This week’s guests on Emphasis are State Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant) and State Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-Keokuk).
They talk to Public Radio’s Jason Parrott about the Iowa Legislature’s 2013 session.
Lawmakers are set to return to Des Moines on Monday, January 14. They will have until early May, when their per diems run out, to craft the state’s multi-billion dollar budget and pass legislation.
Both Rep. Heaton and Rep. Kearns expect some of the big issues of 2012 to resurface this year.
Rep. Heaton says it starts with the redesign of Iowa’s mental health care system.
“We will finalize and pass legislation that will establish our children’s mental health redesign,” says Rep. Heaton. “Our children’s mental health (care) is all but non-existent, so we are putting in place a system that will apply to the mental health of our children.”
Rep. Heaton says some of his priorities for the 2013 session are providing money for treatment programs for children with autism and pushing legislation that focuses on making sure children can read before they leave the third grade.
He does not expect to see much in terms of social issues.
“We have so much on the plate this year,” says Heaton, “and a divided Iowa Senate and Iowa House… we have other things to do than get ourselves up and moving on the social issues. It takes a lot of time and energy away from these other big issues that we have.”
One of the big issues, again from last year and previous years, is an effort to reform Iowa’s tax laws so commercial and industrial property taxes can be reduced.
Rep. Kearns says the difference comes down to Democrats wanting to focus on small businesses while Republicans are looking out for corporations.
“I don’t know if we are any closer than we were last year,” says Rep. Kearns, “though I do believe the tone of the leadership is such that we should come out with some sort of compromise this year.”
He says economic development will again be a priority for Iowa, but perhaps without the large incentive packages offered to two potential billion-dollar fertilizer plants.
“We can’t do that for every county,” says Rep. Kearns, “we just cannot commit that kind of money. The state committed a lot of money (to Iowa Fertilizer Company). If we did that in all 99 counties, we would be in trouble.”