March LWV Forum Liveblog
Welcome to the Msrch LWV legislative forum. We have all Dems as usual today: Bolkcom and Dvorsky from the Senate. House side is Jacoby, Mascher, Lensing, Marek. (Kaufmann reported at Chamber of Commerce forum just before.) Cosponsors are Environmental advocates, Sierra Club, Iowa City Federation of Labor. Willems ill.
Bolkcom starts with federal deductibility: eliminating "will put more money into the hands of middle class families" and simplify tax code. "We should eliminate this really arcane part of our tax code--only Alabama and Louisiana have it" and we should be more progressive. It's tilted toward the wealthiest among us and it's long overdue.
I'm fumbling in Windows with a bad keyboard so bear with the typos. I busted the DELETE key off liveblogging Obama in December `07. My small portable keyboard seems to be helping (even though Deb Thornton says it's loud).
Lensing up now. Iowa is one of 16 states selected to follow flow of federal stimulus money, Lensing will work on this via Oversight Committee.
Dvorsky: Budget budget budget. Revenue estimates down substantially so we have to lower budget targets. Main stimulus money is education and health care. "It's a moving target on the budget." Also working on guv's bonding bill. Deductibility: says 80% of people will get tax cut from dumping deductibility.
Jacoby: unemployment insurance modernization bill extends benefits and training. "It does not raise employer rates but does extend benefits." Curently 81000 people receiving benefits, some northern counties at 11%. $72 million from feds in bill.
Mascher: Hoping to adjourn early, funnel dates moved up. Gender balance and pay equity bills had bipartisan support. "Our version of Lilly Ledbetter" (applause) "Bipartisan support is no small task."
Marek: "The numbers are good numbers" on the deductibility, to his own surprise. Wind energy tax credits moving forward. Need to use stimulus dollard before bonding on roads, but bonding still needed. (Hope I characterized that right.) Unemployment is better than other states. "Bad enough being at 4.9 but California is at 11."
Question one from League: coal plant moratorium. Bolkcom: don't think that's going forward. Marek: Marshalltown dropped, need to invest in wind.
Tom Carsner of Environmental Advocates: manure on frozen ground. Notes Bolkcom;s opposition and now move to House. Bolkcom: bill provides more protection than the none at all that we have. I opposed even though it's an improvement, wanted to show some solidarity with the regulation process. Dvorsky: We're not weaking anything that's now in places, rules haven't been adopted. Bill strengthens the current law. "We passed what we thought was good but maybe not perfect." EPC and DNR need to work with legislators and not in vacuum.
Jacoby: talking to rural legislators about consequences. Floods raised awareness of water quality.
Non-legislative electeds are scarce today: only one I see is next to me, Patti Fields of the school board wearing her Bears blue and orange.
Mascher: I'd rather have something and be proactive than do nothing. Bolkcom: If this passes, and it will, it's an improvement. Maybe ouse can improve it.
Marek: equipment can till a two-inch deep frost and the manure is valuable. We're hitting a compromise with this bill. Without action there will be bigger problems. I'll support.
Mike Carberry of Sierra Club: general environmental update. Marek talks win credits, filter strips. Lensing: thinks wind energy bill will pass. Schools also eligible for the tax credits. Jacoby: "For my first two years I thought 'flip the grid' meant we were having waffles for lunch." (Gotta blog the Jacoby Joke.) Wind credits help smaller units including homeowners. Mascher: the bonding bill will be monumental: flood mitigation, wetlands, levees sewers. Small town sewers have been bad for years, with no funding sources. Bolkcom: $1 million energy efficiency grant program, signage bill for waste discharge (passed Senate 26-24). Dvorsky: Hoping to protect REAP from cuts, unfortunately we're in cutting mode. "Something like 600 cities in Iowa are unsewered." Trying to get downtown Cedar Rapids viable again.
Pat Hughes of Iowa City Federation of Labor: thanks for support on unemployment, middle class taxes, and sales tax bill. "I normally am opposed to sales taxes, but this special instance is so important that it's the right thing to do." Notes City Fed and Chamber of Commerce endorsement of sales tax. "It would improve the quality of life for the people I represent both upstream and downstream." This can leverage federal dollars. "Maybe we can get some of this work done with a prevailing wage." (applause)
Marek: If stimulus dollars can help rail line to Chicago that's jobs. (And wind again.) Lensing: "This is a special instance. The money from the sales tax would help the people who lost their businesses and homes. A lot of people who might not be in favor would be more inclined to support if they knew the specific use.' Dvorsky: early voting has started. "It's critical to get this passed. If the floods come again in Coralville, you can turn out the lights, frankly." Jacoby: "If we put a wind turbine at the state house we'd all have free power." Bolkcom: "This has been a difficult tax to pass in Johnson County, with the concerns about regressivity. I am supporting the tax. The flooding was terribly disruptive and this is our opportunity to help ourselves." Mascher: "I hope our local Democratic party will hold a special meeting to endorse this. This is really and truly salvation for our community. I'm very supportive of this. If we aren't willing to do our part it'll be harder for the state to be supportive."
Larry Marek discusses the logistics of runoff.
Janelle Rettig asks about air quality, specifically auto traffic and UI power plant. "Once we go out of containment our options are limited." Bolkcom: metro bike plan, energy efficience. "We've got to engage more people right here at home, we are extraordinarily wasteful." UI looking at green solutions. (Regular bikers Rettig and Bolkcom both confess to driving today, unfortunately I did too.) Marek notes we have to meet air quality to get road $. "I don't think it's getting worse but we are more conscious of it." Jacoby: "Rails and trails. We have to think big on this. Let's get enough right of way to run rail and trail parallel."
Charlotte Walker asks about nursing home bills. Says agencies and legislators have not been forthcoming on information. "The nursing home lobby wrote these bills."
Bolkcom: SF433 has been under discussion between lobbyists and legislators; Sen. Bill Dotzler is the point person here. Bill increases some fines and tightens inspection and conflict of interest. "The Department of Elder Affairs should be knowlegable about this. The bill strikes a decent balance." Charlotte goes away still unhappy.
Gay marriage: Mascher: Court ruling coming this year. "We're very hopeful that ruling will be a positive step towards equality." But we need to wait for that ruling before legislative action. Discusses parenting issues. "I'm very hopeful the ruling will be upheld and we'll see gay marriage in Iowa in the near future."
Judicial branch furloughs: "This amounts to 10% of our take home pay." If that continues, make judges take part too. "It's hurting people close to retirement" and will reduce their retirement pay. "We need to fully fund the court system or we won't have justice in Iowa."
Dvorsky (a judicial branch employee himself): "in 2010 we might be in a better situation. We may also increase filing fees" to match neighboring states. Jacoby: "This underlies how serious the economy is."
David Smithers: There's a cognitive dissonance when we're talking abot cutbacks yet the governor's talking about bonding for building." "Some of the numbers in the paper (on fed. stimulus) are inflated and aren't what actually comes down o the state." Smithers: "Ribbon cutting projects are nice but so is taking care of people." Mascher: "There's a resistance to bonding for ongoing expenses. It makes big holes in future years. You don't borrow money to pay the light bill."
June Judge: mental health funding. Bolkcom: Parity legislatin is improving. "We've had a few steps forward, a step or two back." "We have a lot of people in jail who shouldn't be in jail because they have mental health issues." Dvorsky: "We're making cuts, we don't have the reveniue. But we are doing some things, I wish we could do more."
The junior high kids are lined up for their questions, but I have to sneak out early to do stuff with my own kids.