State Representative Dawn
This was the week of power, money and influence trying to push their weight around and the people at home winning the battle, for now anyway. I am very proud of my committees and colleagues in them for standing firm on a number of issues and listening to the people at home's feedback.
We started out on Monday with a public hearing on the State Reorganization bill and ended the week debating it on the House Floor. In spite of the terrible weather, the public hearing was packed. There were 119 people in the Supreme Court room and two exits. The State Fire Marshall would have had a cow about that. We heard testimony on the Community Empowerment and closing the Clarinda Mental Health facility portions of the bill. It was two hours and we heard from over 45 people, with 67 signed up to speak. I am proud to say the committee worked out many of our differences, listened to the people and Friday's debate corrected most of the Empowerment concerns and removed the closure of a mental health facility from the bill. The truth is, community empowerment is a local delivery system that works very well and we are seriously short on mental health beds already. To add some intensity to the week, it was the funnel. Funnel week is when you have to have a bill you care about come out of a committee in order for it to be a live bill. Otherwise, it is dead for the year. People from home, the different legislators and the rich wanting to get richer are all after you to move their bills out of committee. Here's a for instance: Two casinos, Harrah's and Dubuque, have greyhound racing and they pay out 10 million dollars a year for the purse prizes. They came to me and said greyhound racing was dying out and if they could get rid of it, they would give the state that ten million for 7 years. 70 million dollars! My instincts said "WHAT?!?", but I continued to listen. Then I spoke to the Greyhound Association who told me about the 1995 deal. That deal was - in order for the casinos to be able to bring in slot machines, they had to continue their support of greyhounds and the Iowa greyhound breeders. Both the greyhound industry and casinos have a significant impact on Iowa's local and state economies.
Then, I was in State Government and when it was over, the room was quiet, so I spread my papers out and was working. The three subcommittee members for the greyhound/casino bill came in and sat for a subcommittee meeting. Only about five people came in, which was unusual for a bill of that magnitude. The Majority Leader came in and the three signed the subcommittee report without any questions...more out of the norm. What's going on here? THE 70 MILLION DOLLARS and our billion dollar budget gap! Time for a gut check, moral compass, whatever you would call it. I called my Mom, an old boyfriend who has great business and ethical instincts and spoke to a friend on the ethics committee. The bill definitely did not meet the SMELL test. What happened then? Rep. Raecker and I worked our members, talked to both parties and both interests. We said if we want to change the policy on greyhounds and casinos, that is one thing. But the money in the bill makes it buying regulations and has to come out. We would be setting a precedent that if farmers wanted to end some regulations of the DNR, they could get together 50 million and come to us with a deal. Or bankers didn't like their regulations the same, where would it stop? We won the day in State Government, where the 70 million was amended out of the bill. Now, the money will not be driving the discussion and we can weigh the thing objectively.
The whole week was full of that stuff! There are solutions. We just have to keep our heads on straight and work to find them. Unfortunately, other committees did not do as well, and some heinous things for Iowa moved out and are still live rounds. As long as we all do our part, I can only believe the system will work in our favor. The citizens need to be vocal and good advocates for themselves. The press needs to be a good watchdog and report truthfully and without bias on the process. Finally, your lawmakers need to listen to you and come to good solutions that will not harm our state or its people.
In the House Chamber next Wednesday evening 5:00 - 8:00 p.m., February 17th, is a public hearing on House Study Bill 702. This bill says if you are non-union in a place with a union, you will have to pay the union 65% of a union due for their negotiations and 10% for their grievance services. If you do not pay, you will not lose your job, but they can sue you for it. This bill did make it through the funnel and your 'For or Against' feedback needs to be heard. At the public hearing, the individual testimony will be limited to three minutes and we will take written testimony also. If interested in testifying, call the Legislative Information Office at 515-281-5129 to sign up.
There is lots more to tell you, but not enough time to do it. Please know that every day, I remember your trust in me and will always do my best. You are welcome to email me at email@example.com or call me at the Capitol 515-281-3221. Don't forget, February 20th's Saturday morning Legislative coffee is in Luzerne's City Hall and February 27th's is in Marengo at the Doose Cafe, from 10 - 12:00. I hope to see you at one of them!