Legislative Forum Live
9:33. A little connection problem but now we're live. Joe Bolkcom is already speaking but I lost the thread; also here are Bob Dvorsky, Mary Mascher, and Dave Jacoby. Vicki Lensing had work obligations. The GOP delegation is again absent.
So Joe talked education. Mental health funding, Senate looking for more funding and levy rates for counties for MH/DD.
Predatory lending: bill died in House, hoping to amend to an appropriations bill.
Environment: Passed bill increasing littering fines. Water quality: addressing point source pollution from sewer plants. Concern from small cities on affordability of standards. Looking to double renewable energy credits. Looking at sales tax exemption for solar. Dead: septic system sale regulation.
Environmental Advocates and Sierra Club are cosponsors.
9:37: Bob Dvorsky. Education - meeting with Vilsack on K12 education comprehensive plan. Reform and resources. Looking at allowable growth, teacher quality, and early childhood. Vilsack wants something done this year... (well, of course)
Regents bill "abysmal" 6 million when regents asked for 40 million. Presidential search: meeting with regents, he wants faculty to have involvement. Want a search everyone can buy into.
Sex offenders: House stopped bill. Monday will work on compromise, looking for a good workable policy, not a political thing.
Appropriations: trying to get bills out of committee, looking for global solution. Looking to adjourn week of April 13-18.
9:41 Mary Mascher. We banned Touch Play (crowd says yay). Another bill would try to help businesses who bought into it. Vilsack meeting with Tom Miller to discuss prospects of lawsuits. Mascher - it needed to be done, people were offended by the rapid expansion.
Education - will dominate next three weeks. Ed and human services funding is very low and we won't allow that to happen. House passed 4% allowable growth, Senate wants larger number. Dems will want to see that happen.
School days vs. hours bill: Intent is to look at instructional time. Does not include recess, lunch, early or weather dismissal, and professional development. For 30 years Iowa City has had Thursday early release for professional development. Bill did not make it through funnel, but Vilsack is interested in this. May yet be negotiated.
9:46 - Dave Jacoby. Commerce Committee did not kill predatory lending as much as Rants did. We discussed bill, but in the middle there were some "leadership problems" (i.e. Rants said kill it) but people in both parties are interested.
I'm sorry for how low House education bill is; Mascher is leading charge on school funding.
Hygienic Lab is looking promising for full funding on new lab (30-36 million). Human Services House budget is not what we need, but better than education. Increases in childcare, Medicare reimbursement. More dental and mental health.
Fire training money, hoping to get some.
Touch play got a little too much attention, wanted more on education. I did not vote for immediate ban, I prefer phase out. We needed to negotiate in better faith, hope we can work with these small businesses.
9:51. Other co sponsor is Sierra Club.
First question from League of Women Voters. Criminal Justice and mental health budgets.
Dvorsky: House sent over inadequate budget. Underfunded some Oakdale programs too. Met with Corrections and AFSCME to get unified approach. I will tour Ft Madison next week. House bill looked suspicious, maybe they think I'll get the money back in (laughs). Larry McKibben is also supportive.
9:54. They're cracking down on time limits ("no speeches"). Here's Nick Maybanks, Sierra Club Chair (and county attorney candidate). Sierra gave Steve Fugate (Hamburg Inn guy) a biodiesel grant. Some local coops can't sell biodiesel, fed regs. What can Iowa do to promote?
Bolkcom: I've worked with Fugate on small producer sales tax exemption. Road Lobby doesn't like it; I don't think it will advance. Looking for more tax credit legislation. Biodiesel has a lot of legislative support.
Dvorsky: We haven't done much with ethanol in last several years.
Jacoby: Just started discussion in house on ethanol mandates. We have a clean cheap product, how do we make it accessible for consumer. Always comes down to $.
Mascher: House bill schedules by 1/1/2025 ethanol should replace 25% of petroleum in Iowa. We get conflicting info on E85.
10:00 Environmental Advocates looking at water quality. Watershed Improvement Review Board funding and REAP.
Bolkcom: We need to extend REAP. Big challenge is fully funding; program is successful. Leg. not focused on water quality and we struggle. House did not take up septic sale. Sandy Greiner has blocked water quality issues for a long time (hey, where is she?) We need change in leadership!
Jacoby: "We do have beaches in Iowa - we just can't swim in them" because of water quality. Fishing is a great tourism opportunity - but "don't eat the fish" is a poor message! We need to look at tourism and quality of life.
Mascher: Ask these questions at campaign time and get very specific. Until we get Democratic control I don't see this changing.
Dvorsky: Someone should talk about DNR funding. GOP has been trying to gut for ten years. GOP hates them because "they actually have regulations" and we're losing the battle. Smacks down Greiner again. (Where is she?)
10:05 - open the mike.
Bolkcom thanks EA for supporting Iowa City Bike Library.
Janelle Rettig. Where are we really at on the budget?
Bolkcom: We started year -500 million, probably down t0 450. We have 186 million new $$$.
Rettig - are we repaying at all?
Dvorsky - not much. Bolkcom: Looking at "austere" budget.
10:08 - Supervisor Sally Stutsman on mental health funding. We expect fund balance to be gone, still no waiting list. What is short term fix and long term? Please give counties flexibility to address local needs. The cap gives us a real dilemma.
Bolkcom: Some counties have big ending balances, some don't. Hoping to give counties with the most need more $. But that’s a band-aid. Either state has to pay more or give counties more authority. I favor the latter. Pennies on assessed value; state won't have resources.
Stutsman: Changes must be sent in next month and will be immediate. What will you base fund balance decision on?
Bolkcom: If under 10% state $, otherwise not? We're looking at 10, 15%
Stutsman - Hard to plan.
Bolkcom: What we did 10 years ago has worked but now it's time to make adjustments.
Jacoby: there's stubbornness - if state would allow levy increases it's seen as "tax increase" but it's really just giving counties flexibility. We need to stop fussing with local budgets every year, local govts. should have flexibility.
Mascher - what are we looking at for local cuts?
Stutsman: possible end of brain injury services. Some services for children. That could prevent more costly services...
Jacoby: How many people?
Stutsman: 300-400 families. Also, we may have to look at all non-mandated services. We can't run at a deficit, and that means service cuts.
Bolkcom - this is a statewide problem.
Dvorsky - I've been hearing from families in Scott County too. We came up with $2 million more. House Dems tried to make it $10 million - maybe we needed a more bipartisan approach. Senate Dems have half the say, but GOP has full control of House. Some chuckles, exchanged looks between Reps and Senators.
Mascher: In the House we often get more $ and try to make the case to increase Senate money. Our only chance to put these issues before the public, we were not trying to sabotage Senate funding.
Stutsman: Biggest cut will be medications. These drugs are expensive but keep people out of institutions and jail.
10:19 - Barb Hinke, Iowa City teacher. How can we dissuade Vilsack on hours not days bill? Divisive, and we lose professional development and prep time.
Dvorsky: Keep contacting governor. Do we have data on this? Don't think so.
Mascher: Recess was a big topic. There is data on the importance of activity especially for K-3 kids. Huge concern that districts would even eliminate it if it did not count as instructional time. I guarantee districts will do that and it's a bad message. Kids need activity and exercise. Also: pep rallies, they really targeted that.
Hinke: How do we enforce. Mascher: Minutes Police (ha ha ha)
Hinke: Also concerned we will lose focus on arts because of emphasis on math and reading.
Mascher: Was looking at exemptions for districts that do well - Jodi Tymeson (House Ed chair) uninterested.
Local Control: "We like local control until we don't, then we won't/"
Jacoby: We need to focus on teacher quality and salary, and allowable growth. You better let kids have recess; it's socialization and fitness. We met with education students - many schools in western US have given up arts and phy ed to focus on reading and math. Never let that happen here.
10:27 Supervisor Rod Sullivan. State needs to set a "floor" of minimum standards - but now local govt. being told we can't do better than that floor level. State is saying "you may NOT succeed."
Dvorsky: GOP leadership doesn't really believe in government, they wanted to keep it as tight as possible.
Jacoby: We need to be efficient in government and our local folks do that well. But in Des Moines they think there's a lot of fat in government - I think that comes from inexperience in local govt. When I was on Coralville city council, we had to cut bus service. Open government - we want to make sure locals get that info out, but we don't do as well at state. We need more of that.
10:31 Les Weber, retired MD. Anti smoking. He's giving the speech and gets cut off. Gets to the point: any way to bring it up this session?
Bolkcom: It's viable to draft an amendment... but we don't have the votes. Nothing moves in Senate without bipartisanship, and we don't have agreement.
Mascher: 13 Republican reps support tobacco tax increase. Rants is the big barrier.
Weber: Asks for definition of "non-germane."
Jacoby: Seeing so many people is having an impact. It's bipartisan; we just need to get one person out of the way.
Weber: Giving speeches again...
Dvorsky: If we get cig tax, we'll have to give up something. If we had 51 Dems, Rants wouldn't be a barrier. Bashes Greiner again... and Dave Miller too. Bob's partisanship is shining. Partisanship is underrated.
10:37. I missed this guy's name but he's a teacher. Allowable growth.
Mascher: House Dems supported 6%. Failed on party lines.
Dvorsky: Some Senate Republicans wanted 6%, but leadership demanded 4. Senate Dems want 6. Bolkcom: "I agree with Bob."
10:39. Water quality. 81 houses flushing directly into Clear Creek near Conroy. (Eew!) Iowa County refusing to act even though $ available. His visual aid is shaking and he makes a nervousness joke.
Bolkcom: Small towns with septics or old plants need help. State should help. Cities say, "we don't want this."
Questioner: "Does a kid have to get sick and die?"
Bolkcom: We need a comprehensive approach, but there's not the leadership right now for that.
Mascher: Iowa County needs to pressure their Supervisors to approve it.
Dvorsky: You need someone who actually wants to take charge and do this. We passed a lot of protection with Dems in legislative control - and Branstad signed.
10:44: Supervisor Pat Harney. Corrections cuts.
Dvorsky: Trying to get bill up to adequate levels. We have good people running our operations. But it goes to Rod Sullivan's "floor" comments, ratcheting everyone down. Looking at a transitional facility in CR for mentally ill offenders, innovative program. 18% of offenders and growing.
10:4 - Patti Fields, Iowa City school board. HF2733 - replacing school local option tax with statewide 1 cent.
Bolkcom - I know school boards support. But not on ways and means radar screen for this session.
Mascher: "If you're planning on doing anything wait till we adjourn." State is watching. I proposed local option income tax, more progressive.
Jacoby: If it's statewide is it really local option? (chuckles) Linn and Johnson last holdouts, but have passed bonds. Would we be supporting schools that should be closed? Here in Johnson schools are packed. Concern about regressivity and "tax stacking."
Bolkcom: Local option school tax was bad idea when it passed. But here were are where two counties haven't done it. Biggest problem here: we've already funded, with bonds. Must be careful not to look greedy, Johnson get hundreds of millions for University. Whole state thinks we live "high on the hog."
Dvorsky: Whole idea was started because Sioux City wanted it, it spread. Should also change school aid formula. Some districts are property-poor unlike Iowa City. Why does Linn-Johnson have to be sales tax cash cow for rest of state? School funding should be considered separately from other kinds of funding.
Mascher: I opposed setting up "haves and have nots." We should have focused on teachers.
10:58. Nancy Porter, teacher. What will happen to starting age?
Mascher: 4 year old kindergarten is dead in House. Was an option. K is not mandatory in Iowa. Vilsack wants quality 4 yr old programs for all.
Dvorsky: Education Department has 4 yr old proposal.
11:00. Here come the kids! Not as many this month: only 4 kids and only 2 questions.
"What do you plan to do about women's rights in Iowa?" (spoken in unison)
Homeless veterans. They're over the time limit but they got some slack.
Dvorsky: We've never adequately funded Legal Services and domestic violence shelters/programs. Some shelters have closed. Homelessness - housing trust fund bill is stalled in House. "It *will* be passed."
There seems to be a little House-Senate tension today, but in a friendly serious way as it's all Dems here.
Jacoby: We need a comprehensive program to address needs of homeless. We've been dealing in short term "demonstration grants". We got one focused on Vietnam vets. But funding went away. We had 5-6 Johnson Co. vets left hanging. Program was paying 50% of wages and job coaching. If we're serious we need long term funding.
Mascher: Marshalltown Vets Home needs additional program dollars. Domestic violence: need to intervene early and break the cycle.
My connection is being stupid!
Mascher: one of the girl questioners job shadowed me at the Capitol (applause) Please come visit us in Des Moines.
Bolkcom: We'll pass a human trafficking bill this year. More allowable $ for nursing homes. I'm concerned about homelessness and adjustment for returning Iraq vets.
11:13: For once we're out of questions. EA is making announcements. One more: Open enrollment and classroom quality. "It's not the hours, it's the quality."
Mascher: it's a good issue to bring to school boards.
Questioner: Some districts unwilling to change.
Dvorsky: Many of those decisions driven by $$$$.
11:17 and that's a wrap. See you all next month.
(Maybe not: next forum is scheduled for same date as Dems district convention. Maybe they'll juggle the schedule?)