Hello, District 98! It’s Thursday of the first week of my second term in the Iowa House of Representatives, and not surprisingly it’s been a busy one. I drove out on Sunday to get moved into my temporary session housing, which didn’t take long, since “moving in” consisted of unpacking my suitcase. This year I’m sharing an apartment with my friend Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic from Waterloo, and while we are a little short on furniture (as in, we don’t have any yet – thank goodness for Craigslist) we do have a fabulous view of the State Capitol, which is only a few blocks away. Plus ZombieBurger (fabulous restaurant with fabulous hamburgers) is right downstairs – looking forward to taking my son John (who is currently a Senior at Clinton High) there when he visits me in Des Moines (which he will hopefully be able to do over spring break).
Monday was exciting – there are 26 newly elected Representatives and all of their friends and family were at the Capitol to see them sworn in for the first time, so it was standing room only in the House Chamber. Later that afternoon we selected our seats for the term – I moved to an aisle seat (good) close to the front of the Chamber (good) and close to the press (good?) but very far away from the Chamber restroom facilities (not so good). Here I am signing my official oath of office (I look so happy!) —
After lunch I stopped over at the Senate to say hi to newly elected Senator Rita Hart, who seemed right at home – so happy she’s here out to help represent/stand up for Clinton County!
Tuesday morning the Governor gave his “State of the State” speech – it was all about education and property tax reform, which is fine, but his proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget (which was also released on Tuesday) included 0% allowable growth for FY 14 and 15 … not good for schools, and if it passed in its present form, local property taxes across the State would increase to the tune of $51 million – so not good for property owners. The Governor’s budget plan also neglected to include funding for the mental health redesign’s promised property tax “backfill,” which is incredibly problematic since (1) we just passed a bill promising it last session and (2) there’s no way the new mental health regions can be viable without it. What the heck? I don’t understand why he would put his name on such a patently unworkable proposal, even if everyone knows that the ultimate budget passed by the Legislature will look quite a bit different. At least I assume and hope that it will look quite a bit different.
Wednesday Chief Justice Mark Cady gave his State of the Judiciary speech, which was fantastic – he stressed the importance of Iowa’s juvenile justice system, from both a moral and fiscal perspective. Clinton’s Judge Pelton was in the House Chamber for Justice Cady’s speech, and thanks to his assistance I was able to get my picture taken with our Governor at the reception following Justice Cady’s speech – thanks, Judge Pelton!
(And yes, I know this is not a good picture of me but since it’s most likely the only picture of me with the Governor that will ever be taken, and since Judge Pelton looks great, here it is for your viewing pleasure). Everyone at the reception wanted to congratulate Justice Cady on his speech – Senator Hart and I had to wait in line for quite a while before getting our chance to shake his hand (but it was worth it).
Wednesday was also my first House Public Safety Committee meeting (first of this session – it’s my third session serving on this committee, which I really enjoy). Like the other committee meetings this week, is was basically an opportunity for the Chair to welcome new members and for the new members to introduce themselves. Rumor is that there won’t be any gun bills run in Public Safety this session …. but that there will be plenty run in Judiciary – so since I’m ranking member of that committee, that should be interesting.
Wednesday afternoon I attended a meeting on the Attorney General’s proposed domestic/sexual violence regionalization plan, which emphasizes rapid re-housing over emergency shelters. We heard a brief presentation about Oregon’s program, which was interesting but which I noted was transitioned in over a period of years, as opposed to months. The presenters stressed that the AG is willing to allow a longer transition period, but that this is contingent on increased funding – their estimate is that they would need approximately 1.5 million dollars to allow current shelter programs an additional year of transition time.
Wednesday night I attended a reception held by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, where I was happy to see Clintonians Tom Determan and Rich Phelan, who both serve on the ABI’s board of directors. Legislators attend a lot of these receptions throughout the session, and it is always nice to have the opportunity to discuss issues with interested parties outside of the Capitol.
Today (Thursday) I’ll be attending my first Transportation and Judiciary committee meetings – the House Transportation Committee is full of legislators who have gone on the record as being in favor of a reasonable state gas tax increase, so I assume we’ll be passing a bill out of committee sooner rather than later – we’ll have to see what happens after that. It would be nice if the Governor would commit to signing off on a gas tax increase if it makes it to his desk – so far he’s saying maybe, and only if he’s happy with the eventual property tax reform package agreed upon by the legislature. So not real helpful.
And right before I sent this to press, I was thrilled to get a visit from a Clinton County mentoring group, Campus Pals. This is a program in which Ashford University students meet with Clinton middle school students a few times a week – they work on school assignments, extracurricular activities, community service, and (obviously) field trips to places like the State Capitol. It’s a great program, and everyone involved should be proud of themselves. The Ashford student mentors were Caitlin Geise, Arthesian Tillery, and Karley Wahl; their (adorable) mentees were Kayla Conely (Lyons Middle School) and Taj VanAuwelaer (Washington Middle School), and they were accompanied by supervisor Jerry Drake (from Ashford) and Alexis Wierenga (mentoring site coordinator). Thanks for visiting, guys!
This week has been fun, and somewhat productive, but next week we get to work for real. I’ve asked for several bills to be drafted to address the problematic issues with the mental health redesign funding mechanism, and I’ll be working on trying to get other legislators on board (including, hopefully, our other Clinton County legislators!). I’ll also continue to work on generating support for increased transitional funding for Iowa’s shelter programs – shelters need to know what they have to work with budget-wise ASAP, so time is definitely of the essence.
I’m hoping to see some of you at the Capitol this session – if you’re heading to Des Moines, please let me know so that I can be sure to be available to say hi and discuss any suggestions you might have re what the legislature is or isn’t doing (contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll be back in Clinton most Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays, so if you belong to a group that has questions or concerns about legislative issues that does or is willing to meet on one of those days, I’d love to be there. Every Friday I’ll be discussing legislative issues on KROS with Representative Steve Olson and Senator Rita Hart – that runs at 12:30 p.m. and (I believe) is posted on KROS’s website so you can listen to it over and over again. Finally, throughout the session I will be posting these weekly updates as well as posts on specific legislation/issues on my legislative blog – RepresentativeMaryWolfe.com – I appreciate any and all input/feedback from my constituents (aka my bosses).
Thank you for your support, and have a fabulous weekend!