Representative Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) is returning to the Iowa House for her second term serving House District 67. Hinson won her re-election with 52 percent of the vote. With two years of experience under her belt, she’s ready to hit the Capitol floor running in 2019.
“I always operated under the assumption I was coming back throughout everything I did policy wise and meeting wise,” Hinson said. “I never really stopped doing my job, so I don’t have to ramp up again.”
Thinking back to 2017, preparing to enter the legislature as a freshman in the House, much has changed in two years.
“Absolutely there’s a difference,” Hinson said. “I think about last time going in, having to train a clerk when I didn’t know what I was doing. Having to be away from my family for the first time — all of those things versus now — it’s a very different perspective.”
Experience doesn’t mean there aren’t still jitters going into session.
“As you’re heading into session there’s kind of pre-session nerves — kind of not knowing what to expect,” she said. “Things shake out in ways you maybe don’t expect them to. So that part of the unknown is always in the back of your mind.”
Hinson will serve as chair of the Transportation Committee in the House. That’s a new responsibility for the second-term representative, though she did serve on the committee her first two years.
“I’m having to learn how to be an effective committee chair,” she said. “I’m diving into an area of policy where I’ve been on committee, but it’s different chairing. ”
Considering where she was two years ago, it’s quite a step up the ladder.
“You’re first time coming in as a new representative, you don’t know what you’re supposed to be working on and nobody wants to work with you on anything until you’re actually elected,” Hinson said. “Having that context and being able to continue your work as opposed to starting from scratch is a completely different deal.”
There are also things that remain the same.
“I tell people all the time, this is not my seat,” Hinson said. “It is the seat of the people who have elected me. I still take that responsibility as a true honor.
“Anybody who doesn’t is foolish. We’re all replaceable.”
“I love my job. You have to love your job to do this because there is so much involved personally and professionally. I love it because it’s an honor to work there on behalf of my constituents.”
Hinson knows as a returning member to the House, she is starting ahead of the incoming freshmen.
“Knowing the system, knowing who to ask about what and where to go for what — that’s incredibly important,” she said. “Nobody really just lays it out — this is how you run a bill. There are nuances of the system. There’s knowing who will care about it and managing caucus members to know their priorities. That comes from being here. You don’t have that when you show up on the first day. Knowing what somebody’s real big issue is is important in who you go to to try to get support for your bill. That’s an advantage returning members have that obviously new members don’t.”
Topping the to-do list for 2019 is increasing transparency when it comes to school district spending. Recent audits have shown misuse of funds by different districts across Iowa.
“As a legislature we are trying to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars when we give money to the schools, I would expect the same from them,” Hinson said. “Transparency in that process is really a top priority for me.”
A top priority she heard while door knocking was bringing down the cost of healthcare.
“I really feel like there’s a way to do that with some administrative changes,” she said. “I’m working with a constituent of mine who actually does billing for a living and is bringing insurance representatives to the table. We’re trying to make sure we have input from everyone. I really think we have to do something to address the administrative cost of healthcare so it is more affordable for people.”
As chair of the Transportation Committee, Hinson expects the committee to address the electric vehicle recommendations that came from the Department of Transportation. The DOT was authorized to do a study on the impact of electric vehicles.
“Obviously our system is built on using the gas tax to help fund things here in Iowa,” Hinson said. “That money is not coming in because they don’t get gas so it changes our model. It’s not a significant impact right now, but it grows every year.
“We have to be thinking long term about solutions to that challenge as well.”
There is no shortage of work to be done during the 2019 session, which begins Jan. 14. For Rep. Hinson, the hope is to accomplish even more than the Republican House did during her first two years in office.
It’s still hard to say goodbye to her family, but with experience even for them, it is a little bit easier. Her children are six and seven years old. While it’s difficult to say goodbye, it is her family that drives her to serves and do what she does in the legislature.
“I would say it’s now our new normal,” she said. “It is hard to be away from my kids and my husband, but it’s what our life is like right now. My kids do understand more now than the first time I ran. It was much harder for me to leave then because they didn’t really have a full grasp of what I was doing. Now that they do understand, I wouldn’t say they care less that I’m gone, but I think they understand why I’m gone. It’s a little bit easier, but it doesn’t make it easy to be away from your family.”