By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — Rep. Greg Heartsill has remained active in his legislative duties since the end of the session. Most recently, he has reached out to members of both parties to form what he has called a “Common Sense and Accountability” agenda. This includes:
I. Government Reform
-Reorganize state government where divisions, bureaus and agencies of similar functionality fall under the same umbrella
-Create a “Public Official Academy” to train education, county, municipal, and regional elected officials on the codes applicable to their public service, their authorities, their fiduciary and statutory responsibilities
II. Education Reform
-Opt out of No Child Left Behind
-Eliminate the funding of non-existent students
-Streamline the bureaucracy so that monies allocated to education are actually spent on student instruction
-Mandate the publishing of full, accurate, and complete academic data to the citizens of Iowa that has been independently audited
III. Personal Responsibility and Human Dignity Reform
-Require work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits
-Require a G.E.D. (or the acquisition of a G.E.D.) as a condition of receiving welfare benefits
-Require drug testing as a condition of receiving welfare benefits. The first failed drug test results in probation and scheduled testing. The second failed test results in mandated treatment. The third failed test results in suspension from benefits until it can be demonstrated the recipient is clean.
-Require the use of state-issued photo identification to activate and utilize food stamp cards in Iowa
-Require the State of Iowa to comply with Federal Law in providing welfare benefits to legal citizens only.
Heartsill said the ideas are basic, simple and long overdue. All of these proposals have been submitted to the other 149 members of the General Assembly. In the days since sharing his plan, he has received praise and constructive criticism.
“I see it as a win-win,” Heartsill said. He believes his proposals will not only save money ($1-2 billion annually), but improve the delivery of services.
Heartsill's goal is to get things done. His plan may take many years, and discussion is necessary. The goal is to “fix a broken system in a bipartisan way.” When one looks at the flow chart of state government, Heartsill says he has yet to find anyone who can explain it.
“It just doesn't make any sense,” Heartsill said. Several bureaucracies and boards perform similar, if not the same, functions in state government. Heartsill would like to see these under one umbrella or scrapped.
One way Heartsill would like to improve school funding is to no longer fund students who do not exist. He said this is a nationwide problem, but Iowa is one of the worst offenders. In all education funding, he would like to see more money used for actual education and not bureaucracy.
As for personal responsibility and human dignity, Heartsill believes that if the taxpayers are going to help someone, that individual should provide a work history and receive a work assignment.
“We need you to participate,” Heartsill said. “We need you to be productive.” This touches on the importance of helping those in need receive education. In regard to the drug restrictions Heartsill proposed, he believes that if you are in dire straits, you cannot afford illegal drugs and you should not use them.
“I think that's fair to the Iowa taxpayers,” Heartsill said.
The requirement of a state-issued photo identification card, when using SNAP cards, is intended to fight the proliferation of the cards being sold for cash. Heartsill said he was discussing this proposal with a Democrat when they asked their waitress how she felt. The waitress agreed, as she works so hard, she does not get to see her children.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Heartsill said. “People want accountability.”
Heartsill does not believe it is compassionate to keep people on welfare. Accountability is intended to help people move toward self-sufficiency.
Odds and ends
• There was a bill in the transportation committee, sponsored by Heartsill, that would have diverted the money collected from tickets issued by traffic cameras to the Road Use Tax Fund. The bill did not go anywhere, but since City of Clive officials stressed the need to turn their cameras on to make their budget, some see it as an admission that the cameras are about money, not safety. Heartsill's goal is to take the monetary incentive away from cities who install these cameras.
• Following the Iowa Board of Medicine's decision to ban telemed abortions, Heartsill believes there will be a bill proposed regarding the issue when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Heartsill said the decision took the politics out of the discussion, as the decision was made by medical professionals. Doctors have said it is irresponsible to provide such a drug without seeing a patient.