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Town hall draws large crowd

March 4, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

With the March Legislative Town Hall meeting scheduled at the same venue as the Farm and Home Show, there was a good turnout for the event Saturday.

That and the fact that there was a whole new slate of faces.

First there was 4th District U.S. Representative Steve King who now has the largest congressional district in Iowa after the last redistricting from five to four districts.

Article Photos

A television crew from Sioux City was among the attendees at the Regional Wellness Center on Saturday. Above, Congressman Steve King explain negotiations on the sequester that began on March 1.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

And then was both a new state senator and representative, with Dennis Guth the new senator and Tedd Gassman the new representative, both replacing Democrats - former Sen. Jack Kibbie who retired and Rep. John Wittneben who lost in a squeaker to Gassman in November. Both the state senate and house seats were subject to redistricting as well.

As the obvious headliner, King set the tone for Saturday's Town Hall meeting overshadowed by the pall of the sequester.

King said that at midnight, March 22 the government will run out of money, and that sequestration was President Obama's idea - putting six Republicans and six Democracts in the same room to work out a solution.

"If you wanted a formula for gridlock, that's it," said King.

On the table are $85 billion in cuts, something that's led to a lot of handwringing - real or not.

"We can do a lot better than he's (Obama) letting on," said King.

For one thing, King took to task the assertion that the United States Department of Agriculture will have to lay off meat inspectors.

"I can't help but feel that's not the least important priority to the USDA," King said.

King said next week lawmakers in Washington will take up the continuing resolution debate and try to stay at sequestration levels. He noted that he's long argued that the government needs a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"The American people need to buy in," King emphasized, noting that in 1995 the House passed a balanced budget amendment which the Senate missed approving by one vote.

"The will to balance our budget and live within our means is not within the will of the United States Congress," King said. "I think it's on our conscience to live within our means."

King said the share of the national debt for a baby born last Nov. 1 will be $52,288.

"That is the collateral that we're using to borrow money from the Chinese and the Saudis," King said.

"This past week has been a very busy one in the Senate but it hasn't been very productive," said Guth, who believes the "raw milk bill" will move forward and that the Ag Committee passed the corn checkoff.

Guth was hopeful for the mothball bill which would not require livestock operations that temporarily shut down to file a manure management plan with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "We sort of took care of it this week,"

Guth said.

Guth noted too a $500 million difference between House and Senate versions of the budget, with the Senate version asking for an 11 percent increase from last year or 105 percent of ongoing revenues.

He recalled one of his campaign promises was the Iowa marriage amendment, adding that Iowa Senate President Mike Gronstal had said the bill wouldn't get to the floor.

"I will do what I can to continue to advance the marriage amendment," Guth pledged.

Addressing the Education Reform Bill, Gassman said he had added the provision that private schools would have the option to accredit with five independent accrediting agencies instead of the Iowa Department of Education.

And as a member of the Environmental Protection Committee, Gassman said he'd like to make the nutrient reduction strategy voluntary.

"We're going to make our lakes and streams cleaner, but we're going to do it on your time - not the government's time."

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Gassman said a no-fault divorce will no longer be possible if there are minor children in the family. "The family in my opinion in this country is broken," said Gassman, as a reason for pushing for the provision.

Gassman also pledged to hold down spending.

"We're (House Republicans) not going to spend more than 99 percent of the money that's estimated to come in," Gassman said, saying that figure was now at 98 percent - and that he'd like to keep it at that level.



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