Iowa Public Television

 

Senate Democratic Coleader Mike Gronstal

posted on March 14, 2006

Borg: A HOUSE DIVIDED... DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS SHARE CONTROL OF THE IOWA SENATE. IS IT PRODUCING GRIDLOCK OR COOPERATION? A CONVERSATION WITH SENATE DEMOCRATIC COLEADER 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, MARCH 10 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: IOWA LEGISLATORS ARE NOW PAST THE MIDWAY POINT OF THEIR SCHEDULED 100-DAY SESSION. ALTHOUGH MUCH PRELIMINARY COMMITTEE WORK HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED, IT'S PRETTY SAFE TO SAY THAT MORE THAN HALF OF THE 2006 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA IS STILL AWAITING FLOOR VOTES. AND ONE OF THE MOST CLOSELY WATCHED AND CONTENTIOUS SUBJECTS IS WHAT TO DO ABOUT TOUCH PLAY GAMBLING MACHINES. ON THURSDAY, SENATE REPUBLICAN COLEADER STEWART IVERSON SAID THERE'S BETTER THAN A 50-PERCENT CHANCE THE LEGISLATURE WILL BAN THE MACHINES. WELL, DEMOCRATIC COLEADER MIKE GRONSTAL THEN CALLED A NEWS CONFERENCE TO SAY THAT'S NOT LIKELY TO HAPPEN. SENATOR GRONSTAL, WE'LL BE INTERESTED IN YOUR LOGIC ON THAT. WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Gronstal: WELL, I'M NOT SURE I SAID IT'S NOT LIKELY TO HAPPEN. WHAT I SAID IS THAT -- I GUESS I'D PUT IT THIS WAY: I'M NOT TAKING BETS INSIDE OF THIS ISSUE.

Borg: WE'LL HAVE YOU EXPAND ON THAT AS YOU'RE QUESTIONED BY: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE REPORTER MIKE GRON -- OR MIKE GLOVER. [ LAUGHTER ]

Glover: THANKS, DEAN. SENATOR, LET'S GO TO TOUCH PLAY. IT SEEMS TO BE THE ISSUE WHICH HAS CONSUMED THIS LEGISLATURE. BOTH THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE NEXT WEEK WILL DEBATE WHAT TO DO ABOUT THESE TOUCH PLAY MACHINES. AS DEAN MENTIONED, SENATOR IVERSON HAS PREDICTED A BAN. YOU'VE BEEN AROUND THIS LEGISLATURE FOR QUITE A WHILE. WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN THE VOTES GO UP ON THE BOARD?

Gronstal: WELL, I APPRECIATE THE QUESTION. BUT I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU -- AND I'LL GET TO THE QUESTION. I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU WE'RE NOT CONSUMED BY THIS DEBATE. IT IS AN ISSUE THAT THE LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO DEAL WITH, BUT THE SENATE DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN CONSUMED BY THE ISSUE OF EDUCATION AND MAKING IOWA A WORLD LEADER --

Glover: AND WE'LL GET THERE.

Gronstal: -- IN RENEWABLE ENERGY.

Glover: WE'LL GET THERE.

Gronstal: WE'LL GET TO THOSE SUBJECTS. I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW I DON'T FEEL CONSUMED BY THIS ISSUE. AND I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU, IT IS A UNIQUE ISSUE. SOMEBODY ASKED ME AT MY PRESS CONFERENCE A WEEK AGO ABOUT THIS ISSUE. THEY ASKED ME WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, AND I SAID, 'I DON'T KNOW. AIN'T IT GRAND.' THIS IS REALLY A VERY INTERESTING ISSUE, AS GAMBLING ISSUES ALWAYS ARE IN THE LEGISLATURE. AND I WOULD NOT BE AT ALL SURPRISED TO SEE SOME TWISTS AND TURNS ALONG THE PATH TO A FINAL RESOLUTION. WHAT SENATOR IVERSON AND I DECIDED LAST THURSDAY WAS -- PARDON ME, LAST WEDNESDAY, WAS NOTHING WAS REALLY MOVING TOWARDS RESOLUTION. LOTS OF PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT IT AND THAT -- BUT THERE WAS NO KIND OF CONSENSUS COALESCING AROUND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THESE MACHINES, AND WE DECIDED IT'S TIME TO TAKE THIS ISSUE TO THE FLOOR AND, IN ESSENCE, FORCE MEMBERS TO MAKE SOME JUDGMENTS AND SOME DECISIONS ON THIS. SO ON MONDAY WE WILL DEBATE THIS ISSUE. WE'LL TAKE A LOOK AT IT. WE'LL SEE HOW SOME OF THOSE VOTES TURN OUT ON SOME AMENDMENTS. WE'VE ASKED PEOPLE TO PREPARE THEIR AMENDMENTS FOR MONDAY AND BE READY TO GET THOSE AMENDMENTS FILED QUICKLY AND START TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE. I'VE GOT TO BE HONEST: I CAN'T PREDICT THE OUTCOME OF THIS. SENATOR IVERSON SAID IT LEANS TOWARDS -- AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME IT LEANS TOWARDS A BANNING. I THINK THAT'S -- I THINK THAT'S TRUE. BUT I DON'T KNOW, IT'S A GREAT THING FOR YOU FOLKS, FOR THE PUBLIC AT LARGE TO WATCH A LEGISLATIVE BODY WHERE IT ISN'T GOING TO BE PASSED 50 TO NOTHING, WHERE WHATEVER IT IS WE DO IS GOING TO TAKE A WHILE ACTUALLY ON THE FLOOR TO LEGISLATE. AND THOSE ARE THINGS THAT ARE REALLY ENJOYABLE TO WATCH. IT'S A GREAT EDUCATION FOR FOLKS TO SEE THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS.

Glover: ARE YOU ACTUALLY GOING TO SETTLE THE ISSUE THIS WEEK? I MEAN THE HOUSE IS GOING TO TAKE THE ISSUE UP ON TUESDAY. YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE IT UP ON MONDAY. IT'S LIKELY YOU'LL PASS DIFFERING VERSIONS. WON'T THIS ISSUE, IN FACT, LINGER FOR THE REST OF THE SESSION?

Gronstal: IT MAY. IT MAY LINGER BUT IT ALSO -- THE CONSENSUS MAY BE CLEAR ENOUGH THAT, BARRING SOME NEGOTIATION, I MEAN IF THE VOTE IS PRETTY CLEAR CUT, THAT WE'RE GOING TO GET RID OF THESE MACHINES. IF THE -- AND I HAVE TO STRESS IF. IF THAT IS THE DECISION OF THE BODIES ON BOTH SIDES, THEN WE CAN PROBABLY REACH RESOLUTION RELATIVELY QUICKLY. ONCE WE MAKE THAT DECISION THESE MACHINES ARE GOING AWAY, THEN THERE'S A FEW DISCUSSIONS TO BE HAD ABOUT HOW QUICKLY TO DO IT AND WHAT WOULD BE FAIR IN TERMS OF A WINDOW OF LEAVING THE MACHINES IN ESTABLISHMENTS FOR A MONTH, FOR THREE MONTHS, FOR WHATEVER, SOME DISCUSSION ABOUT THAT. BUT WE CAN MOVE TO RESOLUTION IF THERE'S A PRETTY SOLID CONSENSUS BY THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE THAT WE ARE GETTING RID OF THEM.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE PROFITS THAT YOU'VE ALREADY MADE FROM THESE MACHINES AND THAT YOU MAY MAKE MORE OF -- MORE FROM? SHOULDN'T PART OF THIS DEBATE BE WHAT THE STATE DOES WITH THESE TAX REVENUES?

Gronstal: I THINK THE ISSUE OF HOW WE SPEND THE MONEY FROM THESE MACHINES WILL DEFINITELY BE DECIDED SEPARATELY. I THINK THERE ARE A HOST OF ISSUES THAT WE'RE ALL VERY MUCH INTERESTED IN WORKING ON THIS SESSION IN BOTH PARTIES. I THINK WE AGAIN ARE REALLY COMMITTED TO MAKING IOWA A LEADER IN RENEWABLE ENERGY AND IN EDUCATION. AND THAT'S WHERE OUR BUDGET PRIORITIES ARE GOING TO BE PUT THIS YEAR. SO WHEN WE SEE THESE MONEYS -- BUT THEN THE QUESTION IS ARE THESE ONE-TIME MONEYS BECAUSE THE MACHINES ARE GOING AWAY, OR ARE THEY ONGOING MONEYS IF THE MACHINES ARE STAYING AND HOW MANY MACHINES MAY BE STAYING. SO THAT MAKES A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT -- YOU CAN'T PUT ONE-TIME MONEYS INTO TEACHER SALARIES.

Yepsen: DOESN'T THE LEGISLATURE -- DON'T LAWMAKERS FEEL THAT THEY'VE GOT TO COME UP WITH SOME NEW MONEY? I MEAN THE CIGARETTE TAX SEEMS TO BE BOGGED DOWN IN THE HOUSE. NOT IT'S NOT CLEAR THAT IT'S DEAD YET. BUT IF YOU DON'T DO CIGARETTE TAX INCREASES, DON'T YOU HAVE TO GO TO SOME OTHER SOURCE OF REVENUES TO GET MORE MONEY TO DO ALL THE THINGS YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT?

Gronstal: I THINK THAT'S CLEARLY PART OF THE EQUATION THIS YEAR IS TO LOOK AT -- AND THAT'S WHY WHENEVER WE LOOK AT BEING FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE, YOU'VE GOT TO LOOK AT BOTH THE SPENDING SIDE AND THE REVENUE SIDE.

Yepsen: AND YOU TALK ABOUT ONE-TIME MONEY, SENATOR. I MEAN AREN'T GAMBLING REVENUES UNRELIABLE? AREN'T CIGARETTE TAX REVENUES FLAT OR GOING DOWN?

Gronstal: THE GAMBLING REVENUES ARE NOT PARTICULARLY UNRELIABLE. IF YOU LOOK AT OUR EXPERIENCE WITH DOLLARS IN THE REBUILD IOWA INFRASTRUCTURE FUND, IT'S ACTUALLY ONE OF THE MOST STABLE AND SLOWLY GROWING PIECES OF REVENUE IN OUR STATE BUDGET PICTURE.

Glover: AND WHAT'S THE POLITICS OF THIS WHOLE TOUCH PLAY DEBATE? IT STRIKES ME THAT THE REPUBLICANS HAVE A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN YOU DO. ON THE REPUBLIC SIDE, YOU'VE GOT THE CHRISTIAN --

Gronstal: I THINK THE REPUBLICANS HAVE A HOST OF BIGGER PROBLEMS.

Glover: ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, YOU'VE GOT THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY ON ONE SIDE OF THE ISSUE AND THE EVANGELICAL COMMUNITY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISSUE. WHAT ARE THE POLITICS OF THIS?

Gronstal: I THINK YOU ALSO HAVE SOME POWERFUL REPUBLICAN PLAYERS IN THE DEBATE ABOUT TOUCH PLAY, I MEAN BIG-TIME REPUBLICAN CONTRIBUTORS. I THINK THAT ADDS TO THEIR SCHIZOPHRENIA ON THIS ISSUE. SO -- BU I ALSO THINK -- I'VE TOLD ALL OF OUR MEMBERS, LOOK, THIS IS ONE OF THOSE ISSUES YOU'VE GOT TO GO OUT AND TALK TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS AND GET THEIR FEELINGS AND YOU'VE GOT TO TALK TO YOUR BUSINESS OWNERS AND YOU'VE GOT TO TALK TO YOUR EMPLOYEES AT YOUR CASINOS IF YOU'RE IN A COMMUNITY THAT'S GOT THAT AND YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE SOME TOUGH JUDGMENTS TO MAKE.

Yepsen: SO THERE REALLY ISN'T A DEMOCRATIC POINT OF VIEW ON THAT, SO TO SPEAK.

Gronstal: I DON'T THINK THERE'S A DEMOCRATIC OR A REPUBLICAN POINT.

Yepsen: I KNEW THAT.

Gronstal: YEAH, YEAH. WE HAVE -- WE HAVE TRADITIONALLY HAD A NUMBER OF DEMOCRATS THAT HAVE BEEN VERY NEGATIVE ON ANY FORM OF GAMBLING.

Glover: AND YOU COME FROM A COMMUNITY WHERE YOU REPRESENT CASINOS. WHERE ARE YOU COMING FROM ON THIS WHOLE THING?

Gronstal: I SEE MY ROLE AS ONE TO HELP -- THIS IS ONE WHERE KIND OF MY LEADERSHIP ROLE TAKES PRECEDENCE, AND MY LEADERSHIP ROLE IS TO PRESS MY MEMBERS TO REACH CONSENSUS. SO I'VE TRIED NOT TO PRESS THEM TO GO ONE DIRECTION OR THE OTHER. I'VE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED THEM TO GO OUT AND TALK TO -- THE VOTE WILL COME UP, YOU KNOW, AND I WILL MAKE A VOTE AT SOME POINT, AND I KNOW WHAT I -- AND I KNOW WHAT I FEEL. WELL, THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. BUT FOR THE MOMENT, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO LET EACH OF OUR INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS ASSESS THEIR OWN DISTRICTS, ASSESS THEIR FEELINGS ABOUT IT, AND MAKE A VERY INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT.

Glover: WELL, I'M CURIOUS, WHAT ARE YOU HEARING BACK HOME AND WHERE ARE YOU ON THIS ISSUE?

Gronstal: I'M HEARING BOTH FROM EMPLOYEES AT CASINOS AND FROM PEOPLE THAT OPERATE OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS, BARS AND GAS STATIONS THAT SEE THESE MACHINES. IN TERMS OF MY CONSTITUENCY, IT'S VERY MUCH CONFLICTED ON THIS ISSUE.

Borg: THERE'S AN OLD ADAGE: FOLLOW THE MONEY. AS YOU GET INTO SPECIAL INTERESTS THAT ARE INFLUENCING THIS DEBATE, WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM, IN YOUR JUDGMENT, THAT'S GOING INTO TOUCH PLAY? IS IT COMING OUT OF THAT WHAT WOULD NORMALLY GO TO CASINOS? IS IT COMING OUT OF THE GROCERY AND MOVIE MONEY? WHERE'S IT COMING FROM?

Gronstal: YOU KNOW, WE HAVE -- WE HAVE GATHERED A LOT OF INFORMATION. WE'VE BEEN GIVEN A LOT OF DATA ON THIS SUBJECT. AND THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS EXPERTS DISAGREE. SOME EXPERTS SUGGEST THAT TOUCH PLAY MACHINES ARE LIKE A GATEWAY OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME PEOPLE TO START PLAYING TOUCH PLAY MACHINES AND THEN THEY MAY MIGRATE TO CASINOS.

Borg: WHO'S GETTING HURT? THAT'S REALLY WHAT I'M ASKING.

Gronstal: I DON'T THINK WE'VE YET SEEN NUMBERS THAT SHOW THAT THE CASINOS ARE GETTING HURT IN A SIGNIFICANT WAY AT THIS POINT IN TIME. I THINK THERE'S PROBABLY A LITTLE MORE HURT FOR THE SMALLER CASINOS IN THE SMALLER COMMUNITIES THAT ARE SMALLER OPERATIONS. BUT I DON'T KNOW THAT THERE'S A DRAMATIC IMPACT IN COUNCIL BLUFFS. I DON'T KNOW THAT THERE'S A DRAMATIC IMPACT IN DES MOINES IN TERMS OF PRAIRIE MEADOWS. I DON'T THINK WE HAVE REALLY SEEN DRAMATIC IMPACTS THERE, BUT MAYBE MORE SO IN COMMUNITIES LIKE OSCEOLA.

Glover: JUST SO THIS SHOW ISN'T CONSUMED BY TOUCH PLAY, LET'S MOVE ON TO A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS. YOU SAY THAT THE LEGISLATURE HASN'T BEEN CONSUMED BY TOUCH PLAY, BUT YOU SEEM TO HAVE DELAYED ACTION ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES. THE LAW REQUIRES THAT YOU SET AN ALLOWABLE GROWTH FIGURE FOR STATE AID FOR LOCAL SCHOOLS IN THE FIRST THIRTY DAYS OF THE SESSION. WE'RE SIXTY DAYS INTO THIS SESSION, AND THAT HASN'T HAPPENED. WHAT'S GOING ON THERE AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Gronstal: LOOK, WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO FIGHT VERY HARD. WE THINK IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE THAT TEACHER SALARIES HAVE GONE FROM 36TH TO 41ST. WE THINK WE NEED --

Glover: MIKE, YOU'RE GIVING ME A COMMERCIAL NOW. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN.

Gronstal: AND THAT'S WHY WE'VE NOT REACHED A RESOLUTION ON THOSE ISSUES YET. I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU, THE REPUBLICANS IN THE LEGISLATURE ARE A LOT LIKE SOME OF THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS THEY CRITICIZE. THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S THE MINIMUM AMOUNT THEY CAN DO TO GET OUT OF THIS SESSION, THE ABSOLUTE BARE MINIMUM THAT THEY CAN DO THIS SESSION. THEY DON'T WANT TO GET EXTRA CREDITS IN HIGH SCHOOL. THEY DON'T WANT TO GET HIGH SCHOOL CREDITS. THEY WANT TO WASTE THEIR SENIOR YEAR.

Glover: FINE. THAT'S YOUR CAMPAIGN SPEECH.

Gronstal: NO, THAT'S NOT MY CAMPAIGN SPEECH. THAT'S WHAT I SENSE. THEY'RE DRAGGING THEIR FEET AT EVERY TURN ON INVESTING MORE.

Yepsen: AND THEY SAY YOU'RE DRAGGING YOUR FEET ON REFORM. THIS DEBATE IS BETWEEN DEMOCRATS THAT WANT TO INCREASE TEACHER PAY AND REPUBLICANS THAT WANT TO REFORM SCHOOLS. THE GOVERNOR IS KNOCKING HEADS. HE'S FOR BOTH. SO MY QUESTION TO YOU, SENATOR, IS WHAT SORT OF REFORMS TO EDUCATION IN IOWA ARE DEMOCRATS WILLING TO ACCEPT?

Gronstal: YOU KNOW, WE CREATED -- BACK IN 2001 WE CREATED A WHOLE NEW STRUCTURE WITH A CAREER LADDER FOR TEACHER COMPENSATION, A WHOLE NEW STRUCTURE IN THIS STATE. MANY IN THE TEACHERS UNION THOUGHT IT WAS A MISTAKE TO GO DOWN THAT PATH.

Yepsen: BUT THAT'S A PAY QUESTION, SENATOR. MY QUESTION IS --

Gronstal: NO, THAT'S NOT A PAY QUESTION. THAT IS THE REFORM. WE PASSED REFORM IN 2001 AND THEN WE NEVER FUNDED IT. THAT IS REFORM. IT'S REALLY ABOUT --

Yepsen: LET ME TRY IT THIS WAY.

Gronstal: IT'S REALLY ABOUT TEACHER PAY. WELL, THAT'S WHAT WE DID IN 2001, AND NOW THE REPUBLICANS ARE BACK ONE MORE TIME -- ONE MORE TIME SAYING, OH, NOW WE'RE GOING TO COME UP WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF -- A WHOLE NEW DIRECTION. WE DID IT. WE CREATED THE STRUCTURE AND THEY REFUSED TO FUND IT. NOW THEY WANT TO CREATE A WHOLE NEW STRUCTURE. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THEY DON'T WANT TO FUND TEACHER SALARIES.

Yepsen: LET ME TRY IT AGAIN. WHERE ARE DEMOCRATS ON THE ISSUE OF PERFORMANCE IN RETURN FOR HIGHER PAY, ON ISSUES OF THE LONGER SCHOOL CALENDAR, THE LONGER SCHOOL DAY, THESE OTHER REFORM RELATED ISSUES THAT REPUBLICANS HAVE BROUGHT TO THE TABLE IN THIS DEBATE? WHERE ARE YOU --

Gronstal: AND WE HAVE BEEN -- AND WE HAVE BEEN OPEN TO LOOKING AT THOSE IN ANY CONTEXT THEY WANT TO LOOK AT THEM. WE DON'T WANT TO DO THEM STUPIDLY. I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE THE SCHOOL LUNCH HOUR INTO NUTRITION EDUCATION AND A PAPER CHASE ABOUT HOW MANY HOURS A DAY STUDENTS ARE GETTING INSTRUCTION. I THINK THAT'S A WASTE OF TIME, AND I THINK THAT'S A PAPER CHASE.

Yepsen: SO YOU THINK A FIVE-AND-A-HALF-HOUR SCHOOL DAY IS FINE?

Gronstal: NO, NO, I'D LIKE TO SEE A LONGER SCHOOL DAY AND I THINK WE CAN DEAL WITH THOSE ISSUES AND WE ARE VERY OPEN TO DEALING WITH THOSE ISSUES. BUT IF IT'S MERELY A PAPER CHASE ABOUT WHAT YOU CALL RECESS, WHETHER YOU CALL RECESS PHYS ED OR CALL IT RECESS, I THINK -- I THINK WE GET INTO A PLACE WHERE WE'RE CHASING -- WHERE IT'S A PAPERWORK CHASE AND IT ISN'T REALLY MORE INSTRUCTION TIME IN CLASSROOMS, IT'S JUST MORE PAPERWORK FOR THE TEACHERS.

Glover: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT WANTING TO SOLVE THIS YEAR IS DOING SOMETHING TO SPEND MORE MONEY TO BOLSTER EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION... PRESCHOOL, PARENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS. WHERE WILL THE LEGISLATURE END UP ON THAT?

Gronstal: I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE'LL MOVE FORWARD SIGNIFICANTLY ON THAT. THOSE TWO ISSUES, THE TWO ISSUES OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION -- AND I'M GLAD YOU MENTIONED PARENT EDUCATION BECAUSE THAT'S REALLY WHAT THE RESEARCH OUT THERE SAYS; THE MOST IMPORTANT INVESTMENT IS IN THAT -- THAT BIRTH TO ONE AGE GROUP AND MAKING SURE PARENTS ARE CHILDREN'S FIRST AND BEST TEACHERS. WE'VE GOT THE EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION STUFF. WE NEED TO -- THAT'S A LONG-TERM PROBLEM. IT'S A -- AND IT'S A -- IT'S AN ISSUE ABOUT MAKING US A WORLD LEADER AGAIN IN EDUCATION. BUT THAT'S -- THE EMERGENT PROBLEM, IN OUR VIEW, IS THE ONE ABOUT TEACHER QUALITY. SO I'M HOPEFUL WE'LL DEAL WITH SOMETHING THAT OVER THE LONG TERM MOVES US SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ON EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION BUT IN THE SHORT TERM DRAMATICALLY AFFECTS TEACHER QUALITY.

Yepsen: SENATOR, DURING YOUR CAREER IN THE LEGISLATURE, YOU HAVE BEEN A GREAT CHAMPION OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES. I DON'T HEAR MUCH DISCUSSION IN THIS EDUCATION DEBATE ABOUT DOING SOMETHING ABOUT PROVIDING MORE MONEY FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND LOWER TUITIONS THERE. AM I MISSING SOMETHING?

Gronstal: I'M ACTUALLY GLAD YOU ASKED. WE HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER WITH THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOLKS OUT THERE. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE OFTEN SAY IS WE'RE GIVING THEM 4-PERCENT INCREASE IN THEIR DOLLARS. IN EVERY OTHER CASE, WE'RE GIVING PEOPLE 4 PERCENT OR BETTER IN TERMS OF THE DOLLARS ON A PER STUDENT BASIS. WE DON'T DO THAT ON COMMUNITY COLLEGES. THEY'RE GROWING AND NONE OF THE OTHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN IOWA ARE GROWING AT THAT LEVEL. SO WE'RE GOING TO COME UP WITH A REAL 4 PERCENT FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES.

Yepsen: AND WILL THIS DO ANYTHING TO LOWER THE TUITION --

Gronstal: ABSOLUTELY. THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE DONE. WE HAVE SHORTENED -- AS A MATTER OF FACT, DAVID, LAST YEAR A VERY MODEST $2-MILLION ADDITION TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE LED TO THE LOWEST TUITION INCREASES IN TWENTY YEARS, UNDER 3-PERCENT, IN MY DISTRICT, INCREASE IN COMMUNITY COLLEGE TUITIONS. WE DRAMATICALLY, LAST YEAR, SLOWED DOWN TUITION INCREASES, AND I'M HOPEFUL WE CAN DO THAT AGAIN THIS YEAR.

Yepsen: AND IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL COMING OUT OF THIS LEGISLATURE FOR THE STATE UNIVERSITIES?

Glover: THERE ARE A SERIES OF THINGS ON THE STATE UNIVERSITIES. WE CONTINUE TO BE COMMITTED TO THE -- TO THE WHOLE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS THAT THE REGENTS TALKED ABOUT WITH US. AND THERE ARE GOING TO BE INVESTMENTS THROUGH THE -- THROUGH THE BATTELLE RECOMMENDATIONS. THERE ARE GOING TO BE INVESTMENTS AT OUR REGENTS INSTITUTIONS.

Borg: BACK TO K-12. LINN AND JOHNSON COUNTIES -- IOWA CITY, CITY RAPIDS AREA -- ONLY TWO COUNTIES IN THE STATE THAT DON'T HAVE A LOCAL OPTION TAX FOR SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE. THERE IS SOME TALK IN THOSE COUNTIES PUSHING THE LEGISLATURE TO ENACT A STATEWIDE TAX, PENNY EXTRA, THAT THEY COULD SHARE IN. IS THAT GOING TO HAPPEN?

Gronstal: I'M NOT SURE IF THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. I THINK THERE WOULD BE SIGNIFICANT INTEREST IN OUR CAUCUS IN AT LEAST CONSIDERING THAT ISSUE. I MEAN THERE IS -- THERE'S ALSO A PROBLEM SOME OF THOSE COMMUNITIES ARE LOOKING AT A WAY TO RAISE THE CITY LOCAL OPTION TAX, GIVE A BUNCH OR MOST OF THE MONEY TO SCHOOLS AND AVOID THE SHARING MECHANISM PUT INTO LAW. I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU, I DON'T THINK THE LEGISLATURE WOULD LIKE THAT. I THINK THE LEGISLATURE WOULD FIND A WAY TO MAKE SURE THAT THAT DIDN'T END UP THAT WAY. IF THEY'RE GOING TO DO A SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE TAX, EVEN IF IT'S THROUGH AN INDIRECT WAY, THE LEGISLATURE WILL FIND A WAY TO MAKE THEM PARTICIPATE IN THE SHARING MECHANISM IN THE EXISTING LOANS.

Glover: COMING INTO THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION, ONE THING THAT EVERYONE SAID THEY WANTED TO ADDRESS WAS ETHANOL. THE FIGHT SEEMS TO BE BETWEEN THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO MANDATE THAT ALL GASOLINE SOLD IN THE STATE BE BLENDED WITH THE TRADITIONAL 10-PERCENT MIX OF ETHANOL AND THOSE WHO WANT TO PUT SOME MONEY INTO MAKING E85, 85 PERCENT ETHANOL MORE AVAILABLE. NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. WHERE IS THAT GOING TO END UP? WHICH SIDE WINS?

Gronstal: WELL, I THINK -- I THINK YOU'RE A LITTLE BIT WRONG ON THAT, MIKE. I THINK -- I THINK COMING INTO THIS SESSION, EVERYBODY AGREED THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME INFRASTRUCTURE MONEY AVAILABLE TO HELP STATIONS CONVERT TO E85. THERE NEEDS TO BE AN INCENTIVE FOR SALE OF A GALLON OF E85. BY THE WAY, IT'S NOT JUST ETHANOL, IT'S ALSO BIODIESEL. EVERYBODY AGREES THAT THERE OUGHT TO BE A FUEL QUALITY STANDARD, AND THAT'S -- THAT IS A MANDATE. AND THEN EVERYBODY -- EVERYBODY IS LOOKING AT HOW SOON WE REACHED THAT TARGET AND WHAT THE ENFORCEMENT MECHANISM IS IF WE DON'T REACH THAT TARGET. AND I ACTUALLY THINK WE'RE VERY CLOSE ON THIS ISSUE. WE'RE NOT THAT FAR APART. THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE, FOR INSTANCE, THAT SAY ONE OF THE PLANS IS TOO AGGRESSIVE AND WE CAN'T GET TO 10 PERCENT BY 2008 -- 10 PERCENT OF THE FUEL BEING ALCOHOL -- WE CAN'T GET THERE BY 2008. THERE ARE OTHERS WHO HAVE -- THAT HAVE A STANDARD THAT SAYS BY 2025 WE'LL BE TO 25 PERCENT, AND PEOPLE SAY THAT'S NOT AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH, WE OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO GET TO 25 PERCENT BEFORE 2025. THERE'S ROOM FOR NEGOTIATION THERE. I FEEL PRETTY GOOD THAT IN THE END THE STICKING POINT -- AND WE'LL DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS, AND WE'LL NEGOTIATE MAYBE A LITTLE ON THE FRONT END ON THE EARLY PART OF THE STANDARD AND DOWN ON THE -- ON THE TAIL END OF THE STANDARD. THE STICKING POINT, THE TOUGH POINT WILL BE THE ENFORCEMENT MECHANISM, HOW WE -- HOW WE REDUCE THE INCENTIVES FOR THOSE THAT HAVEN'T MET THE TARGET PERCENTS.

Glover: AND YOU'RE GOING TO PUT SOME MONEY INTO MAKING E85 MORE ACCESSIBLE?

Gronstal: ABSOLUTELY. ABSOLUTELY.

Glover: HOW MUCH?

Gronstal: I'M NOT GOING TO START BIDDING ON THAT RIGHT NOW, BUT WE'LL PUT A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MONEY IN THAT WILL -- THAT WILL MOVE THIS STATE TOWARD GETTING E85 AVAILABLE ESSENTIALLY IN EVERY COMMUNITY WE CAN.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE, SENATOR, THAT THE LEGISLATURE IS DEALING WITH ARE PROPERTY TAXES, PARTICULARLY THOSE PROPERTY TAXES PAID BY BUSINESSES. COMMERCIAL PROPERTY IS COMPLAINING THEY'RE SOME OF THE HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY AND IT'S HURTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. WHAT, IF ANYTHING, WILL THIS LEGISLATURE DO TO LOWER BUSINESS PROPERTY TAXES IN IOWA? Gronstal I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE CAN -- I'VE ALWAYS BELIEVED ON THIS ISSUE, YOU EITHER NEED A GRAND SOLUTION. AND FOR THE GRAND SOLUTION, YOU NEED THAT WHEN YOU'VE GOT -- YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'VE GOT A BILLION DOLLARS IN SPARE STATE CASH TO DEAL WITH THAT. SO YOU EITHER NEED A GRAND SOLUTION AT A TIME LIKE IN 1996 WHEN WE HAD $900 MILLION IN THE BANK. WELL, OBVIOUSLY THAT GRAND SOLUTION ISN'T AVAILABLE TO US THIS YEAR. SO WE NEED TO TAKE AT LEAST BITES AT THIS PROBLEM. ONE OF THOSE BITES -- ONE OF THOSE BITES WOULD BE TO FREEZE THE ROLLBACK. THAT WOULD BE A VERY SMALL BITE, BUT AT LEAST THAT WOULD SAY THE SHIFT TO COMMERCIAL IS NOT GOING TO GET ANY GREATER. ANOTHER BITE WOULD BE TO SAY -- YOU KNOW, THE MOST EGREGIOUS EXAMPLE OF THIS IS WITH APARTMENTS. PEOPLE IN CONDOS, THEY GET THE ROLLBACK. PEOPLE IN APARTMENTS, THEY DON'T GET THE ROLLBACK. THOSE MORE WELL TO DO THAT CAN AFFORD TO BUY A CONDO, THEY ONLY PAY ON HALF THE VALUE. THOSE LESS WELL TO DO THAT CAN'T AFFORD TO BUY A CONDO SO THEY'RE RENTING AN APARTMENT, THEY PAY THE FULL FREIGHT.

Yepsen: SO WILL THE LEGISLATURE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE TWO THINGS?

Gronstal: I'M HOPEFUL THOSE TWO ISSUES THAT WE MENTIONED ARE ONES THAT ARE POSSIBLE THIS SESSION.

Glover: ALSO AWAITING DEBATE IN THE SENATE -- IT'S ALREADY PASSED THE HOUSE -- IS A BILL THAT WOULD PUT NEW LIMITS ON THE ABILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO TAKE LOCAL PROPERTY THROUGH THE USE OF THEIR POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN. WILL THAT COME UP IN THE SENATE?

Gronstal: ABSOLUTELY THAT WILL COME UP, YOU KNOW. AND I'M ACTUALLY A LITTLE BIT ANNOYED WITH THE REPUBLICANS FOR SUGGESTING WE'RE KILLING THAT. I'M THE ONLY ONE THAT IN MY OPENING DAY SPEECH SAID WE'RE GOING TO PASS LIMITATIONS ON EMINENT DOMAIN. NOT ONE OF THE REST OF THEM DID. THE HOUSE BILL DOES HAVE PROBLEMS. THIS BILL WAS ABOUT THE KELO DECISION THAT WAS ABOUT TAKING PRIVATE PROPERTY FROM ONE PRIVATE ENTITY TO GIVE TO ANOTHER PRIVATE ENTITY. THERE ARE A WHOLE HOST OF THINGS IN THE HOUSE BILL WHERE IT GETS INTO THE TAKING OF PRIVATE PROPERTY FOR A PUBLIC PURPOSE LIKE A HIGHWAY. DRAMATIC INCREASE IN COST TO OUR D.O.T. UNDER THE HOUSE-PASSED VERSION, AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO LET PEOPLE -- WE AGREED WE'RE GOING TO DEAL WITH KELO AND PRIVATE TO PRIVATE --

Borg: FINAL QUESTION, DAVE,

Yepsen: WE'VE GOT THIRTY SECONDS LEFT. THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR. YOU'RE FOR MIKE BLOUIN IN YOUR PARTY'S PRIMARY. WHO IS THE FRONT-RUNNER IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY?

Gronstal: OH, I'D SAY CHET CULVER IS THE PROBABLY THE FRONT-RUNNER AT THIS POINT.

Yepsen: WHY DO YOU SAY THAT?

Gronstal: BECAUSE I THINK HE STARTED ABOUT FOUR YEARS EARLIER THAN MICHAEL BLOUIN DID. MICHAEL BLOUIN STARTED LAST JULY. I'M VERY EXCITED ABOUT THE DIRECTION THE BLOUIN CAMPAIGN IS GOING. THEY'RE CATCHING UP. THEY'RE DOING WELL. THEY ACTUALLY OUTRAISED CULVER IN THE MOST RECENT SIX MONTHS, SO I'M PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT THAT.

Borg: WE'LL LET YOU EXPOUND FURTHER ON THAT NEXT TIME WE HAVE YOU BACK. THANKS FOR BEING HERE TODAY. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' WE'LL GET REPUBLICAN PERSPECTIVE FROM THE IOWA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. WE'LL BE QUESTIONING HOUSE SPEAKER CHRISTOPHER RANTS OF SIOUX CITY. PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR AIRTIME AGAIN NEXT FRIDAY IS 6:30 IN THE EVENING, AN HOUR EARLIER THAN USUAL, AND ALSO THAT 'IOWA PRESS' NEXT WEEK AIRS ONLY ON FRIDAY, MARCH 17. BECAUSE OF OUR SPECIAL FESTIVAL PROGRAMMING, NO SUNDAY REBROADCAST OF 'IOWA PRESS.' I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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Tags: Congress Democrats Iowa