Our second week at the capitol was a short one thanks to the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday and the Caucus on Tuesday. However, these two days were not idle. I had meetings on Monday in the district, first with the Black Hawk County Farm Bureau and with the Local Emergency Planning Committee in Toledo, and then the Caucus Tuesday night. Wednesday at the capitol was an epic day. The morning was filled with the usual flurry of meetings and ad hoc discussions, and then early in the afternoon nearly 100 supporters of the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH), led by Todd Sprague, came to the capitol to lobby legislators on re-opening the IJH. I am extremely proud of these folks; they spent several hours lobbying outside the chambers, meeting with legislators one on one to educate them on the issues and the need for the IJH to continue its mission. They did a superb job and raised the awareness of the issue immeasurably. When I was available, I made sure to pull a steady supply of my colleagues out of the House chamber to meet with them. Then at 4:00 PM a Senate Health and Human Services committee hearing was held on the issue. Three past students testified about their experience at the IJH and how the staff helped them turn their lives around. Then three staff members also testified, followed by a stirring testimony and plea from Jim Roan, a prominent local attorney who is a strong advocate for the city of Toledo. The conference room was packed, and the TV media captured the entire event. This helped raise the awareness in the Senate as well, along with getting more of the story out to the rest of the state via the media. It was a great day for the citizens of Tama County to be heard, we should all be proud of the efforts they are making to restore the Iowa Juvenile Home.
I continue to file new bills as they slowly filter out of the drafters in the Legislative Services Agency. One bill that I've filed this past week makes a change to the vehicle "Lemon Law". Under Iowa's current Lemon Law a vehicle must weigh less than 10,000 pounds in order to be covered under this law. My bill would change the weight limit to 15,000 pounds to accommodate some of the newer, large pickups. A constituent had a pickup he used for pulling a camper that turned out to have a defective pollution control system that the dealers couldn't fix, but because of the weight limit he was out of luck on a very expensive vehicle.
Iowa Juvenile Home
On Saturday, January 25th, six IJH supporters and I attended the board of directors meeting of Disability Rights Iowa (DRI). DRI is the genesis of the attacks on the Iowa Juvenile Home and I feel strongly that they have misrepresented the issues in that case. I felt it was important that the entire DRI board heard our case. Former Congressman Dave Nagle who has volunteered to help with the public relations on behalf of the IJH supporters was on hand for this meeting, along with Yvonne Mallory, Todd Sprague, Bill Eggers, David Binner and Nancy Stillian. We aired our concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting, and heard back from the board after they discussed our testimony in private. This was one step in what promises to be a long discussion. At a minimum, I hope to at least raise enough awareness of the issues in the mind of the board and staff at DRI so that we avoid any further debacles at our other child care institutions.
In the coming week I also hope to have the opportunity to begin studying the Senate bill aimed at re-instating the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. If this bill is a workable piece of legislation, I intend to file it in the House so that it can work its way through the system in parallel with the Senate version.
Rock Island Clean Line
An energy company known as Clean Line Energy Partners has proposed a new Direct Current (DC) power line that runs across Iowa, including through Eagle Township in Black Hawk County, the northernmost portion of our legislative district. This power line is known as the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL), named after the now abandoned proposal of using the old Rock Island railroad right of way. This power line will connect wind farms located primarily in South Dakota to customers in Illinois. I have heard from many of my constituents as well as others nearby that are opposed to this power line being run through their farms and near their homes. I have also attended four meetings on the subject, one informational meeting hosted by RICL and the Iowa Utilities Board, and three meetings hosted by the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, a group formed specifically to oppose this project. While much of the opposition is emotional, people simply don't want a high voltage power line running through their farms and near their homes, there are also significant legal and strategic issues involved. This power line cuts across Iowa, but does not connect to the power grid in any way; Iowans cannot use power from this line.
As a DC line it cannot connect to the nations AC power grid except through an expensive DC to AC converter at the end of the line. What is troubling about this project is that it is not included in the overall regional plan for our power grid. If this line is approved, it opens the door for many more such projects, potentially leaving us with a patchwork of disassociated transmission lines that crisscross our farms as wind farms in the west are connected to eastern cities. Also troubling is the fact that RICL is attempting to use eminent domain takings for this project, cutting a broad path through prime Iowa farm ground in the process and running very close to existing homes. In order to make sure that the interests of Iowans are put first and to make sure that our power grid is built on a comprehensive plan, I have signed on as a co-sponsor to two bills that strengthen our eminent domain protections.
The Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a series of legislative forums again this year at the Fisher Community Center directly across from the Hy-Vee main store in Marshalltown. These forums include the three legislators from the Marshall county area, Rep. Mark Smith, Sen. Steve Sodders, and me. The first will be held this coming Friday at noon on January 30th and last about one hour. The forums are every other Friday during the session; the next will be February 14th. These forums are a great way to hear from the legislators and voice your concerns; I hope to see you there.
After last week's newsletter the Marshalltown Times Republican contacted us about doing a story on Diane Lake, my clerk for the 2014 session. The TR did an excellent story, and on the front page of the Sunday edition no less! You can find the link to the on-line version here: www.timesrepublican.com/page/content.detail/id/567926/Local-woman-learning-legislative-life.html?nav=5005
I would encourage you all to come down to the capitol for a visit. If you do, ask for a tour of the capitol dome, Diane will be ready to take you all the way up to the cupola. And of course you will want to take the tour of the rest of the capitol with the regular tour guides.
As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org or 641-750-3594.
"The moral underpinnings of our county must be able to bear the weight of today if we're to pass on to the next generation an America worth having." - Ronald Reagan 2/10/1987