This past week was once again rumored to be the last week for legislators at the Statehouse, but while many of the major budget bills were agreed upon, a few of the most stubborn issues remain to be resolved.
The House and Senate have now agreed on how much to spend, and many of the conference committees have completed their work, but others are still working out the details as I write this column.
I served on the conference committee for Economic Development appropriations, and that report was passed out of the Senate this week. The Economic Development budget provides funding to the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Economic Development Authority, Department of Workforce Development, the Iowa Finance Authority, and the Public Employment Relations Board. The compromise included:
• Increasing funding to the Labor Division at Iowa Workforce Development to hire one wage and hour investigator. We want to make sure workers are being paid for the work they’ve done.
• Providing more funding to the Iowa Economic Development Authority for tourism.
• Increasing funding for grants to cultural organizations with money from the Cultural Trust Fund.
I did have one major disappointment with the result of the conference committee. I fought to reopen the Clinton workforce office. The legislation, as passed by the Senate, would have required Iowa Workforce Development to reopen the Clinton office. I have heard from many constituents how important it is to have a local office to help unemployed workers find jobs and help our local businesses connect with unemployed Iowans.
Unfortunately, the Clinton office and a few others in the state did not survive the negotiations with House Republicans. I will continue to try to find ways to provide adequate help for Iowans who are trying to get back to work.
Another important bill passed this week addresses the controversy over public use of private lands. A recent Supreme Court decision had caused many to believe that private landowners would no longer open their lands to hunters and trappers and for school tours. Democrats and Republicans worked together to craft legislation (HF649) that will ease those concerns. I was happy to be able to vote for this bill that will alleviate a lot of worry over this issue.