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Preparing for 2009–

By Staff | Nov 21, 2008

VANDER SCHAAFFarm News staff writerSIBLEY – A total of two dozen interested citizens gathered Tuesday to hear their Iowa lawmakers discuss the hot issues for the upcoming 2009 session.“The economic downturn will be the top issue,” said Dist. 5 Rep. Royd Chambers, R-Sheldon. “Since World War II there have been 13 economic downturns, but this is the only one in my mind that is man made. We’ve got to deal with the issue.”What this means for Iowa, Chambers said, is that not only with the national trends in the economy, commodity prices going down and the floods in Iowa have had a huge impact on state revenue.The latest estimate shows an increase of $7 million, but it needs to cover $530 million in expenditures built into the budget. Some of these expenditures don’t come until 2010. Education is 62 per cent of the budget. Iowa’s constitution demands a balanced budget from year to year.District 6 Rep Mike May, R-Spirit Lake, agreed that the budget would be the number one issue. Added to that would be animal confinements.“We have to look for ways to promote the development of the livestock industry,” said May. “I hope we can work together to satisfy the interests of all, with no radical legislative approach.” Chapter 20, collective bargaining was a big issue in 2008. The debate on this will return again in 2009. This legislative work was done during the Robert Ray era to have collective bargaining so we would not have teachers or public employees striking in this state, said May.“They limited the scope of what could be bargained,” May said, “but, on the other hand, there is arbitration.”The powers that be can’t cram down workers’ throats just any package, in the end there is an arbiter.“May warned that opponents to this law want to throw out the limited scope thereby allowing anything to be bargained. The end result would be an enormous loss of local control. There would be no need for school boards or hospital trustees, May said, as everything would be decided through arbitration. No state in the union has open scope bargaining.Dist. 3 Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedon, has been involved in meetings concerning the VeraSun situation.”It is a very complicated issue,” Johnson said. “Don’t jump to conclusions.” He encouraged farmers to contact Iowa’s Secretary of Ag Bill Northey if they have questions.All three elected officials supported green energy and energy independence.”I don’t know if you are aware of this,” May said, “but last summer the Arabs took $3.5 billion out of this country every day, every single day. It is down to a billion and a half now.“We’ve got to make this transition as it is destroying our economy. But we can’t do it cold turkey, so we have to transition. We can’t go from fossil-based fuels to green energy.”We have to do it intelligently. We means we have to build some cold fire plants in this state. If we don’t do that we will have Iowans seeking shelter at this community center because they will not be able to pay their electrical bills.“Johnson cautioned that one size does not fit all.Rural electric cooperatives could be seriously affected by Governor Culver’s purposed state mandate that energy efficiency is more important that energy regeneration.” RECs are non-profit organizations whose purpose is to serve customers.Johnson reminded attendees that the RECs “are out there because no one else would serve their customers. Don’t ever forget why RECs are out there.”Their customer load might be two or three customers per mile compared to (a private utility) that has 70 to 80 customers per mile. Some legislators believe that whatever policy is good for profit driven utilities is good for non-profit RECs.“They are two different economic structures with two different missions and economic purposes.”Johnson credited RECs for the work that has been accomplished.“RECs are telling us that if they don’t add to their capacity in the next four to five years,” Johnson said, “their customers will be experiencing brown outs.”Contact Renae Vander Schaaf at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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