Statehouse News, Feb. 18

This week, the Legislature hit the first self-imposed deadline we use to narrow the number of bills still eligible for debate, called the funnel. As the first funnel date approaches the legislative pace quickens. While there are a few exceptions for tax and budget bills, any bill that has not cleared a House or Senate Committee this week (2/19) is dead for the year.

Monday afternoon in Education Committee we voted on five bills. HF 570 changes defaulted student loans under the College Student Aid programs to be written off as uncollectable right away, instead of 15 years later. HSB 545 modifies reading and literacy requirements for teacher prep programs, including strategies for dyslexia. HSB 603 would add one unit of a computer science education for grades 9-12. In my opinion, this is a good concept, but another unfunded mandate that schools cannot afford.

The Agriculture Committee passed a bill that deals with water quality. The bill states that each watershed is different – soil, topography, farming practices and other relevant characteristics must be considered. I have long felt that this consideration is a must; certainly the watersheds of southern Iowa are different from the watersheds in the nearly flat ground of central Iowa.

In the Environmental Protection Committee we worked on a bill to reduce dumping and littering. The question is how do we best deal with the bad behavior of some who litter or dump things in our road ditches? Should we access a civil fine or should we consider criminal fines and jail? Which approach is the best for taxpayers and the environment?

The Natural Resources Committee passed several bills that will be of interest to area hunters. One bill will allow hunting deer with straight-wall cartridge rifles. After learning that the bullets from this type of cartridge will not travel as far as modern shotgun slugs, I supported the bill. I supported HSB 610 which institutes a season and bag limits for both commercial turtle harvesters and fisherman.  Many surrounding states have already instituted a turtle harvesting season. The season would be set by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources based on biological facts, such as when turtles lay their eggs. This bill would not affect those involved in cultivating turtles from domestic stock. I’m concerned that there may be efforts afoot to defund and reduce the size of the DNR. In my opinion, these efforts may be because of the DNR’s enforcement of water quality regulations and hunting and fishing laws.

Water quality and farming practices continue to be major issues at the Capitol. Early Wednesday morning, I sat on a subcommittee dealing with a new application technique for anhydrous ammonia. An Oelwein company has invented a new application process that has the potential to reduce the amount of anhydrous ammonia used, reducing the pollution of our waters and reducing production costs. This bill did not pass the subcommittee. A similar bill is in the Senate. I hope they will keep this bill alive.

The House Agriculture Committee passed an amended version of HSB 601. This bill is a part of the Governor’s plan to improve water quality by taking part of school’s SAVE tax money. The SAVE funds were passed by voters and dedicated to the funding of school infrastructure. In my opinion, to suddenly divert a portion of those funds to water quality is a breach of voter trust. Additionally, I’m concerned that this bill would not provide substantial funds for water improvement for nearly seven years – a massive water improvement effort can’t wait seven more years. I don’t think we must choose between water quality improvement and school improvement. Asking our schools and children to slow their improvement pace in this competitive world while watching others race ahead is not an option.

I think our water improvement efforts should be separated from politics as much as possible. Perhaps an organizational plan patterned after the Transportation Commission is the answer. Of course, a dedicated revenue source is also a part of the solution. We must develop a plan that will work, not only today, but also in the future.

Wednesday afternoon the Education Committee met and voted on several bills. HF 2017 would require coaches to be CPR certified with added defibrillator and head injury training. I think this is extremely important for our high school student athletes, especially after the tragic death of a wrestler from Spencer last December.

I had the pleasure of meeting with several constituents this week despite my busy schedule. Audra Kincart, from Bloomfield, is an Iowa State Student Ambassador and was visiting on Tuesday. Josh Davenport and Bill Eakins from Davis County visited with me on Tuesday as well. Dick Rickleman and John Sandbothe of the Farm Bureau met with me during their visit to the State Capitol on Wednesday. On Thursday, I met with Dennis Phelps, Superintendent of Pekin and Tri-County Schools. Also on Thursday, I met with Lorraine Uehling-Techel from the Crisis Center.

I look forward to hearing from you and I will be glad to meet with you when I return to Fairfield each weekend. You may email me at Curt.Hanson@legis.iowa.gov or call me at 641-919-2314. Please remember that every third Saturday I will participate in the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce Forum and every fourth Saturday I will host a Coffee with Curt meeting in Keosauqua at 9 a.m. and Bloomfield at 12 p.m.

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