U.S. Rep. Steve King and state lawmakers Sen. Dennis Guth and Rep. Tedd Gassman addressed a number of questions from constituents at the Legislative Town Hall meeting at the Regional Wellness Center Saturday.
The Town Hall was sponsored by the Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce.
One question was on an increase in the state gas tax. "The roads around here haven't been done for around 15 years," one woman stated.
Guth said according to a state formula, 70 percent of gas tax proceeds go to urban areas. He added that Highway 9 was scheduled to be completed to Swea City.
Guth also questioned whether the tax was needed, noting Iowa's $600 to $800 million surplus.
"Why are we going to increase taxes when we have this huge surplus," asked Guth. "When we have this kind of surplus I don't think that's the right thing to do."
Another question dealt with Iowa Senate Democratic majority leader Mike Gronstal blocking legislation on a state marriage amendment.
"Senator Gronstal gets all 26 Democrats to vote with him whatever way he votes," Guth said.
King, who pushed through similar legislation at the federal level, had his own solution.
"Our way of cracking Mike Gronstal is to elect a couple more Republican senators," King said.
King revisited the discussion regarding the gas tax, saying that at the federal level, of every dollar of gas tax spent, 28 percent goes to environmental and archaeological inspections, 17 percent mass transit, 3 percent to trails and just a third to roads and bridges.
Jim Boyer asked about the Food Security Act in the Farm Bill. He said three years ago the Farm Bureau was concerned about fiscal responsibility and had said it was willing to give up the direct payment provision of the Farm Bill but that Farm Bureau didn't want agriculture to take the full brunt of cuts.
King said lawmakers were working on a new markup. "I want to make sure ag gets the credit for it," he said.
King said he chairs a committee that shares oversight of the USDA and that he wants to take a good look at the Food Stamp program. King noted an instance in which a tattoo parlor takes EBT cards and that one man used an EBT card to bail himself out of jail.
"I want to make a strong argument that there's a lot of fraud centered in the Food Stamp program," King said.
King said the most important thing for agriculture was a good crop insurance program, noting that Iowa is the only state in the union that has paid in more in crop insurance premiums than it has taken out in claims.
As for the issue of gun control, King said anything that would restrict the Second Amendment would have to go through the Judiciary Committee - of which he's a member.
"Why would we want law-abiding Americans to be at a disadvantage to criminals," asked King.
Gassman said he had received more emails about gun control than any other issue. "I believe we have to attack that from the mental health standpoint," he said.
Gassman also took up the gas tax issue, noting he had made a commitment to voters that he wouldn't spend one-time money on ongoing expenses.
"I might spend one-time money on bridges but I doubt that I would spend one-time money on roads,"
Gassman said. "When you talk about 10 cents (in state gas tax increase), you don't get very many hands," Gassman said when asking for a show of hands of who would have a 10-cent gas tax increase. "But when you say five cents it looks fifty-fifty."
Gassman also noted that he had just introduced a bill that those who apply for social welfare programs would have to get a high-school diploma or a higher degree if they didn't have one.
Another party was concerned about drones used to spy on American citizens.
"They're flying drones over those places and they're keeping track of what you're doing," Gassman said of hog confinements. "The people out here should not be under surveillance of the federal government."
King said the Environmental Protection Agency had maintained it was not flying planes over feedlots.
"It's creepy to me to have drones flying over our private property and keeping track of it," King said, adding his concern about traffic cameras and DNA collection.
King also noted that President Obama got pushback from the Catholic Church when he wanted all employers to pay for birth control in the Affordable Care Act. Instead, insurance companies will be required to provide birth control for free, King said.