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My hopes for the 2014 legislative session

Happy start of session! The halls of the Iowa Capitol are abuzz once again and with this being an election year it's doubtful lawmakers will want to rock the boat too greatly. Here are some things I'd like to see get done under the dome.

Happy start of session! The halls of the Iowa Capitol are abuzz once again and with this being an election year it’s doubtful lawmakers will want to rock the boat too greatly. Here are some things I’d like to see get done under the dome.

1. Real discussion on medical marijuana

As long as Governor Branstad remains in office there’s no chance Iowans will be able to have access to cannabis for medicinal purposes. Yes, I support full legalization, but I’ll take the half step of medical if it means people like my wife who suffer from chronic pain or cancer patients can have access to effective medication that doesn’t a) cost an arm and a leg and b) have lists of side effects longer than my arm.

I’d celebrate if the Iowa Legislature debated this issue in an adult manner. My Republican State Representative and State Senator have both told me they support medical marijuana. It’s time to start talking.

2. Increased oversight on tax breaks for companies

I’m not alone in thinking this tax credit for big business stuff is getting out of control. It’s quickly becoming a race to the bottom.

I understand the argument that the jobs these companies bring will make up for the loss of tax revenue. I get it. These tax breaks shouldn’t go away, but there needs to be more than a quick “public comment period” that happens during a midweek daytime Iowa Department of Economic Development meeting.

Any proposed tax break over a certain dollar amount should have to be approved by, if not the full legislature, the Economic Growth committees.

3. Ethics reform

I may actually get this one! In the wake of Kent Sorenson’s pay-for-play scandle and the orgy of money and backroom deals that is Citizens United, the Iowa House and Senate need to make crystal clear what legislators can and can’t do with regards to presidential campaigns, super PACs and “social welfare” groups like Americans for Prosperity or Priorities for Iowa.

4. More legislators using video

Governor Branstad usually records an “Ask the Gov” video once a week during the session. Legislators should take a cue from him. Tyler Olson did a great job of this during the 2012 session. (I helped a bit.)

They don’t need to be anything flashy. Look in the camera, answer some questions and/or talk about what you did that week.

5. Fully funding the Iowa Food Bank

Close to one in three Iowans live paycheck to paycheck. They’re one bad bout of flu away from being in financial trouble. Governor Branstad vetoed a $500,000 appropriation for the Iowa Food Bank in 2012 and said the organization should rely on private donations.

I and several others couldn’t possibly disagree more. The Legislature should pass another appropriation and if Governor Branstad knows what’s good for him electorally he’ll sign it, though it’s sad that it takes an election year to give money to the needy.

Iowa Capitol photo by Jeremy Einsweiler (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).