Iowa Public Television

 

Senate Leaders Jeff Lamberti and Mike Gronstal

posted on May 6, 2005

Borg: INNOVATIVE FINANCING OF HEALTH CARE FOR THE POOR, PROPERTY TAX REFORM, THE DEATH PENALTY FOR SEXUAL PREDATORS WHO KILL, SOME OF THE TOPICS DEBATED BY IOWA LEGISLATORS THIS PAST WEEK AS THE SESSION WINDS DOWN. WE'LL QUESTION SENATE LEADERS JEFF LAMBERTI AND MIKE GRONSTAL 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, APRIL 22 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: NEXT FRIDAY, APRIL 29, IS THE IOWA LEGISLATURE'S SCHEDULED ADJOURNMENT DATE. THERE'S MUCH YET TO BE DONE, INCLUDING THE STATE'S BUDGET FOR THE NEXT FISCAL YEAR, WHICH BEGINS JULY 1. AS USUAL, PLUGGING THE NUMBERS INTO THAT BUDGET DEPENDS ON SEVERAL OTHER DECISIONS, INCLUDING WHETHER OR NOT, FOR EXAMPLE, THERE WILL BE REVENUE FROM AN INCREASE IN THE TAX ON CIGARETTES. JOINING US TO DISCUSS POSSIBLE OUTCOMES ARE TWO LEADERS IN THE IOWA SENATE. THAT'S EVENLY SPLIT, YOU'LL RECALL, BETWEEN DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS. COUNCIL BLUFFS DEMOCRAT MIKE GRONSTAL LEADS THE 24 OTHER DEMOCRATIC SENATORS, AS STEWART IVERSON LEADS THE SAME NUMBER OF REPUBLICANS. ANKENY REPUBLICAN JEFF LAMBERTI IS COPRESIDENT OF THE SENATE WITH HIS DEMOCRATIC COUNTERPART, JACK KIBBIE OF EMMETSBURG. SENATOR GRONSTAL AND LAMBERTI, WELCOME TO "IOWA PRESS."

Lamberti: THANK YOU.

Borg: WELCOME "BACK" TO "IOWA PRESS." IT'S GETTING TO BE A FREQUENT APPEARANCE. AND WE LIKE IT. THAT'S FINE. ACROSS THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN, AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL, LET'S START WITH YOU. WHAT'S LEFT IN THE LAST SCHEDULED WEEK OF THIS SESSION, AND HOW DO YOU GET IT ACCOMPLISHED?

Gronstal: COME TO RESOLUTION ON JOBS AVAILABLE. WE'RE WORKING ON THE IOWA VALUES FUND, RE-CREATING THE IOWA VALUES FUND. WE STILL HAVE SOME DIFFERENCES ON THAT. THAT'S ONE OF THE KEY PIECES TO GETTING OUT OF HERE. PASS A MEDICAID REFORM BILL THAT THE HOUSE HAS PASSED, A PIECE OF LEGISLATION THAT WILL PROVIDE MORE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE IN IOWA. WE THINK THAT'S A PRETTY GOOD PLAN. WE'LL PROBABLY BE MAKING A FEW CHANGES IN IT IN THE SENATE, BUT NOT A LOT. THE BIGGEST ISSUE PROBABLY SEPARATING US IS THE EDUCATION BUDGET BILL. WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR WHAT WE THINK ARE APPROPRIATE INVESTMENTS AND BETTER STUDENT OUTCOMES, BETTER -- BETTER TEACHER QUALITY IN THIS STATE. SO I'D SAY THOSE -- I THINK THERE ARE OTHER ISSUES OUT THERE. I THINK THERE'S A WATER QUALITY BILL THAT'S COMING TOGETHER. I THINK WE HAVE A COMMITTEE THAT YESTERDAY BROUGHT OUT AN AMENDMENT ON A SEXUAL PREDATORS BILL. SO I THINK THERE ARE A FEW OTHER ISSUES OUT THERE, BUT THOSE ARE THE BIG ONES.

Glover: SENATOR LAMBERTI, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU. WHAT IS REMAINING IN WHAT IS SCHEDULED TO BE THE LAST WEEK OF THIS SESSION, AND HOW DO YOU ACCOMPLISH IT?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK MIKE'S HIT ON IT. THE BUDGET ALWAYS -- WE'RE ALWAYS STRUGGLING WITH THE BUDGET AS WE TRY TO WRAP UP SESSIONS, SO THAT'S THE BIGGEST ISSUE. AND AS PART OF THAT BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS, DOES THAT INCLUDE SOMETHING ON THE CIGARETTE TAX? I THINK THAT'S STILL UP IN THE AIR AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THAT IS OR IS NOT PART OF THESE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS.

Glover: AND IS THERE A REALISTIC CHANCE OF ENDING THE SESSION THIS WEEK?

Lamberti: I THINK IT WOULD BE TOUGH BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE. IF WE DON'T GET IT DONE THIS COMING WEEK, THEN I WOULD HOPE THAT WE WOULD WRAP IT UP SHORTLY THEREAFTER. THERE'S NO REASON TO DRAG THIS OUT. WE CAN COME TO A RESOLUTION.

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI, TAKE A BIG-PICTURE VIEW OF THE SESSION FOR ME, IF YOU WOULD, PLEASE. WHAT'S THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT? WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, WHAT WILL BE THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENTS OF THIS LEGISLATURE, AND WHAT WILL BE THE BIGGEST FAILURES?

Lamberti: WELL, IT'S ALWAYS INTERESTING. I'VE BEEN IN THERE ELEVEN YEARS IN THE LEGISLATURE, AND I THINK YOU GUYS HAVE WRITTEN STORIES AND TALKED ABOUT THAT WE'RE ALWAYS A DO-NOTHING LEGISLATURE. I LOOK BACK AT ELEVEN YEARS; WE'VE GOT A LOT ACCOMPLISHED. WE'VE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED A LOT THIS YEAR. EARLY IN THE SESSION, WE PASSED 4-PERCENT INCREASE FOR SCHOOLS, ALMOST $100 MILLION, WITH VERY LITTLE DEBATE. A SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT. WE DID A SIGNIFICANT TELEPHONE DEREGULATION BILL THAT WAS LONG OVERDUE. IT MAY NOT BE AS IMPORTANT, BUT IT'S IMPORTANT TO A LOT OF IOWANS. WE WILL FINISH WORK ON A BILL TO REDUCE OUR DEER POPULATION. WE COMPLETED WORK ON A VENTURE CAPITAL BILL THAT'S GOING TO FREE UP RESOURCES FOR ENTREPRENEURS THROUGHOUT THE STATE. BEFORE WE'RE DONE, WE WILL COMPLETE WORK ON AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PACKAGE, INCLUDING THE VALUES FUND. AND I THINK THOSE WILL BE THE BIG ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THIS YEAR.

Yepsen: SENATOR, GRONSTAL --

Gronstal: A TOUGH BILL ON PSEUDOEPHEDRINE --

Lamberti: THAT'S RIGHT.

Gronstal: -- THAT WE PASSED. AND EVERYTHING SENATOR LAMBERTI HAS MENTIONED ARE THINGS WE WORKED ON IN A BROADLY, DEEPLY BIPARTISAN WAY. I THINK SO FAR THIS SESSION HAS BEEN A BIG SUCCESS ON A HOST OF ISSUES THAT WE'VE WORKED TOGETHER ON VERY CLOSELY. IN THE END IT'S GOING TO BE THIS TENSION OVER THE BUDGET. AND THAT'S REALLY AS IT IS EVERY YEAR.

Yepsen: WHAT, IN YOUR MIND, SENATOR GRONSTAL, IS THE BIGGEST FAILURE, THE BIGGEST SHORTCOMING, THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?

Gronstal: WELL, SO FAR I DON'T HAVE BIG DISAPPOINTMENTS. I MAY -- I MAY AT THE END OF -- AT THE END OF NEXT WEEK OR THE WEEK AFTER, HAVE SOME PRETTY BIG DISAPPOINTMENTS, BUT WE CONTINUE TO SAY WE OUGHT TO WORK ON THE THINGS WE TOLD VOTERS WE'D WORK ON: JOBS, EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE, PUBLIC SAFETY.

Borg: SENATOR LAMBERTI, AS YOU MAKE DECISIONS NOW, COMING DOWN TO THE FINAL WEEK, YOU SORT OF, I WOULD THINK, DEFER SOME THINGS TO 2006. HOW MUCH IN DECIDING WHAT GETS DEFERRED GETS PLAYED INTO THAT'S AN ELECTION YEAR AND IT WOULDN'T BE WISE TO DO THAT AT THAT TIME ANYWAY?

Lamberti: WELL, IT'S KIND OF BEEN AN INTERESTING YEAR. YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS, A LOT OF DISCUSSIONS. PEOPLE SAY, WELL, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO BRING IT UP THIS YEAR AND WAIT. THE DEATH PENALTY DISCUSSION THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, SOME WOULD SAY THAT'S A POLITICAL ISSUE, WHY DON'T YOU WAIT UNTIL AN ELECTION YEAR. WE DON'T BELIEVE IT IS A POLITICAL ISSUE. WE BELIEVE IT'S SOMETHING THAT THE PEOPLE OF IOWA WANT US TO TALK ABOUT. THE CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE, YOU KNOW, THAT MAY BE AN ISSUE TO WAIT FOR AN ELECTION YEAR. BUT REALLY, WE HAVE NOT DEFERRED ISSUES INTO 2006 BASED UPON UPCOMING ELECTIONS. WE HAVE DEALT WITH THESE ISSUES THAT WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THAT ANY ONE OF THEM WOULD BE A SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT AND WE'VE GOT IT DONE THIS YEAR.

Borg: I'LL PUT IT TO YOU THIS WAY, SENATOR GRONSTAL. WHAT WOULD YOU WANT ACCOMPLISHED THIS YEAR THAT DIDN'T GET ACCOMPLISHED THAT'S MAYBE GOING TO GO INTO 2006 AND YOU'D RATHER NOT HAVE IT THERE?

Gronstal: I THINK, YOU KNOW, FROM THE DAY OF THE ELECTION, ONCE IT WAS CLEAR THAT THE IOWA SENATE WAS A 25/25 TIE, I TOOK THE ATTITUDE THIS HAS TO BE A SESSION WHERE WE SET ASIDE PARTISANSHIP AND WHERE WE WORK ON ISSUES TOGETHER. AND SO FAR THAT'S WHAT WE'VE DONE IN THIS LEGISLATURE. I DON'T THINK THERE'S -- I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANY POINT IN US COMING UP WITH A BUNCH OF AMENDMENTS TO EMBARRASS THE REPUBLICANS FOR THE FALL OF '06 AND THEM COMING UP WITH A BUNCH OF AMENDMENTS TO EMBARRASS US. THIS SESSION HAD TO BE A SESSION ABOUT COMMON GROUND, AND TO THE POINT -- TO THE POINT THAT WE DIDN'T -- WE HAD AN ADVANTAGE ON OPENING DAY OF THE SESSION. WE HAD 25 DEMOCRATS AND THERE WERE 24 REPUBLICANS. I SAID WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE THIS SESSION --

Yepsen: SENATOR.

Gronstal: -- PARTISAN.

Yepsen: SENATOR, TAKE YOUR POLITICAL HAT OFF FOR A MOMENT. JUST PUT YOUR POLICY WONK HAT ON.

Gronstal: THAT IS MY POLICY WONK HAT.

Yepsen: NO, I MEAN LOOK AHEAD AT THE ISSUES NEXT YEAR. WHAT'S COMING TO THE LEGISLATURE NEXT YEAR? SENATOR GRONSTAL?

Gronstal: I THINK IT'S A -- I THINK IT WILL BE A CONTINUED INTEREST IN IMPROVING EDUCATION. I THINK WE HAVE A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM IN THIS STATE DEVELOPING IN TERMS OF ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION. I THINK WE'VE DRAMATICALLY UNDERFUNDED COMMUNITY COLLEGES OVER THE LAST THIRTY YEARS. THOSE ARE THE INSTITUTIONS THAT PROVIDE THE TRAINING FOR THE JOBS OF TODAY AND THE JOBS OF TOMORROW. I THINK ACCESS IN TERMS OF REGENTS' TUITIONS GOING UP IS A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM. AND I THINK -- I THINK TEACHER QUALITY IN THIS STATE NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

Yepsen: SAME QUESTION TO YOU, SENATOR LAMBERTI. WHAT ISSUES ARE ON THE HORIZON FOR NEXT YEAR?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE MAY OR MAY NOT GET ACCOMPLISHED THIS YEAR. TAX REFORM, WHETHER WE ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING SIGNIFICANT IN THE AREA OF PROPERTY TAX REFORM, IT'S THE SINGLE BIGGEST IMPEDIMENT TO BUSINESS GROWTH IN IOWA IS OUR OUTDATED PROPERTY TAX SYSTEM. LET'S SEE IF WE CAN GET SOMETHING ACCOMPLISHED. IF WE DON'T DO IT THIS YEAR, LET'S MOVE ON NEXT YEAR. AND THE WHOLE AREA OF HOW DO WE GROW THIS ECONOMY AND CREATE JOBS. WE'RE GOING TO PASS A VALUES FUND THAT RELIES ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE GOVERNMENT HANDING MONEY OUT IN THE FORM OF GRANTS AND LOANS. WE WANT TO CONTINUE THE PROCESS AND DISCUSSIONS ABOUT HOW WE CREATE JOBS BY HOW DO WE CREATE A BETTER TAX AND REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. SO WE MAY DO THAT NEXT YEAR.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL -- SENATOR GRONSTAL, LET'S GO THROUGH SOME OF THE ISSUES YOU FACE YET THIS YEAR. PERHAPS UNDERPINNING ALL THE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE STATE'S BUDGET ARE PROPOSALS TO INCREASE THE STATE'S CIGARETTE TAX. THE GOVERNOR HAS ASKED FOR 80 CENTS. REPUBLICANS HAVE SUGGESTED 36 CENTS. A) WILL THERE BE A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE? B) WHERE WILL IT GO?

Gronstal: AND IT'S AN INTERESTING -- AND THAT'S WHAT THIS SESSION IS BOILING DOWN TO AT THE END. IT'S AN INTERESTING NEGOTIATION AND DISCUSSION BETWEEN DIFFERENT PLAYERS IN THE INSTITUTION. ON THE HOUSE SIDE, THEY TALK ABOUT A CONCERN ABOUT '07 AND HOW MUCH MONEY IS GOING TO BE AVAILABLE IN TERMS OF BEING ABLE TO PAY FOR THE PROPERTY TAX CREDITS. ON THE SENATE SIDE, THE SENATE REPUBLICANS TALK ABOUT USING CIGARETTE TAXES TO LOWER PROPERTY TAXES. BOTH OF THOSE ARE VALID POTENTIAL IDEAS THAT THE LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO DEAL WITH. BUT IT'S A BIT -- THEIR PLAN RIGHT NOW EVENTUALLY COSTS THE STATE TREASURY $50 MILLION. THAT KIND OF FLIES ON THE FACE OF THE HOUSE CONCERN ABOUT HAVING ENOUGH MONEY LEFT IN THE RESERVE FUND TO PAY PROPERTY TAX CREDITS. SO THOSE ARE ALL POINTS OF DISCUSSION AS THIS THING --

Glover: WELL, LET ME REPHRASE MY QUESTION.

Gronstal: -- AS THIS THING WINDS DOWN. SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE IS GOING TO BE. I DON'T KNOW IF THERE'S GOING TO BE A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE. PEOPLE ARE GOING TO WORK ON THAT, TRY AND COME UP WITH A BUDGET THAT WORKS, THAT BOTH FUNDS OUR PRIORITIES, IS FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE IN TERMS OF PUTTING SOME ADDITIONAL MONEY IN THE BANK, AND SOMETHING THAT ALSO SAYS WE'RE GOING TO AT LEAST DEAL IN SOME WAY WITH PROPERTY TAXES. I THINK THAT'S -- I THINK A DEAL CAN BE HAD THERE.

Glover: SENATOR LAMBERTI, SENATOR GRONSTAL HAS NO IDEA WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH IT. LET ME TRY YOU. WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THE CIGARETTE TAX? IS IT GOING UP AND WHAT'S IT GOING TO BE USED FOR?

Lamberti: I DON'T THINK WE KNOW AT THIS POINT. HONESTLY, I THINK THAT'S PART OF THESE BIGGER NEGOTIATIONS. NOW, WHAT I WILL TELL YOU IS IT'S VERY CLEAR, I THINK TO MOST OF US AND HOPEFULLY TO MOST IOWANS, THAT IT'S NOT NEEDED FOR HEALTH CARE, NOT NEEDED TO FUND OUR MEDICAID SYSTEM. WE'RE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT GIVING PROVIDERS A 3-PERCENT INCREASE IN THEIR RATES. AND SO IT BECOMES A DEBATE ABOUT IF YOU ARE GOING TO RAISE THE CIGARETTE TAX, YOU DON'T NEED THE MONEY FOR HEALTH CARE, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT? WE HAVE PROPOSED THAT WE PUT IT INTO PROPERTY TAX RELIEF BECAUSE WE DON'T BELIEVE IT'S NECESSARY TO USE A CIGARETTE TAX TO HAVE A LICENSE TO SPEND MORE MONEY. WE BELIEVE THERE'S ADEQUATE RESOURCES IN THE BUDGET TO MEET THE NEEDS, TO MEET OUR PRIORITIES IN EDUCATION, OF JOB CREATION, AND SO FORTH, THAT WE DON'T NEED IT.

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI, THE VALUES FUND. ANOTHER ISSUE THAT YOU'RE JUGGLING IS THIS WHOLE BUSINESS OF HOW MUCH DO YOU PUT INTO A VALUES FUND TO MAKE ECONOMIC GRANTS AND HOW MANY TAX CREDITS DO YOU PUT IN THERE. WHAT'S THAT GOING TO LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU'RE DONE?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK WHAT IT'S GOING TO LOOK LIKE, WE'RE GOING TO MAKE AN INVESTMENT. I THINK IN THE FIRST YEAR IT'S GOING TO BE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF $50 MILLION. WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THAT GROW WITH TAX CREDITS TO THE RANGE OF $70 MILLION, AND WE'D LIKE TO SEE THAT GO ON FOR A MINIMUM OF TEN YEARS. SO WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A BIG INVESTMENT IN JOB CREATION IN IOWA, $650 MILLION OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS. IT WILL HAVE A COMPONENT OF THE VALUES FUND THAT WE'LL HAVE MONEY AVAILABLE TO ENTICE BUSINESSES TO LOCATE HERE, TO GROW HERE. IT WILL ALSO INCLUDE A STRONG TAX CREDIT COMPONENT BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THAT THE ENGINE OF OUR ECONOMY IS THE SMALL BUSINESSES ACROSS THE STATE, AND THE VALUES FUND DOES NOTHING FOR THEM. WE NEED TO REWARD THOSE SMALL BUSINESSES THAT WILL CREATE GOOD-PAYING JOBS IN IOWA. AND SO THAT'S THE COMPONENT THAT MY FOLKS FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT, AND WE'RE GOING TO MAKE SURE IT'S IN THERE. AND THAT'S HOW WE MERGE THESE IDEAS TOGETHER AND MOVE FORWARD.

Yepsen: SENATOR GRONSTAL, IS THAT YOUR VIEW OF WHAT IT'S GOING TO LOOK LIKE?

Gronstal: I THINK WE'RE CERTAINLY OPEN TO ALL OF THAT. I WOULD SAY THE VALUES FUND HAS WORKED WITH A NUMBER OF SMALL BUSINESSES IN THE STATE. I KNOW SEVERAL IN MY COMMUNITY THAT HAVE BENEFITTED FROM THE VALUES FUND, BUT SOME COMBINATION OF TAX CREDITS, BUSINESS ASSISTANCE, TRAINING MONEY, WE THINK THERE ALSO NEEDS TO BE SOME -- SOME -- SOME INVESTMENT IN LIVABLE COMMUNITIES IN THIS STATE. SO WE THINK THAT'S A COMPONENT OF THIS AS WELL.

Glover: SENATOR LAMBERTI, ANOTHER ISSUE THAT FACES THE LEGISLATURE IN THE WAKE OF THE MURDER OF JETSETA GAGE IN CEDAR RAPIDS IS GETTING TOUGHER ON SEX OFFENDERS. NOW, A SUBCOMMITTEE IN THE SENATE HAS COME UP WITH A PACKAGE OF TOUGHENED SEX ABUSE LAWS, BUT LOOMING OVER ALL THAT IS A DISCUSSION OF REINSTATING THE DEATH SENTENCE. A) CAN YOU PASS THE SEX OFFENDER THING OR WILL IT BE DERAILED BY THE DEATH SENTENCE. AND (B) WHAT WILL YOU PASS?

Lamberti: YOU KNOW, A DEBATE ON WHETHER OR NOT WE REINSTITUTE THE DEATH PENALTY IN A VERY LIMITED WAY SHOULD NOT DERAIL THIS BILL. THERE'S NO REASON FOR IT. WHETHER IT PASSES OR FAILS, THERE OUGHT TO BE A DEBATE ON THAT. AND I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT. SENATOR MCKIBBEN HAS A PROPOSED AMENDMENT ON THIS THAT IS LIMITED TO THE SITUATION WHERE YOU HAVE THE KIDNAP, RAPE, AND MURDER OF A CHILD. YOU KNOW, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT FIXING OUR LAWS IN THE AREA OF SEX OFFENDERS AS A RESULT OF THIS TRAGIC CASE. WE THOUGHT WE HAD SOME PRETTY GOOD LAWS IN IOWA ON SEX OFFENDERS. IN FACT, WE WERE KNOWN FOR THAT. THIS CASE POINTED OUT TO US THAT WE HAVE PROBLEMS, AND WE'RE GOING TO FIX THOSE PROBLEMS IN THE AREA OF TREATMENT, LONGER SENTENCES, AND SO FORTH. WHAT IT ALSO POINTED OUT IS THE BIGGEST FLAW IN OUR LAW IS THAT SITUATION WHERE YOU HAVE THAT KIDNAP, RAPE, AND MURDER OF A CHILD. BECAUSE IF THE OFFENDER -- THE SEX OFFENDER KIDNAPS THAT CHILD AND THEN RAPES THAT CHILD, OUR LAW CREATES THE INCENTIVE FOR THEM TO GO ON AND MURDER THAT CHILD, TO GET RID OF THE WITNESS. THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, A VERY LIMITED DEATH PENALTY ONLY APPLYING IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES. AND WE BELIEVE A SIGNIFICANT MAJORITY OF IOWANS SUPPORT US ON THAT.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU. WILL YOU PASS THIS PACKAGE OF TOUGHENED SEX ABUSE LAWS, AND IS THERE A DANGER THAT THIS WHOLE THING COULD BE DERAILED BY DEBATE OVER THE DEATH SENTENCE?

Gronstal: I THINK THERE IS THAT DANGER. AND IF A DEATH PENALTY BILLS COMES OUT OR AN AMENDMENT IS DECLARED GERMANE ON ANOTHER BILL, WE WILL DEFER THAT BILL AND WILL NOT TAKE IT UP FOR DEBATE. AND WE WILL LOOK FOR OTHER AVENUES TO DEAL WITH THOSE -- WITH A HOST OF OTHER ISSUES THAT'S IN THAT BILL. YOU KNOW, I FIND IT A BIT DISINGENUOUS FOR THE REPUBLICANS. CONTROL OF THE LEGISLATURE FOR EIGHT YEARS. THE LAST PEOPLE TO CALL THE DEATH PENALTY UP FOR DEBATE WERE THE DEMOCRATS. WE VOTED ON THAT IN '96. AND AT THAT TIME, A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS AND A MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATS VOTED AGAINST IT. THE REPUBLICANS KNOW THIS IS A -- THIS IS A HIGHLY CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE. IT IS NOT COMMON GROUND. THEY KNOW THERE ARE NOT THE VOTES IN THE SENATE TO PASS IT. THEY KNOW THEIR -- THEY KNOW THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE HAS INDICATED NO INTEREST IN TAKING UP A DEBATE ON THE DEATH PENALTY, AND THEY KNOW THE GOVERNOR WILL NOT SIGN IT. SO LET'S BE HONEST ABOUT THIS. THIS IS POLITICS. THIS IS POLITICS FOR 2006. IF IT WAS REAL, THEY WOULD HAVE BROUGHT THIS UP SOMETIME IN THE LAST EIGHT YEARS.

Glover: AND WITHOUT BEING DISINGENUOUS, YOU LOST THE SENATE IN '96.

Gronstal: AND -- AND I CERTAINLY -- I DON'T KNOW WHY THAT'S DISINGENUOUS. I CERTAINLY UNDERSTAND THAT AND I WOULD SUGGEST THAT'S THE ONLY PURPOSE OF THE REPUBLICANS BRINGING IT UP NOW. THEY CANNOT TELL YOU THEY HAVE 26 VOTES FOR IT IN THE SENATE. THEY CANNOT TELL YOU THAT SPEAKER RANTS WILL DEBATE IT, AND THEY CANNOT TELL YOU THE GOVERNOR --

Yepsen: ACTUALLY, SENATOR --

Gronstal: THEY CANNOT TELL YOU THE GOVERNOR WILL SIGN IT.

Lamberti: ACTUALLY I CAN TELL YOU THAT --

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI, WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO ALL THAT?

Lamberti: WELL, I CAN TELL YOU THAT SPEAKER RANTS -- I SPOKE WITH HIM YESTERDAY AND INDICATED IF WE PASS IT THEY WILL TAKE IT UP. AND I KNOW EARLIER HE INDICATED HE DIDN'T HAVE AN INTEREST. HE'S RECONSIDERED THAT POSITION. I DON'T THINK IT'S DISINGENUOUS. YOU KNOW, WHAT HAPPENED SIX YEARS, EIGHT YEARS, FOUR YEARS, OR EVEN TWO YEARS AGO IS REALLY NOT RELEVANT. WHY IS IT WE'RE HAVING THIS DEBATE RIGHT NOW ABOUT SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVING OUR SEX OFFENDER LAWS? IT'S A RESULT OF THIS CASE THAT POINTED OUT THE FLAWS IN OUR LAW. THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT WITH THIS DEATH PENALTY. SO WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST IS REALLY IRRELEVANT. YOU KNOW, IF WE'RE REALLY FOCUSED ON IMPROVING OUR LAWS AND FIXING THE FLAWS IN OUR LAWS, WE'RE DOING IT AS A RESULT OF THIS CASE, NOT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED SIX OR EIGHT YEARS AGO, BECAUSE OF THIS CASE. AND THIS IS A GLARING FLAW IN OUR LAW.

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI, LEGISLATORS ARE NOTORIOUS FOR PASSING TOUGH LAWS AND THEN NOT PROVIDING THE MONEY TO ENFORCE THEM. I'VE SEEN ESTIMATES THAT GO AS HIGH AS $8 MILLION IN NET NEW MONEY THAT WILL BE REQUIRED TO FINANCE SOME OF THESE IDEAS THAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. IF THE LEGISLATURE PASSES TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR SEX OFFENDERS, WILL YOU PASS NET NEW MONEY TO ENFORCE THEM?

Lamberti: YES, IN THE SENATE WE WILL. WE'VE GOT ESTIMATES THAT RANGE FROM $4- TO $8 MILLION. SO WE'RE THINKING PROBABLY SOMEWHERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF $6 MILLION. WHATEVER OUR BUDGET AGREEMENT IS, IT WILL INCLUDE THOSE DOLLARS.

Yepsen: SENATOR GRONSTAL, DO YOU CONCUR WITH THAT?

Gronstal: THAT'S IN OUR NUMBERS AS WELL.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT'S FACING THE LEGISLATURE IS SOMETHING CALLED EARLY CHILDHOOD. SENATOR GRONSTAL, THE GOVERNOR HAS MADE A BIG DEAL OUT OF THIS. REPUBLICANS IN THE HOUSE HAVE BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT SOME OF THE COSTS. WHAT AT THE END OF THE DAY WILL THE LEGISLATURE DO TO ENHANCE EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS?

Gronstal: WELL, I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE'LL TAKE A SIGNIFICANT STEP IN THAT DIRECTION. YOU KNOW, THE BRAIN RESEARCH THAT'S BEEN DONE AND THE PERRY PRESCHOOL PROJECT, THERE'S A HOST OF STUDIES OUT THERE THAT MAKE IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT 90 PERCENT OF A KID'S INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY IS DETERMINED BEFORE THE AGE OF FIVE AND PROBABLY 80, 85 PERCENT OF IT BEFORE THE AGE OF THREE. WE'VE GOT TO DO A BETTER JOB OF MAKING SURE PARENTS ARE CHILDREN'S FIRST AND BEST TEACHERS. THAT'S -- IN MY MIND, THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT FIRST STEP TO TAKE. THEN WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERY KID HAS ACCESS TO A PRESCHOOL PROGRAM.

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO HELP PARENTS TAKE CARE OF THEIR KIDS? THERE'S A LOT OF CONCERN WHAT YOU'RE STARTING HERE IS SIMPLY STATE TAKEOVER OF ALL DAY CARE IN IOWA.

Lamberti: AND I THINK THAT'S A LEGITIMATE CONCERN. AND I THINK WHAT YOU'LL SEE IS WE WILL TAKE A STEP FORWARD. WE WILL PUT SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES INTO PRESCHOOL, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THAT'S OUR FEAR. AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO GO DOWN THE PATH OF SIMPLY ALLOWING PUBLIC PRESCHOOLS TO BE THE ONLY OPTION. WE'VE GOT GOOD PRIVATE PRESCHOOLS. AND THAT TIES INTO THIS ISSUE OF: LET'S FIND OUT WHO'S DOING IT RIGHT; WHAT DO WE WANT IN A PRESCHOOL. AND PRIVATE PROVIDERS ARE JUST AS CAPABLE OF PROVIDING THOSE SERVICES. WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE DO THAT. WE ALSO THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO EMPOWER PARENTS TO MAKE THE DECISION, AS OPPOSED TO GOVERNMENT MAKING THE DECISION. SO WE HAVE ARGUED THAT A COMPONENT OF THIS OUGHT TO BE AN INCREASE IN THE EXISTING TAX CREDIT AND EXPANSION TO COVER PRESCHOOL SO THAT PARENTS ARE THE ONES MAKING THE DECISIONS. YOU KNOW, WE OUGHT NOT BE MAKING THOSE DECISIONS FOR PARENTS. AND SIMPLY CREATING GOVERNMENT-RUN PRESCHOOLS TAKES AWAY A WHOLE HOST OF OPTIONS THAT PARENTS MAY WANT. AND I THINK WE NEED TO KEEP THOSE OPTIONS AVAILABLE.

Glover: SENATOR LAMBERTI, WE'VE GOT A LOT OF ISSUES AND A LITTLE TIME LEFT. ANOTHER EDUCATION ISSUE IS TEACHER PAY. IOWA RANKS NEAR DEAD LAST, NEAR THE BOTTOM AMONG THE STATES IN PAYING THEIR TEACHERS. WHAT WILL THIS LEGISLATURE DO TO CREATE THAT?

Lamberti: WELL, IN THE HOUSE PROPOSED BUDGET, THEY'VE INCREASED SPENDING IN THAT AREA BY $10 MILLION. MY GUESS IS WE WILL ADD ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO THAT. I'M NOT SURE WHAT THE FINAL NUMBER WILL BE, BUT WE WILL MAKE AN ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT IN TEACHER COMPENSATION.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL, IF IOWA RANKS 38TH IN THE NATION IN TEACHER PAY AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS SESSION, WHERE WILL IT RANK AT THE END?

Gronstal: I DON'T HAVE THE ANSWER TO THAT TODAY, BUT I WOULD SAY WE'VE GOT TO TAKE A PRETTY DRAMATIC STEP. IN ONE YEAR WE WENT FROM 34TH TO 38TH. AND IF YOU INCLUDE SUPPLEMENTAL CONTRACTS, IT'S MORE LIKE 42ND. THE GRADUATING CLASS OF TEACHERS THIS SPRING AT OUR TEACHER PREPARATION INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE, WHAT'S THE MESSAGE WE'RE SENDING TO THOSE KIDS: MOVE OUT OF IOWA, GO TO MINNESOTA, GO TO WISCONSIN, GO TO ILLINOIS. I DON'T WANT TO VISIT MY GRANDKIDS IN THOSE OTHER STATES. I THINK WE'VE GOT TO SAY TO THOSE KIDS: WE'RE NOW STARTING TO MOVE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ON TEACHER SALARIES, AND WE HAVE A GOAL OF GETTING TO THE NATIONAL AVERAGE.

Borg: SENATOR LAMBERTI, A QUICK QUESTION ON MEDICAID. AS I INTRODUCED, I SAID IT WAS INNOVATIVE AS BRINGING IN SEVERAL MILLION DOLLARS MORE OF FEDERAL FUNDS. BUT THERE'S SOME CONFUSION OVER DOES THAT EXPAND THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE SERVED UNDER MEDICAID, THEN, OR ARE THEY JUST SERVED DIFFERENTLY?

Lamberti: IT'S A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH. I MEAN THEY'RE GOING TO BE BROUGHT INTO THE STATE SYSTEM, BUT NOT UNDER THE OLD MEDICAID SYSTEM. WE'RE EXPANDING COVERAGE TO INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO WE'RE ALREADY COVERING THROUGH STATE MONEY, THROUGH THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, THROUGH COUNTY MONEY, PRIMARILY BROADLAWNS HOSPITAL. SO AT THE LOCAL LEVEL AND STATE LEVEL, WE ARE ALREADY COVERING THESE PEOPLE, PROVIDING CARE FOR THEM. WE ARE NOW GOING TO TRY TO LEVERAGE THOSE DOLLARS THAT WE'RE ALREADY SPENDING TO GET SOME FEDERAL ASSISTANCE ON THIS SO THAT WE CAN COVER THIS POPULATION BOTH THROUGH STATE, LOCAL, AND FEDERAL DOLLARS. AND AT THE SAME TIME, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS INDICATED THEY'RE GOING TO ALLOW US TO TRY SOME INNOVATIVE THINGS THAT IF THEY WORK, WE HOPE DOWN THE ROAD WE CAN THEN BRING INTO OUR CURRENT MEDICAID SYSTEM. EVERY STATE IN THE NATION IS BEING SQUEEZED BY MEDICAID GROWTH. IN IOWA, IT'S $60-, $70-, $100,000 MILLION A YEAR. AND WE HAVE ASKED THEM TO ALLOW US TO BE A LAB SO THAT WE CAN DO SOME EXPERIMENTS AND SEE IF THIS IS GOING TO WORK SO THAT WE CAN SAVE MONEY DOWN THE ROAD IN OUR MEDICAID SYSTEM.

Gronstal: WE ACTUALLY -- YOU KNOW, WE'VE BEEN ON THE SHORT END OF THE STICK ON MEDICARE AND MEDICAID FOR THE LAST THIRTY YEARS. WE'RE A SMALL STATE, DON'T HAVE A LOT OF POLITICAL CLOUT IN CONGRESS. AT THE MOMENT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM THIS MECHANISM CALLED IGTs, BIT IT'S BASICALLY WHERE WE TAKE FEDERAL DOLLARS, WE GIVE THEM TO -- WE MATCH STATE DOLLARS AND TAKE FEDERAL DOLLARS, AND WE TURN AROUND AND GET MORE FEDERAL DOLLARS WITH THE SAME FEDERAL DOLLARS. IT'S A GAME THAT THEY'RE GOING TO TRY AND TAKE AWAY FROM US. WE HAVE A MOMENT IN TIME WHERE THEY'RE DOING THAT ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND WE ACTUALLY, FOR ONCE, HAVE A LITTLE POWER IN THIS EQUATION. THEY'RE GOING TO GRANT US VERY BROAD WAIVERS, AND THEY'RE GOING TO PROVIDE US SOME RESOURCES WHEN WE USE HONEST STATE DOLLARS TO MATCH FEDERAL DOLLARS.

Yepsen: SENATOR GRONSTAL, WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME. I'VE JUST COUNTED OFF ABOUT SEVEN THINGS HERE THAT THE LEGISLATURE WILL SPEND MORE MONEY ON. YET YOU'VE GOT BOTH THE STATE TREASURER AND THE STATE AUDITOR SAYING THAT THIS IS GOING TO BE THE EIGHTH YEAR THE LEGISLATURE WILL SPEND MORE THAN IT COLLECTS IN REVENUES AND THAT THE STATE'S BOND RATING IS NOW IN JEOPARDY. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THAT?

Gronstal: AND THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT WE THINK THE REVENUE SIDE OF THIS EQUATION IS PART OF THE SOLUTION. ADDING NEW REVENUES TO THE STATE TREASURY, WE THINK THAT WILL KEEP MATTERS FROM GETTING WORSE IN TERMS OF BOND RATING. WE THINK THAT'S MORE RESPONSIBLE.

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI -- EXCUSE ME. WHAT'S THE REPUBLICAN VIEW?

Lamberti: WELL, LET'S LOOK WHERE WE'RE AT YEAR TO DATE RIGHT NOW COMPARED TO LAST YEAR. OUR REVENUES ARE UP ALMOST 6 PERCENT. I THINK IT'S HARD TO ARGUE THAT IT'S A REVENUE PROBLEM. OUR REVENUES ARE INCREASING. WE CONTINUE TO HAVE A SPENDING PROBLEM. THE HOUSE BUDGET THAT THEY HAVE PROPOSED INCREASES SPENDING BY ALMOST 5 PERCENT. CLEARLY, BY THE TIME WE GET DONE ON THE SENATE, IT'S GOING TO BE HIGHER THAN THAT. AND I HAVE REAL CONCERNS ABOUT CREATING A BUDGET SITUATION THAT'S NOT SUSTAINABLE INTO THE FUTURE. HISTORICALLY REVENUES GROW 3 TO 5 PERCENT. SO IF WE'RE GOING TO BE SPENDING AT 6, 7, 8 PERCENT, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS. WE NEED TO ADDRESS THAT.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL, IT WOULDN'T BE AN OFFICIAL "IOWA PRESS" SHOW IF WE DIDN'T TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POLITICS. AS WE'VE MENTIONED IN THIS SHOW, NEXT YEAR IS AN ELECTION YEAR. YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR AND HAVE SAID YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT IT. HOW IS THAT GOING TO WORK BEING A LEGISLATIVE LEADER AND A CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR?

Gronstal: IT'S GOING TO PROVIDE, CERTAINLY, SOME UNIQUE CHALLENGES FOR ME, BUT -- AND I'VE MADE IT CLEAR TO PEOPLE I'M NOT MAKING ANY DECISION ABOUT THAT UNTIL THIS SESSION IS OVER. AND THEN ONCE THIS SESSION IS OVER, I AM GOING TO TRAVEL. I'M GOING TO TRY AND RAISE SOME MONEY. I'M GOING TO ENGAGE IN AN EFFORT TO SEE IF THIS IS POSSIBLE. SO I'M GOING TO MAKE THAT DECISION SOMETIME THIS SUMMER AND DEAL WITH THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF MY -- OF MY JOB THAT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH AND FIND WAYS TO DEAL WITH THAT.

Glover: SHOULD YOU AT SOME POINT DURING THIS SUMMER DECIDE YOU WANT TO RUN FOR THE DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL NOMINATION, WILL YOU HAVE TO STEP DOWN AS FLOOR LEADER?

Gronstal: THAT WILL BE AN EVALUATION I'LL MAKE AT THAT TIME. AND SO I HAVE NOT DECIDED WHAT I WOULD DO IN THAT CIRCUMSTANCE, BUT THAT'S OBVIOUSLY -- THAT OBVIOUSLY WOULD BE A CONSIDERATION.

Yepsen: SENATOR LAMBERTI, WE'VE GOT ONE MINUTE LEFT. YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT RUNNING FOR CONGRESS. HOW DO YOU DO A RUN FOR CONGRESS AND STILL SERVE AS PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AT THE SAME TIME?

Lamberti: I WOULD AGREE WITH MIKE. AS WE GET APPROACHING NEXT SESSION, IF I'M IN THAT RACE, WHICH I'LL MAKE A FORMAL DECISION LATER THIS SUMMER, I'LL HAVE TO EVALUATE WHETHER OR NOT I CAN STAY AS PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OR IF I NEED TO STEP DOWN. IT'S A LITTLE EARLY TO BE WORRIED ABOUT MAKING THAT DECISION.

Glover: AND SENATOR GRONSTAL, HANDICAP THE NEXT ELECTION.

Gronstal: WELL, I THINK IF I GET IN, I'M GOING TO WIN.

Yepsen: IS IT A REPUBLICAN YEAR OR A DEMOCRATIC YEAR?

Gronstal: I THINK, YOU KNOW, ANYBODY WHO TRIES TO PREDICT THE OUTCOME OF ELECTIONS THIS FAR AWAY FROM THE ELECTIONS IS JUST DREAMING. I CAN MAKE A CASE IT'S GOING TO BE A PRETTY GOOD DEMOCRATIC YEAR. WE PICKED UP A LOT OF SEATS LAST FALL WITH OUR MESSAGE. WE FOCUSED ON JOBS, EDUCATION, AND HEALTH CARE. AND PART OF OUR MESSAGE WAS REPUBLICANS QUIT LISTENING. I THINK THEY'RE STILL NOT LISTENING.

Borg: AND I'LL SAY IT FOR YOU; IT'S GOING TO BE A REPUBLICAN YEAR, RIGHT?

Lamberti: I THINK SO. [ LAUGHTER ]

Borg: I HAVE TO ANSWER THAT BECAUSE WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANK YOU, BOTH OF YOU. WE'LL BE BACK NEXT WEEK WITH ANOTHER EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." SAME 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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