Iowa Public Television

 

Iowa Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti

posted on June 29, 2005

Borg: IT'S HAPPY NEW YEAR. IOWA'S FISCAL YEAR BEGINS JULY 1. THERE'S A NEW BUDGET, A NEW EXPERIMENTAL HEALTH CARE PROGRAM FOR THE NEEDY AND, ON SOME HIGHWAYS, A HIGHER SPEED LIMIT. ASSESSMENTS OF STATEHOUSE BUSINESS RETROSPECTIVELY AND PROSPECTIVELY FROM IOWA SENATE COPRESIDENT JEFF LAMBERTI 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, JUNE 24 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE STATE'S NEW BUDGET WAS THE CENTERPIECE OF DISCOURSE DURING THE 2005 LEGISLATIVE SESSION THAT TOOK AN EXTRA 21 DAYS PAST THE SCHEDULED ADJOURNMENT DATE TO GET AGREEMENT. PART OF THE STRUGGLE WAS GETTING ACCUSTOMED TO THAT SHARED POWER ARRANGEMENT IN THE IOWA SENATE; 25 DEMOCRATS, 25 REPUBLICANS TRYING TO COMPROMISE AMONG THEMSELVES AND THE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. ISSUES, OF COURSE, REMAIN AND THE TABLE IS NOW BEING SET FOR THE 2006 LEGISLATIVE SESSION. LAST WEEK AT THIS TIME, WE TALKED WITH THE SENATE'S DEMOCRATIC COLEADER, MIKE GRONSTAL OF COUNCIL BLUFFS. AND TODAY WE HAVE THE SENATE'S COPRESIDENT, JEFF LAMBERTI OF ANKENY. WELCOME BACK TO "IOWA PRESS."

Lamberti: GOOD TO BE HERE.

Borg: AND YOU KNOW THE GENTLEMEN ACROSS THE TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR LAMBERTI, YOU HAVE SAID YOU'RE CONSIDERING A RUN FOR CONGRESS IN CENTRAL IOWA'S CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. WHERE ARE YOU IN THAT DECISION MAKING PROCESS, AND WHAT'S YOUR TIMETABLE?

Lamberti: I'M ACTIVELY EXPLORING IT. AND WHAT I MEAN BY THAT IS I'VE FILED PAPERS WITH FEDERAL GOVERNMENT INDICATING THAT I AM EXPLORING IT. OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS SINCE WE GOT OUT OF SESSION, I'VE BEEN TRAVELING EXTENSIVELY ACROSS THE THIRD DISTRICT, RAISING MONEY, GAUGING THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT. I'VE BEEN VERY PLEASED WITH WHAT WE'VE SEEN AND HEARD SO FAR. AND I'LL MAKE MY FINAL DECISION LATER IN THE SUMMER, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER.

Glover: IT SOUNDS TO ME LIKE YOU'RE MORE LIKELY THAN NOT TO RUN.

Lamberti: AT THIS POINT, GIVEN THE RESPONSE THAT I'VE RECEIVED AND THE ABILITY TO RAISE MONEY, I'M VERY ENCOURAGED.

Yepsen: WELL, SENATOR, JUST A PRACTICAL POLITICAL QUESTION. YOU'D BE RUNNING AGAINST CONGRESSMAN LEONARD BOSWELL. IF YOU ARE THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE, THE REELECT RATE FOR INCUMBENTS IN THE UNITED STATES IS ABOVE 95 PERCENT. NOW, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT YOU CAN BEAT THE ODDS HERE AND GET ELECTED TO CONGRESS?

Lamberti: WELL, YOU KNOW, I'VE KIND OF GONE DOWN THAT PATH BEFORE. I RAN AGAINST AN INCUMBENT THE FIRST TIME I GOT ELECTED TO THE IOWA HOUSE, SO I KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE CHALLENGES. BUT I THINK MORE IMPORTANTLY THAN THAT IS WHAT I'M HEARING FROM THE PEOPLE OF THE THIRD DISTRICT IS THAT THEY ARE VERY TROUBLED BY INACTIVITY, BY OBSTRUCTIONISM. THEY RECOGNIZE THAT THAT IS NOT A POLICY TO SIMPLY BE AGAINST THINGS. THERE'S IMPORTANT ISSUES THAT WE NEED TO DEAL WITH AT A FEDERAL LEVEL, WHETHER IT'S SOCIAL SECURITY, WHETHER IT'S AN ENERGY POLICY WHICH IS VERY CRITICAL IN A STATE LIKE IOWA, TRADE FOR OUR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS AND MANUFACTURED GOODS, AND PUBLIC SECURITY, NATIONAL SECURITY. AND THOSE ARE ISSUES THAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING TO ME ABOUT, AND THEY DON'T BELIEVE THAT OBSTRUCTIONISM ON THOSE ISSUES IS A POLICY. SO THAT'S THE MESSAGE WE'RE GOING TO SEND, AND ALSO THE FACT THAT I HAVE A RECORD TO BACK IT UP. I'VE BEEN IN OFFICE GOING ON TWELVE YEARS, AND IT'S A RECORD OF ACCOMPLISHMENT. PEOPLE WANT THINGS DONE AND I'VE GOT THE RECORD TO DEMONSTRATE THAT I HAVE DONE THAT, AND NOW I CAN TAKE THAT TO WASHINGTON AND GET THINGS DONE FOR THE PEOPLE OF IOWA.

Borg: WELL, HERE'S A FOR INSTANCE. THERE'S A PROBLEM THERE RIGHT NOW IN THAT DISTRICT. IF YOU WERE TO BE ELECTED AS CONGRESSMAN, HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHINESE OFFER TO BUY MAYTAG, WHICH IS HEADQUARTERED IN NEWTON?

Lamberti: THAT IS A LITTLE BIT TROUBLING, AND I ACTUALLY WAS OVER IN NEWTON A COUPLE WEEKS AGO. AND ONE OF THE POINTS THAT I MADE TO THEM IS YOU NEED MORE THAN A CHEERLEADER. SIMPLY HAVING A PEP RALLY WITH THE WORKERS WILL NOT SAVE A JOB. NOW, I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN SAVING JOBS, RETAINING JOBS IN IOWA THROUGH OUR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS. WE HAVE TOOLS THAT WE CAN BRING TO BEAR TO HELP SAVE THOSE JOBS, WHETHER IT'S HELPING THEM RETOOL, WHETHER IT'S HELPING THEM WITH JOB TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE THAT PLANT MORE EFFICIENT. I AM TROUBLED ABOUT THE CHINESE OFFER. I WOULD MUCH PREFER THAT IT BE AN AMERICAN COMPANY. BUT REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME THERE, THE STATE OF IOWA DOES HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN TRYING TO PRESERVE THOSE JOBS, BUT IT REQUIRES YOU TO ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES AND GET DOWN TO WORK, NOT HOLD PEP RALLIES. GET TO WORK AND SAVE THOSE JOBS. AND WE'VE DONE IT BEFORE AND WE CAN DO IT AGAIN.

Glover: WILL THERE BE A REPUBLICAN PRIMARY?

Lamberti: AT THIS POINT I AM NOT AWARE OF ANYBODY ELSE WHO'S INTERESTED IN RUNNING. OF COURSE, UNTIL THE FILING DEADLINE, WE DON'T KNOW THAT FOR SURE.

Glover: AND WHAT ARE THE CHANCES -- ANOTHER ELECTORAL ISSUE FOR NEXT YEAR: WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT REPUBLICANS COULD REGAIN CONTROL OF THE SENATE, AND IS THAT A FACTOR IN YOUR MAKING A DECISION ABOUT RUNNING FOR CONGRESS? IS DOESN'T SOUND LIKE IT IS.

Lamberti: IT REALLY IS NOT A FACTOR IN MY DESIGN MAKING. AND WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO, IN ADDITION TO EXPLORING A RUN, IS TO HELP POSITION THE REPUBLICANS IN THE IOWA SENATE TO BE IN A POSITION TO REGAIN THE MAJORITY. AND, YES, WE BELIEVE THERE IS A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO DO THAT. WE HAVE TO RECRUIT GOOD CANDIDATES, WHICH WE'RE IN THE PROCESS OF DOING, AND WE HAVE TO SEND A MESSAGE THROUGHOUT THE STATE.

Glover: BUT YOU WOULD HAVE -- THAT WOULD BE A SECONDARY FACTOR IN YOUR ELECTORAL DECISIONS NEXT YEAR BECAUSE YOU'RE GOING TO BE OCCUPIED RUNNING FOR CONGRESS. YOU AREN'T GOING TO HAVE TIME TO BE RECRUITING CANDIDATES.

Lamberti: I CAN RECRUIT NOW AND I CAN ASSIST IN PUTTING TOGETHER THE TEAM THAT CAN IMPLEMENT OUR CAMPAIGN STRATEGY. CLEARLY, IF I MAKE THE DECISION LATER TO GET INTO THIS RACE, MY ROLE AT THE STATE LEVEL IS GOING TO BE DIMINISHED.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I WANT TO SWITCH GEARS. MOST OF THE LAWS THAT THE LEGISLATURE PASSED AND THE GOVERNOR SIGNED GO INTO EFFECT ON THE FIRST OF JULY. THAT'S COMING UP. WHAT -- HOW WILL ANYONE NOTICE? WHAT WILL THIS SESSION MEAN TO THE AVERAGE IOWAN?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK ACTUALLY SOME OF THEM HAVE ALREADY NOTICED IF YOU TRIED TO BUY COLD MEDICINE OR ALLERGY MEDICINE. THE METHAMPHETAMINE LEGISLATION THAT WE PUT IN PLACE IS ALREADY IMPACTING PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU NOW HAVE TO GO TO A PHARMACY. SO THEY WILL RECOGNIZE THAT. I THINK THE OTHER BIG THING THEY'LL RECOGNIZE IS THE SPEED LIMIT ON RURAL INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS WILL GO UP TO 70 MILES AN HOUR ON JULY 1, WHICH I THINK EVERYBODY WILL RECOGNIZE AS YOU DRIVE. I THINK WE'RE STARTING TO SEE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF WHAT WE'VE DONE IN THE PAST ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO SEE SOME OF THAT. I MEAN WE'RE SECOND IN THE NATION IN PERSONAL INCOME GROWTH, AND SOME OF THAT IS AS A RESULT OF OUR EFFORTS. WE'VE NOW COMMITTED TO A TEN-YEAR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM, $680 MILLION. I THINK THAT WILL HELP US CONTINUE THIS GROWTH. I WAS OVER IN NEWTON EARLIER THIS WEEK FOR THE GROUNDBREAKING ON A $70-MILLION SPEEDWAY. IF YOU DRIVE BY NEWTON ON THE INTERSTATE, YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THAT. WE HAD A BILL SIGNING LAST WEEK ON A DESTINATION PARK DOWN AT LAKE RATHBUN, WHICH IS GOING TO BE GREAT FOR SOUTHERN IOWA. IT'S GOING TO BE A MODEL FOR US TO BUILD OTHER DESTINATION PARKS THROUGHOUT THE STATE. SO I THINK YOU WILL SEE THAT. MY HOPE IS -- AND WE NEVER KNOW UNTIL WE SEE WHAT OTHER STATES DO -- THAT YOU'LL ALSO SEE A DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT ON WHERE THE STATE OF IOWA RANKS ON TEACHER PAY WITH THE ADDITIONAL $20 MILLION THAT WE PUT IN THIS YEAR FOR TEACHER COMPENSATION.

Glover: STEP BACK FOR JUST A SECOND. YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT SOME OF THE SPECIFICS THAT THIS LEGISLATURE ACHIEVED. STEP BACK FOR A SECOND AND IN A FEW YEARS WHEN PEOPLE LOOK BACK AT THIS SESSION, WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY'LL BE REMEMBERED FOR?

Lamberti: I THINK WHAT WE'LL BE REMEMBERED FOR IS STARTING WITH A VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION, A 25/25 SENATE, A 51/49 HOUSE, PROBABLY THE MOST DIVIDED LEGISLATURE IN THE HISTORY OF IOWA. THAT'S WHAT WE STARTED WITH IN JANUARY, AND I THINK WHAT WE'LL BE REMEMBERED FOR IS ACTUALLY BEING ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER ON AREAS OF COMMON AGREEMENT. EARLY IN THE SESSION I TOLD PEOPLE THAT I DID NOT THINK THE CLOSELY DIVIDED LEGISLATURE MEANT WE WOULD HAVE A LIMITED AGENDA, BUT A DIFFERENT AGENDA THAN IF ONE PARTY OR THE OTHER WAS IN CONTROL. SO WE FOCUSED ON THOSE AREAS OF COMMON AGREEMENT: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION, PUBLIC SAFETY. AND I THINK WE PASSED SOME PRETTY SIGNIFICANT PIECES OF LEGISLATION IN THOSE AREAS WHERE WE AGREED. SO GIVEN WHERE WE STARTED, I THINK THAT'S WHAT WE'LL BE REMEMBERED FOR. AS I LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENED IN OTHER STATES THAT HAVE DIVIDED CHAMBERS, I THINK WE'VE GOT TO RATE PRETTY HIGH IN TERMS OF HOW WE MANAGED THE PLACE AND WHAT WE GOT ACCOMPLISHED.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I WANT YOUR REACTION TO SOME NEWS THAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED -- AND YOU REFERENCED IT HERE -- THAT IOWA'S GROSS STATE PRODUCT, THE VALUE OF ALL THE GOODS AND SERVICES THAT WE PRODUCE IN THIS STATE, FOR THE FIRST TIME EXCEEDED $100 BILLION AND GREW AT ABOUT 8 PERCENT, WHICH IS FASTER THAN ANY OTHER STATE IN THE COUNTRY. YET AT THE SAME TIME, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SAYS OUR AVERAGE PER CAPITA SALARY PAID IN THIS STATE IS ABOUT $30,000, NATIONALLY IT'S ABOUT $33,000. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT REPORT AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, HOW SOON WILL IT BE BEFORE IOWA SALARIES ARE AT THE SAME -- ARE AT THE NATIONAL AVERAGE?

Lamberti: YOU KNOW, WHEN I SAW THAT REPORT AND THERE WERE THREE OR FOUR DIFFERENT COMPONENTS OF THAT, I REALLY SAW IT OVERALL AS VERY POSITIVE BECAUSE IT WASN'T JUST ABOUT THE GROWTH IN OUR OVERALL ECONOMY. IT WAS THAT SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT IN PERSONAL INCOME GROWTH, SECOND IN THE NATION. WE STILL RANK, I THINK, 31ST. BUT IF YOU CONTINUE THAT KIND OF GROWTH RATE WHERE YOU'RE SECOND OR THIRD OR FIRST IN THE NATION, OVER TIME YOU'RE GOING TO GET UP TO THAT NATIONAL AVERAGE. SO I THINK IT'S GOOD NEWS FOR IOWA AND WHAT'S GOING ON IN IOWA, AND WE JUST HAVE TO BUILD ON THE GOOD THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING.

Yepsen: ISN'T THAT REPORT EVIDENCE THAT CENTRIST POLITICS WORKS IN THIS STATE, THAT YOU HAVE HAD -- IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, WE HAVE HAD A COMBINATION OF TAX CUTS THAT YOU REPUBLICANS WANTED AND WE'VE HAD GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS AND AN EMPHASIS ON THE VALUES FUND AND EDUCATION THAT THE DEMOCRATS WANT AND, LO AND BEHOLD, IT SEEMS TO BE WORKING.

Lamberti: WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK IN LARGE PART THAT IS TRUE THAT THERE IS NO SINGLE MAGIC ANSWER TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. IT DOES HAVE TO BE BROAD BASED. IT CAN'T SIMPLY BE TAX CUTS. IT CAN'T SIMPLY BE THE GOVERNMENT HANDING OUT MONEY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. AND CLEARLY, IMPROVING YOUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IS VITAL TO THE LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY OF ECONOMIC GROWTH, SO IT IS A COMBINATION.

Glover: AND TO WHAT EXTENT CAN POLITICIANS TAKE CREDIT FOR THAT?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK SOMETIMES WE LIKE TO OVERSTATE OUR IMPORTANCE. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE SIZE OF OUR STATE ECONOMY, IT'S BIG. EVEN THOUGH WE'RE A RELATIVELY SMALL STATE, IT'S BIG IN COMPARISON TO THE $5-BILLION BUDGET THAT WE HAVE. WHAT THE STATE CAN DO IS CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT FOSTERS GROWTH, MORE SO THAN CLAIMING THAT WE WERE SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE WE INJECTED MONEY INTO THIS BIG ECONOMY.

Glover: AND NOT LONG AGO GOVERNOR VILSACK ANNOUNCED THAT HE IS GOING TO SIGN A PROCLAMATION ON JULY 4 THAT WOULD ALLOW FELONS TO AUTOMATICALLY GET THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE BACK. AS IT IS NOW, THEY HAVE TO PETITION TO GET THEIR RIGHT TO VOTE BACK. WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO THAT, AND WHY DO YOU THINK HE DID IT?

Lamberti: WELL, I'M TROUBLED BY IT AND I THINK WE FIRST NEED TO SAY WHERE DO WE HAVE AGREEMENT. AND I THINK WE HAVE AGREEMENT ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT SAYS IF YOU HAVE PAID YOUR DEBT TO SOCIETY, YOU SHOULD BE ELIGIBLE TO HAVE YOUR VOTING RIGHTS RESTORED. I AGREE WITH THE GOVERNOR ON THAT PRINCIPLE. IT'S IN THE DEFINITION OF WHAT YOU MEAN BY PAYING YOUR DEBT TO SOCIETY. UNDER THE CURRENT PROCEDURES THAT WE HAVE, YOU HAVE TO SERVE YOUR SENTENCE AND YOUR PAROLE OR PROBATION AND THEN YOU AT LEAST HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE A GOOD FAITH ATTEMPT AT PAYING BACK VICTIM RESTITUTION, FINES, COURT COSTS. THAT IS NO LONGER GOING TO BE A REQUIREMENT. THERE WON'T BE AN OPTION FOR SOMEBODY -- FOR THE PAROLE BOARD AND THE GOVERNOR TO LOOK AND SEE. AND I THINK MOST IOWANS BELIEVE THAT AT LEAST A COMMITMENT SHOWING GOOD FAITH TO PAY BACK YOUR FINES AND YOUR FEES AND PARTICULARLY YOUR VICTIM RESTITUTION IS WHAT WE MEAN BY PAYING BACK YOUR DEBT TO SOCIETY. SO I'M TROUBLED BY THAT. WHY HE DID IT -- I MEAN WE'VE GOT ALL KINDS OF SPECULATION THAT IT WAS FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES. I GUESS I'LL LET THE PEOPLE EVALUATE THAT. I AM CONCERNED THAT THE BEST I CAN TELL, LAST YEAR THE GOVERNOR REJECTED 105 INDIVIDUALS ON THE CURRENT LAW. BUT NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN A YEAR LATER, THOSE 105 ARE APPARENTLY ELIGIBLE TO GET THEIR VOTING RIGHTS BACK. I'M TROUBLED BY THAT.

Yepsen: BUT AS A PRACTICAL MATTER, SENATOR, IS IT NOT TRUE THE LEGISLATURE REALLY CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? I MEAN YOU READ THE STATE CONSTITUTION. THE AUTHORITY -- THE PARDON AUTHORITY CLEARLY RESTS WITH THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE. NOT MUCH THE LEGISLATURE CAN DO, IS IT?

Lamberti: WE HAVE ASKED SOME ATTORNEYS TO GIVE US GUIDANCE ON THAT. THAT MAY VERY WELL BE WHAT THE BOTTOM LINE IS, IS THAT WE DON'T HAVE AUTHORITY. IT IS INTERESTING BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS AND HOW THOSE TWO PLAY TOGETHER, THE CONSTITUTIONAL WITH THE STATUTORY, I DON'T KNOW YET. WE'RE ASKING THEM TO LOOK AT IT. BUT IT IS -- IT WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME IF WE DON'T HAVE ANY AUTHORITY.

Yepsen: IS THIS ONE OF THE DEALS WHERE THE LEGISLATURE SUES THE GOVERNOR?

Lamberti: WE WOULDN'T GO DOWN THAT PATH UNLESS WE FELT THAT WE WERE ON SOLID LEGAL FOOTING. I MEAN WE DON'T LIKE TO HAVE TO GO DOWN THE PATH OF GETTING INTO LEGAL BATTLES WITH THE GOVERNOR. WE'VE DONE IT BEFORE SUCCESSFULLY WHEN WE FELT THAT THERE WAS A VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OR OF THE SEPARATION OF POWERS.

Glover: WHEN YOU SAY YOU'RE HAVING LAWYERS LOOK INTO IT TO GIVE YOU ADVICE, YOU'RE HAVING LAWYERS LOOK INTO THE POTENTIAL OF FILING A LAWSUIT?

Lamberti: OR POTENTIAL FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION NEXT YEAR. SO THERE IS ACTUALLY TWO POTENTIAL REMEDIES HERE THAT IT COULD BE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST THE EXECUTIVE ORDER OR POTENTIAL LEGISLATIVE ACTION DOWN THE ROAD WHEN WE RECONVENE IN JANUARY.

Yepsen: WELL, SENATOR, I'VE NOT HEARD REPUBLICANS TALK ABOUT SUING THE GOVERNOR OVER THIS UNTIL JUST NOW. WHEN WOULD YOU HAVE TO FILE THAT LAWSUIT? WOULDN'T YOU HAVE TO SEEK AN INJUNCTION TO PREVENT HIM FROM DOING THIS ON JULY 4?

Lamberti: THAT IS ONE OF THE ISSUES BEING DISCUSSED IS, YOU KNOW, IT'S AWFUL HARD ONCE THE RIGHTS HAVE BEEN RESTORED TO TRY TO TAKE THEM AWAY. AND I WILL SAY IT'S NOT JUST THE LEGISLATURE WHO IS LOOKING AT A POTENTIAL LEGAL ACTION. THERE ARE OTHER GROUPS, BECAUSE I THINK MOST CITIZENS WILL HAVE STANDING ON THIS ISSUE IF THERE IS A LEGAL REMEDY. WE HAVEN'T MADE ANY KIND OF DECISION. WE ARE SIMPLY ASKING THEM TO GIVE US ADVICE AT THIS POINT.

Glover: WHAT GROUPS?

Lamberti: WELL, WITHOUT HAVING AUTHORITY FROM THEM TO DISCLOSE, I DO KNOW THAT THERE ARE OTHER GROUPS WHO ARE DISCUSSING IT WITH ATTORNEYS, BUT I REALLY -- I DON'T WANT TO DISCLOSE IT WITHOUT THEIR AUTHORITY.

Borg: YOU'RE AN ATTORNEY YOURSELF, AND JUST EMPLOY, THEN, THAT AND YOUR LEGISLATIVE EXPERIENCE. WHAT ARE THE PROBABILITIES THAT THAT MIGHT OCCUR?

Lamberti: WELL, WHAT I HAVE SEEN SO FAR, I TEND TO AGREE WITH DAVID THAT, BASED UPON THE CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY OF THE GOVERNOR WITH RESPECT TO PARDONS, THAT IT'S PROBABLY NOT LIKELY THAT A LEGAL CHALLENGE WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL. AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO PURSUE SOMETHING SIMPLY TO BE PURSUING IT. WE WOULD ONLY PURSUE IT IF WE HAD A REASONABLE LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS.

Borg: LOOKING AHEAD, YOU SAID A MOMENT AGO THAT THE 2005 SESSION WAS SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE "WE WORKED TOGETHER ON AREAS OF COMMON AGREEMENT" IS THE WAY YOU PUT IT. THAT MEANS THAT THOSE AREAS OF -- WHERE YOU COULDN'T REACH COMMON AGREEMENT GOT KICKED DOWN THE ROAD. NOW, WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR PROGRESS IN 2006 ON THOSE AND OTHER ISSUES, ESPECIALLY IN AN ELECTION YEAR?

Lamberti: WELL, IT IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT. AND THAT'S ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF A DIVIDED SENATE IS THERE ARE A LOT OF ISSUES THAT EITHER PARTY WOULD CHOOSE TO PURSUE THAT WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO BECAUSE OF THE DIVIDED SENATE. AT THE SAME TIME, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO PUSH FORWARD ON SOME ISSUES THAT REPUBLICANS FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT, IN PARTICULAR PROPERTY TAX REFORM. I THOUGHT WE HAD A GREAT OPPORTUNITY THIS YEAR TO ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING ON PROPERTY TAXES. WE DIDN'T GET IT DONE. IT'S GOING TO BE VERY HIGH ON OUR PRIORITY LIST. BUT AS I SAID BEFORE, A DIVIDED SENATE RESULTS IN A DIFFERENT AGENDA, A MORE NARROWLY DEFINED AGENDA, AND IT TAKES A LOT OF THE ISSUES OFF THE TABLE, WHICH IS WHY WE'RE GOING TO MAKE THE CASE WHEN WE GO ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ABOUT WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE ONE PARTY IN CHARGE OR THE OTHER SO THAT WE DON'T HAVE THIS LIMITED AGENDA.

Yepsen: SENATOR, IS GAY MARRIAGE -- A BAN ON GAY MARRIAGE ONE OF THOSE ISSUES THAT AUTOMATICALLY GOES OFF THE TABLE? I MEAN WE JUST HAD A SUPREME COURT RULING SAYING THAT LEGISLATORS DID NOT HAVE STANDING TO FILE SUITS IN A SIOUX CITY CASE. DO YOU THINK THE REPUBLICANS IN THE SENATE WILL BE PUSHING AGAIN NEXT YEAR FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL BAN ON GAY MARRIAGE, OR DOES THAT JUST GO BY THE BOARDS?

Lamberti: WELL, AS YOU KNOW, THE HOUSE DID PASS IT. THE SENATE TOOK IT UP A COUPLE YEARS AGO. THERE WILL CLEARLY BE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO PUSH FOR THAT. AGAIN, WHAT THIS MEANS IS ALLOWING THE PEOPLE OF IOWA TO VOTE ON THAT ISSUE, MUCH LIKE MANY OTHER STATES HAVE HAD THAT OPPORTUNITY. AND WE SEE THAT AS A VERY -- AS VERY MUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF THIS IS IN A DIVIDED SENATE, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ALLOWING THE PEOPLE OF IOWA TO VOTE ON THOSE KIND OF ISSUES. SO, YEAH, I THINK YOU WILL SEE US PUSH FOR ALLOWING THE PEOPLE OF IOWA TO VOTE ON THAT.

Glover: THIS YEAR DURING YOUR DEBATE OVER TOUGHENING THE STATE'S SEX ABUSE LAWS AFTER THE CEDAR RAPIDS KIDNAPPING AND MURDER, THERE UNEXPECTEDLY AROSE A DEBATE OVER THE DEATH SENTENCE. IS THAT THE DEATH PENALTY DEBATE FOR THIS LEGISLATIVE CYCLE, OR IS THAT CERTAIN TO COME BACK NEXT YEAR?

Lamberti: I THINK IT'S LIKELY TO COME BACK NEXT YEAR, BASED UPON WHAT WE SEE FROM THE PEOPLE OF IOWA. AND WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A VERY LIMITED DEATH PENALTY, IN CASES OF THE KIDNAPPING, SEXUAL MOLESTATION, AND MURDER OF A CHILD. VERY LIMITED IN SCOPE. VAST MAJORITY OF IOWANS SUPPORT THAT LEGISLATION. AND, YOU KNOW, I CERTAINLY UNDERSTAND MIKE GRONSTAL'S PERSONAL POSITION ON THE DEATH PENALTY. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT. I THINK IT'S WRONG FOR ONE INDIVIDUAL SENATOR TO BLOCK DEBATE ON SOMETHING THAT OVER 70 PERCENT OF IOWANS WANT US TO DEBATE. HE HAS THE SAME RIGHT THAT ALL 50 OF US HAVE AS IOWA SENATORS; HE CAN VOTE NO. BUT I DON'T BELIEVE IT'S APPROPRIATE TO BLOCK DEBATE ON THAT ISSUE.

Glover: BUT AS A PRACTICAL MATTER, HE IS THE DEMOCRATIC LEADER OF THE SENATE AND HE HAS THE ABILITY TO BLOCK LEGISLATION. NOW, PUT YOURSELF AHEAD. NEXT SPRING HE'S GOING TO BE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY, IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, WHERE THE DEATH PENALTY IS GOING TO BE AN ISSUE, AND SOME OF HIS OPPONENTS ARE PRO DEATH PENALTY. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET HIM TO GO ALONG WITH THAT DEBATE?

Lamberti: WE MAY NOT GET HIM TO GO ALONG WITH THAT DEBATE, BUT WHAT I WILL SAY BETWEEN NOW AND NEXT JANUARY, I THINK YOU'RE GOING TO SEE MANY DISCUSSIONS THROUGHOUT THE STATE OF PEOPLE TRYING TO GET MIKE GRONSTAL TO ALLOW THAT DEBATE, SOME OF THAT HOPEFULLY COMING FROM HIS OWN MEMBERS WHO SUPPORT IT, BECAUSE THERE'S BEEN DISCUSSION THAT THERE'S NOT ENOUGH VOTES IN THE SENATE TO PASS THIS. I HAVEN'T DONE A VOTE COUNT, BUT I WOULD BE INCLINED TO SAY RIGHT NOW THERE ARE SUFFICIENT VOTES IN THE IOWA SENATE TO PASS IT. SO I THINK THAT BUILDS SOME PRESSURE AS WELL BETWEEN NOW AND JANUARY.

Yepsen: WELL, SENATOR, TALK ABOUT THE MERITS OF THE DEATH PENALTY FOR A MOMENT HERE. THE CRITICS OF THAT APPROACH SAY IT COSTS TOO MUCH, IT'S ACTUALLY CHEAPER TO LOCK SOMEBODY UP FOR LIFE THAN IT IS TO EXECUTE THEM, THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THAT THIS REALLY IS A DETERRENT, AND IT'S UNCIVILIZING FOR A SOCIETY TO EXECUTE PEOPLE.

Lamberti: IF YOU TALK ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE LIMITED CAPACITY THAT WE'VE TALKED ABOUT, WHERE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THREE CLASS "A" FELONIES, WE BELIEVE THERE TRULY IS A DETERRENT EFFECT BECAUSE AN INDIVIDUAL WHO KIDNAPS AND RAPES A CHILD NOW HAS AN INCENTIVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH AND MURDER THAT CHILD. SO WE BELIEVE BY INSTITUTING A DEATH PENALTY IN THAT PARTICULAR CASE, THEY WILL HAVE A DISINCENTIVE FOR MURDERING THAT CHILD. THE COSTS -- I CAN SHOW YOU STUDIES THAT WILL SHOW THAT THE COSTS ARE NO GREATER THAN LIFE IN PRISON. THEY'RE ALL OVER THE BOARD. WE HAVE CASES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE EVEN PLED GUILTY AND STILL APPEAL ALL THE WAY TO THE SUPREME COURT, AND THE COST IS WAY IN EXCESS OF WHAT WE WOULD EXPECT IN OTHER CAPITAL CASES. SO, YOU KNOW, MY JOB IS TO PROTECT THE CITIZENS OF IOWA IN THE BEST WAY I CAN. AND WHILE I HAVE TO CONSIDER COST, I DON'T BELIEVE THAT THAT OUGHT TO BE MY TOP PRIORITY.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT I'VE HEARD FROM SOME PROSECUTORS THAT IT'S ACTUALLY -- IT MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT TO GET IT -- IT'S MORE DIFFICULT TO GET A JURY TO CONVICT SOMEBODY FOR THE DEATH PENALTY THAN TO GET A LIFE CONVICTION, THAT IF YOU WANT TO BE TOUGH ON CRIMINALS, IT'S EASIER FOR THE COUNTY ATTORNEY TO GO INTO COURT AND GET A LIFE SENTENCE AGAINST SOMEBODY THAN A DEATH PENALTY?

Lamberti: WELL, AND THE WAY THESE CASES ARE ACTUALLY HANDLED AND THE WAY THE PROPOSAL WAS IS THAT YOU ACTUALLY SEPARATE THE PENALTY PHASE FROM THE ACTUAL TRIAL, SO I DON'T THINK IT CREATES ANY MORE DIFFICULTY IN PROVING GUILT ON THE OFFENSES. IT MAY BE MORE DIFFICULT FOR A JURY TO THEN GO FORWARD AND RECOMMEND THE DEATH PENALTY, AS IT SHOULD BE. IT SHOULD BE A VERY SERIOUS DECISION, BUT I DON'T BELIEVE IT MAKES IT ANY MORE DIFFICULT TO GET THE CONVICTION, BECAUSE YOU SEPARATE THOSE TWO PHASES.

Glover: I'D LIKE YOU TO DEAL, EXCUSE ME, WITH ONE MORE ARGUMENT THAT YOU HEAR FROM DEATH PENALTY OPPONENTS. YOU SAID THAT HAVING THAT THIRD FELONY IN THERE GIVES PEOPLE A DISINCENTIVE TO GO AHEAD AND COMMIT THE MURDER. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO RAPE, KIDNAP, AND MURDER A CHILD ARE NOT THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO THINK ABOUT THE INCENTIVES AND DISINCENTIVES OF WHAT THEY'RE DOING.

Lamberti: WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK WE ACTUALLY HAVE SOME FACTUAL CASES THAT WILL PROVE THAT. AND THIS GOES BACK QUITE A FEW YEARS NOW. WE ACTUALLY HAD A CASE IN ILLINOIS WHERE AN INDIVIDUAL DID KIDNAP AND RAPE A CHILD, BROUGHT THE CHILD ACROSS THE BORDER TO IOWA TO COMMIT THE MURDER. THAT TELLS ME THAT INDIVIDUAL KNEW WHERE THEY WERE, WHAT THE LAWS WERE WHEN THEY COMMITTED THAT ACT. SO I THINK THERE'S ACTUALLY REAL CASES THAT DEMONSTRATE -- WE ALSO HAD A CASE IN TEXAS WITH PRISON ESCAPEES FROM IOWA WHO, THEY WERE MISTAKEN, BUT DID NOT KILL OR RAPE A GUARD OR KILL A GUARD BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED THEY WERE IN A STATE THAT THE DEATH PENALTY APPLIED. SO I THINK THEY DO TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, YOU'VE MENTIONED -- ON ANOTHER SUBJECT, YOU'VE MENTIONED TAX REFORM AS SOMETHING THAT'S POSSIBLE IN '06. WHAT ABOUT BUDGET REFORM? THE IOWA TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION LAST WEEK GAVE THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR PRETTY LOW MARKS FOR THE WAY YOU HANDLE THE STATE'S FINANCES. WILL AN '06 SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE DO SOMETHING TO CLEAN UP THE BOOKS?

Lamberti: I HOPE SO. I THINK WE NEED TO DO A COUPLE THINGS. I THINK WE NEED TO STRENGTHEN OUR CURRENT 99-PERCENT SPENDING LIMITATION LAW THAT ESSENTIALLY SAYS YOU CAN'T SPEND ANY MORE THAN 99 PERCENT OF YOUR BUDGET. OVER THE YEARS IT'S BECOME ERODED. IF WE'RE IN SPECIAL SESSION, IT NO LONGER APPLIES. THIS YEAR WE ACTUALLY IGNORED IT TO SPEND MORE MONEY TO RESOLVE OUR BUDGET DISAGREEMENTS. SO IF YOU'RE IGNORING IT OVER TIME, THEN IT'S REALLY NOT TOUGH ENOUGH. AND I THINK WE NEED TO TOUGHEN THAT UP BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT PROVIDES THE CUSHION, THE ENDING BALANCE FOR US AS WE LIMIT THE GROWTH OF SPENDING. I THINK WE DID START DOWN THE PATH OF REPAYING SOME MONEY TO THE SENIOR LIVING TRUST FUND. WE NEED TO CONTINUE AND MAKE THOSE COMMITMENTS. SO, YES, I'D LIKE TO SEE THOSE THINGS BE HIGH ON OUR PRIORITY LIST.

Yepsen: AND WILL THE LEGISLATURE SPEND LESS THAN IT TAKES IN IN REVENUE?

Lamberti: I HOPE SO. YES, WE HAVE TO. WE HAVE TO GET BACK TO --

Yepsen: YOU'VE NOT DONE IT FOR SEVERAL YEARS, SENATOR.

Lamberti: -- TO ABIDING BY OUR 99-PERCENT SPENDING LIMITATION LAW. WE HAVE TO.

Glover: AND YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT THE LEGISLATURE THIS YEAR PUT SOME EXTRA MONEY INTO INCREASING TEACHER PAY. THE LEGISLATURE THIS YEAR ALSO PUT SOME MONEY INTO STRENGTHENING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION PROGRAMS. THE LEGISLATURE ALSO INCREASED SOME SPENDING ON THE STATE'S BOARD OF REGENTS INSTITUTIONS. WHAT'S LEFT FOR NEXT YEAR WHEN YOU DEAL WITH EDUCATION, JUST MORE SPENDING?

Lamberti: I WOULD HOPE NOT BECAUSE I THINK SOME OF THE THINGS THAT THIS LIMITED AGENDA PREVENTED US FROM DOING WAS HAVING A BETTER DISCUSSION ABOUT -- THE MOST IMPORTANT THING RIGHT NOW IN EDUCATION IN IOWA I THINK IS HOW WE BETTER PREPARE OUR KIDS TO COMPETE IN A WORLD ECONOMY. WE DID SOME THINGS WHERE WE'RE ASKING SCHOOLS TO ADOPT TOUGHER CURRICULUMS. I'M NOT SURE ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS THAT'S GOING TO BE ENOUGH IN AND OF ITSELF. CERTAINLY WE HAVE TO PUT THE RESOURCES IN TO ATTRACT QUALITY TEACHERS, TO KEEP OUR QUALITY TEACHERS. BUT WE REALLY HAVE TO FOCUS MORE ON RESULTS.

Glover: AND AT WHAT POINT DOES THIS LEGISLATURE SAY: WE WANT OUR KIDS TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE IN AN INCREASINGLY COMPETITIVE GLOBAL ECONOMY; HERE ARE THE TYPES OF STANDARDS YOU'VE GOT TO MEET, SCHOOLS; AND IF YOU CAN'T MEET THEM, YOU'RE OUT OF EXISTENCE?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK WE'VE ACTUALLY GOT A COMMISSION THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE PUTTING IN PLACE, AND WE'RE STARTING TO APPOINT THE MEMBERS. AND THAT'S ONE OF THE QUESTIONS WE'RE GOING TO ASK THEM TO LOOK AT: DO WE NEED SPECIFIC GUIDELINES OR DO WE SIMPLY NEED REQUIREMENTS THAT SAY WE DON'T CARE HOW YOU MEET THESE REQUIREMENTS, BUT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SOME MINIMUMS FOR CORE REQUIREMENTS? YOU KNOW, THIS IS A STATE IN IOWA WHERE IT'S VERY HARD FOR THE STATE TO IMPOSE REQUIREMENTS ON LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS. WE BELIEVE IN ALLOWING LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO SET THEIR STANDARDS. WE JUST NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE UP TO A LEVEL THAT WE CAN COMPETE NATIONALLY AND WITH THE WORLD.

Yepsen: AND, SENATOR, WILL THE '06 SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE DEAL WITH ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS? YOU TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT CAN GET DONE. IT STRIKES ME THAT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES MAY BE FITTING IN THAT CENTER: AIR QUALITY, WATER QUALITY, LOCAL CONTROL OF HOG CONFINEMENTS, CLEANING UP RIVERS, BIKE TRAILS, RECREATION AREAS. WILL THE LEGISLATURE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE PROBLEMS?

Lamberti: I THINK WE HAVE VIRTUALLY EVERY YEAR THAT I'VE BEEN IN THE LEGISLATURE, AND WE'VE CONTINUED TO IMPROVE ON THAT. WE'VE PUT SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES INTO PARKS, INTO TRAILS, AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO. THIS YEAR ALONE ON WATER QUALITY, WE ADDED AN ADDITIONAL $5 MILLION ON TOP OF THE $35 MILLION THAT WE ALREADY SPEND ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS. AND I THINK, IMPORTANTLY, WE DID SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT. INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ONLY ON COST SHARE PROGRAMS WITH FARMERS TO DO BUFFER STRIPS AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, FOCUSING ON THE ENTIRE WATERSHED TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS WITH OUR LAKES AND STREAMS AND RIVERS IN A MORE COMPREHENSIVE WAY. WE'LL CONTINUE THOSE EFFORTS.

Glover: ONE OF THE THINGS THIS LEGISLATURE DID WAS THEY REVAMPED THE STATE'S MEDICAID PROGRAM, EVENTUALLY ADDING ABOUT 30,000 PEOPLE TO THE ROLLS. WE ONLY HAVE ABOUT THIRTY SECONDS LEFT, BUT HOW DO YOU ADD 30,000 PEOPLE TO THE ROLLS WITHOUT EVENTUALLY EXPLODING THE COST?

Lamberti: WELL, I THINK THAT'S THE CONCERN. THE WAY WE'VE DONE IT NOW, WE THINK WE HAVE THE ADEQUATE RESOURCES BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO LEVERAGE ADDITIONAL FEDERAL DOLLARS. WE HAVE TO FOLLOW THAT VERY CLOSELY TO MAKE SURE IT'S WORKING AND THAT COSTS ARE NOT GETTING OUT OF HAND. WE THINK WE STRUCTURED IT OKAY, BUT IT IS GOING TO REQUIRE US TO FOLLOW UP IN YEARS THAT COME.

Borg: AND HOW WILL YOU DO THAT?

Lamberti: WELL, WE'RE FIRST GOING TO MONITOR WHETHER OR NOT THAT THE PEOPLE WE'RE TRYING TO SERVE, THE ONES WE'RE ALREADY SERVING -- I MEAN THE STATE IS ALREADY PAYING FOR THESE FOLKS. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE STILL PROVIDING CARE FOR THEM. THE POTENTIAL IS TO ADD 30,000. THE POTENTIAL IS ALSO THAT 30,000 WILL FALL OFF GETTING SERVICES. WE NEED TO MONITOR THAT.

Borg: THANK YOU, SENATOR LAMBERTI.

Lamberti: THANK YOU.

Borg: AND THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH NEXT WEEKEND, REGULAR AIRTIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY; SUNDAY AT NOON. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. 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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