Rep. Tedd Gassman and Sen. Dennis Guth discussed approved and upcoming legislation in Des Moines with constituents Saturday at the Sleep Inn & Suites board room.
In one of the main appropriations bills, Guth said Senate Democrats had added $10 million for bike trails this year - with Gov. Terry Branstad recommending $2.5 million. A baseball facility received $1 million and a women's golf tournament in Des Moines $1.5 million for advertising. Guth said the funding bill passed on a 12-7 party line vote and was now going to the House. Guth suggested that the reason Democrats wanted so much in the funding bill was so they would have something to bargain with.
Guth also noted that Democrats wanted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
"I think it's going to hurt us as much as help us," said Guth.
Guth said the bullying bill was going to the House, adding that he thought the entire bill should be crossed out and replaced with, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"The whole agenda seemed to be about bullying those who have been doing the bullying," Guth said.
Guth said he had a bill that would have allowed the Gideons to place Bibles in public schools.
"I think if we had been doing that all along we could make some progress," Guth said. "We have an opportunity to change our hearts when we understand what Easter is all about."
Gassman said there would be seven House amendments to the bullying bill, an issue he had addressed with school administrators throughout his district. He said administrators said they didn't need more rules or laws. "Just let us take care of this," they told him.
With the bullying bill dealing so much with feelings, Gassman said he would try to make sure it dealt with actions. He seconded the position of the Forest City superintendent who said the district would deal with bullying's impact on learning.
Gassman discounted the bill's attempts to have schools police what happens on kids' cell phones outside of school. "The schools get enough things to do," he said. "I'm not in favor of that bullying bill," said Gassman, noting that if the bill got the right amendments, however, he would vote for it.
Social host bill
Gassman also discussed the social host bill, pointing to a stricter ordinance passed in Winnebago County. He said the bill in the legislature would call for a $250 fine on the first offense and $500 for the second while the Winnebago County ordinance provides for a $500 fine on the first offense and $1,000 on the second. Gassman said the idea for Winnebago County's ordinance came from 16-year-olds.
"We ought to leave the local ordinances alone," said Gassman. "I'm probably a no vote on the social host bill if it stops at that $250."
Gassman and Guth both discussed nutrient reduction efforts in Iowa. Guth said Iowa needs to reduce ingredients getting into rivers or the Environmental Protection Agency will take over enforcement instead of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He noted though that Iowa has accomplished 60 percent of the nutrient reduction done by the 13-state Mississippi watershed.
"We are way way ahead of all other states in getting that nutrient reduction done," said Guth. "The other states are looking at Iowa to see how to do this. Bill Northey (Iowa secretary of agriculture) has been very aggressive in promoting this."
Guth also discussed HF 359, allowing local governments to regulate juice bars.
He said the Senate had also just passed a human trafficking bill giving greater penalties to those selling and buying prostitutes. The bill refers girls under 18 to the Iowa Department of Human Services. Guth said the bill also gives law officers more leeway in questioning when minors are riding in vehicles with adults with a different last name.
Gassman noted possible tax incentives for repurposing publicly owned buildings into apartments and for other uses. Under the proposed legislation, local governments would be in a position to help people get tax relief for such efforts.
Gassman decried a $412 million or 7 percent increase in the state budget, with $155 million going to K-12 schools for a $250 increase per child in allowable growth. Another $120 million went to backfill property taxes, $51 million for school reform and $86 million to the Medicaid formula change.
Gassman said that left $900 million in reserve and that the state will probably give a $54 a person state income tax refund. He said another $630 million will remain in the rainy day fund, adding, "We cannot increase this budget 7.7 percent again."
Guth also discussed proposals to increase the gas tax for road repairs. One of the latest discussions was for 5 cents at the wholesale level and 16 cents retail for a 10-cent overall increase. Guth said he could go instead with 13 and 5 cents. Guth said he would like to see some of the current surplus go for roads.