will help improve our health and wellbeing. They include:
• Getting kids screened for vision problems so that they are prepared to be successful in school (SF 419).
• Offering convenience by allowing licensed pharmacists to administer vaccines and immunizations (SF 353).
• Providing funding to inspect and investigate complaints at Iowa health care facilities (HF 603).
• Expanding access to tobacco cessation counseling through the Iowa Tobacco Quitline (SF 202).
• Preventing fraud by providing more tools for Iowa’s Department of Human Services to identify problems, collect overpayments and assess civil penalties associated with Medicaid (SF 357).
The improvements and investments Iowa makes each year have big payoffs. Iowa now ranks #9 in the nation when it comes to being physically, emotionally and mentally healthy, according to the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. We’ve moved up from the #16 position and aim to be #1 by 2016. Find out more about Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative at www.iowahealthieststate.com.
When it comes to the health of our kids, Iowa is also showing gains. In the national Kids Count survey for 2013, Iowa ranks seventh in health, up from ninth last year. The number of children without health insurance has dropped dramatically as have low birth weight babies. Find out more at www.kidscount.org.
We’ve got some healthy momentum going, but it’s just a start. If you have ideas for how we can improve our health and wellbeing here in Iowa, please share them with me. The 2014 session will be here before we know it.
GOVERNOR’S VETOES HURT VULNERABLE IOWANS, PUBLIC SAFETY
Over the last several years, Iowa has been working on a better way to provide mental health care and disability services for Iowans. We are now in the middle of a statewide reorganization of our mental health system.
During the 2013 session, legislators worked in a bipartisan way to ensure nobody falls through the cracks as the state transitions to a regional mental health system. Unfortunately, Governor Branstad’s vetoes last week of crucial mental health funding could jeopardize public safety and the care of vulnerable Iowans.
Effective, accessible mental health services can prevent many people from entering the criminal justice system. State corrections officials have told legislators that Iowa prisons are the largest mental health facilities in the state, with more than half of Iowa’s inmates suffering from mental illness or substance abuse disorders.
According to an Iowa Poll in February, 74 percent of Iowans believe that the “lack of available treatment for those with mental illnesses” is a major factor in contributing to gun violence.
Some of the Governor’s vetoes that may hurt Iowans struggling with mental illness, their families and public safety include:
• Vetoing $13 million for Iowa’s mental health safety net (HF 648). Legislators voted to set aside this money to prevent those in need from falling through the cracks during the transition to a regional system. With the Governor’s veto, many counties will be forced to make cuts, denying essential services to people who need them.
• Vetoing $8.7 million to reduce waiting lists for home and community based services that help kids, seniors and Iowans with disabilities (SF 446). The Governor claims that funding to shorten the waiting list for services is not a successful long-term solution. But as we transition to a regional system—and with the state’s budget surplus at an all-time high—we must do what we can to avoid unintended consequences.
• Vetoing improvements to Iowa’s mental health advocate system (SF 406). After years of work and input from the courts, advocates, public safety officials, counties and the Department of Human Services, we voted to move Iowa’s mental health advocate program to the Department of Inspections & Appeals. The Governor’s veto means mental health advocates will continue to work at the county level, which has made for an inconsistent and inefficient statewide system.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Operation Dry Water starts June 28
Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal in Iowa, just like driving drunk on our roads. Law enforcement aims to raise awareness of the dangers of boating under the influence with Operation Dry Water, June 28-30.
More than 70 percent of Iowa’s boating fatalities in 2012 involved alcohol, with many of the victims being innocent bystanders. To prevent the same tragedies this year, Iowa will increase patrols, conduct checkpoints and administer breath tests during Operation Dry Water. During the 2012 Operation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and its partners contacted nearly 550 vessels containing more than 2,000 boaters, resulting in 136 citations or warnings.
New mobile app for Iowa parks & rec activities
Outdoor recreation has a positive impact on stress and obesity, according to a 2009 report from Resources for the Future, a national environmental policy center. Getting out and getting active can play an important role in helping Iowa become the healthiest state in the nation.
When you’re looking for things to do, check out a free new mobile app for our state parks and recreation areas. Download the app at http://iaparks.org and you’ll be able to:
• Decide which park to visit by searching for activities or by region.
• Look up park information, including rules and regulations, which is especially helpful for fishing and boating.
• View upcoming park events, which are updated in real time.
• Make overnight reservations when you’re planning an extended stay.
• Use GPS map features to mark waypoints and record and share your trails.
• Access Healthy & Happy Outdoors, a statewide database of more than 30 types outdoor recreation activities at more than 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas.
Iowa driver’s license practice test available on Kindle
The popular “IA Driver Test” app, a practice test for the written exam that Iowans must take to get their driver’s license, is now available for Kindle devices. Use the free app as a practice aide after studying the Iowa Driver’s Manual. It will generate 25 questions, randomly chosen from among 69 included in the real knowledge test given at Iowa driver’s license stations. You can repeat the practice test as often as you like. The app is also available for iPad and Android devices.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Charlie Pierce of Esquire magazine wrote a great, short piece on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) last week. I will quote the opening paragraph here and ask that you click on the highlighted link above to read the rest and also read the Bill Moyers piece Mr.Pierce references. These are probably about the best and most succinct articles I have seen on the damage that ALEC has done and can do.
WHERE THE REAL DAMAGE GETS DONE
“It long has been the opinion of the blog that the elite political press is missing the real political action in this country because, for the most part, it concentrates either on what’s going on in Washington, or in the horse race aspects of whatever election is next. But the real action — and all the real damage — is being done out in the states, especially in those states in which the 2010 elections brought in majority Republican legislatures and majority Republican governors. This is part of what we play for laughs every Thursday when we survey what’s goin’ down in The Laboratories Of Democracy. But what’s goin’ down is highly organized, tightly disciplined, and very sharply directed. By now, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and what it’s about, is an open secret. Everybody covering politics knows about it. Everybody covering politics knows where the money for its activities comes from. Everybody in politics knows what its political aims are. And yet, when we have retrograde laws and policies pop up in state after state — most notably in recent days, in the newly insane state of North Carolina — it is always treated as a kind of localized outbreak.”
The one thought I want you to keep in mind is that ALEC is extremely active in Iowa. Before 2010, Democrats were able to keep them at bay. Since 2010, the fact that the Senate has been under Democratic leadership has really slowed them. But they have shown their intentions in the Iowa House.
If the senate falls into Republican hands and the governor and House remain republican, we become Wisconsin. And that is ugly folks.
[Note from BFIA: For background information on how we got here click on the links below. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R- HD 67 - Hiawatha) – a lawyer to trucking company CRST International – axed all funding for both passenger rail and freight rail in Iowa. You can contact him and urge him to reconsider. Contact information: (515) 281.3521 email@example.com .
A call to senators Bolkcom, Dvorsky, Gronstal and Hogg:
I urge you to support the Kaufmann-Jacoby compromise.
Compromise really isn’t the right word, since both issues are intrinsically democratic points. Issues surrounding eminent domain and passenger rail funding are supported by more than 17 different items in our current state democratic platform.
From due process, water protection and management, preserving farmland and defending democracy against plutocracy; to supporting mass transit and infrastructure, to specific items calling for funding of passenger and high speed rail. I find this “compromise” to be Win/Win for our entire state.
Respectfully, Progresively Democratic,
What will it take for the Iowa House to get a bill considered on the floor of the Iowa Senate? Representatives Dave Jacoby and Bobby Kaufmann are hoping that pairing a Senate Democratic priority— funding passenger rail in order to be eligible to receive a substantial grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to upgrade railroad tracks to handle 79 mile per hour traffic— with House File 219— an act relating to eminent domain authority prompted by a controversy in Clarke County— will do the trick.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann has invested considerable political capital in the eminent domain issue. A March 11 story in the Muscatine Journal provides some background information, including the fact that HF 219 passed the Iowa House 93-6. According to Kaufmann, he recruited Rep. Dave Jacoby to co-sponsor the eminent domain bill, asked Jacoby to help write the language, and has spoken publicly about his positive relationship with the popular Coralville Democrat. Eminent domain is one of Kaufmann’s signature issues this session, and he has a lot riding on the outcome, personally and politically. The text of their joint press release is below.
To outsiders, it is unclear what is the secret sauce for getting Republican house bills like HF 219 to an up or down vote in the senate. What is clear is the process is complicated. Democrats can appreciate the complexity, and for the most part, the results of the Senate’s actions. In any event, how this bipartisan collaboration plays out will be something to follow in the closing days of the first session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly.
Kaufmann-Jacoby Joint Press Release May 21, 2013
Kaufmann and Jacoby offer a compromise to the Senate
Rep. Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville) and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) have offered an agreement on two key issues that have garnered a lot of interest in the last several legislative sessions. “The eminent domain language passed the Iowa House four times this session, each time with over 90 votes,” said Kaufmann. “There has also been much bipartisan support in the Senate, but it has not been brought up for a vote.” The legislation ensures that land cannot be condemned for recreational purposes by skirting the 2006 law. A controversy in Clarke County has been an impetus for the bill.
The passenger rail proposal which includes matching federal funding for an initial run between the Quad Cities and Iowa City (with possible expansion to Des Moines) has met with significant resistance. The $5.5 million dollars would be a part of the state match. “Passenger rail is an important initiative for my district, and our local Chambers of Commerce. This compromise reflects the continuing spirit of all legislative districts being heard and I believe gives both issues new life and a new pathway into becoming law,” said Rep. Jacoby.
As the 2013 session winds to an end, proposals like this could very well be the lynch pin to adjourning.
From our inbox: A note from PIRG:
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen – a lawyer to trucking company CRST International – is axing all funding for both passenger rail and freight rail in Iowa. We can’t let that happen.
New passenger rail along I-80 from Chicago through Quad Cities, Iowa City, Des Moines and Council Bluffs would provide travelers in Iowa with a more convenient way to travel – while creating jobs, building our economy, and keeping us competitive regionally.
We need you to help us make sure our legislators refuse to vote in support of any budget that doesn’t include funds for passenger and frieght rail.
This year, even Governor Branstad included a recommendation to fund passenger rail in his budget – funds that would allow us to leverage $86 mill in federal funding.
Click here to send this message to your legislator:
If we let this opportunity to leverage $86 million in federal funds to move forward with new passenger rail across Iowa along I-80 – Iowa will loose out on generations worth of infrastructure development necessary to keep our state economically competitive regionally.
Also, as an agricultural state, we rely on freight rail to get our goods to market. To eliminate the revolving funds for freight rail would create an easily avoidable hardship. Including funds for both the freight rail and multi-modal would allow us to make updates to our tracks and crossing intersections while introducing passenger rail – necessary updates that will allow freight to operate more efficiently, improve safety, and get more bang for our buck.
Please, take a stand to protect this important investment in our future. Don’t vote in support of any budget that does not include funding for multi-modal and freight rail.
Iowa PIRG Advocate
Support Iowa PIRG. Contributions by people just like you make our advocacy possible. Your contribution supports a staff of organizers, attorneys, scientists and other professionals who monitor government and corporate decisions and advocate on the public’s behalf.
IOWA PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP
3209 Ingersoll Ave., Ste. 210-A
Des Moines, IA 50312 | (515) 282-4193
SESSION WON’T END UNTIL THE PEOPLE’S WORK IS FINISHED
While I hope the 2013 legislative session wraps up soon, I won’t vote to adjourn until Iowa has a balanced state budget that will help strengthen and grow our middle class.
We can do that in a fiscally responsible way because Iowa’s state budget is in good shape, thanks to sound bipartisan management. The state is expected to have a budget surplus of about $844 million on June 30, the end of the current budget year. In addition, we have $622 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.
I support these key initiatives to help strengthen our economy and create jobs:
• Expanding access to high-quality affordable health care for uninsured working Iowans (SF 296)
• Approving education reform that improves student achievement (HF 215)
• Providing reliable, responsible funding for our local schools (HF 604)
• Cutting taxes for working Iowa families to help lift them out of poverty and boost the economy (SF422)
• Assisting 73,000 Iowa small businesses by providing a state tax credit on employee health insurance costs (SF 449)
LEGISLATORS SEEK COMPROMISE TO EXPAND HEALTH CARE
The Legislature continues to work toward a compromise that will expand affordable health care to more low-income Iowans.
On April 30, the House approved Governor Branstad’s alternative to Medicaid expansion with only minor changes. In the face of bipartisan opposition, the measure passed on a narrow vote of 51-49. Even the Republican chair of the House Health & Human Services Budget expressed doubts that the federal government would approve the Governor’s plan and criticized the plan’s raid on local property taxes for mental health services.
The House and Senate approaches both focus on improving the health of Iowans and rewarding health care providers for doing so, but the alternative supported by the Governor and the House has many flaws.
Here are just a few comparisons:
• The Senate plan covers 150,000 uninsured working Iowans. The House alternative helps only 89,000.
• The Senate plan allows Iowans to access health care services in their own communities. The House alternative creates transportation barriers by using regional providers.
• The Senate plan is already paid for with federal dollars. The House alternative adds to the federal deficit and costs Iowa taxpayers an additional $157 million. It increases property taxes and takes funds away from the newly redesigned mental health system.
I am committed to expanding access to health care to hard-working Iowans in a fiscally responsible manner. I’m also listening to the Iowans who know and care most about this issue: health care providers and advocates. They’ve dedicated their lives to affordable, accessible high-quality health care, and they are united in the belief that expanding Medicaid is the right choice for Iowa.
I remain hopeful about ongoing negotiations among Republican and Democratic legislators on this important legislation. For more on how the health care plans compare, check out these comments by Senate President Pam Jochum, floor manager of SF 296 in the Senate: http://youtu.be/lO8iq9jlJzU.
ISU BASKETBALL STAR RAISES AWARENESS OF MENTAL HEALTH
The Legislature has spent three years debating mental health reform. We are close to implementing a plan that will treat every Iowan the same—no matter where they live, no matter what their disorder.
Senate File 415 invests nearly $30 million over the next year to ensure that local services do not suffer as Iowa transitions to a regional system. This is a victory, especially for Iowans living with mental illness. But more work lies ahead. We must raise awareness and acceptance of mental illness.
Former Iowa State University basketball star Royce White is doing just that. Royce was a first-round draft pick last summer for the Houston Rockets, but generalized anxiety disorder has made his transition to professional sports difficult and threatens to end his NBA career.
White visited the Senate Chamber on April 25, giving us the chance to hear his story. It’s the public story of a man with exceptional talent who also has the courage to stand up and talk about his mental health struggles in order to help others.
White’s story is the story of many Iowans—our friends, neighbors and family. While he is a professional basketball player, mental illnesses can also affect any Iowan: lawyers, nurses, mechanics and any other occupation. Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children—with no regard for race, age, religion or economic status.
White chose the Iowa Statehouse to kick off a national tour to help end the stigma of mental illness so everyone gets the support and help they need. His story is just one example of why the Legislature has worked so hard to ensure quality mental health services are available to all Iowans.
CUTTING TAXES TO GROW IOWA’S MIDDLE CLASS
The Iowa Senate has passed a package of bills that will lower taxes for Iowa citizens, employers and property owners. These initiatives will revitalize our communities, allow businesses to expand, create jobs and grow our middle class.
I hope this is the year that Iowa increases our state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 20 percent of the federal tax credit (SF422). Republicans and Democrats in the Senate overwhelmingly approved this tax cut, which is good for working families and the Iowa economy, but the House has not yet acted on in it.
The EITC cuts taxes for low-income working Iowans and helps lift them out of poverty. A boost in our state EITC would benefit 210,000 Iowans who pay the highest percentage of their income in state and local taxes, even though they are among our lowest paid workers.
These Iowans are the parents of almost 40 percent of all Iowa kids. More than half of the benefit of this tax cut will go to households with incomes below $20,000 a year—households living in poverty. When these families work their way out of poverty, we all benefit. Their kids will be much more likely to graduate from college, join our skilled workforce and help build a strong Iowa future.
In addition, if this tax cut becomes law, Iowa communities will receive a $50 million boost in economic activity. Unlike other proposed tax cuts, almost every dollar of this tax cut will be spent locally.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601