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Legislative forum

Rep. Terry Baxter and Sen. Dennis Guth provide an update on the Iowa Legislature Friday, March 8, in Britt during a legislative forum hosted by Hancock County Economic Corp.

BRITT | Transportation, voting reform and spoof calls were among concerns residents posed to Rep. Terry Baxter and Sen. Dennis Guth Friday, March 8, during a legislative forum in Britt.

Baxter’s district, House 8, covers Hancock and Wright counties and a portion of Kossuth County. Guth’s district, Senate 4, represents constituents in Hancock, Winnebago, Wright, Kossuth and Emmet counties. Both are Republicans.

Nearly 20 people, including city, school and business professionals, attended the forum at Britt City Hall, which was among three hosted by Hancock County Economic Development Corp. Friday.

Mason City students experience state legislative process firsthand (with photos)

Baxter and Guth opened the hour-long forum by sharing about their work in Des Moines and this session, which started in mid-January.

“This is my fifth year down in the Capitol, and this year feels different than the other four. It's a bit more bipartisan. There are a lot of things taking place, a lot of new freshmen that have come in that are really gifted as well,” Baxter said. “(It’s) been a good year down there, things are going extremely smoothly, so that's exciting.”

The forum capped the Iowa Legislature’s first funnel week — a deadline for House and Senate bills that have a chance to become laws.

A constituent who’s been involved in the West Hancock Ambulance Service, otherwise known as WHAS, for more than 40 years asked if there was anything proposed in the Legislature that’d improve the safety of U.S. Highway 18, a well-traveled road between Britt and Mason City with “absolutely horrendous” traffic.

Jill Kramer, Hancock County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said a group called Highway 18 Super Two Coalition was formed to encourage the Iowa Department of Transportation to make improvements to the road, like turning, acceleration or passing lanes.

“We are currently not on the five-year plan, but there’s a committee that goes and has been pleading our case,” she said. “It’s something that can’t be done overnight but we are trying.”

Baxter and Guth said highway construction and improvement projects aren’t determined by the Legislature, but rather, the DOT, which receives state and federal funding, but they both stated they’d like to see something done to Highway 18.

“It’s going to take a while because it’ll cost millions and millions of dollars,” Guth said.

Other constituents suggested the legislators along the corridor work together to make a pitch for improvements on Highway 18, but Guth and Baxter said that’s difficult because of “the politics involved,” more specifically the ratio of North Iowa legislators compared to Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

Bill Friedow asked the legislators about the enforcement of a spoofing bill that passed the Senate and died in the House in recent years.

He said he receives three or four spoof calls, a call that comes in showing a phone number that doesn’t belong to the caller, oftentimes a telemarketer using a local number.

Guth said the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is keeping track of reported spoofing occurrences.

“This is just one of those irritations of the modern era,” he said.

John Bowman, who’s a local elections poll worker, called on the legislators to support Iowa’s current legislation related to absentee voting.

“It seems to like if it’s in the mail, it should be counted,” he said, adding “If it has that barcode and that barcode’s legal, count the ballots.”

In February, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors sent letters to Gov. Kim Reynolds and its legislators, including Baxter and Guth, supporting the Iowa State Association of County Auditors’ Sure-Count Deadline proposal that requires all absentee ballots be received before the polls close on Election Day.

Hancock County Board approves letter to Reynolds, legislators about absentee ballots

Currently, Iowa Code requires election officials to count late ballots received before noon the Monday after the election as long as they are “clearly postmarked” before Election Day. Ballots without a federal mail system postmark are disqualified.

“The only thing I’m concerned about whatever you do make it standard everywhere, exactly the same for everybody,” Baxter said.

Other constituents asked questions about the judicial nominating committee, school vouchers, mental health care and rural programs that were discussed.

Photos: Washburn Outdoors in North Iowa

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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