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Just the facts …

Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 11:16 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 1:40 p.m. CDT

This was the first full week of committee meetings in the General Assembly. In addition, multiple groups of citizens converged on the Capitol to lobby for their desired objectives. 

In the evenings, receptions were held by eight different organizations to showcase their legislative agendas, meet constituents and listen to talks from organization leaders making a case for their issues.  One special reception each year is that of Hy-Vee. 

They really don’t direct their reception to any plea for legislation, but rather the CEO will address the hundreds present with a focus on Iowa’s economy, the progress of Hy-Vee, breadth of their community involvement in giving to essential causes, and future plans for growth both in and out-of-state. 

Did you know that the new Waukee Hy-Vee has slightly more than 600 employees?  Truly amazing!

Our full Appropriations Committee was honored with a presentation from the governor’s director of the Department of Management. David Roederer, the budget director, presented a PowerPoint on the governor’s budget for FY2014-15. 

Gov. Branstad’s recommended budget to the legislature was shown on a pie chart and caught the attention of all. It showed that spending for Education (Pre-school through 12; regents’ institutions; community colleges; books and transportation for private schools), totaled 55 percent; Health and Human Services was proposed at 28 percent; and the Judiciary came in at 10 percent. These three items add up to 93 percent, and thus all remaining General Fund spending for state government agencies totals 7 percent (Department of Transportation excluded).

I had to ask if the figures were accurate, for if so, its little wonder the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture combined are simply a lines-width on the large pie chart (less than one-half of one percent). And thus, it is easy to understand why so little can be accomplished by these agencies in the area of soil and water conservation and natural resource management and protection.

Absolutely pitiful, and a sad, sad commentary for a state that once prided itself with a pristine natural environment in which to live and raise a family. Hopefully, this illustrates the reason why I’m writing my own budget for these two departments, rather than waiting to receive a maximum figure from the Appropriations chair.

I know what it takes to make progress with saving our soil and improving water quality, and my budget will reflect that position. If not accepted by other legislators, at least I’ve done my job.

An update for readers regarding the Emerald Ash Borer: The Waterloo mayor advised Sen. Bill Dotzler this past week that several infested trees have been found in that community. It’s getting closer to central Iowa, and I would surmise that it is already here. 

Readers with a computer, please Google “Emerald Ash Borer.” You need to see how to identify the entry passage into the white, green and black ash species. Once infested, nothing can be done to save the tree. 

This is why I’m urging every homeowner with ash trees to plant additional trees in hir or her yard in early spring. Specie selection can be determined from the Iowa DNR website, or contact me by any means below for my personal recommendation.

During the session, call me at (515) 281-3371; write me at the Senate, Capitol Building, Des Moines, 50319; or e-mail dennis.black@legis.iowa.gov. I value your thoughts and opinions.

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