This was undoubtedly one of the busiest legislative sessions I can remember. It was a good session, although that fact wasn’t realized until the closing days. That is typically the case, for the time does come when all recognize that compromise is essential in a split legislature, and both sides must sit down and iron out the differences.
It would be of little avail for me to do a broad-based brush approach to the significant accomplishments. You have read about them in the newspapers, observed the commentators on television, and listened to radio reports. I would dare guess that most Iowans know that significant strides were made in tax reform, education reform and health care reform. Yet, I doubt that many know some of the more specific details of these three major issues where progress was made in 2013. That isn’t to say the problems related to these three issues were solved, for there never is perfect legislation. I would venture that the legislature will re-visit all three during coming years, and tweak the laws where those who deal with them on a daily basis have found conflict and difficulty.
I will be doing columns in the coming months that will take each of the above three issues, and provide a more detailed account of what the Republicans of the House and Democrats of the Senate produced for final law. I’m most confident some will agree, and some will not, with what was accomplished. Yet, I am comfortable that we did our best, and if we need to do better, that can come next session.
Financially, Iowa has never been in better shape. Legislation passed this year either paid off bonds the state had, or put the money in escrow in the state treasurer’s office to make the payments when they come due. Fiscal Bureau estimates show there should be just over $600 million remaining in unspent funds at the end of the current fiscal year (June 30), and just over the same amount is currently in the “bank” in our protected funds developed in 1992 for state savings, only to be used for unexpected situations.
With the World Pork Exposition in Des Moines this week, producers, packers, importers and exporters from all over the world are present to keep their foot in the door in buying/selling Iowa pork. I have been participating in many of the events, and it appears to be a frenzy of interest and activity with the importers in both Asia and Europe to continue to maintain the contacts for receiving the high quality foods created by Iowa farmers. I had extensive conversation with a Chinese entrepreneur who is willing to spend great sums in getting breeding stock to his region of China. Then, he will need the corn and soybeans necessary to domestically grow the pork for that nation that is so addicted to Iowa products. Again, his corn and soybeans would come from Iowa, adding to the unbelievable demand that both exists and is latent in a growing world.
Anticipated concern about environmental impact of expanded agriculture was my responsibility this session as Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Again, tremendous legislation was passed that will start the process for enhanced soil protection and water quality. Finally, I was provided the essential funds that will allow for a local focus through the Iowa Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources, and Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners of each county to assess and aid in this essential process. Oversight and corroboration will be assumed by a new Iowa Nutrient Management Center, which will be an extension of the existing Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa. Interaction with farmers, farm groups, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Nutrient Center will allow for a more coordinated approach to protecting our precious and essential natural resources.
Future columns will describe the legislature’s initiatives in environmental protection and enhancement. Iowa could not maintain its role as first in the nation in corn, soybeans, pork, corn-fed beef and egg production if we ignore the basic natural resources and environment. One can not exist without the other.
For questions or comments, call me at 515-975-8608, or write me at Box 1271, Newton, 50208.