The Greater Des Moines Partnership today guided four key state lawmakers through a discussion of closing birth centers, cutting income taxes and raising sales taxes, funding the arts, and addressing mental health issues. 

The packed annual legislative luncheon at the Des Moines Botanical Garden was part of the Partnership’s rollout of its own legislative agenda, which calls for money for water trails, Future Ready Iowa, the Des Moines airport and policy changes to improve mental health, child care, tax credits for entrepreneurs and more emphasis on large recreation projects that would draw workers (see article below). 

Toward the end of the lunch, the four lawmakers were asked what their dream legislation would be this year. 

They had trouble choosing, but here is a quick look at their responses: 

— House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley): “I would love to eliminate the income tax in the state of Iowa, but that is not going to happen. It’s not feasible right now. It’s not financially affordable. We could do it over a long stretch of time. But when you come from a community like mine, Missouri Valley, which is just south of Sioux City, we’re in constant competition with South Dakota. We’ve got people retiring over there. We’ve got families moving over there, because they have no income tax. I think that’s part of the brain drain. So that would be my one bill, but unfortunately I can see it’s not part of the possibilities this year.”

— House Minority Whip Jo Oldson (D-Des Moines) said she would focus on early childhood education if she had to pick one bill. “We started looking at it probably 10 years ago and we have not really done a darn thing further on it. I think if we put our minds and money behind it, and expanded our opportunities to access early childhood education, we could do a lot in terms of child care problems. Expanding educational opportunities for kids to build up to free preschool would certainly alleviate some of our child care problems. All the brain research says that the most opportune times for development are those early years.”

— Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny): “I really like Rep. Windschitl’s idea, and I’m happy to work on that. For my entire time here I’ve been looking at ways to reduce the income tax, and we have a step coming hopefully next year or the year after with the previous tax bill that we did. We wanted to reduce the income taxes and create growth in our businesses. We can’t grow as a state and our businesses can’t grow if they don’t have the workers. We need to continue to work on our welfare reform bill passed last year.”

— Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines): “I really hope this year we will pass a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children. Iowa is ranked dead last with Ohio for the ability of kids who are survivors of sex crimes to go after the perpetrator. Our laws in the state of Iowa protect the organizations that cover up the crime and allow perpetrators to remain on the street. If you're a child who is a victim of a sex crime from a school employee, coach, therapist or counselor, the Iowa law only allows them five years from the time they quit that therapy or leave that school to go after for civil damages. I think that is simply wrong. We also need to do more to protect women, especially on our college campuses. Twenty percent of women who go to college are sexually assaulted before they graduate. We just got rape kits that had been sitting on the shelf for a decade. We had almost 300 DNA matches, and several of those cases have yet to be prosecuted or they've been denied the opportunity to take those to the courts, or survivors to have their day in court.”