By all accounts this legislative session, at least on the Senate side, is notable for having a very limited number of bills up for consideration. From my perspective that's good for two reasons. First, for those of us that are first year legislators, a lighter load gives us a little time to learn the process of legislation and to develop relationships. And second, for those of us who believe in smaller, more efficient government, it means we do less damage.
So far this session the Senate has been operating under "temporary rules." On Thursday the Senate, on a party line vote, made permanent the rules we will use for the rest of the session. That means that the Democrat majority in the Senate will totally control which bills will come to the floor for debate. As many of you have expressed to me, it's very unfortunate that those rules mean that a number of issues that Iowans deeply care about simply will never see the light of day in the Senate chamber this year.
This week allowable growth reared its head again in the Senate. This time the discussion was about setting the rate for fiscal year 2015. Deciding this rate well in advance is one more step in the annual education funding process. But deciding this rate in advance of education reform just doesn't make sense. This is just like giving a contractor a check to construct a building before knowing what the building will look like. The responsible course of action would be to reform the education system in Iowa before we commit to the funding. Again, we are putting the cart before the horse by deciding how much we will spend before knowing what education reform will look like. And now the Senate has established allowable growth for 2015 before we know what that number is for 2014.
Two weeks ago the Senate voted to set the fiscal year 2014 allowable growth rate at 4 percent. Some of us spoke out about the disservice to our students by setting the rate without education reform. We need to focus on getting to the root of the problems before we decide to increase funding. Two weeks later, the story has not changed. We cannot put the cart before the horse when it comes to committing to education funding in Iowa. Hastily setting the Allowable Growth rate two years out without knowing next year's rate is the wrong thing to do.
Senate Republicans will remain steadfast in working to empower and help our students prepare for the workplace upon graduation. We are also committed to enabling graduates to work competitively at a global level. We know that raising student achievement levels will directly contribute to these outcomes and we will continue to speak out against committing to fund a system in need of change.
Of course the major issues that will define this legislative session are still in front of us. Property tax reform, mental health redesign and appropriations are still works in progress that will provide for lively debate in the weeks ahead. And a few other issues will present themselves as time goes on.
On Saturday, Feb. 16, I was in Centerville at 10 a.m. for a forum at the Chariton Valley Planning office at 308 N. 12th.
This Saturday, Feb. 23, I will be in Oskaloosa for Eggs and Issues at 8:30 a.m. at Smokey Row, and also in Albia at the Farm Bureau office at 11 a.m. Please take advantage of these opportunities to visit with your elected legislators.
Feel free to contact me regarding issues that are important to you.
Sen. Ken Rozenboom