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Legislators look ahead to new year

By Staff | Jan 3, 2017

Senator Dennis Guth and Rep. Tedd Gassman shared their outlook and hopes for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 3.

The hot tickets in the legislature will include minimum wage, water quality, public employee unions, education transportation, and social issues.

Five religious freedom bills have been introduced in the Iowa legislature, but they have made no progress since being assigned to committees.

Senator Guth said, “One of these [SF2171] is an Iowa Religous Freedom Restoration Act, which draws on the legal language in the federal Act. The Supreme Court ruled that religious freedom laws should rest with the states.”

Another proposed Act relates to ending discrimination against people to refuse, on religious grounds, to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies without putting themselves at risk for legal action or loss of tax benefits.

“This would also apply to a situation like Hobby Lobby, in which they could refuse to pay for health insurance which includes abortofacients and procedures,”?Senator Guth said.

Gassman said, “I expect to see an abortion bill which would ban all abortions after 20 weeks. We also need to take a look at defunding Planned Parenthood. There are,?I think 219 medical establishments that address women’s health.?Why are we funding one and not the others?”?

Guth said, “I expect to wrangle with abortion.”?

Gassman also expressed his hope to impact marriage and family in Iowa.

“I?feel there are too many divorces and single parent situations. I think we need to incentivize marriage and de-centivize divorce and living single with children through tax breaks and benefits for marriage, and loss of benefits for divorce and single parenting.”?

Guth said, “This is the first time in a decade that we have the governor, the House and the Senate all in the same party. I?think we will move a lot of things forward, which we have been sitting on.”?

Gassman, a member of the education committee, said, “I’d like to see transportation costs evened out.”?

Transportation costs are burdensome in sprawling rural districts, which require many bus routes.

“Districts like North Union and North Kossuth have considerably higher transportation costs because we can no longer set up schools to teach just a few students, but we’ve had reorganization on top of reorganization so we can gather kids into a certain enrollment number,”?Gassman said.

Gassman also said a few loose threads have remained from a 1971 effort to make state aid even per-pupil across the state.

“It has never all been equalized; there can be a difference of up to $175 in revenue per student. I wish we could find a way through that maze.”?

Gassman said he had a bill written to address each of these funding issues.

Guth said, “I?believe education funding will go through much quicker.”

Gassman said the fact that four counties (Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Wapello)?have their own minimum wage is problematic.

“That’s going to have to be dealt with. It will be a tough job. I think people’s wages are their own responsibility. The minimum wage is for lower skills. I would provide more money for the community colleges to develop programs for students, whether they’re coming out of high school or 40 years old, to change their lives.”?

Senator Guth said, “I’m not in favor of higher taxes for water quality. I think the impact of that has been overblown.”?

Gassman said, “I?am not in favor of this trust fund. I think the answer is to build the fund over five years. I don’t want to see it become a matter of fines.”

Gassman praised his district’s farmers, as well as those across the state.

“Farmers are trying to improve water quality through strip-tilling instead of tilling all the soil. I?think we’re getting there.”?

Gassman and Guth also anticipated revisions to Chapter 20, which deals with public employee unions.

Guth said, “I’m on the Labor and Commerce Committee. Chapter 20 is going to be a long, contentious process, but necessary to deal with the way arbitration has been done.?It’s not really a choice. Governor Branstad said it’s going to happen.”

Guth said, “If I get 25 percent of the tasks on my list done, I will consider it a fantastic session.”