Statehouse News, March 21

Saturday morning we had the last of the series of the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forums. I was pleased to see high school students as guests of chamber members. This opportunity gives these students a chance to observe grassroots politics. Many of the questions at the forum concerned the funding of local schools.

At the forum I heard from Lisa Greenig, Fairfield Middle School teacher, who said that Fairfield schools will cut $500,000 just this year to avoid overspending.  They have had to cut teachers and programs, including middle school foreign language, computer science, speech, and language arts programs. Fairfield has closed an elementary building and eliminated a principal. This year they will eliminate another administrator position.  That administrator directed school bus transportation, building maintenance and food services. Unfortunately what is happening in Fairfield is also happening in many surrounding school districts as well.

From there, I went to the new Cambridge SportsPlex Grand Opening. Fairfield has long been a progressive bright spot in Southeast Iowa. In the early 1900’s Fairfield and Jefferson County voters approved one of the first publically funded hospitals in Iowa. This new rec center marks another step forward in making Fairfield’s quality of life attractive for business and entrepreneurial expansion.

One of the dedication speakers, Dan Breen, a retired Fairfield High School government teacher commented that he always asked his classes, “What is a good citizen?” He then followed by asking the class if they would like to live in a community where the citizens never littered, a community where the citizens littered, or a community who citizens never littered and picked up the litter of others. The classes always picked the third choice.

Sunday afternoon I attended a program at the Sondheim Center called, “Iowa’s Hidden Treasures” hosted by Dan Kaercher, a Midwest Living retired editor-in-chief and an Iowa Public Television celebrity. He spent two years traveling Iowa’s ninety-nine counties searching for close-to-home attractions. His presentation of local Iowa attractions was enjoyed by all.

As the legislature continues to reduce taxes, there is less money for education, elderly citizen assistance, water quality and nutrient reduction improvements.

At the Capitol, the Education Funding Conference Committee reported that a compromise of 2.25% SSA funding was negotiated and was then approved by the House. The bottom line is the school funding deal will reduce opportunities for 560,000 kids in Iowa. These children will not get a second chance for a quality Iowa education.  While it’s clear public schools aren’t a priority for many legislators any longer, I believe our public schools should be the top priority of the Iowa Legislature again.

A new report found 28,500 Iowans now work in the clean energy sector, like wind and solar. The American Wind Energy Association said this week that Iowa landowners are paid about $10 million annually under lease agreements for wind turbines.

I was happy to meet with Marty Braster, Mindy Payne, Jer Buckingham and Denny Amoss from the Rathbun Water Association at the Capitol on Monday, March 21st. A group of Pekin High School seniors with social studies teacher Tim Hadley visited the Capitol on Thursday, March 24.

As I recover from my recent surgery, I will be absent from the Capitol. Although I am absent, I am still checking emails and phone calls.  My clerk will be working in the House everyday while we’re still in session and can assist you with any issues related to state government or any questions you may have about bills coming up for debate.  While it may take a bit longer than usual, I will respond to you as quickly as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you and I will be glad to meet with you. You may email me or call me at 641-919-2314.

If you would like to visit the Capitol, I would be glad to meet with you between committee meetings or at a scheduled time.  Please send a note to my clerk and she will assist you in arranging a meeting.

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