Week four was highlighted by the Condition of the Guard speech from Major General Orr, commander of the Iowa National Guard. General Orr's speech focused on how the Iowa National Guard has served this state for 175 years, originating in 1839 as protectors of fellow settlers before Iowa officially became a state and growing into today's global guardians. General Orr reported that "In the last ten years, we've mobilized more than 17,000 Soldiers and Airmen onto active duty for combat and combat support duties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other global locations, peacekeeping duties in the Balkans and on the Sinai Peninsula, and domestic support missions in various states across the country. Our men and women have operated in more than 35 different nations since 9/11." General Orr also reported that currently all of Iowa's guard units have returned home and that approximately 100 individual soldiers and airmen serving around the world in various capacities, the lowest number since the beginning of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
State Representative Dean Fisher
This past week saw considerable action on bills. My bill to change the "Lemon Law" for defective vehicles by increasing the weight limit from 10,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight to 15,000 lbs. was passed in subcommittee and now goes to the full (which committee?) committee.
I have also filed a bill that will protect persons that engage in stock car racing as a hobby from being unfairly ticketed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT has been targeting these folks for hauling their cars on trailers behind a pickup without holding a Commercial Driver's license (CDL). The DOT claims that since these drivers receive prize money and have sponsorships, they are engaged in a commercial enterprise and thus must have a CDL. This bill will not allow the DOT to use sponsorships and prize money as a reason to ticket these hobbyists. Similar claims could be made against those that haul horses or livestock to shows as well. We need to make sure the DOT is working to make our businesses safe and our commerce efficient, not working to raise funds through clever interpretations of the law.
Iowa Juvenile Home
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, this week I did file the bill that calls for the re-opening of the Iowa Juvenile Home with 16 co-sponsors representing both parties. This is the companion bill to the Senate version.
On Monday, February 3rd the Senate Human Resources committee held another hearing on the Iowa Juvenile Home issue. Many of my constituents attended. Testifying before the Senate committee were the Director of the Department of Human Services Charles Palmer and Deputy Director Rick Schultz, Superintendent Mark Day who was the interim at the IJH from February 2013 until the closure January 15, Juvenile Court Officer Tom Southard, and the Executive Director of Disability Rights Iowa Jane Hudson.
On Thursday I also attended the Senate bill subcommittee meeting on their version of the bill. Representatives from the Juvenile Court Officers Association, Disability Rights Iowa, and others offered their suggestions for improving this piece of legislation. There is much more work to be done, the initial bill is but a starting framework.
In other news this week, a Polk County district court judge has ruled against the governor's actions in closing the IJH and has ordered it to be reopened. This ruling revolved around the point that the governor had approved the appropriation of funds as passed by the legislature, and thus he did not have the right to later rescind that approval. The governor's office has appealed the ruling, so the issue goes to the Iowa Supreme Court for review. Even if the Supreme Court upholds the district court ruling, it is questionable as to what this ruling will accomplish. The governor will have the opportunity to line item veto any funding that is contained in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget which would go into effect on July 1,2014. However, as a moral victory the ruling does give significant impetus to the campaign to re-open the IJH.
This week the House Commerce committee that I sit on had representatives from the propane industry speak to us about the recent shortage and resulting hike in prices. I know that here in Tama and Marshall Counties the price spiked as high as $5.10 per gallon and deliveries by one local dealer were limited to 100 gallons for the average user or 150 for larger users. The representatives from the industry outlined a number of issues that led to this situation. They cited that stocks were lower than normal to begin with and the colder than expected winter exacerbated the problem. Part of the shortage was also traceable back to increased sales to Europe, and to difficulty in simply moving the propane quickly to where it is needed. The Bakken Range in North Dakota has significantly increased the supply of Propane, but at the same time much of the transportation capability is also tied up serving that area. As railroad cars and pipelines are directed to moving the oil and gas from North Dakota, they are not available for other shipments that go directly to consumers. The shortages have quickly abated, and prices locally have now dropped to under $4. Relief should continue through February as supplies ease up.
The Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a series of legislative forums again this year at the Fisher Community Center directly West across from the Hy-Vee main store in Marshalltown. These forums include the three legislators from the Marshall County area, Rep. Mark Smith, Sen. Steve Sodders, and me. The next will be held Friday, February 14 at noon. The forums are every other Friday during the session. These forums are a great way to get an update on what's happening in Des Moines and voice your concerns; I hope to see you there.
I would encourage you all to come down to the capitol for a visit. If you do, ask for a tour of the capitol dome, Diane will be ready to take you all the way up to the cupola. And of course you will want to take the tour of the rest of the capitol with the regular tour guides. As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org 641-750-3594.