Your voice: The 2017 legislative session

Gatehouse Iowa Staff

The Iowa Legislature is scheduled to begin the 87th General Assembly on Monday, and each year lawmakers attend forums and town hall meetings to discuss their priorities and goals for the current session.

During every legislative session, there is debate over school funding with both parties placing blame on the other for why they can’t set the percent of growth in supplemental aid as required within the first 30 days after convening.

They talk about mental health care, tax credits, road use funds and myriad other topics. Some are pertinent to the everyday lives of Iowans. Some are not.

This year, the reporters of GateHouse Iowa’s central Iowa papers again hit the streets to find out what matters to real voters, to find out what their priorities and hopes are for their local lawmakers in Des Moines this year, and what they think about the seemingly inevitable gridlock that seems synonymous with the Iowa Legislature.

We asked. We listened. And this is what we learned.

From Bud McCauley, of Adel

On school spending:

“I would hope they can get together on the school budget, so they’re not fighting about that forever and ever and the kids suffering for it.

“We’ve got to get our kids educated. It costs money and we’ve got to do it.

“Just got grandkids coming up and they’re all going to have to have a job someday and we’ve got to get them educated into whatever it is.”

From Harlyn McGuire, of Perry

On education:

“I would like to see them address education and the compensation to teachers.

“Education is very important to the future of the state, and if we don’t have good people in education, as far as educators, we’re not going to get our young people educated and it’s just not going to be a good thing.”

On the state’s natural resources:

“I would like to see is the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), I think they need additional funding to better manage our natural resources.”

From Julie Klise, of Perry

On education:

“I hope that they properly fund our schools. I know there’s been a lot of back and forth about proper funding, diverting things properly into the right places.”

“I have people in my family who are school people. I have raised my kids and they had a good education. I think all kids have the right to a good, free public education. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”

On clean water:

“I am for clean water and I know that’s really a big deal about who’s responsible.

“I think somebody’s got to step up to the plate for the greater good.

“If we don’t figure out why all these nitrates are getting into the system and fix it — I’m not saying it’s the farmers, but if it is, we’ve got to figure out why it’s in there.”

From Michael Morris, co-owner of Treats on a Leash in Ames:

On improving the state’s business climate:

“I think Iowa has a good environment for business, but I want to make sure it stays that way,” he said. “We opened this store two years ago and I’m glad we opened when we did.”

On marketing the state more aggressively to tourists and shoppers:

“We get people in here from out of state,” he said. “You hear the words ‘Iowa nice’ and it’s a catchphrase, but it’s a real thing.”

From Rich Finnestad, of Boone

On education:

“We need to increase our K-12 spending. I taught at DMACC for 30 years, and I can’t figure out why we need to spend about $95,000 average per year on incarcerated people and only $6,446 per year on each student. It seems it would be cheaper to spend more on the younger ones.”

From Pauly Feltner, of Ames

On health care:

“Just knowing that a lot of people don’t have access to health care, how can we make that happen for middle income people even, not even just the low income?

“I feel like with changes that are going to come down the pike I think there’s going to be a lot people in the gap. I’ve worked in health care, I’m actually a photographer but I’ve worked in health care with dentistry and I’ve worked in public health and I’ve just seen the gap there and it would be nice if there was something they could offer people.

“I’d like to see that improved.”

From Arvid Osterberg, of Ames

On the environment:

“(There should be) concern about the water quality, overuse of pesticides, overuse of farm chemical, and no-till farming. I really think we should try to return a reasonable portion of the land to a more natural landscape.

“I think we have ongoing issues and need to continually support education, which we haven’t done a good enough job of.”

From George Ensley, of Boone

On eminent domain:

“The Legislature should look at the definition of a utility and be much more specific.”

On water quality:

“Water quality needs a solution that benefits everyone; maybe enough animals really are enough.”

On Medicaid privatization:

“Just get rid of it.”

From Larry Sloan, of Nevada

On the Legislature’s agenda:

“I’d like the schools returned to local controls and freedom from federal agendas, and funding restored to sports, arts and vocational training. More emphasis put on basic skills, and less on societal engineering.”

On business regulation:

“I’d like to see a government more for the people and small businesses, and fewer regulations that only serve to needlessly encumber the growth, expansion and start-up of small businesses.”

On voter ID:

“I’d like to see a comprehensive voter ID system.”

From Scott Alan Johnson, of Story City

On overcoming the political divide:

“2016 is the year that in many ways brought out the worst in our politics, and I hope the 2017 Iowa Legislature can focus on effective, common-sense legislation that benefits all Iowans.

“Republicans may see their new position as a mandate for conservative policies, while Democrats may feel that they are called to obstruct, oppose, and deny as much as possible. I believe this sort of polarized, partisan government would be detrimental to the entire state.

“While party loyalty can be an admirable trait, ideological intransigence always winds up dividing the populace into winners and losers.

“Iowa would be best served by a legislature that is determined to work across the aisle to draft and implement legislation that ensures the long-term benefit of all citizens in Iowa, not one specific group or another.”

From Dean Adkins, of Boone

On infrastructure:

“Infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, still need to be addressed.”

On veterans care

“We also need better medical care for veterans.”

From Jackie Webster, of Nevada

On the state’s drinking age:

“Eliminate the 21-year-old drinking law. It was, is, and always will be, ridiculous and excessive. It should be 18, the legal adult age. Period.”

On tax reform:

“Iowa ranks as one of the top states in the nation for the number of two-parent households where both parents work. Currently, child care expenses are deductible at a percentage of the federal credit, decreasing as income goes up. Ridiculous. Child care costs for parents to work are a legitimate work expense. These costs should be deductible dollar for dollar, no matter what income tax bracket.”

On education:

“Many small school districts realize the need for consolidation, based on costs; duplication of services and the need for world-class education. What stands in the way? 1) Teachers and staff will lose their jobs. 2) Class size will increase for all grade levels. 3) Transportation costs and services.”

From Jen Schroeder, of Story City

On education:

“I think the state needs to look at funding for higher education and funding in general for education.”

Reporters Austin Harrington, Dan Mika and Grayson Schmidt from the Ames Tribune; Jason Brooks from the Boone News-Republican; Clint Cole from the Perry Chief and Dallas County News; Marlys Barker from the Nevada Journal and Tri-County Times; and Ronna Lawless from the Story City Herald all contributed to this story.