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Legislature working through to very end

Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 11:27 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:54 p.m. CST

The 2014 session is scheduled to end on Tuesday, April 22.  While it’s unclear if we’ll finish exactly on time, we’re going to keep working right up to the end to resolve our differences and grow the middle class.

Nearly all major pieces of the budget are moving and have passed one chamber or the other.  A few have been agreed upon by both the House and Senate while others have been sent to a special conference committee comprised of legislators from each party and each chamber to reconcile our differences.

The biggest differences right now are on the education budget.  My biggest concern is that our future plans for education fall short of what is needed.  I’m working with my colleagues to expand preschool, set basic state aid for our K-12 schools, and reduce tuition at our community colleges and state universities. 

Those were some of our top priorities when session began and I believe we need to act this year to build our skilled workforce.   So far this year, the majority party has said no to all of those ideas, but we’re hopeful we can make progress in the next week through negotiations in order to wrap up the session.

Again, this session, I’ve been a member of the Rural Caucus.  We’ve been working together since the beginning of session to improve rural Iowa and reduce nutrient pollution in Iowa’s rivers and lakes.

It is my hope that as we finalize next year’s state budget, we will continue to fund Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.  Progress has been made, but a lot of work is still to be done.

Last year, the state appropriated $22.4 million for a new water quality initiative, soil conservation, and watershed protection to clean our lakes and rivers. As of today’s date, eight statewide watershed  demonstration projects that cover 606,00 acres, were  given grant funding so that farmers could learn and implement effective ways to  curb extra nitrogen and phosphorus that often pollutes Iowa’s water. This work must continue.

While too many of us take it for granted, water quality is one of the most important legacies for the next generation. We have an obligation to use science and technology to assist farmers, and to analyze and reduce the nutrients that go into our waterways. If fellow members of the Legislature are willing to do their part, and properly fund these programs, we can achieve these goals.

Earth Day Update

On Earth Day, as the legislative session is winding down, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at part of our environment distant from Iowa, but still important to us, our oceans.  Iowa is playing a critical role in improving the condition of the Gulf of Mexico with our  nutrient reduction strategy.

The expanse of underwater real estate controlled by the United States is remarkable. All told, the oceans under U.S. control are 25 percent larger than the entire nation’s landmass. America’s ocean realm is rich in ecological value with untold species of fish and plants that call it home. Our ocean communities are also a major part of American life. More than half the U.S. population lives in coastal communities, and more than 180 million people visit our shores for recreation each year.

Healthy oceans are critical to a healthy American economy. Tens of thousands of jobs in fishing, recreation and tourism rely on clean beaches and a safe, swimmable ocean. While the ocean may seem far removed from the impacts of humans, recent activities serve as a constant reminder of our influence. Oil spills, such as Exxon-Valdez and Deepwater Horizon, do tremendous harm to ocean ecosystems. While oil spills may be the most visual form of pollution threatening the ocean, they are only one threat.

Pollution in the form of wastewater and runoff from our land impacts coastal systems and traces can even be found far from shore. The over-use of nitrogen fertilizers used on crops, especially in the Midwest, contribute to a giant, hypoxia or dead zone forming at the mouth of the Mississippi River. It is critical that Iowa continue to lead the way to help correct this problem with our Nutrient Reduction Strategy.  Local farmers are participating in the program, and it’s helping the situation.

All Americans depend on the oceans and affect the oceans, regardless of where they live, even in Iowa.

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I am proud to represent Newton, Baxter, Colfax, Kellogg, Lambs Grove, Mingo, Ira, Prairie City, and Valeria.  Feel free to contact me anytime via phone at (641) 521-9260 or by email at dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov. Please visit my website at www.electkelley.com.  ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter.

• • •

I am proud to represent Newton, Baxter, Colfax, Kellogg, Lambs Grove, Mingo, Ira, Prairie City, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime via phone at (641) 521-9260 or by email at dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov. Please visit my website at www.electkelley.com. “Friend” me on Facebook and “follow” me on Twitter.

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