From the Iowa Legislature

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weather can affect Legislature

As a major winter storm approaches Iowa, it is uncertain how the end of this week will turn out. It is extremely rare for the Legislature to shut down because of weather, but the forecast is calling for heavy snow and high winds statewide, so it may be that lawmakers head home early. When one thinks about the long drives that many people have to get to the Capitol and back, it may be a good idea to let out early . . . not only as a safety issue for Representatives, but also for the clerks, staff, and career people who work here. We certainly need the moisture, but if predictions are correct, this could be a potentially deadly storm. I hope everyone stays safe.

As this is being written, the Governor's Education Reform bill is being debated on the House floor. I am sure it will pass here and be sent to the Senate where its fate is uncertain. The bill is pretty much "watered down" from what the Governor wanted, so it will be interesting to see what the Senate does with it.

Budget work continues, and appropriation subcommittees will soon be shutting down. The Governor submitted his budget early, and it is up to the Legislature to work with him to put together a budget that will pass both chambers. It must eventually gain his signature as well. Even though we received his budget early, it will still take the entire session to finalize things. We have a split Legislature, and we are also waiting to see what is going to happen in Washington. The State of Iowa has a six billion dollar budget, and another six billion comes here from the federal government. If there are major cuts from Washington, we will have to make adjustments to our budget. Whatever happens, we will make it work.

There have been several groups of people here this week advocating for their causes. One group was lobbying for an increase in fuel taxes, which is still a front burner issue. A recent poll showed that 63% of Iowans oppose an increase, and, since gas prices have risen substantially in the last couple of months, the chances of a fuel tax increase are fading.

Former Iowa Governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the Capitol this week, and addressed all four caucuses. Time was short, but he did talk about several issues, including the fact that the number of meat inspectors could be cut if Congress and the President fail to reach agreement on budget talks. That could affect our livestock industry. He also announced that there is going to be a new Conservation Reserve Program signup period. Mr. Vilsack fielded a few questions from our caucus that dealt with exports, China, farm income and infrastructure problems on our rivers and at our seaports. It was nice to have the Secretary.

here, and to know that he stays in touch with Governor Branstad and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. I won't quote him, but Secretary Vilsack said that we lawmakers in Iowa had it made compared to what goes on in Washington. I am happy to know that, but we also need to fix what is wrong in Washington.

You can 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 to me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is 304 East 6th, P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at