While we are making progress during the 2013 Iowa Legislative Session, there’s still much work to do on several major issues. If we keep working together, we’ll wrap up the session within the scheduled 110 days. If stubbornness and party bickering become the norm, we might be here for a while. I’m committed to working with colleagues in both parties and chambers to come to agreement on many issues.
Among them is education. There’s been quite a bit of progress on education proposals in the last two weeks. Last week, we passed an education package out of the House. This week, the Iowa Senate approved its own plan to improve education. While there are some differences, there is a lot of common ground between the two bills. If we work together, we can find compromise before the session ends and make sure every child in Iowa graduates with the skills necessary to compete with workers around the globe.
While the bill is moving ahead, schools across Iowa are still waiting for action on critical funding for the next school year. By law, school districts must certify their budgets by April 15 even though they do not know what state funding to expect. It’s a terrible situation that could lead to unnecessary pink slips for teachers and cut backs in course offerings because of the uncertainty.
The school funding issue, called allowable growth, was supposed to be resolved last year but the Governor and house majority refused to take action.
This year, the Governor has refused to pass allowable growth until his education reform proposals are passed. While both education reform bills include allowable growth, with the House majority at 2 percent and the Senate at 4 percent, it’s unlikely those bills will be finished until the end of the session.
There’s no reason for this school funding delay. The Governor and house majority should follow the law and get it done as quickly as possible. Our students and schools have waited long enough. Our students must be our top priority, not political games.
Access to affordable health care is another major priority this session. Unfortunately, the Governor is putting politics before good healthcare policy. The Iowa Senate has approved a bill to expand affordable health care to Iowans who don’t have private insurance. The plan would extend coverage to about 150,000 Iowans so they are able to access preventative care, hospital services, and other health care services in their own community.
In a step toward compromise, the Senate also included a provision that allows Iowa to opt-out of the Medicaid expansion if the federal government does not keep their promise on funding.
Public support for Medicaid expansion is also building as a new coalition of Iowans launched a bus tour around Iowa. They are encouraging the Governor and house majority party to expand affordable health care to more Iowans. The coalition of 78 groups supporting Medicaid expansion includes AARP, doctors, hospitals, nurses, the American Cancer Society, and several faith-based groups. The Governor has offered an alternative plan that will cover few Iowans, offer fewer services, and cost Iowa taxpayers $163 million more. While the Governor objects to the federal funding on Medicaid expansion, his alternative plan also relies on millions of federal dollars. The election is over and it’s time for the Governor to put politics aside and do what’s right.
On another note, this week I had the opportunity to meet Benjamin Victor, the artist commissioned to create a statue of Norman Borlaug for the U.S. Capitol Building. I had the very rare chance to watch Victor work on the statue. The artist is currently doing a two-week artist-in-residency at the Historical Museum of Iowa. I met him and viewed the 7 foot statue on what would have been Borlaug’s 99th birthday. On his 100th birthday, the statue will be placed in its permanent home, the US Capitol National Statuary Hall. More than $220,000 in private donations has been raised to commission this work of art. Dr. Borlaug was an Iowa native who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his research increasing wheat yields. He is credited with saving millions of lives internationally with his innovative agricultural research. Iowa will be well represented by the Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol.
Enjoy Easter weekend!
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Thank you for the opportunity to serve.