State legislature holds special session

David Frost

The Iowa Legislature was called to a special session to discuss the state’s congressional and legislative redistricting, but there were many more issues handled in the one-day session.

Rep. Frank Chiodo, D-Des Moines, said the legislators covered a lot of topics in a short amount of time.

“It was a very productive session; we worked on the work force development and ensured Iowa’s future for its electrical needs,” he said.

Sen. Johnie Hammond, D-Ames, said the legislature was able to efficiently handle several proposals in the one-day session.

“The special session was not necessary, and it could have all been done during the regular session, but it was productive that we got issues done that need to be dealt with,” Hammond said.

Rep. Barbara Finch, R-Ames, said she was very happy with the Tuesday’s special session. She said she was especially proud the Iowa Work Force Development Center will be staying open.

“It was an extremely productive session because two important issues got done – work force development, which affects Ames and we do know [the work force office] will be open after July 1, and the electricity issue,” she said.

Those involved with the center were given a slight scare when the funding, provided by a business surcharge, was not extended during the regular session.

Ernest Ingram, adviser at the Iowa Work Force Development Center in Ames, said many people at the center were worried about whether it would stay open.

“It would have been a real mess if the legislators would have closed the 56 offices,” he said. “There was no guarantee they were going to stay open.”

Ingram said the center provides a variety of tasks.

Employees take orders from employers, register people to refer them to employers and provide free weekly computer training on basic Windows usage.

Workers at the center also provide computers for people to look up jobs and work with people in halfway houses.

“Both the employees and the people who use the offices are relieved by the decision,” Ingram said.

He said he received several calls congratulating the center on the legislative decision.

A major decision on the future of Iowa’s electrical needs was reached in the special session.

Legislators agreed part of the solution to preventing a crisis is the need to build more power plants.

“Every expert, no matter what side of the issue, knew Iowa was going to face a critical state of electricity by 2003,” Chiodo said.

Hammond said she agreed there is a consensus the state needs additional generating power.

“I hope the power plant legislation will be good for Iowa, but there were some things that were left out, like alternative energy and adopting an energy policy,” she said.

Finch said she would eventually wish to see more added to the bill dealing with the state’s electricity situation.

“More things need to be worked for Iowa electrical needs, but this is a good start for the summer,” she said.

Finch said that during the regular session there were issues about the language of the bill that were corrected in the special session.

Sen. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, said he researched the issue intensely and is satisfied with the state building more power plants.

“I studied the power plant issue very hard between the end of the regular session and the special session because I was not on the committee and this legislation will be a positive thing for Iowa and Iowans,” he said.

The session was actually called to answer the questions of Iowa’s redistricting for state and federal elections. Congressional districts are required to be redrawn every 10 years to ensure the districts are equally populated.

The redistricting has some legislators on their toes, while others are satisfied with the new district borders.

“I was not concerned about my senate district, but I was quite concerned about the congressional district, especially the fourth congressional district,” Hammond said, adding that more compact districts are preferable.

Finch said she doesn’t feel Ames ended up where it should have in the new districting.

“I did not feel that the redistricting was beneficial for Ames because it divides Ames in half [in the state legislative districts],” Finch said.

McKinley said redistricting is a way to help prevent one person from holding office for long periods of time.

“Redistricting is a healthy thing, and it shakes the state up,” he said. “I have always been in support of term limits, and redistricting serves a similar purpose.”

Another issue at hand was whether the federal income tax rebate should be taxed as income.

The legislature decided the rebate should not be taxed.

Chiodo said it was more important to give the money back to the people.

“We did not feel it was appropriate to tax the money people would receive from the federal government tax cut so Iowans do not have to worry about claiming the money on their taxes,” Chiodo said.

Hammond said those who get the rebate would have only had to give back about $15 for each individual.

She said taxing the rebates would have brought in $20 million, and the state could use the money saved for under-funded areas in the state, including education.

“It is a popular issue and I understand that everyone wants their money, but it wasn’t consistent with the Iowa tax code,” Hammond said.