Now wrapping up the fourth week of the legislative session, the pace is picking up. More bills are being introduced every day and committees are busy preparing bills for debate on the house floor.
While things are moving ahead in the House, there were a few warning signs this week that the majority party is returning to the divisive politics and conspiracy theories we’ve seen in years past. Time spent on these divisive issues diverts attention from critical issues like growing the middle class, improving education, and strengthening our economy.
I won’t be distracted. This isn’t time for politics as usual. We must stay focused.
I’ve spent lots of time this week focused on keeping the state budget balanced while providing for the needs of Iowans as ranking member on the Administration and Regulations Budget Committee.
While many budget committees handle a specific area such as agriculture or health care, the administration and regulation budget covers a wide-variety of responsibilities. In fact, we cover 13 different departments, offices and agencies, including the Governor’s office, Secretary of State’s office, Department of Inspections and Appeals, Department of Human Rights, and the Office of Drug Control Policy, among others.
The Public Information Board is a new responsibility of my budget committee. This board is set to start operation on July 1. I’m excited to help get it off to a good start. This board will assist citizens when dealing with local government regarding open meetings and records laws, and will offer advice, training, and investigation in an effort to resolve disputes.
Good, clean government requires access to public information. I want to see the new board operate efficiently and effectively.
Another priority this week was garnering support for a bill previously passed by the Senate. It provides a $60 million tax cut to create new jobs and opportunities for working families. Middle class families will benefit from an extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit, child care credit, and tuition deduction for higher education.
It also encourages small businesses to invest in their own operations, and boost research efforts that will lead to more jobs. We successfully passed the bill in the House this week and it now goes to the Governor. I am hopeful he will sign it.
Thanks to everyone who completed my 2013 session survey a few weeks ago. The responses were great and here are just a few highlights:
• 83 percent said the Legislature should pass the “Made in Iowa” bill I sponsored at the beginning of the session. My bill would give local businesses preference on state and local government contracts so our tax dollars create jobs here in Iowa, instead of overseas.
• 72 percent said Iowa should raise the starting pay for teachers to keep more of Iowa’s best and brightest in the classroom.
• 78 percent support expanding efforts to improve water quality by helping to reduce run-off.
• 81 percent believe we should keep working to expand renewable energy.
• 88 percent said we should guarantee any effort to reduce commercial property taxes does not raise taxes on homeowners and farmers.
• 76 percent support expanding access to health care for hard-working Iowans who do not have private health insurance.
These survey results indicate you want the Legislature to focus on my priorities — support for educators, healthy environment, property tax reform, and healthcare — which are critical to move the middle class forward and strengthen Iowa’s communities. We can’t allow the house majority to take us down the wrong path. Our work must reflect your values, not divisive politics as usual.
Thank you for allowing me to serve.