By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
The first Legislative Coffee Saturday morning in Centerville featured two Republican rookie state house politicians, Larry Sheets, of Moulton and Ken Rozenboom, of Oskaloosa.
The Coffee was held at Chariton Valley Planning & Development. Approximately 20 attend and it lasted nearly 70 minutes.
Sheets, elected to Iowa House District No. 80 in November of 2012, serves on four committees: Labor, Economic Growth, Local Government and Environmental Protection.
Rozenboom, elected to Iowa Senate District No. 40 in November of 2012, serves on four committees: Rules and Administration, Appropriations, Natural Resources and Environment and Veterans Affairs.
Sheets, among many topics, talked about education and economic development.
Sheets said he hopes to work with Debi Durham, head of Iowa Department of Economic Development, to spur more growth in Appanoose County and southeast Iowa.
"Economic development and tax issues are important especially, I believe, in southeast Iowa. Economic development here has not been good," Sheets said, noting the unemployment rate in Appanoose County is 7.7 percent, the second highest in Iowa.
Sheets said he's contradicts the governor on education because one of Branstad's education fixes is to increasing incoming teacher salaries by $7,000, although an amendment has been filed to lower that number to $4,000. It will lead to the escalation of existing teacher salaries.
"You know what will happen immediately after the initial teachers get an increase of $7,000 or $4,000?" Sheets said. "The teachers with experience are going to want to be paid more than the kids just coming in. So the expense of the salaries is just going to drastically ratchet up. And again drive the small schools, the small county schools into financial problems."
The governor did say he wants to do away with the existing allowable growth system in education, something Sheets called a positive move.
"The existing system is killing our small schools," Sheets said.
Rozenboom talked about education and what Republican want to do to initiate reform.
Rozenboom said the Democrats are pushing for allowable growth in education and Republicans want to see the details before taking a stand.
"There's not a soul in the Senate of either party that is talking about not funding or providing for allowing growth," Rozenboom said. "I don't think that simply is going to happen."
The Senate has passed 4 percent allowable growth in education for fiscal year 2014 and 2015, Rozenboom said.
Dean Kaster, Appanoose County Board of Supervisors chairman, for a good share of the meeting, explained the Sundown Lake homeowners association lawsuit filed against the county in order to establish a Rural Improvement Zone.
Kaster said bill 357H, that governs RIZ, is unconstitutional based on several reasons, one being it only applies to counties with 20,000 or less population.
A RIZ in essence allows property taxes on any new development to stay with the development. Property taxes on existing development would still be distributed to taxing authorities.
Kaster said a judge in Mahaska County ruled when the supervisors accepted the 172 petitions presented during a public hearing and did not argue against the request they in essence agreed to the homeowners to establish a RIZ at Sundown Lake.
Kaster appealed to Sheets and Rozenboom for help to deal with the RIZ law.
"That legislation, there needs to be some changes made," Kaster said while tapping his fingers against the table loudly. "And we need someway to get some damn legislation that everyone can live with. When you talk about priorities, damn it, this is a priority."
Rozenboom called the RIZ law a lousy piece of legislation that he didn't know existed. He said the law needed to be changed based on what Kaster said.
"I don't understand the judge's ruling," Rozenboom said, calling it bazaar. "I've never heard a public hearing serving that purpose."
Rozenboom said he was not sure what could be done this year.
Sheets said the county needs to stall the lawsuit in order to give the legislature an opportunity to change the law. He asked Kaster to send him as much information on the issue as possible.
Kaster said the county has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court, which is expected to cost between $3,000 and $5,000.
The remaining time was occupied by questions from the audience and Sheets' and Rozenboom's responses.
Carol Rennacker, of Appanoose County, asked about President Obama's use of executive order to push ahead Cap and Trade and what state and local politicians can do to slow down his agenda.
Rozenboom said what the president did was unconstitutional. He called it a federal issue that perhaps should become state issues.
Sheets said he's bucking Gov. Branstad on education and would hope someone in Washington would do the same against the president on Cap and Trade. Sheets called the president's executive orders dictates.
"There's no representation," Sheets said. "These are just dictates coming from up above. And it's something to be very concerned about."
Sheets, on a question about high gas prices, said the buying value of the dollar is dropping but petroleum retains an inherent worth.
"The petroleum that we own is being valued in U.S. currency and U.S. currency is going down in value," Sheets said. "But the petroleum still has it's innate, inherent worth and so it will go up as long as people outside of this country can buy it. And I think that's where we're at, our currency is in trouble."
Sheets said the value of the dollar will be worth zero in 2015.
Rozenboom said quantitative easing was devaluing American currency and a sinister way to tax citizens.
The next Legislative Coffee at Chariton Valley Planning & Development in Centerville is 10 a.m. Saturday, March 16.