Yeager: Kay, you spent the day at the state capitol, day one of the legislature. What did they do?
Henderson: Well, on most of these occasions, there's a bit of a pomp and circumstance. There was a ceremony to briefly honor a legislator who served fifteen months on active duty in Iraq, Representative Ray Zirkelbach, from Monticello. He’s back. He's entering his second term. This is really the second year he's ever been there. He missed two years in the Iowa legislature serving, so they honored him.
The other interesting thing about today was that the newly elected leader of the Senate Republicans, a guy named Ron Weick from Sioux City, just verbally unleashed on Democrats today and was really quite harsh in his assessment of the way Democrats are running the show.
As your viewers probably know, Democrats control a majority of the seats in the House, a majority of seats in the Senate, and also our Governor, Chet Culver, is a Democrat, and so Democrats control, you know, those two branches of government, which doesn't really set well with Republicans. It was kind of a nice little primmer, if you will, on what the fall election campaign may be like.
Yeager: So they're almost looking past the current session, and we're already starting to talk about -- I heard one comment from the Speaker today was already "we're going to work together." Is that already out the window?
Henderson: It may indeed be. One of the most vexing issues that they have to resolve is this idea that the state will not have enough money to fix or maintain its roads, and there has not been yet agreement on what the proper way to proceed in that regard is. And I'm not sure that Republicans will agree too much of anything. So if there is to be a resolution on that, I think it may be all born and be the idea of Democrats.
Yeager: Well, I heard Representative Rants. It already sounds like he's kind of tamping down. He says, hey, they need to control the Democrats. He means they – “control spending. You really spent a lot of money last year.” Is it really finance always again going to be at the center of most every issue?
Henderson: It certainly is. I mean if you look all around the country, I mean Arnold Schwarzenegger last week gave his Condition of the State, and they have a $14-billion deficit. Now, things aren't that bad here, but there is a tad bit of hand wringing and the legislators and the Governor are going to have to come up with a rather bare-bones budgets and not going to be able to give a lot to special interest groups who might want more money.
Although, the Governor is planning to lay out his vision for the state in his Condition of the State, as you mentioned. He's also going to unveil the budget plan that he proposes for legislators, and it will include fully funding the power fund which, as people know, is a fund which gives grants and loans to business, which start maybe a wind turbine plant or something to do with alternative or renewable energy. He will recommend that they continue funding the plan to provide teachers additional pay.
And also, in regard to higher education, which I know you're going to be talking about on the show, legislators were bragging today about how they had provided more money to Iowa's institutions of higher education so that tuition only went up 3 percent, which they pointed out was lower than the higher education price index. So they are mindful of this issue as well.
Yeager: And that is something, yes, we will be talking about. It’s like you’ve read ahead in the show already or something. You talked about the Condition of the State tomorrow. This is the first time Governor Chet Culver has given that. Last year he watched Tom Vilsack give his final condition. What is the condition of the state?
Henderson: Well, I think he's going to paint pretty broad brushstrokes and indicate that, you know, things are doing okay but there may be some warning clouds on the horizon. He's also going to try to strike a note of, you know, calm in terms of the partisan rhetoric. His people tell me that he will be encouraging Republicans to make nice -- That's not their words, but that's how I'm interpreting it -- you know, just to get things done, to move things forward. And then everyone can go home and start campaigning in earnest.
Yeager: Because we know that's usually what happens in that second year in the two-year cycle because the House - everybody in the House is up for reelection in November.
Henderson: They are itching to get out.
Yeager: And half of the Senate will be up, so you're saying they're itching for it. Do we see any posturing, or is that just typical business?
Henderson: It's typical business up there.
Yeager: Anything else going on around the state that we should know about, Kay, that we can talk about?
Henderson: Well, oddly enough, if plans had fallen through as originally laid, this would be the night of the Iowa caucuses, so imagine trudging out to one of those 1,781 precincts in sub-zero temperatures. So we had things pretty nice on the third.
Yeager: It might have changed the turnout a little bit.
Yeager: So “Happy Caucus Night Would Have Been.”