The 2013 Iowa Legislative Session Just Keeps Going and Going and Going
Part of our new focus for the website is keeping up with what our elected officials are doing during the legislative session. The 2013 Iowa General Assembly has been working on several pieces of legislation despite the ongoing divide between the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House. The list of bills that have been passed is available from the Iowa General Assembly Website.
Education Funding and Reform?
What may be more interesting to many Iowans is the list of what is not on the list of bills that have been passed as of the end of April: No education funding bill for the fiscal year starting in two months and no education reform bill. While these topics have been referred to conference committee for resolution and both the Senate and House have moved toward one another to some degree, Iowa public schools are still faced with having to certify budgets for their school districts without knowing how much money they will have to spend. They have no choice but to assume a zero percent allowable growth, which has resulted in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs. This at a time when state coffers are full and the state has a significant surplus. If you think this is no way to run public education, then call your local members of the House and Senate and let them know what you think. A list of Iowa legislators is available here.
The Iowa Senate and the Iowa House have been debating the future access to health care for several thousand Iowans who are working, but earning significantly less than average wages in the state, and who have no access to health insurance through their employers. Under the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (PPACA), which many call, "Obamacare", Iowa has to choose whether to accept the federal Medicaid expansion provisions of that law or to do something of their own. Governor Branstad has stated that he has concerns about the sustainability of the expanded Medicaid program since it relies on federal funding. He came up with a plan which covers fewer working Iowans, but costs the state more money. In the meantime, the Iowa Senate developed a plan which accepts the federal expansion... so long as the federal government keeps their end of the agreement... and covers more services for more Iowans while allowing more providers access to serving those people. Even the Iowa Hospital Association agrees that the Governors plan is full of holes... both in coverage for those working Iowans and also in logic. Governor Branstad's plan is ALSO funded mostly with federal dollars. On their website, the following paragraph raises a few good questions:
"So it’s really not about sustainability; it is about priority and will. For the last several decades, the federal government and presidential administrations from both major parties have willingly made Medicaid a priority and supported it as such. This is consistent with the general will of voters, who desire to assist our most vulnerable citizens with the most basic needs, from food and shelter to transportation and education. And yet for some, suddenly, it’s become debatable whether or not health care belongs on that list.
You don’t have to be a health care provider to find that absurd, but it seems providers are still needed to remind policymakers that health is the bedrock supporting the foundation of society. What good is education for a child who is too sick to attend class? What good is economic development to someone who can’t stay well enough, long enough to keep a job?"
Providers are not the only ones whose voices need to be heard. YOUR voice needs to be heard. You can reach the Governor at this site.
The Third Issue
The other issue that seems to be holding up getting the 2013 Iowa legislative session completed is the ongoing and neverending story of property tax reform. At this point, it will come as no surprise that there is a Senate version and a House version... and there is not much middle ground between them. The Senate version does more for the kind of small business that most of us think of when we hear the words, "small business" and does not shift the cost to homeowners. The House version does more for the kind of corporations like your neighborhood WalMart, costs the state $2 billion, and still manages to shift costs to homeowners and farmers. You can use the links above to contact your legislators.
2014 Election Cycle Begins
As Spring begins, so do the Campaigns
Congressman Bruce Braley, currently representing the 1st Congressional District, has announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Senator Tom Harkin. Senator Harkin has endorsed Braley and underlined his full support for his candidacy. Senator Harkin has a lot of company - at a recent event, it was noted that Congressman Loebsack and former Congressman Boswell, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and 71 Iowa legislators have announced their endorsements of Congressman Braley, as well. The Braley for Iowa website, notes that Braley has received support from all 99 counties in Iowa and that "eleven labor organizations have endorsed Braley: the United Transportation Union, the Operating Engineers Local 234, the Iowa Teamsters, the State Association of Letter Carriers, the Iowa Postal Workers Union, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 Iowa Union, UAW Region 4, SEIU Iowa - Local 199, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, the Iowa State Council of Machinists, and the Great Plains Laborers’ District Council."
In January,Brad Anderson announced his candidacy for Iowa's Secretary of State. Anderson, long behind the scene in many high profile campaigns, noted that "Iowa can prevent voter fraud without requiring people to show government-issued IDs, a controversial tactic that can intimidate some voters". In April, Anderson made it clear that he will compete in all 99 counties, unveiling a county captain in each and having raised over $100,000. Earlier in April, Matt Schntz, the current Iowa Secretary of State, spoke to a group of Republican activists and has been widely quoted as saying, "There are a whole lot of issues that we care about: abortion, gay marriage, a whole lot of social issues we care deeply about. But you have to start caring about Voter ID and election integrity as well, because if you don’t have that, you’ll never be able to make a difference in any other issue you care about. Never." Apparently, his recent focus on Voter ID laws is all about winning elections rather than ensuring the integrity of our elections. You can sign up to help make sure that Iowa's elections are open and honest at the Anderson for Iowa website.