I just finished up my first week of the second session of my first term as District 26’s representative in the Iowa House, and I am excited to be back at the State Capitol, and happy to report that this session started out on a much more bi-partisan note than last session. The leaders of both parties made it clear that they intend to at least try to cooperate with each other to take care of business in a timely and professional manner, and in last Tuesday’s “Condition of the State” address, Gov. Terry Branstad indicated that he was on board as well. This is good news for Iowa, and good news for me, because last session was a little frustrating, to put it mildly.
The governor’s speech focused on jobs and education, and while there are many areas of agreement, I was very disappointed, as were many other legislators from both parties, that the governor indicated that he had no plan to reopen the Iowa workforce field offices that he closed last summer (after session had adjourned, and despite the fact that both the House and Senate, with bi-partisan support, had voted to keep them open for at least another year, and had allocated the necessary funding to do so). I continue to work with legislators from both parties to get Clinton’s field office re-opened, at least on a part-time basis; at this point, it doesn’t seem very likely but we will continue to try.
I have many clients who have lost their jobs due to a layoff, and who want nothing more than to get back to work, as soon as possible. But in today’s economy (which is improving, but slowly) that’s easier said than done, and the state should do what it can to help. It’s the smart thing to do from a financial standpoint, and it’s the right thing to do from a moral standpoint.
Clinton’s workforce field office was one of the biggest in the state, and provided important services that helped unemployed Clinton people find jobs. The local workforce employees also treated these people with respect, and encouraged them not to give up and to think outside the box when job hunting — and these crucial services simply cannot be provided by a computer kiosk in our local library.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court gave his “Condition of the Judiciary” report to the House and Senate. The Chief Justice pointed out that despite cuts to the judicial system’s budget over the past 10 years, Iowa’s court system is ranked as one of the best in the nation. He discussed several new efforts the court is taking to streamline and improve the judicial system, including the creation of “business courts” and an increase in the number of drug and mental health courts throughout Iowa.
But Justice Cady warned us that the court system cannot maintain its current status, much less improve it, without supplemental funding from the state for 2013. Happily, it appears that the governor shares Justice Cady’s concerns, as he has allocated an additional $10 million to the judicial system in his 2013 budget proposal.
Hopefully this supplemental appropriation will survive the legislative process; if so, a portion of it is intended to be used to allow Iowa’s Clerk of Courts offices to stay open all day Monday through Friday. Currently, county clerks are required to lock their doors at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday in order to get caught up with everything they haven’t been able to get done the rest of the week due to lack of sufficient staff — this causes problems for lawyers, judges and the public, which in turn causes Clinton County’s dedicated clerk of court Marilyn Huff a lot of headaches.
Providing the judicial system with the funding necessary to resolve this staffing issue is good government and good business, and I’ll work to make sure that this happens.
I continue to serve on the same standing committees as last session (judiciary, public safety, transportation and human services) but this summer House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed me ranking member of the judiciary committee, which basically means I act as point person for the eight other Democrats on the committee.
Since I am a big fan of the judiciary, and laws in general, this was a real honor for me, and I am looking forward to working with Representative Anderson and Representative Baltimore (the chair and vice-chair, respectively) and the other members of the judiciary committee in the months to come.
As far as actual legislation, there will be plenty of that in the weeks to come (commercial property tax reform, education reform, mental health redesign, a possible gas tax increase) and in order to help me communicate with you about these issues, I am proud to announce that I have created my very own blog, “Iowa House Happenings” (catchy title, right?); it can be found at www.representativemarywolfe.com.
It’s a work in progress, and I hope to get it prettied up, but bottom line, I am going to do my best to post something (almost) every day, just so you know I’m still alive and awake and paying attention to Clinton’s best interests. Please check it out and subscribe, and feel free to respond to my posts. I work for you, and I want and need your feedback in order to do my job.
So I look forward to hearing from you all in the months to come. Thanks for your continued support.
Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, represents District 26 in the Iowa House of Representatives.