Funding education and medical marijuana were among the questions Clinton County residents asked their state lawmakers during the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce’s first Legislative Coffee of 2011.
All five area lawmakers, including freshmen legislators Reps. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton; Brian Moore, R-Zwingle; and State Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa; as well as Rep. Steven Olson, R-DeWitt; and Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, R-Dixon, appeared Saturday in the Chamber’s offices to discuss the ongoing session and address a variety of issues for an audience of more than 50 constituents.
The issue they all said has been on the forefront of their minds has been trying to work out a deal for the upcoming budget, and what to do with the proposals made by Gov. Terry Branstad.
One such proposal he proposed included instituting zero percent allowable growth for schools. Many of the questions asked the legislators what they would do to prevent this, while others asked the opposite question.
“What makes schools think they are exempt (from cuts?)” one of the questions read.
The lawmakers answered that the zero percent allowable growth was likely to be changed as both sides of the aisle negotiate the budget’s final draft.
Olson said that despite some recently enflamed rhetoric between House Speaker Kraig Paulson, R-Hiawatha, and Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, regarding the same-sex marriage amendment recently passed by the House, the two leaders do have a good working relationship and are meeting with the hopes of drafting some bipartisan budget drafts.
“It’s probably not going to look like what the governor proposed,” he added.
But as the state tries to get its fiscal house in order, other issues fall by the wayside, Wolfe said. One such issue is whether to allow medicinal marijuana in Iowa, which was put in the spotlight after Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, e-mailed constituents telling them he acquired the drug in California under false pretenses, to show how flawed their system is.
Baudler will have an ethics committee hearing on the matter today.
Wolfe said she would support exploring the drug’s medicinal benefits, but added that there were too many collateral issues that would require more time and money to research.
“Which we don’t have much of either, at the moment,” she said.
Two more townhall meetings have already been scheduled. The next one will occur Saturday, March 12.