116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Tony Amsler, 69, of Monticello, is the Democratic candidate for House District 66 in the Nov. 8 general election. Amsler, a social studies teacher and technology consultant, is seeking his first term in the statehouse.
The Gazette posed a set of questions to all area statehouse candidates. Below is the transcript of Amsler’s answers. Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What do you think are the three most important issues the state is facing? What would you do to address them?
Amsler: The three most important issues facing the state of Iowa are; a proposed school scholarship (voucher) bill, the reproductive rights of women, and a return to good governance in the Iowa Legislature. Republican legislators wish to dismantle the funding of public schools by passing a “scholarship” bill. I oppose any school voucher plan that takes critical funding from our public schools.
Let’s be clear on the issue of abortion. This private and difficult decision should only be made by a woman, her physician and her beliefs. I would oppose any legislation that would unreasonably obstruct this right.
It's time to return to good governance. Legislation should be well thought out, publicly debated and allow public input. I support involving all Iowans in the process of good government.
Do you support the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines? Why or why not?
Amsler: The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution assures that "private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation." At issue with the proposed CO2 pipelines if given eminent domain must be for public use and benefit to the citizens of Iowa. Pipeline companies have not made their case for authorization of eminent domain. They have not been transparent about the process to landowners, nor provided clear liability for owners/operators for any and all damages caused by installation, operation, or eventually removal. Until proposed CO2 pipeline companies meet their obligation to demonstrate these projects are a benefit to the citizens of Iowa and provide fair compensation and safeguards to their land, I will oppose the use of eminent domain for these projects.
What restrictions or limitations should be placed on the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines?
Amsler: I would support the following requirements, put forth by the Iowa Farmers Union, should eminent domain be approved by the Iowa Utilities Board for CO2 pipelines.
- Fair compensation to landowners at all stages of a proposed pipeline or transmission project, including installation, operation and decommissioning.
- Strict liability for owners and operators of pipelines and transmission projects for any and all damages caused by any activities related to the project or its decommission.
- Creation of an indemnity fund to compensate landowners for any damages including loss of yield resulting from a pipeline or transmission project.
- Full consideration of potential impacts to social, human and ecological health when considering a proposed pipeline or transmission project.
The state is projected to have a budget surplus of more than $1 billion. What would be your top priorities for that surplus?
Amsler: Whether from higher than expected spending from consumers in our post-pandemic economy, or from the recent influx of federal dollars, such as the American Rescue Plan & Infrastructure Bills, Iowa now has a surplus of over $1 billion dollars. Like any surplus, these dollars should not be used to supplement ongoing expenses. Instead, this surplus should be used for one-time expenditures or to pay down any debt. I would support using these surplus dollars to assist those most impacted by the last couple of pandemic years. Small businesses and public schools would be my top priority for most of these dollars. We need to invest in our quality of life and things that will help our communities to grow. A thriving downtown and strong public schools are key to this end.
What changes — beyond those made in recent sessions — would you like to see made to Iowa's tax code?
Amsler: First, I would return the “backfill” to cities and counties that was promised back in 2013. Republican have gone back on this promise, leaving the tax burden to our cities and counties.
Second, I would support the repeal of the recently passed regressive flat tax on income. Passed swiftly in both houses in a single day, a 3.9 percent flat tax replacing a small progressive tax of 4.4 percent to 6 percent tax rate. A progressive tax rate is based on the ability to pay and is accepted by the majority of Iowans as the most fair of taxation methods.
With a reduction of almost 2 billion per year in tax revenue, there will be severe and indiscriminate cuts to essential services for Iowans in the future.
Under what circumstances should Iowans be able to access abortion services in the state? What if any, exceptions should apply to any abortion bans?
Amsler: The majority of Iowans have spoken on this issue. Do not restrict the right of a woman to choose. I respect those who oppose abortion, but their personal beliefs should not be imposed on another. I would oppose any legislation that would unreasonably obstruct this personal right as well as put the safety of the mother at risk. However, the political reality is that the Iowa Legislature WILL pass a very restrictive abortion bill if the Democrats don’t take back the House, Senate, or Governor seat. I am encouraged to hear that many Republicans would support 18 to 22 weeks as a threshold, rather than an unrealistic 5 or 6 weeks currently proposed by our Governor. And, to include exceptions for the safety of the mother. I look forward to enacting reasonable legislation for all Iowans.
What are your ideas for improving public schools?
Amsler: Iowa public schools, once No. 1 in the nation, have fallen behind after financial neglect for almost a decade. Here’s what we can do now.
Minimum 4 percent Supplemental State Aid (SSA) to address achievement gaps, keep up with increased operational expenses, address unpredictable enrollment numbers and allow competitive wage.
An immediate infusion of $300 million from the budget surplus to drive innovation in 21st century learning and begin to reset the gross underfunding of our education system for years.
Reinstate a loan forgiveness program for current and new educators who commit to stay and teach in the state for five years.
Increase compensation for public school educators, administrators, and support professionals to retain and attract the talent we need to keep our schools operating.
Do you support further use of state funds to help parents pay the costs of non-public schools or home schooling for grades K-12? Why or why not?
Amsler: Currently, non-public schools and home schooling for grades K-12 make up only 5 percent of the students in the state of Iowa. Some state funds have been carefully allocated to assist students of non-public schools and home-schoolers over the years such as tuition and textbook tax credit, teaching materials, transportation, school lunch aid, and students with special needs services to name a few. However, I would be opposed to taking any per pupil public school funding and diverting to a non-public school. The funding of our public schools is based on the democratic principle that “everyone” in the community contributes to a free and public education, for the betterment of the community.
Should Iowa ban the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving?
Amsler: I would support a ban on the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving as a matter of safety to all Iowans. Iowa’s current law bans some device uses such as sending text messages behind the wheel, however, it allows a driver to use a handheld device for some other purposes, such as navigation or phone calls. Our current law makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to enforce. The Iowa State Patrol reported that 354 vehicle crashes had been attributed to distracted driving in 2021, including six fatalities, 29 injuries and $4 million in damages. With easy access to technology that makes hands-free use of mobile devices possible, it’s time to get serious about distracted driving.
Should automated traffic cameras be banned?
Amsler: A number of states have already prohibited the use of traffic cameras and I believe Iowa should do the same. Safety data that is often cited is very conflicting. In some areas, traffic cameras have led to an increase in accidents, with drivers overreacting to spotting a camera. Traffic cameras are also unlikely to protect against many of the most dangerous drivers. Also, because the citation information collected by cameras doesn't get reported to the Iowa Department of Transportation (unlike speeding tickets issued by officers), it isn't effective in flagging repeat high speeders. Traffic cameras are mostly revenue generators rather than about public safety.