September 20, 2017

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Iowa, Latest News

Reynolds Embraces Extreme 2017 Legislative Session In Speech to Far-Right Political Group

In a speech to the far-right “Faith & Freedom Coalition” this weekend, Governor Kim Reynolds fully embraced the extreme 2017 legislative session the Des Moines Register’s Editorial Board called an “exercise in right-wing extremism.” In her remarks, Reynolds laughably called this year’s session the “most pro-jobs legislative session in two decades,” a claim undermined by the economic damage inflicted on Iowa by the Reynolds Budget Crisis.

But while Reynolds may be taking an undeserved victory lap in front of extreme partisan audiences, here’s a reminder of what the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper had to say about the 2017 legislative session this spring:

Des Moines Register Editorial: Legislators failed to make Iowa great again

Lawmakers failed completely to address two major issues this year: tax reform and water quality. They did, however, spend an inordinate amount of time on the trivial while working furiously to fast-track some of the most surprising and controversial bills simply to minimize public input.

Is Iowa truly a better place to live now that legislators have legalized fireworks, given toddlers the right to bear arms, and allowed women to sue for emotional distress after having an abortion? 

Republicans who control both chambers of the Iowa Legislature certainly think so. Despite the fact that they awarded public schools with a miserable 1.1 percent increase in funding, provided the state universities with their lowest level of funding since 1998, and passed legislation that, if signed by the governor, would shutter Iowa’s heralded Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, they seem to be ecstatic over the 2017 session.

There was a time when the failure to invest in the future of Iowa’s children and its farm economy would have sent lawmakers home feeling dejected. Not this year. Apparently, the unbridled joy they feel in restricting access to abortion and expanding access to guns simply overwhelms any pangs of guilt over education funding.

One reason Iowa lawmakers didn’t tackle the big issues this year is the dismal condition of the state’s economy. Legislators not only had to deal with cuts in spending for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, but also had to enact major cuts in planned spending for the coming fiscal year.Those spending reductions were necessary despite the fact that $131 million was drawn from the state’s cash-reserve fund to offset some of the expected losses in tax revenue. 

That $131 million will have to be repaid, which means that unless the state’s fiscal outlook brightens considerably over the next eight months, lawmakers will find themselves in an even deeper hole next January. On top of that, they’ll be much closer to the November 2018 elections, which could make them skittish about doing anything bold on issues as potentially divisive as water quality and tax reform. 

These lawmakers have to be mindful of the fact that inaction is, in itself, a form of action; that standing pat and doing nothing in the hopes of simply maintaining the status quo isn’t an option because the problems will only grow larger and the solutions more costly.

If lawmakers aren’t going to be part of the solution, voters will soon realize they’re part of the problem.

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