Your Capitol Voice: Branstad’s speech: Parts where I agree by Bobby Kaufmann, State Representative · Op-Ed · January 24, 2014
The first week of session has come and gone. Time flies when you are having fun!
The session got off to a running start. Any bill that was proposed last year and did not pass both chambers is still alive for this session.
This means there are still a large amount of bills from last year for which I am responsible, as well as all new committee bill assignments, and the bills I filed on behalf of all of you. This equates to non-stop meetings and research during the day and long nights, meeting with other representatives from both sides of the aisle to work out support and find areas of agreement. And there are always a host of receptions and many of these events have constituents from my district attending. I also utilize my evenings to study up on all of the questions that many of you ask throughout the week.
The first week contained a number of time honored traditions. First, two new House members were sworn in…one Democrat and one Republican. On Tuesday Gov. Branstad gave his State of the State address and on Wednesday Chief Justice Cady gave his State of the Judiciary address.
The governor’s State of the State speech was widely applauded by both parties. Both Republican Speaker of the House, Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Mike Gronstal enthusiastically pledged to work with the governor’s plans. Four areas of strong agreement for me follow. And although I was disappointed there was no mention of a solution to our critical infrastructure problem, I found little with which to disagree in the “big picture.” The details always take a lot of work to negotiate, but I stand ready to do just that.
Home Base Iowa – Governor Branstad has requested two separate $1 million appropriations to attract veterans to move and live in Iowa. The first request will fund an Iowa Workforce Development study researching the compatibility of military occupational training and service with state licensing requirements. The second request would fund a grant to a non-profit veteran service organization to market Iowa as a place for veterans to locate after completing their military service. The core initiative will exempt military pensions from state income taxes like the border states of Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota and Missouri.
Mental Health Equalization Fund – The Governor did include the $29.8 million in equalization funding that was initially provided last year. There was some speculation that these funds would not be included in the FY 2015 proposal. I was disappointed in the Governor’s veto of mental health funds last year and strongly support their reinstatement. Mental health funding is critical to our district and I believe that other major funding decisions be delayed one year in order to ascertain if the new regionalization reforms actually saves dollars to counties without sacrificing quality services to our most vulnerable citizens.
Tuition freeze – Soaring tuition costs have hampered families for years. Last year I supported a bill that froze tuition for our universities yet guaranteed resources to maintain high quality. This year we are looking into a second year freeze – something that is very rare. Predictability and affordability are critical for students headed into college.
Broadband in Rural Areas – The Governor has proposed making broadband accessible to all Iowans including those in our rural areas. I see this as an economic development tool as well as an incentive for citizens to live and work in our small towns. With an increase in abilities to work at home and opportunities for entrepreneurial start-ups, access to broadband is critical to rural Iowa.
One thing I found to be of particular importance is the message I heard from the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader. There has to be a continual focus on cooperation, finding common ground, and moving forward with sensible, common-sense solutions. I have heard from all of you that you are sick of bitter partisanship, political bickering, and stubborn insensitiveness. My promise to all of you is that I will continue to conduct my legislative duties in manner of which all of you can be proud.
Visitors to the Capitol: Sheriff Warren Wethington, Dave Mohr – Tipton, Bruce Barnhart – West Branch, Mike Shuger, Mark Henning, Jim Wiiliams – Wilton, Bill Petersen – Muscatine, Dennis Anderson – Moscow, Deb Lange – Davenport, Dave Timmerman – Bennett.
Listening Posts: Saturday, Jan. 25: 8 a.m., Iowa City Chamber; 10 a.m., West Branch Library
You may contact Rep. Kaufmann at Bobby.Kaufmann@legis.iowa.gov, 515-281-3221 or 1527 330th St. Wilton, IA, 52778