by Art Smith | Jan 10, 2010
Monday is the first day of the 2010 session of the Iowa Legislature. Â Over the past month or so I’ve had an opportunity on my internet radio show The Conservative Reader Report to discuss the upcoming session with a few local Republican House Members, including Peter Cownie, Erik Helland, and Chris Hagenow. Â All of them had the same message we’ve been hearing via the press: this year’s session will be about the Budget.
These Republicans also stated their support for giving Iowan’s the right to vote for a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage, despite the fact that it appears unlikely such an opportunity will exist in the 2010 session. Mike Grandstall has already stated that he will not allow a bill that will define marriage as one man and one woman. Â The liberal media is all about calling it discriminatory and that it is “against same-sex marriage”, but the biggest furor should be over one simple thing: Democrats being “against” Â the right of Iowans to vote on this important issue. Â It is ironic that the Democratic Party, the supposed party of “Yes”, is now the party of “No”. Â And this on something less trivial than the typical money spending that Republicans typically try to stop, but on a most fundamental right of Iowans, and clearly desired by a majority of Iowans, to vote on this issue directly. Â Instead, the majority party chooses to abrogate the rights of Iowans.
Also on the table are potential opportunities to bring back some labor union priorities, Fair Share apparently being on top of the Governor’s list (he and other Dems owe the unions a lot, and they have not done much to deliver so far). Â Other priorities include Prevailing Wage, and Doctor Shopping.
Getting back to the budget, it was encouraging to see today’s Des Moines Register editorial recommending, along with “preserving healthcare for low-income Iowans”, among other things, that the Legislature take a hard look at Tax Credits and consolidation, but most important:
“…the discussion also should include suggestions about what state government can do without…”
How long can it take to figure this one out? Â And the Register even made some good suggestions:
“…the Power Fund? Economic-development programs? Services that could be turned over to private contractors?”
And they said, (gasp!) that schools would have to get by with less!
This is certainly a start. Â Perhaps the approach that the Editors are seeking is to “make a list and lets see what we can drop to get the budget balanced”. Â The notion that budgeting is a hard process involving a balance between what we can afford and what we want is the unfortunate result of coveting what others have. Â Greed and selfish desire drive this kind of thinking.
Unfortunately, our current legislature and administration’s thinking about the role of government is that it exists to make sure everyone gets their share of the pie… that everything that has ever looked like a legitimate government service or department must be viable. Â Try to stuff everything into a bag, and then pull out a few odds and ends to make it fit the budget.
The typical conservative view is that government exists to address the real needs of the people that cannot be filled by individuals and business or non-profits. Â Life (defense, security, emergency services), liberty (justice, rule of law), and property/pursuit of happiness (infrastructure, free-market capitalism). Â Most of what government needs to address can be fit in these categories. Â Some would say that anything on top of that is optional. Â But why should they be optional? Â All that does is promote the idea that there is a government trough available at least in good times, and as we’ve seen, also in bad times.
Our government should stop spending money on things that that the government simply does not need to be doing and can instead be done by business, non-profits and individuals on their own. Â Instead, our government will continue to bloat because everyone seeks the opportunity for free money from the government. Â What is needed is real discipline.
And don’t believe that your taxes won’t get raised… as long as the Legislature is unable to bring spending down to an appropriate level they will need to find ways to “raise revenue”… that is, raise taxes.
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I might take some heat for this. Â I agree that the NRA recommendations for changes to Iowa handgun laws would be beneficial to the citizens of the state, and I hope we can get them brought through the legislative process soon. Â However, I also agree with the Register that in 2010, this will simply be a distraction. Â And in 2010, with a Democratically controlled Assembly, we probably won’t see it pass anyhow. Â It would be best to wait until 2011 when the balance of power is likely to shift back to the right a bit.
However, I don’t take the same position on the Marriage Amendment. Â It would not hurt to allow this to hit the floor and get discussed and voted on in both houses this year… it will still need to be approved in the 2011 session before it can go to the voters. Â Delaying it a year does only that… delays it. Â The sooner the people of Iowa have an opportunity to vote on this the sooner we can put it behind us.
I’m also glad to see the Register continue to argue for transparency. Â I don’t think that either party historical has a corner on promoting more open government, but Republicans have tried last year to get some good legislation through to ensure the public would have easy access to information about what our government is doing, but was rejected by the Majority. Â It really is time to open the doors and make the data available to all.
by Art Smith | Dec 7, 2009
This will be a great week on The Conservative Reader Report as we host the Conservative Bloggers Forum from our Internet Radio studio on Des Moines Local Live! Â Shane Vander Hart (Caffeinated Thoughts) and Grant Young (Questions Comments and Insults) will join me to talk about the big issues of the day, including the meaning of being Conservative, the war in Afghanistan, and the war on Culver.
In our second hour, Peter Cownie, President of Junior Achievement of Iowa and Representative to the Iowa House from District 60 will be on the show to talk about his passions and the upcoming legislative session only a few weeks away.
All this plus government and political news updates AND the Smart and Dumb politicians of the week on The Conservative Reader Report!
Join us on Tuesday December 8 from 3:00 to 5:00 Central on Des Moines Local Live Internet Radio!
Remember, The Conservative Reader Report is not so much a news organization as it has a perspective!
by Art Smith | Mar 8, 2009
This week’s newsletter from Peter Cownie provides some insight into some of his goals as a legislator.Â Helping keep young people in Iowa after they graduate from high school and/or college has been a challenge in recent decades.Â Reasons for the large numbers of youth leaving the state range from financial opportunity to entertainment to lifestyle.Â Ultimately, jobs are key, and attracting young people means attracting companies.Â Peter also looks at ways to promote staying in Iowa for college education.
The best question a citizen can ask a person seeking public office is: why are you doing this? Every candidate should have a passion for what he/she is trying to accomplish and remember that passion each time he/she makes a decision. I was asked this question more than any other during the campaign. My answer is simple: I want to see more young people in Iowa. I grew up in Iowa and I want to do something about the young people that have chosen not to stay here and those that might think to leave in the future.
I serve on the Economic Growth Committee and we recently heard a presentation from the Generation Iowa Commission. I asked the presenter what deters young people from staying in Iowa after college. The answer was one word: jobs. I could not agree more. Young people will go where the best jobs are located. The current economic times will only reinforce this reality. In every decision a legislator makes this session, he/she needs to keep in mind the 80,000 unemployed Iowans and how we can help put them back to work. We also need to bear in mind those young people who want jobs in Iowa.
The Iowa Legislature needs to remember the big picture. The big picture is that Iowaâ€™s population is not growing quickly compared to other states. According to estimates from the Census Bureau for 2000-2008, Iowa ranks 42nd in population growth percentage. I have introduced a bill that will help retain and recruit young people to Iowa. This bill would allow college graduates who stay in Iowa to deduct the interest on student loan payments changing the limit from $2,500 to $5,000 annually. Students in Iowa graduate with the highest debt levels ($26,208 on average) in America. This bill would give direct help to college graduates who are just starting a job and could use the relief in their pocketbook. It is in the best interest of the Iowa Legislature to reach out to our young people and ease their burden. This bill will help keep our young people where we want them: Iowa.
This week’s newsletter also appeared in the West Des Moines section of the Des Moines Register, along with pieces from Pat Ward and Chris Hagenow.Â You may note that Pat hits hard on the Popular Vote bill, which we have opposed here as well.
Peter, Pat and Chris, along with Bob Brownell, also hosted a public forum in West Des Moines on February 28, which I attended.Â More on that later.
by Art Smith | Mar 8, 2009
Peter’s weekly newsletter (pdf here) from Feb 23 is below.Â How our state Legislators evaluate bills to identify where priorities and value are best provided in our economic situation is definitely key.Â Peter provides some great perspective on what we do (or rather, don’t do) to ensure that the next generation has the skills they need to manage their personal finances responsibly, and he has put forth a bill to do just that.
The current General Assembly should be doing everything within its means to improve Iowaâ€™s economy. America is experiencing historic downturns in the stock market, housing market, and the banking industry, and unemployment is rising in Iowa and the nation. The primary question that legislators should be asking themselves is what they can do to help improve the economy. Legislators should be asking these three questions when looking at every bill that comes to a vote this session:
- Does this legislation grow Iowaâ€™s economy?
- Does this legislation create more jobs?
- Does this legislation encourage employers to invest in our state?
The Legislature also needs to think about the future generation of Iowans. How can we best help them to attain the skills necessary to succeed in life? I believe that every student in Iowa should receive specific financial literacy education in his/her school. Last year, the Legislature took a good first step in requiring financial literacy to be part of the core curriculum for our schools. However, the Legislature did not go far enough.
The current financial literacy curriculum is not specific enough in nature. I believe every student in Iowa should know how to balance a checkbook, learn the danger of a credit card, the responsibilities regarding a home mortgage, and the merits of saving money. These are skills and knowledge lacking in our society. I have drafted a bill that will do precisely this. The Legislature can take an important step for the future of all Iowans by passing this legislation. Everyday the Legislature needs to work at getting Iowa back to economic prosperity. We also need to keep in mind the next generation of Iowans. It is our job to ensure they do not encounter the same problems we are experiencing. It is every legislatorâ€™s duty to serve all Iowans even the ones who do not yet have the right to vote.
by Art Smith | Feb 16, 2009
This week’s newsletter from Iowa House District 60 Representative Peter Cownie is addressed to Governor Culver and provides encouragement for the Iowa Governor to travel to Microsoft headquarters to press for the software giant to recommit to their plans for a data center in West Des Moines.
Dear Governor Culver,
One of the most important jobs a governor can perform is that of advocating for new businesses and jobs to come to his/her state. No one is as recognizable or deserves to be listened to more than a governor in this respect. Therefore, I respectfully encourage you to go directly to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington and advocate for Microsoft to remain committed to building the data center in West Des Moines.Â The data center was scheduled to break ground in 2009. However, Microsoft recently informed West Des Moines officials that plans would be postponed indefinitely due to the difficult economic times. The data center represents $550 million in new development for West Des Moines and Iowa as well as the creation of 75 new jobs with salaries near $70,000.Â
Governor Culver, now is not the time to sit and wait for Microsoft to decide what they want to do. Iowa needs to be proactive in bringing business to our great state. Nobody has more credibility in selling Iowa than you. Microsoft is an example of new business that would bring millions of dollars to Iowa. Real leadership means taking chances even when failure is a possibility. Real leadership also means going to bat for the people who elected you. As a State Representative for West Des Moines, I feel strongly that you can make a real difference for the people of Iowa in this case. This COULD be a signature moment for Iowa and your tenure as governor. I hope you will decide to rise to the challenge. I would be happy to accompany you.
State Representative Peter Cownie
West Des Moines
This is the type of action that our state leaders need to take… acting intentionally to ensure that players like Microsoft don’t think we’re just fine like we are.Â This is the time to act as if the deal were new and we are in contention with other states or cities… if you think that Microsoft isn’t looking somewhere else right now, you don’t know much about the world.
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By the way, this reminds me of the fact that the General Assembly seems to be sitting on their collective hands waiting for the Stimulus package.Â Among other things, Iowa has around 50 projects that are specifically waiting for federal money to be commenced.Â I don’t know howÂ many of those projects need state legislative action to proceed, but it’s a little concerning that we’re getting in line for money in some cases for projects that have questionable value or relevance in our current economic times.Â After all the criticism of US Banks for how they manage their [stockholders’] money, it’s rather ironic that we won’t treat the excesses of government spending being brought about by this huge pile of pork manure with theÂ same level of contempt.
More on these projects later.