Less than a week out from what is supposed to be the end of session, the most consistent thing I’ve heard from Iowans this year is that they are fed up with politics. They’ve seen the endless division and controversies at the State Capitol and wonder why any real progress hasn’t been made that impacts their daily lives.
I agree 100%.
Last week, Republican leaders in the House and Senate sent most lawmakers home for an extended five-day weekend and the House was only in session one day this week.
It isn’t uncommon that legislative leaders work out a deal to end the legislative session. However, it’s essential that leaders aren’t cutting deals with lobbyists and special interests behind closed doors while Iowans are left without a seat at the table.
And that’s the real problem with sending lawmakers home for extended periods of time while important decisions are being made.
Our job is to be the voice of Iowans who elected us to listen and serve them in the Iowa Legislature. When lawmakers aren’t working at the Statehouse, the voices of Iowans are gone but the lobbyists and special interests are still around.
It’s especially troubling when the three issues holding up adjournment right now – school vouchers, cutting unemployment benefits, and changing Iowa’s bottle bill – are so important to Iowans.
The biggest hurdle right now seems to be vouchers. The Governor and lobbyists have been pushing lawmakers hard all session long to get it done. It’s been a controversial issue for years because of Iowa’s strong history in public education and the belief that public money is for public schools.
GOP leaders of the House and Senate are also trying to reach an agreement on how much to cut earned unemployment benefits. It’s been a priority of the corporate lobbyists up here for years, but Iowans are opposed to this idea as well. While we know Iowa has a workforce shortage, Iowans understand there are myriad reasons why some Iowans have trouble finding a job with the pay and benefits in their community that meets the needs of their family.
Finally, there has been a lot of pressure over the last month to change Iowa’s successful bottle bill. Well over 80% of Iowans support our recycling law that keeps cans and bottles out of our parks, ditches, and public spaces. Iowans like the convenience of our current law that makes it easy to return cans and bottles.
There are lots of ideas about how to change the law, but nothing has found consensus yet. The House has passed two different versions now and the Senate has a different idea. With discussions behind closed doors again, the lobbyists and special interests are the only folks at the table right now which means it’ll no doubt be better for them.
If any changes are made this year, it has to be of benefit to Iowans, who are the key to making Iowa’s bottle bill law a success.
Given the politics and division of session so far, I’m sure it’ll be a frantic couple of weeks before the 2022 session finally ends. But things need to change in order for Iowans to have a bigger say in what happens here.
With so much on the line, it’s only fair for Iowans to have a seat at the table during negotiations.
The lobbyists and special interests have had their turn.