The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 14, 2014

Legislators: Session lacks productivity

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Iowa legislators are frustrated with the way this year’s session has unfolded, but not everything has come with disappointing results.

During a legislative coffee gathering Saturday, Sen. Rita Hart, Rep. Steve Olson and Rep. Mary Wolfe expressed their dissatisfaction with the unproductive legislative session, which was expected to end last week, but could continue well into May.

“I was hopeful we’d be out by the 10th of April,” Olson said. “If we’re out of there by the first of May, I’ll be shocked.”

Currently legislators are working on budget bills, leaving questions as to whether many substantive bills and policy bills that haven’t already made it through actually will.

Some of those include a bill calling for an increase in the Iowa gas tax, an anti-bullying and harassment bill, an allowable growth bill for area schools and a medical marijuana bill that gained little momentum during the session.

Wolfe said that while she’s not certain those bills won’t make it through, she expected many wouldn’t have the support they need.

“I think at this point most of the substantive bills, policy bills that haven’t made it through, probably aren’t going to make it through,” Wolfe said. “Except as some add-on to one of the standing bills or something like that.”

The lack of support for those bills concerned some guests at Saturday’s coffee session, as well as the legislators themselves.

But despite their disappointments, the legislators delivered some good news on Saturday as they announced the passing of two specific bills that they feel will benefit the Gateway area immensely.

One of those is a bill that gives private water companies, like Iowa-American Water Co., more authority to collect unpaid sewer bills. That report was met with applause from those in attendance at the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event.

“The Clinton (water) bill was a good one to get down the road,” Hart said.

A second bill that legislators were happy to see make it through to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk is a human trafficking bill that Hart has been a strong proponent of since its inception.

She added that while it has made it through, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done with the education portion of that bill.

As enthused as city officials and residents who attended the coffee session were about the bills that have passed, they were more concerned with the ones that have not bolstered much activity, the largest being the gas tax.

“This is arguably a failure in leadership on the governor’s part,” said Wolfe in response to questions about the gas tax’s status. “I don’t think there’s any question that this is something that needs to be done. It’s just one of those things, I don’t want to make this about politics but this has been going on for the past four years and it’s just a big problem.”

That uncertainty has made legislators face difficulties throughout the legislative session but gives them the fuel they need to continue fighting for the things they believe will benefit the community.

“This has been a tough session,” Wolfe said. “I haven’t necessarily gotten everything done I wanted to this session but I look forward to working with you all in the next two years and over the summer.”

Amy Kent can be reached at amykent@clintonherald.com.