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Republicans in Senate oppose all spending

Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 11:29 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:44 a.m. CDT

I hesitated on this column, because I have often written about the need to approach our “must do” legislation in a bi-partisan manner.  Much of what we do requires both parties to contribute to the process, compromise that which can be altered, and arrive with a solution to departmental spending that meets the needs. 

Most unfortunately, and absolutely not in the best interest of Iowa, my Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Bill that passed the Senate on Thursday resulted in 26 Democrats voting AYE and 24 voting NAY. This is absurd, and should be vivid proof to all citizens that the process is broken, and now is little better than Washington.

Proof that the entire bill I authored and led during floor “debate” wasn’t flawed is the fact that I utilized the wisdom and funding needs that emanated from the departments themselves to craft the spending measure. Both the Secretary of Agriculture and the Director of the Department of Natural Resources participated in reviewing every single line item of their respective budgets. 

No other committee chair in the Senate does this, but I did because I trust both individuals immensely, and neither has shown me the need to keep them out of the process. Besides, who better to assist in fine tuning and tweaking the nuances of their operating budget than these gentlemen who are professionals in their field? 

The agriculture and natural resources appropriations bill this year is a showcase of intended methods of providing parameters for more wisely providing the funds for each department to carry out the laws in the Code of Iowa in a manner that focuses on environmental improvements. Nutrient reduction in Iowa’s waters led the discussion, and the departments were both eager to continue in their efforts to show that objective can be met without harsh, non-productive legislative mandates. 

Stream and soil monitoring by Iowa State University is expanded in this bill, and a massive amount of publicly available research data will be utilized to ascertain what conservation methods work, and those that are less effective. Regardless of the methods used, the result will be additional wildlife habitat and far less soil and nutrients lost from the land to pollute Iowa’s streams. 

We even established a position long sought by the Department of Agriculture for a person to work in urban conservation initiatives, as massive waste water from streets, parking areas, and private lands in larger communities carry a far greater load of water pollutants than ag land. The data of Iowa’s Nutrient Management Center points this fact out in a dramatic manner.

This year’s bill was the finest I have worked on in 32 years, and from a spending standpoint, was half of what it was a decade ago. Again, Iowa’s economy is agriculturally based, we lead the nation in the production of six commodities, and our budget has been cut in half in ten years. 

That in itself sickens me, because the public is concerned about our soils and water, and yet the two departments responsible to oversee the laws to accomplish this are short changed.

Not a single question, comment or amendment to alter spending or programs in the austere Ag and Natural Resources bill was brought to the Senate’s attention by the Republican Senators. Frankly, it soon became evident they just didn’t care … their minds were made up to vote against this bill, and likewise every other departmental appropriation of the session.

The “ship of state” must sail, but the Republicans in the Senate refuse to support anything that will keep it going. It was embarrassing, and Iowans deserve better. 

• • •

During the session, call me at (515) 281-3371; write me at the Senate, Capitol Bldg., Des Moines, 50319; or e-mail dennis.black@legis.iowa.gov  I value your thoughts and opinions.

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