Saturday, February 27, 2010

February LWV Liveblog

February LWV Liveblog

Really sorry about the delayed aspect of this; right after I connected and made my "hey, we're live" intro, the wifi died...

9:29 and hi from Coralville city hall and the February League of Women Voters legislative forum. Cosponsors are Environmental Advocates and Sierra Club. Some labor folks are on hand as well.

As for the honorable legislators we have Senators Schmitz, Dvorsky and Bolkcom, and Reps Mascher, Marek and Jacoby and Lensing. One empty chair on the end, maybe Nate Willems is running late. No sign of Kaufmann and ent.Hahn...

Other honorables include Sheriff Lonny and supervisors Rettig and Harney. The junior high students as usual are out in full force.

We're off to a slightly late start at 9:39 due to a TV tech issue.

Schmitz leads off. Teacher pay legislation gets IA to 26th in nation. Senate amends state re-org bill, keeps Empowerment in Dept. of Management. Domestic abuse gun ban passed. "It did allow for due process." HHS budget: "We're coming in with much fewer $s than we'd hoped. We started off $187 million in the hole. We're all hoping this economic situation will turn around."

Dvorsky is glad they're having this in Coralville. Can't hide that CV pride. Notes that Willems had a family medical emergency. Bob hoping to adjourn in 4 weeks. "The in the know people in DC say the feds will come through" on Medicaid money. "It is going to be a tough tough budget year all across."

Mascher: we've got a reorganization compromise. Over $127 million in savings. Notes texting ban, puppy mill bill.

Jacoby discusses disaster relief, vets issues. Met with Wellmark Thurs. "Rate increases for people over 50 have been closer to 60%."

Lensing notes next funnel is next week and session is 2/3 over. "Wellmark has reserves they can use." Also notes green advisory committee bill passing.

Bolkcom: "We need congress and the prsident to pass a health care bill soon." Gets applause. Dealing with corporate tax subsidy reform. "This spending happend outside the appropriation process, most of it without review." Flood plain management bill, paid sick day bill. "A lot of people have paid sick days, but a whole bunch of people don't." Bike safety bill.

Marek: Wind energy bill. SE IA network could prduce 500 megawatts. "It's expensive to put up, but one it's in place that wind is not subject to any speculation."edicare supplamental is taking

The wifi has died so this is now pseudo-live.

Question One comes from Dawn Suter of LWV and it's health care. Current senate bill SF 2356 to expand. Bolkcom: part of federal bill (which he thinks will pass) will be resources to help people who can't afford. IA would allow people to buy into state Medicaid on sliding scale. Incobysurance industry opposes. Negotiations to get the votes are ongoing. Calls it "a modest public option." Bill also expands provider network. Dvorsky: "we're probably first state in the nation to insure every child." "Senator Grassley has not been helpful but maybe he can be now" gets crowd laughs. Both say Jack Hatch is the point guy on this. Jacoby: poitics bogging this down. "The top two pieces driving costs in Iowa are age and weight. We need the youth in the pool." What insurance calls mandates, Dave calls essential services. "Those aren't what's driving the costs." Mascher: all of us need to call all our congressfolks. "We know Harkin and Loebsack are on board, we needs to let the R's know IOWANS wan't this. If we have to invoke reconciliation, so be it. Eventually you need to go forward." (This gets applause.) Marek cites constituent where Medicare supplement is taking whole social security check. Bolkcom discusses duplication of technology. Dvorsky: Feds need to regulate insurance, repeal McCarran-Ferguson.

10:25 and the wifi is still down.

Tom Carsner from Sierra Club asks about nuclear power. MidAmerican wants $15 million study. Marek: I hope the wind energy keeps moving." (This is his trademark issue.) Bolckom: proposal is very very new. "We've not been able to pass a single on of 54 energy issues" because industry has fought every one," and now they want this. "So there's a bit of frustration because they''ve opposed the low cost ideas and now they've proposed the most expensive idea." Any nuke plant would probably be next to Palo or Cordova IL. "We may need a nuke plant" if we're to meet carbon goals, but this needs to becombined with other ideas.

Mike Carberry: water quality and manure on frozen ground. Schmitz: last year there was a reasonable compromise, then a bill comes in that derails it. Marek, wearing his farmer hat: manure needs to be injected, not dumped on frozen ground. Jacoby: Northey has promised watershed study and not provided it. Mascer notes her opposition; "we're looking at flooding again and we have done no flood mitigation." Due to climate change this will be more common, so we need to figure out long term how to vive with our water system. Lensing: "We have colleagues who don't recognize these problems." Dvorsky: Rob Hogg is running bill based on recommendations made after the 1993 flood, "and Governor Branstad did nothing with them." Nice touch. Bolckom: cities opposing DNR recommending a flood ordinance model. (Rettig whispers to me: "they're afraid someone will hold them accountable.")

10:4 Pat Hughes from the City Fed of Labor. "I wanna talk about reasonable reimbursement." It's a fee, not a mandate. Jacoby: HF2420 is active, struggling on some fronts. But payment for grievance is active and has a good chance. Marek: "I hear both sides. I wish it would be addressed by federal law that unions could represent their members and not have to represent others." Mascher notes that bill doesn't address state and local employees differently. "It all comes down to 51 votes" (and, unsaid: one of them is at this table..) Dvorsky (AFSCME member): "I don't understand for the life of me why people think they shouldn't pay something for this process. I would be ashamed. These are freeloaders."

Jean Cole asks about county mergers at 10:48. Dvorsky: "The actual boundaries of the 99 counties are in the Constitution. Now, you can combine offices," and notes Woodbury's auditor-recorder combo is the only one. Community Commonwealth allows city-county combinations, but Polk County voted it down. "It takes political will at the local level." Jacoby: "It has to be a dual effort, not a mandate from Des Moines." More services can be combined. Johnson County has better cooperation between governments than sother areas. Mascher says young people are the ones who will change things and demand more services on line. Tells a story about a teacher who wrote the assignment on the blackboard, and the kid, instead of writing it down, took a picture of the board with a cell phone. "Young people thinks differently." Schmitz, who has the most rural district of anyone at the table, notes rural fears of being swallowed up, also notes good working relationships between governments. Marek: I would like to see more state things devolved to the counties.

Shane Marek of Carpenters asks about prevailing wage. Jacoby: notes that even CR mayor Ron Corbett ("a former Republican speaker") is looking at PLAs and prevailing wage. Current bll has opt-out clauses. "We either pay with wages or medicare." Mascher, Bolkcom and Dvorsky all chime in with support. (Larry Marek, presumably no relation, is quiet.)

June Judge of NAMI: "When will IA have a Division of Psychiatric Rehabilitation?" Schmitz notes that it's hard to even keep phychiatrists in state. Jacoby notes that IA rembursement 51st in nation, "even below Puerto Rico." Mascher says state is under-served, talks about forgiving student loans to keep people here.

11:06 Pat McGee asks about business tax rebates. Bolkcom: "This credit is the most generous in the country, I'm in favor of scaling it back. The biggest companies in the state are fiercely trying to protect it."

Chris Bonfig asks about HF 2420; Mascher, Dvorsky, Schmitz, Lensing, Bolkcom yes; Jacoby, Marek no. Jacby: "The first part of the bill is marvelous, the secons part needs some work."

11:17 and here come the junior high students. Won't get to them all.

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