Area Iowa legislators offer insight into 2021 session

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Iowa Legislators return to the Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 11, for a new session.

     Their previous session in 2020 was quite unusual. In March, legislators left Des Moines for a number of months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They returned in early June to finalize the budget before leaving office again a couple weeks later for the summer.

     Locally, in Jones County, Rep. Lee Hein (Republican, District 96) and Sen. Dan Zumbach (Republican, District 48) were both re-elected in November. Rep. Steve Bradley (Republican, District 58) was also elected, beating incumbent Andy McKean (Democrat). Sen. Carrie Koelker (Republican, District 29) was not up for election this year.

     As they prepare to return to work in a new year, as the pandemic continues, the Monticello Express reached out to all four area legislators for insight into another session in Des Moines…

Rep. Lee Hein

     This year, Hein was been assigned to the following committees:

     • Chairman of Ways & Means

     • Legislative Council

     • House Agriculture Committee

     As for conducting a legislative session while the pandemic is still very much present, Hein said, “Logistically, we will try to abide the guidelines for social distancing by moving committees to some of the larger rooms in the Capitol.” In addition, he said they may live stream some of the committee and subcommittee meetings as well.

     “The details are still being worked out,” offered Hein.

     While the federal government/Congress continues to iron out its COVID relief bill, Hein said the Iowa Legislature would likely discuss what could be done locally to assist those impacted by the pandemic.

     Aside from COVID, other items of note Hein anticipates to hear about include the state budget, EMS funding, and childcare.

     “The state budget is always the number one issue for me,” he said. “Spending less than we take in for revenue has always been a priority for our caucus.”

     When it comes to rural EMS funding, Hein is working with his fellow lawmakers to pass legislation this year “that will allow local entities to bring forth a property tax or income tax surcharge that will bring in revenue for EMS” services. However, he warned that surcharge will need to be voted on by the public as an assessment.

     Hein foresees childcare as another priority this year.

     “There are a couple of options out there to assist parents,” he said of the need for more childcare services in Iowa, specifically his district. “Tax credits for parents or the businesses that provide childcare are possibilities.”

Sen. Dan Zumbach

     Zumbach will serve on the following committees:

     • Chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee

     • Transportation

     • Natural Resources and Environment

     • Rules and Administration (budget subcommittee)

     “Our goal in the Senate is to be as normal as possible,” Zumbach said amid the ongoing pandemic. “Our intention is to have meetings in-person and the public will have access.”

     Much like Hein, Zumbach also anticipates discussion on COVID relief.

     “It has been a difficult task to balance between health, safety, and economic survival. Decisions that get us back to normal as soon as possible will be in everyone’s best interest.”

     His other priorities include passing legislation that responsibly utilizes tax dollars, and policies that help to grow Iowa’s economy.

     “My commitment is to work tirelessly to make decisions in the best interest of Iowa and District 48,” Zumbach said.

Sen. Carrie Koelker

     Koelker’s list of committees this session includes:

     • Assistant Majority Leader

     • Chairwoman of Ethics

     • Vice Chairwoman of Commerce

     • Vice Chairwoman of Economic Development Budget

     • Appropriations

     • Transportation

     • State Government

     Koelker said Iowans would have the opportunity to benefit from the federal government’s COVID bill first, before the Iowa Legislature “starts getting edgy and duplicative.

     “It’s unfortunate,” continued Koelker. “I don’t know of one industry that hasn’t been deeply impacted by COVID. I feel strongly we will continue to work on a pro-growth agenda, getting Iowans back into the workforce and economic recovery.”

     Koelker does not anticipate this session being consumed by COVID-19 talk and legislation. She’s eagerly awaits to see what Gov. Kim Reynolds incorporates into her Economic Recovery Plan.

     Koelker said while they plan to meet in-person in Des Moines, there will be plans and procedures in place noting the public health precautions.

     “Iowans deserve (elected officials) getting on with business and help to move some legislation to assist us with this economic crisis and the recovery,” she said. “As an elected official taking the oath of office, I owe my constituents a voice in Des Moines.”

     Other priorities for Koelker include those that impact rural Iowa and the quality of life in the state and throughout her district.

     “Iowans have elected and continue to re-elect legislators that will work hard for the taxpayers,” she said. “There are a lot of good ideas, but at the end of the day, we need to have a fiscally sound, balanced budget. We can’t go back on our kept promises to education, law enforcement, or health services. A balanced and realistic approach will have to take place.”

Rep. Steve Bradley

     Going into this first year in the Iowa Legislature, Bradley will serve on the following committees:

     • Vice Chairman of Human Resources

     • Transportation

     • Economic Growth

     • HHS (Health and Human Services)

     He expects to see a “normal” legislative session this year. If the rest of the legislature were in favor of more relief for those impacted by COVID-19, Bradley said he would be in favor of it.

     “My priorities are to represent all of District 58,” he said. “I am honored and humbled to represent.”


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