The first funnel week is over, so we will know early this week which bills survived and which ones are history. I would guess the number of bills that will be debated on the floor will be noticeably fewer than past years. That is okay with me. It would appear that both the House and Senate are eager to wrap things up early, especially after last years' 172 day marathon session. We need to work on priority bills and toss everything else overboard. If we can get together and finish the budget, an early adjournment is possible. Let's hope so -- the longer we are here, the more things begin to deteriorate, and the taxpayers of Iowa usually come up on the short end of the stick.
For about a full year now, the Governor has been promoting an education reform package he would like to see passed. House and Senate committees passed different versions of education reform this week and neither bill comes close to mirroring the Governor's proposal. More details will be available this week, but I am sure the Governor will not be pleased. However, we are early in the process, so there will be negotiations between both chambers and the Governor to see where the common ground may be.
Along with education reform, the mental health re-write bill continues to advance. This legislation is being watched closely by a lot of different advocacy groups, and its fate is still uncertain. A couple of weeks ago, the whole thing was ready to blow up, but now it seems to be moving forward again. Funding seems to be the major stumbling block at this time, but I am sure we will be able to find some sort of compromise.
The proposal to raise the gas tax is still alive. It passed the Senate Transportation committee, so it survived the first funnel. No action was taken in the House Transportation committee. I just do not sense there is much interest here in the House to raise the gas tax at this time, especially after a statewide poll showed 70% of Iowans are not in favor of it. Those are pretty high numbers. I was actually a little surprised by the 70% figure, but it tells me people are not interested in having their taxes increased on anything.
Another poll showed that 70% of Iowans are opposed to legalizing on-line gambling, yet the Senate is moving a bill forward to do just that. If it comes over to the House, I do not believe it would pass. But if it did, it would not have my support.
I was in the Capitol cafeteria line the other morning waiting to order breakfast when someone next to me said "Good Morning, Dan." I turned, and there stood Governor Branstad, waiting in line just like the rest of us. This is the third time this year that this has happened to me. It is nice to see out Governor out and about in the Capitol, greeting people and taking time to visit with whomever feels like talking to him. He loves doing this and it is fun to watch him interact with a group of school children. They are thrilled to even have the chance to see their state leader, let alone shake his hand. At a time when many people have negative feelings toward those in office, I believe the Governor sets a good example for all of us.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.