Guest Columnist

Hope springs eternal with Iowa's 89th General Assembly

The senate chambers are seen from the galley area at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Ab
The senate chambers are seen from the galley area at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Knowing Iowa’s 88th general assembly (2019-2020) ended as a mind-boggling head-spinner, hope springs eternal when the 89th general assembly (2021-2022) convenes on Jan. 11.

With the Republican Party controlling the Iowa House, Senate and Governor’s office (2017-present), it’s important to know the bad legislation Iowans luckily avoided, what bills passed we’ll regret and the missed opportunities.

The following measures did not pass due to some GOP legislators refuting their peers and/or by wisely working across the aisle with their Democratic colleagues: 1) using the Iowa Constitution to ban abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, 2) creating new barriers for kids and families who need food assistance and health care, 3) raising taxes on Iowans with fixed incomes to pay for another tax cut for the wealthy, 4) lowering unemployment benefits for workers displaced due to plant closure and 5) repealing the bottle bill.

There were at least five bills the trifecta-controlled Republicans passed that may not be in the best interest of Iowans: 1) a pitiful investment in Iowa’s K-12 public schools, 2) overriding local control of weapons laws, 3) allowing health insurance plans that can deny coverage for preexisting conditions, 4) made it harder for Iowans to exercise their Constitutional right to vote and 5) creating new barriers for a woman to make personal medical decisions.

These five enacted laws have cast a dark shadow on legislators’ care for society.

There were several bipartisan bills that didn’t reach the Governor’s desk. The missed opportunities include: 1) ensuring more diverse juries, 2) expanding access to tele-health care in rural areas, 3) increasing drug, alcohol and suicide prevention for students, 4) protecting Iowa law enforcement officials’ pensions and 5) improving literacy development for hearing-impaired kids. Let’s hope Iowa’s legislators — on both sides of the aisle — show a little humanity and quickly act on these five measures.

In 2010, 63 percent of Iowans voted to pay more taxes ($0.00375) to create the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Legislators: enough is enough, get off the dime, quit thumbing your nose at your constituents and enact the tax increase so we can improve Iowa’s outdoor, wildlife habitat and water quality.

Before 2016, Iowa ran a low operating cost (4-5 percent) health care insurance program that provided gold-standard care for ~800,000 low income and disabled citizens. In 2016, the Branstad-Reynolds administration privatized the $5 billion Medicaid health insurance program. We’ve now witnessed an inefficient 12-15 percent operating cost program that’s offering less-then-standard care. Our legislators need to request a non-partisan Legislative Post Audit of the program since 72 percent of Iowans are opposed to the privatized program (Des Moines Register).

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Since 2016, Iowa’s trifecta GOP has allocated K-12 public schools an average of — and pathetic — 1.6175 percent yearly annual growth. Iowa’s per pupil public school spending is ranked #27; below average nationwide. Its high time legislators cared for Iowa’s future labor force and economy and appropriate at least a 3 percent increase so school districts can meet their annual cost of operation (e.g., health care and property insurance, utilities, fuel, food, books, maintenance, salaries, etc.).

It’s worthy to know Iowa’s Revenue Estimating Conference expects a 3.7 percent increase in FY 2022 state revenue and $1.058 B (as in billion) of reserve and surplus funds is projected (Legislative Services Agency).

During the Jan. 11 to April 30 legislative session, contact your elected representatives (Senator: 515-281-3371; House of Representatives: 515-281-3221; Gov.: 515-281-5211) to apprise them of your concerns.

If our legislators — regardless of political affiliation — don’t follow the wishes of their constituents, gross negligence has become a defining feature of their lawmaking ability and removal from office is in order. May wise and long-term decision-making come to fruition with Iowa’s 89th general assembly.

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer.

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