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New session, same objectives

Published: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 11:58 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 12:28 p.m. CDT

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As usual, the challenge at the start of the legislative session is that the R’s and D’s work together for the well-being of Iowans, and we were admonished to put politics aside until the next election cycle. Apparently, that cycle has arrived for some who already case their political positions in stone. 

I will again serve as chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The governor’s budget for both natural resources and agriculture was set at $35 million, the same as last year. He provided no additional funding to meet the federal demands of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Recent media attention has centered on Iowa as a major contributor to the hypoxia mass in the Gulf of Mexico. EPA has stated it will take over administration of the regulation of soil and water conservation in the state unless this legislature provides the means by which the nutrient level of Iowa streams is significantly reduced. It’s my responsibility to attempt to get this issue worked out.

In addition, I am vice-chair of the Natural Resources Committee, and also serve on the full Appropriations Committee.  Other committee assignments include Agriculture; Ways and Means; International Relations; and, Veterans Affairs.

The Governor’s address to the General Assembly was direct and to the point. His three major objectives were well received, those being property tax reform, school funding and pursuing a healthy Iowa. The latter is not the role of the legislature, but if we can gently prod, I guess it doesn’t hurt.

I certainly agreed with the governor who called for a predictable, stable and sustainable state budget. Budgeting schemes of the past have only gotten us in trouble, and when we established the economic emergency funds, the legislature ensured funding of essential state responsibilities. 

The state treasury is in great shape, with just under a billion dollars in reserves and unexpended balances.  Unquestionably the two most obvious needs are property tax reform and assisting local school districts with student achievement. I believe state funding for local schools must be predictable, stable, and sustainable. If the state is an unreliable partner with local schools, that can hurt student achievement, teacher quality and class sizes.

With the new session comes a vast myriad of issues to be placed before lawmakers. Only one in 10 of those that come in bill form will become law.  That is good, because our time should be spent on the major objectives identified above. Fair taxation, education, health care and environmental enhancement and protection deserve the attention.

As always, I seek your opinions, along with any other communications.  After all, I am your voice in the Iowa Senate. Contact me at Box 1271, Newton, IA 50208, or email me at dblack@black4senate.com

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