After the campaigns are over and the yard signs come down, many residents are not certain what comes next. The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosts legislative forums each month while the Iowa House is in session to help the community stay on top of the issues that are important to them.
The first of the sessions was held on Saturday, February 4.
It is estimated that over 200 people filled the student center of Muscatine Community College. The forums are a time to ask questions face to face with area elected officials. The forums follow a predetermined set of guidelines.
All questions are limited to one minute, and each of the legislators on the panel have two minutes to respond. In addition, each topic is limited to two questions, unless time permits additional questions at the end of the forum.
The forum opened with a mention from the moderator that the panel consisted of state elected officials, and topics of discussion needed to remain at the state level, not to include national or local issues.
Legislatures present included Senator Robert J. Dvorsky (D-Johnson County), Representative Gary Carlson (R-91st District), Rep. David Kerr (R-88th District), Sen. Thomas Greene (R-Des Moines County), and Sen. Mark Lofgren (R-Muscatine County).
The topic that opened discussion was school funding, looking at how funds are accessed per student.
Senator Robert Dvorsky stated that he believes the legislature needs to “change the way funding is set up, and make education the number one priority.”
Representative Carlson explained to the audience that the de-appropriations bill that was recently passed did not remove funds from schools, but rather “we had to adjust the reality cost to reflect the actual income.”
Muscatine’s Shelley Servadio spoke about veteran’s health, specifically mental health. Servadio read a bill that she has authored that will be presented at this legislative session. If passed, the bill would allow for the immediate mental health treatment of veterans in their home counties during emergency circumstances. Servadio asked the members of the panel if they would vote yes on such a bill.
All members of the panel expressed an interest in talking more about the bill, though concerns about how insurance would factor were expressed.
In addition to school funding and veteran’s health, legislators were asked questions regarding tax credits for corporations, the family planning funding, collective bargaining, and campaign finance.
The next legislative forum is scheduled for March 4 from 9:00-10:30 a.m. at the Muscatine Community College Student Center, located at 152 Colorado Street.