Iowa Public Television

 

Political Journalists Analyze Governor's Bold Agenda

posted on January 18, 2005

Borg: A CALL TO ACTION: IOWA GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK SETS A VISION AND TELLS LEGISLATORS "LET'S GET TO WORK." POLITICAL JOURNALISTS ANALYZE THE BOLD AGENDA ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."


FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA… THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, JANUARY 14 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: IOWA'S 81ST GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENED THIS WEEK AND IMMEDIATELY HEARD MESSAGES FROM THE OTHER TWO BRANCHES OF STATE GOVERNMENT. THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH SPEAKING FIRST, GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK GIVING THE CONDITION OF THE STATE ADDRESS ON TUESDAY. THE FOLLOWING DAY CHIEF JUSTICE LOUIS LAVORATO GAVE LEGISLATORS THE CONDITION OF THE JUDICIARY. BOTH MESSAGES BROUGHT CHALLENGES TO STATE LEGISLATORS WHO ARE ALREADY CHALLENGED BY A CHRONIC SHORTAGE OF REVENUE TO PAY FOR ALL THAT SEEMS TO BE NEEDED. FOR INSIGHT, WE'VE INVITED: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN; "ASSOCIATED PRESS" LEGISLATIVE REPORTER DAVE PITT; "LEE NEWSPAPERS" STATEHOUSE BUREAU CHIEF TODD DORMAN; AND IOWA PUBLIC RADIO STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JOYCE RUSSELL. DAVE PITT, AS I WATCHED THAT SPEECH ON TUESDAY, THERE SEEMED TO BE JUST -- AND I'M ASKING FOR AFFIRMATION, OR AM I CORRECT IN SENSING A DIFFERENT ATMOSPHERE THERE? I SAW -- OCCASIONALLY IN PAST SPEECHES, YOU'LL SEE REPUBLICANS APPLAUD A DEMOCRAT AND VICE VERSA, BUT I SAW SOME OF THE REPUBLICANS, IF NOT ALL OF THEM, STANDING AT TIMES AND APPLAUDING. IS THERE A DIFFERENT SENSE OF COOPERATION UP THERE THIS YEAR?

Pitt: WELL, I THINK THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION OFTEN STARTS THAT WAY, AND THIS ONE PARTICULARLY I THINK BECAUSE IT IS A CLOSELY DIVIDED SESSION. BUT I THINK THAT THERE WERE A COUPLE OF ISSUES THAT I NOTICED IN THE GOVERNOR'S SPEECH, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BEING THE ONE ISSUE THAT I NOTICED THAT RECEIVED A STANDING OVATION FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE. AND I THINK THAT THERE SEEMS TO BE AN EARLY AGREEMENT THAT SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. BUT AS USUALLY OCCURS IN THESE INSTANCES, THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS AND I THINK THEY HAVE TO WORK OUT HOW MUCH MONEY, OVER WHAT PERIOD OF TIME, AND SOME OF THOSE DETAILS. BUT THERE SEEMS TO BE AN OVERWHELMING AGREEMENT THAT THE IOWA VALUES FUND IS IMPORTANT AND SOMETHING MAY NEED TO BE DONE THIS SESSION.

Borg: JOYCE, IS THERE A UNIVERSAL ENDORSEMENT OF HOW THAT BORROWING IS GOING TO BE DONE -- OR IT'S BORROWING AND THEN PAYING IT OFF WITH GAMBLING REVENUE, ISN'T IT, FOR THE VALUES FUND?

Russell: WELL, THAT'S ONE IDEA THAT'S OUT THERE. THAT'S ALWAYS BEEN ONE IDEA THAT'S OUT THERE, BUT THERE'S NO AGREEMENT ON THAT YET. I AGREE THERE'S UNANIMITY THAT PEOPLE WANT SOME KIND OF PERMANENT FUNDING SOURCE FOR THE VALUES FUND, BUT THERE'S DEEP RESISTANCE TO BORROWING AMONG MUCH OF THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS, ESPECIALLY IN THE SENATE. AND I DON'T THINK THAT'S A DONE DEAL THAT THEY'RE GOING TO BORROW $800 MILLION. THE GOVERNOR WILL SAY AND DID SAY: INTEREST RATES ARE LOW; OUR CREDIT RATING IS GOOD; WHY HAVE A GOOD CREDIT RATING IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO USE IT? SO THAT'S THE ARGUMENT THAT HE'S PUTTING OUT THERE.

Borg: WE SHOULD EXPLAIN THE VALUES FUND IS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. IT'S TO GIVE GRANTS AND LOANS TO FLEDGLING COMPANIES WHO NEED A LITTLE INFUSION OF CAPITAL. WHAT DO YOU THINK, TODD?

Dorman: WELL, IT'S CLEAR THERE'S GOING TO BE A VALUES FUND. THE QUESTION IS HOW DO YOU PAY FOR IT, HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE A VALUES FUND, AND WHAT DO YOU SPEND IT ON. IF THERE'S GOING TO BE A DEBATE OVER THE VALUES FUND, IT'S GOING TO BE BETWEEN MAYBE RURAL LAWMAKERS, URBAN LAWMAKERS. WHERE IS THAT MONEY GOING TO GO? IT'S GOING TO GO TO BUSINESSES AND CITIES. WHAT KIND OF BUSINESSES ARE GOING TO GET IT? THE GOVERNOR ALSO WANTS TO SPEND SOME OF THAT MONEY ON CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS, INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS, ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUPS. HE'S GOING TO GET SOME RESISTANCE AS HE TRIES TO BROADEN THE SCOPE OF WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN BEGINNING AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND. Yepsen: I SAT AT THE PRESS BENCH DURING THE SPEECH JUST ACROSS THE AISLE FROM THE SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER, STEWART IVERSON. HE DID NOT APPLAUD MANY TIMES DURING THAT SPEECH, AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS VERY INTERESTING. DAVE'S RIGHT, THIS COOPERATION RHETORIC, WE HEAR THIS AT THE BEGINNING OF EVERY SESSION AND WE ALSO THIS WEEK SAW IT START TO UNRAVEL ON ANY NUMBER OF THINGS. I THOUGHT IT WAS INTERESTING SENATOR IVERSON HAD A LITTLE PRESS BRIEFING ON TUESDAY MORNING WHERE HE CAME OUT AND SAID NO TO THE CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE. THAT WAS AT 8:30. AND THEN AT 10:00 HE WENT OUT AND SAID, OH, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE ALL THIS COOPERATION. WELL, WHAT IS IT? THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS MOST OF THESE ISSUES ARE GOING TO GET DEALT WITH IN ABOUT THE LAST 24 HOURS OF THE SESSION IN SOME BACK ROOM SOMEWHERE. AND IN THE MEANTIME WE'RE GOING TO SPEND FOUR MONTHS WITH A LOT OF GOOFY BILLS LIKE DOVE HUNTING ISSUES AND FLOPPING AROUND AS REPUBLICANS TRY TO DECIDE WHAT PARTS OF VILSACK'S PROGRAM THEY'RE GOING TO WANT TO GO ALONG WITH.

Borg: WELL, AS DAVE POINTED OUT, HE USED THE PHRASE "THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS." REALLY THOSE DETAILS ARE WHEN THAT BUDGET MESSAGE COMES AS TO: THIS IS THE VISION; NOW HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT; WHERE IS THE SHIFTING OF MONEY WITHIN STATE GOVERNMENT; WHO LOSES IN ORDER TO PAY FOR THESE THINGS? Yepsen: RIGHT. AND A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THAT, DEAN, IS THE GOVERNOR WANTS A PREKINDERGARTEN PROGRAM. IT'S PROBABLY A GOOD IDEA. IT TENDS TO PAY SOME DIVIDENDS TO INVEST IN KIDS REAL EARLY BUT, YOU KNOW, YOU'VE GOT TO PAY FOR IT. THE STATE HAS GOT A TIGHT BUDGET. THERE'S COLLECTIVE BARGAINING NEGOTIATIONS AND THE GOVERNOR WANTS TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY IN THIS CURRENT FISCAL YEAR. HE'S ALSO GOT TO FIX THE HEALTH CARE PLAN. THE CHIEF JUSTICE WANTS SOME MONEY RIGHT AWAY. SO THE REPUBLICANS ARE TAKING THE ATTITUDE OF LET'S JUST KIND OF GO SLOW HERE RATHER THAN, JUST BECAUSE WE'VE GOT A FEW EXTRA BUCKS IN OUR POCKET, LET'S NOT LET IT BURN A HOLE IN OUR POCKET.

Dorman: WELL, IT'S INTERESTING WITH REGARD TO, LIKE, THE SENATE REPUBLICANS, IT'S CLEAR THE LANDSCAPE IN THE SENATE CHANGED. IT'S 25/25. NEITHER SIDE HAS ENOUGH VOTES TO PASS A BILL, BUT THE SENATE REPUBLICANS WHO HAVE PUT THE BRAKES ON SOME OF THE GOVERNOR'S AGENDA IN THE PAST STILL HAVE ENOUGH VOTES TO PUT THE BRAKES ON THAT AGENDA, AND IT WAS BECAME CLEAR THIS WEEK THAT THEY DO INTEND IN SOME CASES TO PUT THE BRAKES ON HIS AGENDA.

Borg: IS THERE -- DAVE BROUGHT UP PREKINDERGARTEN AND THE GOVERNOR WANTS TO ACCREDIT I THINK CHILD CARE AGENCIES, FIRST OF ALL, TO ASSURE EVERYBODY, AND HE SAID ESPECIALLY THOSE IN THE MIDDLE CLASS, OF QUALITY ACCREDITED CHILD CARE AND ALSO PROVIDE FOR EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES IN THAT ACCREDITATION. IT'S COSTLY BUT IS THERE WIDESPREAD SUPPORT ON THAT, DAVE?

Pitt: I DON'T THINK THERE'S WIDESPREAD SUPPORT. I THINK THERE WAS AN EARLY INDICATION LATE THIS WEEK AS THE LEGISLATURE BEGAN TO WIND DOWN FOR THE WEEK THAT THERE PROBABLY ISN'T A LOT OF SUPPORT. I THINK THE GOVERNOR ASKED FOR 39-, ALMOST $40 MILLION FOR THAT EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVE. AND HE SUBMITTED THAT AS PART OF HIS SUPPLEMENTAL REQUEST, WHICH IS AN EARLY BUDGET REQUEST THAT HE HAS ALREADY HANDED TO LAWMAKERS. AND IT SEEMED THAT THERE WAS NOT A LOT OF SUPPORT FOR THAT. I THINK THE REPUBLICANS THAT WE TALKED TO SAID THAT THEY WANT TO WAIT TO SEE THE REST OF THE GOVERNOR'S BUDGET PACKAGE SO THEY CAN KIND OF SEE IS HE CUTTING SOMEWHERE ELSE TO COME UP WITH THAT $40 MILLION, WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM.

Borg: JOYCE, THE GOVERNOR SPOKE THROUGHOUT THIS SPEECH WITH A LOT OF PASSION, BUT THERE WAS DEEP PASSION FOR TAKING CARE OF CHILDREN, PREKINDERGARTEN. AND THERE WAS A LOT OF PASSION TO GET IOWA OFF THE METHAMPHETAMINE HIGHWAY.

Russell: YEAH, HE WAS VERY -- HE WAS VERY STRONG ON THAT ISSUE AND I -- WHEN WE WERE TALKING ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THERE WAS BIPARTISAN APPLAUSE, THERE WAS A BIPARTISAN APPLAUSE AND EVEN A STANDING OVATION ON THAT ISSUE. OF COURSE, WHAT THE LAWMAKERS ARE GOING TO BE ASKED TO DO IS APPROVE TOUGH NEW RESTRICTIONS ON THE SALE AND PURCHASE OF COLD MEDICINES AND OTHER PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN INGREDIENTS WHICH ARE PRECURSORS TO METH. BUT EVEN PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT CRACKING DOWN ON METH WERE REALISTIC. SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT I TALKED TO THIS WEEK WERE REALISTIC ABOUT THE PROSPECTS FOR DOING THAT. ALMOST IDENTICAL BILLS HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED IN THE PAST. LAST YEAR OR THE YEAR BEFORE, SOME RESTRICTIONS ON COLD MEDICINE SALES WERE APPROVED, BUT IT WAS WAY WATERED DOWN. THERE'S OBVIOUSLY OPPOSITION FROM THE RETAILERS AND PHARMACISTS TO THESE KINDS OF RESTRICTIONS.

Borg: BECAUSE THEY WANT IT OVER THE COUNTER?

Russell: WELL, IT'S A RESTRICTION ON THE SALE OF THESE PRODUCTS.

Pitt: AND, DEAN, I HEARD SOME CONVERSATIONS. I THINK SOME RURAL LAWMAKERS ARE CONCERNED THAT PEOPLE MAY HAVE TO DRIVE 30 MILES TO GET COLD MEDICATION IF IT'S LIMITED TO THE POINT WHERE YOU CAN'T GET IT AND, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT EASILY ACCESSIBLE.

Borg: SO EVEN AS IMPASSIONED AND UNIVERSAL SUPPORT AS THAT MAY HAVE HAD, THERE'S STILL SOME OBSTACLES TO GETTING IT ENACTED. Yepsen: WELL, DEAN, I THINK THAT'S RIGHT. BUT I ALSO THINK THAT METHAMPHETAMINE, PREKINDERGARTEN, ALL THIS SORT OF STUFF, YOU START OUT EVERY SESSION WITH THIS, EVERYBODY IS ON A HIGH PLAIN. A GOVERNOR WILL COME OUT, ANY GOVERNOR, NOT JUST THIS ONE, THROW OUT A LOT OF IDEAS. THE INITIAL REACTION OF LEGISLATORS IS THEY KIND OF GROAN UNDER THE WORKLOAD AND COMPLAIN AND MOAN ABOUT THAT. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, MOST GOVERNORS WILL GET ABOUT 80 TO 90 PERCENT OF WHAT THEY PROPOSE. AND SO, YEAH, GOVERNOR VILSACK MAY NOT GET A SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION FOR PREKINDERGARTEN IN THIS FISCAL YEAR, BUT HE'LL GET SOMETHING AT THE START OF NEXT FISCAL YEAR BECAUSE EVEN CONSERVATIVES REALIZE IF YOU PUT A FEW PENNIES INTO A KID AT BIRTH OR BEFORE THEY GET TO KINDERGARTEN, IT'S GOING TO SAVE YOU A TON OF MONEY LATER ON. THE FEDERAL RESERVE HAS DONE STUDIES ON THIS. SO IT'S JUST PART OF THE LEGISLATURE SORT OF DIGESTING THIS WHOLE BUSINESS.

Dorman: WELL, BUSINESS LEADERS REALLY WANT -- REALLY WANT STATE GOVERNMENT TO PUT MONEY INTO EARLY CHILDHOOD, BECAUSE WHAT THEY SEE COMING IS A LARGE GAP IN THE NUMBER OF SKILLED WORKERS THAT ARE GOING TO BE PRODUCED OUT OF IOWA SCHOOLS. THEY WANT GOOD IOWA GRADUATES TO FILL THE JOBS THAT THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE IN THE FUTURE. AND THEY SEE THE EARLY CHILDHOOD AS A ROUTE TO THAT, SO I THINK IN THE END, LIKE DAVID SAYS, THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME SORT OF CONSENSUS ON THAT.

Borg: TODD, SPEAK ABOUT MEDICAID, IF YOU WILL. THAT IS A DRAIN -- A FINANCIAL DRAIN ON STATE GOVERNMENT RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS IT THAT THEY'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IN ORDER TO STOP THAT DRAIN AND TO PROVIDE THE REVENUE THAT'S NEEDED IN ORDER TO PROVIDE HEALTH CARE FOR THE NEEDIEST OF IOWANS?

Dorman: WELL, THERE'S A GAP. IT'S A MASSIVE PROGRAM THAT PROVIDES HEALTH CARE COVERAGE TO POOR AND DISABLED IOWANS. RIGHT NOW THE ENROLLMENTS ARE UP. THE ECONOMY HAS BEEN SLUGGISH IN THE LAST FEW YEARS. THAT'S FED PART OF THE ENROLLMENTS INTO THAT. THE GAP THIS YEAR AND THE CURRENT BUDGET YEAR IS LARGE, AND THERE'S GOING TO BE ANOTHER GAP NEXT YEAR. THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO -- THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO EITHER FIND MONEY TO PLUG THAT GAP OR CHANGE THE WAY THE PROGRAM RUNS. THE GOVERNOR HAS SUGGESTED THAT WE RAISE THE CIGARETTE TAX. HE HASN'T SAID HOW MUCH BUT HE SUGGESTS THAT TO COVER PART OF THAT GAP, THAT'S GETTING A FAIRLY COOL RECEPTION, ESPECIALLY FROM REPUBLICANS. Yepsen: I THINK THERE'S A WORLD OF HURT IN THIS MEDICAID ISSUE. IT'S HEALTH CARE FOR THE POOR. NOBODY WANTS TO SEEM LIKE THEY'RE NOT COMPASSIONATE AND HELP PEOPLE, BUT I THINK AT THE END OF THE DAY THERE'S GOING TO BE PAIN ALL OVER. WE'RE GOING TO SEE SOME HIGHER TAXES, PROBABLY THE CIGARETTE TAX MAY NOT BE WHAT THE GOVERNOR ASKS FOR. HE'LL ASK FOR A BUCK A PACK. HE'LL GET 50. THAT'S THE WAY THE PROCESS WORKS. THEY'LL CUT SOME PAYMENTS TO PROVIDERS. THEY'LL TRY TO FIND WAYS TO CUT A FEW BENEFITS TO PEOPLE. THEY MAY MAKE POOR PEOPLE HAVE A COPAY OR GO INTO MORE MANAGED CARE. IN OTHER WORDS, DEAN, AS YOU LOOK AT THE MEDICAID PROBLEM, IT'S NOT EITHER/OR, IT'S SORT OF ALL OF THE ABOVE BEFORE THEY'RE DONE.

Borg: YOU KNOW, IT'S OFTEN SAID ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL, MEDICARE IS THE THIRD RAIL. NO ONE WANTS TO TOUCH IT. WELL, IN IOWA, ONE OF THE THIRD RAILS, I THINK, IS RESTRUCTURING GOVERNMENT. AND YET, TODD -- OR NOT TODD, BUT DAVE, THE GOVERNOR MENTIONED IT AND HE'S TRYING TO OFFER THE CARROT, AS I GET IT, FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS AT LEAST. BUT FOR MUNICIPALITIES, WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

Pitt: WELL, THE GOVERNOR HAS STARTED A PROCESS IN WHICH HE HAS CREATED A WORKING GROUP THAT INCLUDES HIMSELF AND A GROUP OF LAWMAKERS. HE'S GOING TO START THIS PROCESS, I BELIEVE, NEXT WEEK IN A FIRST MEETING, WHICH HE'S GOING TO PULL THESE PEOPLE TOGETHER AND TRY TO COME UP WITH SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO MAKE GOVERNMENT WORK MORE EFFICIENTLY AND LESS COSTLY. AND SO I THINK THAT'S HIS EFFORT TO TRY TO SAY AND PERHAPS APPEASE SOME REPUBLICANS WHO SAY WE CAN'T JUST KEEP COMING UP WITH MONEY AND MONEY, WE'VE GOT TO START CUTTING THE COST OF GOVERNMENT SOMEWHERE. SO I THINK THAT'S HIS EFFORT TO TRY TO AT LEAST LOOK AS IF HE'S TRYING, YOU KNOW, TRYING TO CUT THE COST OF GOVERNMENT. Yepsen: HE HELD UP THE 1933 BROOKINGS STUDY THAT SAID WE HAD TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT IN IOWA, AND IT'S STILL TRUE TODAY. THE GOVERNOR IS NOT RUNNING FOR REELECTION, SO IT'S REAL EASY FOR HIM TO ALIENATE CITY HALL POLITICIANS, THE COURTHOUSE HACKS. BUT CANDIDATES FOR THE LEGISLATURE WHO ARE RUNNING AGAIN, THEY DON'T WANT TO ALIENATE THOSE PEOPLE. IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR IN IOWA OF THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION FOR GOVERNOR, YOU DON'T WANT TO ALIENATE THE POLK COUNTY COURTHOUSE DEMOCRATIC MACHINE. SO I'M NOT VERY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE PROSPECTS FOR MUCH ON THIS ONE, DEAN, BECAUSE IT'S REAL EASY FOR THE GOVERNOR TO SAY RAISE THE CIGARETTE TAX, FOR EXAMPLE. HE DIDN'T SAY THAT DURING THE CAMPAIGN, NOW THAT HE'S NOT RUNNING. BUT IT'S TOUGHER FOR POLITICIANS WHO DO HAVE TO SEEK REELECTION TO RAISE TAXES OR TO MERGE GOVERNMENTS.

Borg: JOYCE, DO YOU SEE, THOUGH, THAT HE MAY HAVE PUT A TOE IN THE WATER ON THIS, AT LEAST OPENED THE ISSUE, BEEN BOLD ENOUGH TO OPEN THE ISSUE SO IT'S GOING TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR OTHERS TO TALK ABOUT IT IN THE FUTURE?

Russell: PERHAPS. I THINK THE MAIN MOTIVATION FOR THIS IS TO LOWER PROPERTY TAXES. AND WHATEVER INTEREST THERE WILL BE IN THIS WILL BE AS A WAY TO PUT A LID ON PROPERTY TAXES. Yepsen: THE GOVERNOR IS REAL WORRIED ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND HOW SENSITIVE IT IS. WE HAD A LITTLE PRESS BRIEFING AND HE WARNED REPORTERS, NOW, BE CAREFUL ON HOW YOU COVER THIS. I SAID TO MYSELF, YOU KNOW, IF A GOVERNOR OF IOWA IS GOING TO COME OUT AND PROPOSE THAT WE MERGE COUNTIES OR GET RID OF CITIES, I'M SORRY, GOVERNOR, THAT'S A STORY AND WE'RE GOING TO REPORT IT.

Russell: YEAH, HAD YOU EVER HEARD SOMEBODY -- THE GOVERNOR OR ANY ELECTED OFFICIAL SAY, NOW, BE NICE WHEN YOU REPORT ON THAT? I THOUGHT THAT WAS VERY UNUSUAL. [ LAUGHTER ]

Dorman: I'M NOT SURE I EVEN HEARD IT. [ LAUGHTER ] IT WENT IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER.

Borg: WELL, IT GOES TO SHOW, I SAID IT'S THE THIRD RAIL, AND IT CERTAINLY IS. DAVE, HE MENTIONED THE GOVERNOR WANTS TAX REFORM AND SHE MENTIONED PROPERTY TAX. IS THAT ABOUT TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR? WHAT DOES THE GOVERNOR WANT?

Pitt: WELL, I'M NOT SURE IF THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. I THINK THAT'S A STICKY SITUATION AS WELL. AND I THINK THEY TALKED ABOUT IT LAST YEAR. I'M SURE THEY TALKED ABOUT IT A NUMBER OF YEARS, BUT IT SEEMS TO GET HUNG UP EACH TIME. SO PROPERTY TAX REFORM, THERE WAS AN ORGANIZATION -- THEY HELD A PRESS CONFERENCE THIS WEEK THAT TALKED ABOUT, YOU KNOW, INCOME TAX, YOU KNOW, TALKED ABOUT THE TAX STRUCTURE IN IOWA IN GENERAL AND HOW IT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. WITH AN AGING POPULATION, THEY'RE SAYING IT COULD EASILY GET TO WHERE TAXES ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY ON THE BACKS OF WORKING MIDDLE CLASS WORKING PEOPLE. AND SO I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE A LOT OF TALK ABOUT IT. THERE'S GOING TO BE A LOT OF MEETINGS ABOUT IT. I'M NOT SURE EXACTLY WHERE IT'S GOING TO GO AS FAR AS GETTING DOWN TO POLICY CHANGE.

Borg: TODD, ONE THING THAT HAS GOTTEN HEADLINES IS THE BOTTLE BILL. A COUPLE OF GROCERY CHAINS IN IOWA HAVE SAID WE'RE NOT GOING TO -- SOME OF OUR STORES AREN'T GOING TO BE REDEEMING THE DEPOSIT THAT CONSUMERS HAVE PAID ON THAT ANY LONGER AND THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO SOMEPLACE ELSE. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, TOM MILLER, SAID, OH, YES, YOU ARE OR YOU'LL FACE A LAWSUIT. NOW, DO YOU THINK THERE'S SOMETHING -- I MEAN THE ISSUE HAS BEEN RAISED RIGHT BEFORE THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION. GOOD TIMING. IS IT LIKELY TO COME INTO THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION FOR A REMEDY?

Dorman: I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME SORT OF DISCUSSION ABOUT THE BOTTLE BILL. THE PROBLEM IS YOU'VE GOT LAWMAKERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE THAT HAVE STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT -- ON ONE SIDE, PEOPLE THINK THAT THE BOTTLE BILL IS A GOOD IDEA AND IT'S DONE GOOD THINGS AND IT'S KEPT LITTER OUT OF THE DITCHES. ON THE OTHER SIDE, IT'S GOT FOLKS THAT THINK IT'S BRINGING DIRTY CANS INTO GROCERY STORES AND IT'S HURTING RECYCLING EFFORTS BECAUSE RECYCLERS SAY THAT ALUMINUM IS ONE OF THE BEST -- ONE OF THE MOST LUCRATIVE THINGS THAT THEY COULD BRING INTO RECYCLING. AND THERE REALLY HASN'T -- NO CONSENSUS BETWEEN THOSE TWO SIDES HAS EMERGED TO CHANGE THE LAW OR TO ADD ANYTHING ONTO THE LAW. AND AT THIS POINT, I DON'T SEE THEM REACHING THAT CONSENSUS THIS YEAR, ESPECIALLY WITH THINGS AS DIVIDED AS THEY ARE. Yepsen: WHICH IS WHY I THINK IT WAS GOOD THAT FAREWAY AND HY-VEE DID THIS, TO RAISE THIS ISSUE TO TRY TO FORCE SOME DISCUSSION OF IT. A LOT OF NEW MEMBERS AT THE LEGISLATURE. THE BOTTLE BILL IS POPULAR WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE, BUT THERE ARE COMPROMISES. YOU COULD INCREASE THE NUMBER OF THINGS THAT ARE SUBJECT TO THE DEPOSIT. ENVIRONMENTALISTS LIKE THAT. YOU COULD INCREASE THE DEPOSIT TO A DIME. ENVIRONMENTALISTS LIKE THAT. BUT THEN IN RETURN, THE TRADEOFF WOULD BE YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE IT EASIER TO MOVE THIS RECYCLING OUT OF THESE GROCERY STORES AND INTO RECYCLING CENTERS WHERE YOU CAN TAKE MORE THAN JUST YOUR CANS, WHERE YOU CAN TAKE OTHER THINGS TO BE RECYCLED. IF YOU WANT TO DEVELOP RECYCLING, YOU'VE GOT TO MAKE IT PROFITABLE. SO WHILE IT'S KIND OF MESSY RIGHT NOW, I THINK IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, IT MAY PROVE A GOOD THING.

Dorman: WELL, I THINK -- GO AHEAD.

Russell: I THINK IT ALSO JUST RAISED PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT HOW THE LAW WORKS, THAT EVERYONE WAS ALL UP IN ARMS BECAUSE THEY QUIT -- SOME OF THESE STORES QUIT ACCEPTING BOTTLES AND CANS. WELL, THE LAW HAS ALWAYS ALLOWED STORES TO DO THAT AS LONG AS THERE WAS A REDEMPTION CENTER NEARBY. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THAT. AND THE STORES THAT GOT IN TROUBLE WITH THE A.G. WERE THE ONES WHO WERE REJECTING THE BOTTLES AND CANS WHEN THERE WASN'T A REDEMPTION CENTER NEARBY. Yepsen: THE STORES WHO WANT TO START PLAYING TOUGH WITH US, THEY'LL -- THEY DO HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO REFUSE CANS IF THEY'RE DIRTY AS WELL. SO I THINK THAT WOULD BE THE NEXT STEP.

Russell: THAT'S TRUE. THAT'S TRUE.

Dorman: I THINK PUBLIC OPINION HAS SHIFTED A LITTLE BIT ON THIS ISSUE. I MEAN I THINK IOWANS SUPPORT THE BOTTLE BILL, BUT I THINK THE GROCERS HAVE REALLY BEEN HITTING HOME WITH THAT MESSAGE ABOUT THE CANS BEING DIRTY AND BRINGING IN THE POSSIBILITY OF DISEASE AND THINGS INTO THEIR STORES. PEOPLE THAT YOU TALK TO ARE STARTING TO RESPOND TO THAT AND SAY, WELL, MAYBE THIS ISN'T STRUCTURED THE WAY IT SHOULD BE STRUCTURED. SO IT MAY NOT HAPPEN THIS YEAR, BUT I THINK THE LAWMAKERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO DO SOMETHING AT SOME POINT.

Borg: DAVE, THE GOVERNOR GAVE THIS SPEECH TO A JOINT SESSION OF THE IOWA LEGISLATURE. BUT THERE WERE EYES AND EARS ACROSS THE STATE WATCHING. BUT WAS THERE EVEN A LARGER AUDIENCE, DO YOU THINK? WERE SOME OF THESE POINTS IN THE GOVERNOR'S SPEECH FOR THIS, WHAT HE CALLED THE BOLD VISION CALL TO ACTION? WAS THAT GIVEN ALSO TO BE HEARD ELSEWHERE?

Pitt: I THINK SO. I MEAN I THINK THERE'S STILL -- I THINK THERE STILL IS A LOT OF SPECULATION ABOUT WHAT GOVERNOR VILSACK'S FUTURE IS GOING TO BE AFTER HE LEAVES OFFICE IN A COUPLE OF YEARS. AND HE TALKED TO -- IN THAT REALLY BIG FASHION, HE STRAYED FROM THE TEXT OF HIS SPEECH IN ONE CASE AND STARTED TALKING ABOUT HIS OWN FAMILY AND HIS PERSONAL LIFE AND HOW HIS SONS WERE RAISED IN IOWA AND HOW MUCH HE HAS A LOVE FOR THIS STATE. THOSE ARE THOSE KIND OF WARM FEELINGS THAT POLITICIANS LIKE TO BRING ONTO, YOU KNOW, THE POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT TO TRY TO RAISE, I GUESS, THEIR OWN IMAGE IN THAT ARENA. SO I THINK THERE WERE SOME EFFORTS THERE FOR THE GOVERNOR TO BRING ABOUT THAT KIND OF A FEELING ABOUT HIS SPEECH, AND THAT IS, THIS IS A BIG-PICTURE GOVERNOR AND SOMEONE WHO THINKS ABOUT THESE SOCIAL ISSUES VERY SERIOUSLY. Yepsen: SOME REPUBLICANS THINK HE IS GOING TO RUN FOR A THIRD TERM. NOW, I TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD THAT HE'S NOT. HE OFFERED REASSURANCES TO REPUBLICAN LEADERS AT THE START OF THE SESSION THAT HE'S NOT, SO I THINK ONE WAY TO LOOK AT THIS SPEECH IS THROUGH THE LENS OF HIGHER AMBITIONS. HE IS A NATIONAL POLITICAL FIGURE, DEAN. AND I THINK HE WILL TAKE A LOOK AT RUNNING FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION IN 2008. AND IF THAT'S THE CASE, IT'S IMPORTANT THAT HE DEVELOP A LEGACY. AND SO MANY OF THESE THINGS THAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT HERE, YOU CAN PUT UNDER THAT CATEGORY OF LEGACY.

Borg: JOYCE, THE OTHER SPEECH THAT I ALLUDED TO EARLIER, CHIEF JUSTICE LOUIS LAVORATO ON WEDNESDAY SPOKE TO THE SAME AUDIENCE. HE ALSO HAD SOME REALLY TOUGH NEWS FOR THE LEGISLATORS.

Russell: WELL, HE OUTLINED WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN SOME OF THE COUNTIES AS A RESULT OF SHUTTING DOWN THE CLERK OF COURT OFFICES ON FRIDAY. THE LEGISLATURE WAS VERY -- THEY WERE VERY ENWRAPPED IN THAT SPEECH. HE WAS MAKING SOME VERY COMPELLING POINTS. WHETHER OR NOT THERE WILL BE MONEY TO SOLVE THOSE PROBLEMS, I DON'T KNOW. BUT HE -- I THINK HE MADE A VERY GOOD CASE FOR WHAT GOES WRONG WHEN YOU CLOSE A CLERK OF COURT OFFICE. HE'S ASKING SPECIFICALLY FOR A SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION FOR THIS YEAR SO THAT THESE OFFICES DON'T HAVE TO CLOSE ANYMORE BETWEEN NOW AND THE END OF THE YEAR, AND THE GOVERNOR HAS INCLUDED THAT IN HIS SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION REQUEST.

Borg: WELL, HE TRIED TO BRING IT DOWN TO THIS IS AN ISSUE THAT RANK-AND-FILE IOWANS OUGHT TO CARE ABOUT. IT'S NOT JUST ATTORNEYS AND JUDGES.

Russell: RIGHT. HOWEVER, THE RESPONSE BY AT LEAST ONE REPUBLICAN LEADER WAS: I HAVEN'T HEARD THIS GROUNDSWELL; I HAVEN'T HEARD FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO DO BUSINESS BECAUSE THE COURTS ARE CLOSED. SO, YOU KNOW, IT WASN'T TOTAL ACCEPTANCE OF WHAT HE SAID. BUT HE ALSO MADE -- ONE REPUBLICAN LEADER THAT I TALKED TO MADE A VERY GOOD POINT, AND THAT IS IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE A SEPARATE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT AND YET THEY KIND OF COME IN AFTER THE GOVERNOR HAS OUTLINED HIS PRIORITIES. AND SO THEY'RE SORT OF TREATED LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE BUDGET PROCESS, AND THERE'S SOME SENSE THAT THAT'S NOT QUITE RIGHT.

Pitt: I THOUGHT THAT THE JUSTICE'S LANGUAGE WAS RELATIVELY STRONG IN HIS SPEECH IN A COUPLE OF PLACES IN WHICH HE SAID THE JUDICIARY DOES NOT BELONG TO THE TEMPORARY INCUMBENTS, IT BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA. I THINK AS A MESSAGE TO LEGISLATORS THAT, YOU KNOW, YOU NEED TO LOOK AT THIS AS A LARGER LONG-TERM PICTURE AND NOT JUST, YOU KNOW, AN ANNUAL BUDGETARY PROCESS. Yepsen: I THINK THE BAD NEWS FOR THE COURT SYSTEM IS THAT, YOU KNOW, UNLESS YOU'RE SUED OR CHARGED WITH A CRIME, MOST PEOPLE DON'T GO TO COURTHOUSES. IT JUST DOESN'T AFFECT ANYBODY. THE WORLD DID NOT COME TO AN END BECAUSE IOWA CLOSED THE COURT SYSTEM FOR A FEW DAYS, USUALLY ON A FRIDAY BEFORE A LONG HOLIDAY WEEKEND. I MEAN IT JUST DIDN'T AFFECT THAT MANY PEOPLE. THE GOOD NEWS FOR THE COURTS IS THEIR PROBLEM CAN BE SOLVED WITH A RELATIVELY SMALL AMOUNT OF MONEY. I MEAN A MILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS, MORE THIS YEAR, ANOTHER SEVEN MILLION NEXT YEAR. IN THE GREAT SCHEME OF ALL THE PROBLEMS THAT LEGISLATORS ARE DEALING WITH, A COUPLE MILLION BUCKS IS NOTHING.

Borg: TODD, LET'S GO TO ANOTHER ISSUE AS WE STAY IN THE LEGISLATURE. BUT HAS IT BEGUN TO EMERGE YET, MAYBE EVEN BEFORE THE SESSION CONVENED, BUT DURING THIS WEEK BUT HAVE YOU SEEN SOME KEY PLAYERS, THOSE WHO MIGHT HAVE MORE POWER AND THOSE WHO MIGHT HAVE LESS POWER, EMERGE? IS THAT BECOMING CLEARER?

Dorman: WELL, I THINK WITH THE NEW LANDSCAPE IN THE SENATE, IT'S CLEAR THAT THE SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER, MIKE GRONSTAL, IS GOING TO HAVE AN OUT-FRONT POSITION. HE'S TAKEN A MORE PUBLIC POSITION. AND IT'S INTERESTING, HE WAS -- HE WAS QUITE A PARTISAN ATTACK DOG FOR SEVERAL YEARS WHEN THEY WERE IN THE MINORITY. AND NOW HE'S BECOME THIS VOICE OF REASON, THIS KIND OF BIPARTISAN STATESMAN, AND IT'S INTERESTING TO WATCH THAT TRANSITION AND THAT'S -- HE'S ONE THAT STANDS OUT AS SOMEONE WHO'S TAKING ON DEFINITELY A NEW ROLE. Yepsen: THERE ARE FIVE PEOPLE IN THAT STATEHOUSE WHO ARE GOING TO CUT THE FINAL DEAL: THE GOVERNOR, CHRIS RANTS, MIKE GRONSTAL, STEW IVERSON, MAYBE CHUCK GIPP. THEY WILL GET TOGETHER IN A BACK ROOM OR IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE PROBABLY ABOUT 1:00 A.M. ON THE LAST NIGHT OF THE SESSION, AND THEY WILL DECIDE THIS IS THE BUDGET, THIS IS WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO ON PRE-K, THIS IS WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO ON TAXES. OKAY, EVERYTHING BETWEEN NOW AND ESSENTIALLY THAT MOMENT IN THE SESSION, I THINK IS JUST KIND OF A GIANT KABUKI DANCE, WHERE EVERYBODY HAS TO GO THROUGH ALL THEIR LITTLE MOTIONS AND RITUALS TO GET TO THAT POINT AT THE END. AND THE KEY FOR LEADERS IS TO KEEP TEMPERS COOL SO THAT WHEN THEY DO COME TO THE END OF THE SESSION, THEY CAN GO TO THEIR MEMBERS AND SAY HERE, THIS IS THE DEAL, WE'VE GOT TO DO IT.

Borg: IS THAT THE WAY YOU SEE IT, JOYCE, A KABUKI DANCE?

Russell: I DON'T THINK I WOULD HAVE USED THAT TERM, BUT I AGREE THAT THESE BIG -- AND THAT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR. THE BIG BUDGET ISSUES, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE BUDGET IS TIGHT, THEY GET SETTLED BY A SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE AT THE END.

Borg: HOW DOES THIS APPEAR TO BE WORKING, THE JOINT CHAIRING IN THE IOWA SENATE? THAT IS, YOU HAVE TWO PRESIDENTS, A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT AND THE DEMOCRATIC SENATE. WHAT DO YOU THINK, TODD?

Dorman: WELL, SO FAR THEY HAVEN'T ACCIDENTLY TRIED TO PARK IN EACH OTHER'S PARKING SPOTS OR SIT ON EACH OTHER'S LAPS IN THE SENATE'S PRESIDENT'S CHAIR OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. IT SEEMS TO HAVE WORKED OKAY. THE THING ABOUT THE PLAYERS BEING THE SAME, I MEAN THAT'S KIND OF ONE OF THE QUESTIONS. THERE'S ALL THIS TALK ABOUT BIPARTISANSHIP. BUT AS DAVID SAID, I MEAN, IN THE END IT'S THE SAME FIVE PEOPLE IN CHARGE THAT HAVE BEEN IN CHARGE OVER -- THROUGH ALL THE PARTISAN FIGHTS, AND YOU REALLY DO HAVE TO WONDER WHETHER THESE FOLKS CAN PULL IT ALL TOGETHER. THEY HAVEN'T IN THE PAST.

Borg: I DID MENTION -- OR I DID HEAR DAVE MENTIONED STEW IVERSON IS GOING TO BE IN THAT, AS HE ENTERS THE FINAL FEW HOURS. STEW IVERSON STILL HAS A LOT OF POWER AS THE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER?

Pitt: RIGHT. AND I THINK THE INTERESTING THING TO WATCH FOR IS --

Borg: AND A REPUBLICAN LEADER.

Pitt: RIGHT, THE REPUBLICAN LEADER. THE INTERESTING THING TO WATCH FOR IS THAT FIRST INSTANCE IN WHICH ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER KILLS A BILL. AND I THINK AFTER THAT, YOU KNOW, IT'S GOING TO BE ALL-OUT WAR, AND NO ONE IS GOING TO GET ANYTHING DONE -- OR WILL THERE BE SOME CONSENSUS BUILDING IN AN EFFORT TO TRY TO MAKE IT WORK -- BUT THAT'S THE BIG TEST, I THINK. Yepsen: THE SENATE HAS ALWAYS BEEN SORT OF A CLUBBY PLACE. I MEAN IT'S WHAT A SENATE DOES. AND A LOT OF TIMES RURAL AND URBAN ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN DEMOCRAT AND REPUBLICAN. THERE ARE OTHER THINGS THAT ARE AT WORK. THEY'RE COLLEGIAL PEOPLE. FOR THE MOST PART THEY'RE FRIENDS. THE VOTERS GOT RID OF A COUPLE OF THE MOST BOMB THROWING TYPE OF INDIVIDUALS IN THE LAST ELECTION, SO I THINK THEY'RE OFF TO A NICE COLLEGIAL START. DAVE'S RIGHT, THEY COULD FOUL WHEN SOMEBODY STARTS KILLING OFF A BILL THAT SOMEBODY ELSE REALLY WANTS.

Borg: THANKS FOR YOUR INSIGHTS. WE'LL HAVE YOU BACK AGAIN SOON. BUT ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," WE'RE GOING TO BE FOCUSING ON THE NEW LEGISLATIVE SESSION FROM THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH PERSPECTIVE. GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK WILL BE HERE TO EXPLAIN AND AMPLIFY HIS PRIORITIES THAT WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT: TAKING CARE OF CHILDREN, ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, AND HEALTH CARE SECURITY. YOU'LL SEE GOVERNOR VILSACK REGULAR "IOWA PRESS" AIRTIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY, SUNDAY AT NOON. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING DES MOINES, IOWA FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA... THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

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