Hein, Zumbach address mental health, education funding

Rep. Lee Hein and Sen. Dan Zumbach speak during the Jan. 21 Farm Bureau forum in Anamosa. They hit on education funding, mental health and legalizing cannabis. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Rep. Lee Hein and Sen. Dan Zumbach were present at the Jan. 21 Jones County Farm Bureau legislative forum in Anamosa.

     Roughly 25 people were present to hear from the legislators, as well as to ask pressing questions.

     In terms of legislative priorities this session, Zumbach said nothing could happen until the budget is set in place.

     “There are bills lined up,” he said. “Everything else takes a backseat until the budget is set.”

     Concerning a statewide minimum wage hike, Zumbach said he does not see many businesses, especially smaller businesses, wanting an increase in minimum wage.

     “I don’t see a strong flavor from folks wanting this,” he said.

     Hein said according to the state code, those cities and counties that implemented wage increases are in violation.

     “The state sets the minimum wage,” he said. Hein said the state attorney general should actually be taking these entities to court over the matter.

     Hein said he is not in favor of an increase at this time.

     A veteran in the room asked the legislators if they would be in favor of looking at legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Zumbach and Hein, who both traveled to Colorado last year, said there are many problems they saw in Colorado that would have to be ironed out here in Iowa before it became legal here.

     “The business community there (in Colorado) is very frustrated,” said Zumbach, with employees showing up for work with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in their systems. “There is no tolerance there.”

     Zumbach said the revenue from legalizing marijuana in Colorado is also not what they thought it would be, much lower than perceived.

     Both Hein and Zumbach said many studies would have to be done to prove medicinal cannabis is needed in Iowa.

     “It’s still illegal on the federal level,” warned Zumbach.

     Hein said he supported the first bill out of the House, but voted against a new bill from the last session.

     “It was very broad,” he said. “I would like the federal government to open up studies and spent more time on it.”

     Lindsey Ryan and Kimberly Mixdorf, both fourth-grade teachers in Monticello and Anamosa, asked about the state’s private school voucher program.

     “It takes money away from the public schools,” said Ryan. “And public schools are the only ones serving kids with special needs. Some families can’t afford private schools.”

     Hein explained that vouchers have actually been around for a while. He has received a lot of correspondence from the private schools in his district supporting the program.

     “It’s a good idea in a perfect world,” he said.

     However, he said if the state assisted private schools with these vouchers, it could also mean these schools would have to abide by certain requirements.

     “I tell private schools,” said Hein, “be careful what you wish for. The state will give them the money and attach certain strings to it.”

     Hein said private schools could teach what public schools cannot.

     However, he said private schools cannot run on tuition costs alone.

     Zumbach said he would like to see the state “just let teachers teach.

     “You’re trained professionals and have don’t have the ability to teach because of regulations,” he added.

     On the mental health regionalization side of things, Hein said they do not have everything figured out yet when it comes to funding.

     “We need to even things out with the county rates to be fair to everybody,” he said of those counties that are supporting other counties.

     Hein told Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach that the state would probably not have a solid decision in place in time for counties to have their budgets certified.

     “But I firmly believe that something will happen this session,” Hein encouraged.

     Darrick Hall with Jones County Farm Bureau said their stance on mental health funding is that it is a service, not tied to infrastructure.

     “It’s a people service,” he said. “Not infrastructure, and you’re funding it with property taxes.” Hall said he would like to see a “major overhaul” in the funding system, making it fair for every county in every region.

     “You have rural areas funding urban areas,” explained Zirkelbach.


Subscriber Login