State Representative Curt Hanson
Week Sixteen Newsletter 05-1-2015
Friday, May 1, was the end of per diem for this legislative session, meaning legislative employees are not paid beyond that date, including legislators. We will likely meet sporadically in the coming weeks to continue negotiating the budget. I will only be contributing a column when there is news to report for the remainder of this session.
This week we started moving budgets through the House. While it is encouraging that we finally started these discussions, I know many of these budgets will end up being negotiated between House and Senate leaders in conference committees.
As we get a sense for what we can feasibly complete this session, we are also learning what will likely not be completed this session. House Leadership has said they do not plan to bring the medical cannabis bill passed by the Iowa Senate to a vote in the House. Despite requests from some of my colleagues, we also have yet to discuss and vote on the anti-bullying bill. Some issues take several sessions to progress through the legislature, which may be the case for these bills.
The Governor has proposed a plan to save money by privatizing Medicaid services and closing two state mental health facilities. The results of a Public Policy Polling survey of 1,219 Iowa voters found that 68 percent of Iowans surveyed are opposed to the Governor’s plan to close the two state mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant, compared to just 12 percent supporting the proposal.
While the bills under consideration may be different this week, the conversation remains very much the same. House Leadership has said many times on the floor that they are committed to strict budget principles and will not fund schools at more than 1.25 percent.
As I have mentioned before, it is possible to fund schools at the compromise offer of 2.625 percent without tapping into our reserve funds. We need to provide the services Iowans are letting us know that they want. This includes sustaining operations at Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant and providing schools the necessary funds to provide a competitive education for our students.
On Monday, I joined other members of the House Education Committee on a visit to the Des Moines Downtown School to see the innovative education strategies that are producing outstanding results in the Des Moines public school system. Children from across the Des Moines Metropolitan Area attend the year-round school, which has benefitted from small classes and an integrated curriculum. I was very impressed by some of the students who read aloud to me during the visit—their enthusiasm and concentration were admirable.
According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the USDA, initial testing has indicated probable avian influenza outbreaks at as many as 17 commercial poultry sites in Iowa, with an estimated 15 million chickens and turkeys likely to die as a result. The recent outbreaks will undoubtedly affect the price of eggs and poultry in the coming months for consumers nationwide.
On Wednesday, we passed HF 650, the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) Budget, which includes funding for a number of brick-and-mortar projects across the state. This budget includes maintaining current funding of Iowa Great Places designations, which includes Fairfield and Van Buren County. The Great Places designation is awarded to communities and regions that demonstrate their unique qualities that draw tourists and industry to Iowa. They receive a three year grant, but the designation is permanent. I am proud to represent these and other truly great communities in House District 82.
Though the 110 official days of the legislative session may have come to a close, I will continue working for each of you and advocating for the issues that matter to our district both in the Legislature and at home.