On January 9 I head out to Des Moines for the first day of Iowa’s 2012 legislative session. As Clinton’s representative in the Iowa House, I would like the opportunity to discuss the upcoming session with my constituents — I want to know what you think about some of the likely issues that we will be voting on, and I’d also like to know what you think that I can/should do (or not do), legislationwise, to try and help make Clinton, and Iowa, a better place to live for all of us.
So this Tuesday, December 20, from 5 p.m. until about 6:30 p.m., I would like every single Clinton resident to join me (and hopefully our State Senator Tod Bowman, who will do his best to be there on short notice) at Clinton’s beautiful public library in downtown Clinton for the first of what I hope will be several “legislative town hall meetings” — relatively informal conversations about what your elected officials are doing (and what you want us to do) in Des Moines, and about how specific legislation might impact Clinton County on a short and long term basis.
One challenge I know the legislature will be dealing with this session is the mandated redesign of Iowa’s mental health system. Last session, we created an interim committee (of which I am a member) to try and put together a plan that will (1) simplify the current extremely confusing and sometimes counter-productive funding mechanisms by which counties pay for the mental health services provided to their citizens, and also (2) ensure that all Iowans have equal and ready access to high quality mental health care. So basically, we are supposed to create a mental health system that will do more, for more people, and do it better, and do it more cost effectively. Which is asking a lot, but realistically, we don’t have much of a choice — the number of Iowans in need of and eligible for mental health services is constantly expanding, and the current system is simply not capable of meeting, or paying for, the demand.
Working groups made up of dedicated service providers, families, and consumers have met all summer long and have provided the interim committee with their detailed and well-thought-out proposals on many different aspects of the mental health system. Today in Des Moines, the interim committee will meet for our third (and supposedly last) all-day session — from which we will hopefully emerge with a draft bill that combines all of the work done by all of the working groups into one cohesive, understandable, agreed-upon package. At least that’s the plan. I’ll bring copies of whatever we come up with to Tuesday’s town meeting — and since I know there will be many revisions between now and whenever we vote on a final bill, I will be looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions at future town meetings.
The Governor’s education reform bill will also be on the agenda this session, as will property tax reform, the judicial appointment process, a possible gas tax increase, and many other issues. Obviously, we won’t have time to get into all of these topics this Tuesday — but I hope that this town meeting will be the start of an ongoing discussion that will take place throughout the 2012 session, and for many sessions to come.
And I’d like to specifically invite Clinton County’s teenagers and young adults to join us on Tuesday — it’s your life, and your future, that we vote on out in Des Moines, and you might be amazed at how much of an impact you can have on the process just by showing up and asking questions. And maybe your teachers will give you extra credit for attending the meeting — it can’t hurt to ask, right?
Plus, there will be cookies.
Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, represents District 26 in the Iowa House of Representatives.