Today marks the 110th day of the Iowa General Assembly, the targeted day for adjournment this year. While the legislature rarely adjourns on the exact day set by the Iowa Constitution, it does mean pay for lawmakers runs out. After a busy week moving the final pieces of the state budget and major issues to bi-partisan conference committees, there still is not final agreement between the House, Senate, and Governor.
When we head home for the weekend, it’s unclear how quickly things will be resolved. The conference committees will continue meeting and legislative leaders will have to work with the Governor to find common ground on the big issues like property taxes, education reform, and affordable health care.
While most legislators will be absent from the Capitol during final negotiations, I will be working in Des Moines to help iron out an important portion of the overall state budget.
I have been appointed to the conference committee handling the Administration and Regulations Budget. Work on this conference committee is going smoother than most. We are close to final agreement between parties and chambers as both Representatives and Senators serve together on conference committees.
However, we have yet to come to agreement on funding for the new Public Information Board. Iowans expect, demand, and deserve good, clean, transparent government. The Administration and Regulation budget gives us an opportunity to reflect and ensure those values. The new Public Information Board is set to open doors on July 1 of this year.
This new board has the potential to provide a valuable service to the citizens of Iowa. They are tasked to help enforce Iowa’s open meetings and records laws. They will offer informal advice to citizens and declaratory orders to local governments concerning open meetings and records laws. The new board will offer training, investigate complaints, seek resolution of disputes, and enforce local government transparency laws.
House Republicans and Governor Branstad disagree on funding levels for the Public Information Board. The House majority party wants to cut funding for the new board from $490,000 to $100,000. During floor debate, earlier in the session, I proposed that we move closer to what the Governor suggests. We must adequately fund this effort and put the new board in a position to get off to a good start and further ensure good, clean, open, transparent government.
There is only one certainty as we work to wrap things up. Clearly, everyone must put aside politics and partisanship and work together. It’s what Iowans expect and it’s what needs to happen to adjourn for the year. Even though pay for law-makers has run out, we’ll keep working until we’ve reach an agreement and wrap up our work for the year.
This is my third session in the legislature and I have yet to experience an adjournment on schedule. While in previous sessions I watched leadership in both parties negotiate final agreements, my assignment to the Administration and Regulation Conference Committee allows me to have more input in the final days and weeks this session. I’m committed to bipartisan cooperation. This is the best way to make good decisions on the remaining sticking points.
Before I return to Des Moines next week, I’ve been invited to attend an important event near Lake Red Rock on Saturday.
As you might recall from several of my previous columns this session, I’ve been working with a bipartisan group of legislators to help move a bill to the Governor’s desk which will boost Iowa hydro-electric power. We were successful in these efforts, and the Governor has agreed to sign HF 630 this Saturday in Pella.
This means a planned hydro-electric project just down the road from Newton will become reality. The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project will provide 36.4 megawatts of electricity or enough to power 18,000 Iowa homes. It will be capable of generating 55 megawatts when water is high.
Most importantly, it will provide local construction and operational jobs nearby at Lake Red Rock. It’s been a challenge and a privilege to work on this bill. I’m excited that the Governor has elected to sign it into law. This project could be just the beginning of a great hydroelectric future in Iowa.
I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime at 641-521-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit my website at www.electkelley.com. ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.