The first funnel is only a couple of weeks away, so committee work continues. The funnel process serves a useful purpose. It winnows down the number of bills that will become eligible for debate. Higher priority bills will advance, while most others will simply fade away for now. The Chair of the Appropriations Committee has also instructed budget chairs to pass their individual spending bills out of committees by the end of next week. Some may be able to meet that deadline, but I am sure two or three will not make it. There are not many bills on the calendar that are eligible for floor debate so things are going to have to start moving a lot faster. I have always said that the Legislature does not have to pass a lot of bills to be successful, but right now, there is a lot of important legislation sitting around waiting for something to happen. It seems we are always running behind. Maybe starting on time in the morning would help.
When Dr. Gregory Geoffry, President of Iowa State University, spoke to the House Agriculture Committee, he revealed his vision for the renewable fuels industry in Iowa. That included not only production, but the research and development aspects involved as well. He wants Iowa to be the leader. We all do. But alternative energy is not just for Iowa anymore. As you may know, ISU was in the running to receive a $500 million grant from BP to develop the Energy Biosciences Institute. To the surprise of many, the grant was awarded to the University of Illinois and the University of California at Berkley. Many people around here and across the state felt sure that the grant would go to ISU because of Iowa's leadership role in biofuels. Maybe we were all a little over confident, but we got punched in the nose and knocked on our rear-ends, and now it is time to get up and realize we are not the only kid on the block any more.
There are more opportunities out there for research grants and I'm sure Iowa will be okay. However, other states are stepping up to the plate, especially after President Bush made a big push for renewable energy in January. The Georgia Legislature is considering eliminating the sales tax on all materials used to produce alternative fuels. They believe this is a good first step. Alabama is a little behind Iowa, but has created a task force to develop an alternative energy industry in that state. Auburn University is doing research on ways to produce switch grass there and convert it to ethanol. The Governor of Michigan has proposed spending $100 million over the next 3 years to develop the industry there. With the auto industry located there, this could present a real challenge to Iowa. Governor Culver has proposed the creation of the Iowa Power Fund, which is fine, but we have no details as to what it is going to fund. We are going to have a committee study it. If we study too long, we will lose.
This newsletter is written and sent on Thursday afternoon. As of this writing, the democrats have placed the bill which will allow human cloning in Iowa on the calendar. This is on fast-track, and I'm sure they want it passed so they won't have to deal with it at week-end forums. The Governor will gladly sign this bill and the slide down the slippery slope will continue. What has changed in the five years since a ban on human cloning was put into place? Iowans do not want this. What has changed is who is in control.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, at home on weekends at 712-434-5880, or fax me at 712-434-2012. You may write to me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is 6144 Y Avenue, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.