BY CHUCK VANDENBERG – The Iowa legislature is firmly in the hands of the Republican party after November’s general election, which puts both Lee County elected officials at the state level in the minority.
State Sen. Rich Taylor-Mt. Pleasant and State Rep. Jerry Kearns-Keokuk both find themselves in a general assembly that has both the House and Senate and the governor’s office in Republican Control, one of 25 states in the country with that current status.
While Kearns was unable to be reached for comment, Taylor said he’s taking the upcoming session in stride and doing the work of the people.
“At first, when control of the senate changed hands I was pretty darned worried about it, but I still am going to be optimistic and treat it like I have every other session.”
The 87th session of the Iowa General Assembly kicks off on Jan. 9, and Taylor said he’s going to work for education and a boost in the state’s minimum wage. In the last session Taylor serviced on the Agriculture, Economic Growth, Human Resources and Judiciary standing committees. He also chaired the Local Government committee and served on the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee. This year Taylor said he will be the ranking member of the Judiciary committee.
In the last session, Kearns served on the Ways and Means, Agriculture and Labor standing committees and was ranking member of the Veteran’s Affairs committee. He also served on the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee with Taylor.
Taylor said his push in education will focus on local school districts and preschool programs.
“My focus is mainly for K-12 education and earlier preschool than we have now. I can’t change my agenda just because we changed control of power. I think the issues I have had for the past four years are still important.”
Taylor said he plans on pushing for 6% allowable growth, a lofty number considering Gayla Young, a board member of the Fort Madison School District said at the last school board meeting that 1% figure is being kicked around just prior to the start of the session. But he also said he’s not naive about that number.
“I’m going to ask for a bill for 6% allowable growth . Our schools need it. We’ve been shortchanging them ever since I’ve been here and even years before that,” Taylor said.
“I don’t expect that to go anywhere and I don’t believe we’ll get there. The republican agenda will be for a voucher system which I totally disagree with. People can come to Des Moines and demand that their public schools are well funded so that all kids get a good education not just the select few.”
Taylor said he also thinks minimum wage will be a major issue again this session. Taylor is in favor of a $10.10 minimum wage for Iowa.
“You know the Republicans have always been resistant of us Democrats trying to push minimum wage to another level,” he said. “I intend to sponsor or co-sponsor a bill to raise the minimum wage to at least 10.10 per hour. I don’t see them taking that up either, but they could fool me. But if we don’t bring it up, we know they won’t do anything with it.”
Taylor said his role on the rules committee will be very important this session as departments within the state try to set Republican agendas.
“They come up with rules and we approve or deny those rules. I get a feeling they will try to push a lot of rules that over the years the Republicans and Democrats have disagreed upon. They will push their agenda against labor, an agenda that will adversely effect labor. I do see us spending a lot of time in the rules committee.”
He said Iowans who are concerned about the Republican majorities should continue to make their voices heard through elected officials.
“People need to realize that they have to be involved too. When they see bad legislation coming, I’ll be there trying to protect them, but at some point they need to get involved, write letters, make phone calls and be involved. It’s pretty tough when you’re in the minority to get things done, but if you’ve got a lot of people behind you speaking up it does help.”