Your Capitol Voice: What went right, and wrong, in the legislative session by Bobby Kaufmann, State Representative · Op-Ed · June 14, 2013
This will be my last column for 2013. I first want to thank all the newspapers for allowing me to communicate with all of you back home.
I also want to thank all of you who contacted me. Your e-mails, calls, visits, letters, and words of encouragement gave me strength during the long days and nights in Des Moines. I am happy to be home and catch up on some farming, but I will continue to be in your towns, at your doors, and at your events.
This summer I plan a rigorous schedule of attending a city council and school board meeting in every town in the district. I will also continue to make it to as many community events every week as possible.
Please continue to contact me and let me know what you think went right and wrong this session and what should be done for next year. I owe it to you to reflect the hard working people who give me the honor of representing this District.
Below is a review of this year. Many believe, on both sides of the aisle, that it was one of the most productive sessions in recent history.
What Went Right
1. Property Tax Reform After years of failure, a bipartisan compromise on property tax relief for all classifications was finally reached. This is a good bill for home-owners, farmers, and our Main Street businesses. I will continue to stand guard to ensure our city and county budgets are not affected negatively. I believe in the end this could be a net positive for them.
2. Expanded Health-Care While this isnt a perfect compromise, it is something that had to happen. I still harbor concerns that Iowans will get shouldered with a higher percentage of the costs, but doing nothing was not an option. This plan allowed us to get ahead of the curve, base health care coverage in Iowa, and push for preventative care and healthy living; all while covering the uninsured. Another critical component was including mental health in the expansion.
3. Beginning farmers Passing the torch to the next generation is critical and we were able to pass two bills that not only help beginning farmers attract land renters but they are also encouraged to do it in an environmentally friendly way.
4. Environment and Clean Water The Nutrient Reduction Strategy is going to be fully funded. This is especially important as we see flooding eroding our top soil. Several new clean water initiatives were created and funded as well. Finally, REAP was allocated $16 million dollars.
5. Seniors Significant dollars were allocated to the Agency on Aging and to programs aimed at keeping seniors in their homes
6. Education 4-percent aid for schools was a much needed boost along with some flexible reforms.
7. Farm liability Land-owners are now protected from a bad Supreme Court decision that left them open to lawsuits for letting people hunt, fish, and hike on their land.
8. Sound budgeting practices The most important part of this session is that we were able to do all of this all while spending less tax dollars than we took in, not using one-time funding sources for ongoing revenue, paying off debt, and still being in a sound fiscal position for next year.
What Went Wrong
1. Education It took far too long for the results to happen. Schools were placed in a situation of ambiguity which did not need to occur.
2. Eminent Domain It is unconscionable that four separate votes by the House of 90-plus majorities would not get brought up for a single vote in the Senate.
3. Highway Patrol While I am happy we dealt with their retirement, it looks like the funds allocated are not enough to hire replacements for retiring officers. This needs fixed next year.
4. There is still a great deal of uncertainty for counties in mental health funding and services. We can do better at the state level.
5. We have not addressed the issue of our critical infrastructure needs. We will not be able to continue to kick this can down the road.
6. We need to deal with tough issues at the beginning of the legislative session and not let resolution occur late and under pressure.
Even in the interim I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion. I am proud to be in the top five legislators for number of bills being debated this year. Nearly all of them passed with 90-plus votes. I will continue to listen and work with all political views in my efforts to represent Cedar, Johnson, and Muscatine counties.
Please feel free to contact me this summer and fall with any ideas for next year. If you would like to visit with me personally or have me speak to your group let me know!
You may contact Rep. Kaufmann at Bobby.Kaufmann@legis.iowa.gov, 563-260-3355 or 1527 330th St. Wilton, IA, 52778