The Ottumwa Courier

May 24, 2013

Lawmakers: We work together for change

By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — DES MOINES — State representatives sounded happy Thursday after their session finally ended. But they weren't just happy to be going home.

“I think it was a very successful session, where we kept the budget to a sustainable level,” said Larry Sheets, R-Moulton, a freshman state representative. “And I learned a lot [about] procedure. But I also learned there are some very fine people there trying to do the best they can for the people of Iowa. “

“There are always the items that are controversial, but I think you’d be surprised how many bills are signed without fuss,” said Rep. Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield. “At least 90 percent of the bills just sailed through both parties; it’s obvious when those are clearly the right [way to do things] and the right thing for Iowa.”

“I think overall, for Iowans in general, it was very successful,” said Jarad Klein, R-Keota. “There were some serious disagreements in the House. Very serious. But we were able to remain civil.”

In fact, that’s what lawmakers characterized the last few days of the longer-than-usual session in the Iowa House: civil discussions followed by compromise.

“They say if we don’t have that ability, we shouldn't be in Des Moines. Some [people] say to never compromise. But we do.” said Hanson, who was on his way to a Civil War monument dedication in Vicksburg, Mississippi. “The Civil War [came about] when we were unwilling to compromise.”

“None of us got everything we wanted,” said Klein. “But in the House, there’s a very respectful conversation between the Republicans and the Democrats.”

Hanson said each of the major issues (healthcare, education and property tax reform) had parts that looked different than the initial proposals as, at times, lawmakers struggled to find a balance. He said Democrats weren’t really sure that the mix of more Medicaid with some other state plans added on would be a better plan than just having a full Medicaid expansion. Again, though, everyone got something they wanted, and no one got everything they wanted. For several lawmakers, tax reform seemed to be the issue of the day.

“Both parties wanted it,” Hanson said, “and both parties thought it needed to be done. Both sides in the past have proposed bills that have not passed. What we arrived at this time is different than either side proposed.”

“There is a definite push to recognize that the commercial side of property tax is [unfair],” Klein said. “When Iowa is only second to New York [in tax rate on business], that’s a problem.”

And not just for big companies. Local businesses pay that same high rate. And in some cases, Klein said, so do everyday Iowans. While visiting with senior citizens, he found that if their locally owned, long-term care facility was paying high business taxes, those costs were passed along to residents. Renters in apartments, too, see higher rent costs for the same reason. And that’s in addition, he said, to “being more fair for our business community.”

“With that issue especially, the only way you’re going to get anywhere is with compromise,” Hanson said. “That’s what Iowans send us up there to do.”

“I was proud to be able to vote on something I had campaigned on for years,” Klein said. “Iowans can see this is Des Moines, not Washington. We still have the ability to reach a compromise and get things done for the good of Iowans.”

All three legislators said it seemed as though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had more in common than they did differences. And, they said, both sides can live with Medicaid expansion, education reform and property tax relief.

To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark.