Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Opinion

May 2, 2013

The Sinclair Report

Closing Session: A Time to Reach Consensus

Des Moines —

This year’s legislative session was scheduled to last 110 days. We reached that mark on Friday, May 3.  Though we are in the final days of the first year of the 85th General Assembly, our adjournment date remains uncertain.

 

We have spent the last four months crafting legislation, holding committee meetings, discussing important issues with constituents and working diligently to address issues facing our state. While we have passed important legislation, the final days of this legislative session come down to an impasse on key bills affecting all Iowans. These contentious issues are now in the hands of members of the House and Senate conference committees.

 

With significant differences between the House and Senate bills on issues such as the budget, education reform and property tax reform, conference committees have been convened. These committees have been tasked with finding the most reasonable solutions that incorporate the ideas from the divergent groups.

 

I was selected to serve on the Education Conference Committee, which has been meeting now for several weeks. Education reform seeks to support teacher performance, improve student learning, and expand educational opportunities. The Education Conference Committee has worked to add language to House File 215 to include ideas from the Senate.

 

The conference committee on property tax reform is working to find the compromise among the Governor’s original proposal, the House’s option, and the Senate’s version. The Governor’s and House plan focuses on comprehensive property tax reform, while the Senate Democrats’ proposal focuses on small business property owners only. The Governor’s and House plan also addresses consistency and predictability leading to job creation. I fully support a comprehensive proposal that also focuses on bolstering Iowa’s economy by adding new jobs.

 

Several conference committees have been tasked with finding a reasonable spending solution for the different departments within state government. House Republicans proposed a budget that planned for the future while being fiscally responsible with a two-year budgeting plan. Senate Democrats continue to push for one-year budgets for our state departments, and their budget targets include an 11 percent increase in spending. Therefore, the House and Senate have begun conversations to develop the state’s budget strategy. That could take a few days, or even weeks to reach that compromise. I hope that we will ultimately pass a budget that looks to the future, spends less than we receive and addresses the essential needs of our state.

 

Compromise on the details is a good thing. In the process of that, we can’t lose sight of the big picture and priorities that motivated us to start the process.

 

I always look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me at amy.sinclair@legis.iowa.gov.

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