Whether the recently concluded session of the Iowa Legislature was a success pretty much depends – as is the case in most years -- on who you talk to.
Remember, an election is on the horizon and that no doubt dictated a lot of what took place under the big dome in Des Moines.
For example, we favored looking at a gas tax increase because we’re tired of driving on crappy, pothole-filled roads – and wary of reports of unsafe bridges in some parts of the state -- and figure out-of-staters could help pay for the repairs if the gas tax were bumped a bit.
State Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, felt that way, too, but no matter how much pushing and shoving he did, election-year politics weren’t about to let a tax increase through.
"The difference between a statesman and a politician is a statesman thinks of the next generation and the politician thinks of the next election," he said.
It’s pretty clear that lawmakers fell into the politician ranks on that issue.
Another shortfall came in the area of providing broadband to rural communities. Proponents said the goal was to have allow school child to have access to broadband. Gee, what a novel idea. But the Legislature dropped the ball and now all those “complicated issues” some lawmakers referred to regarding the measure could go unresolved.
There was good work, too. As pointed out by our sister newspaper, the Quad-City Times, the Legislature ensured a tuition freeze a state universities – a logical idea if the state is serious about its goal of keeping young people home – and changed the tax law to exempt military retirement pay from income taxes.
But some politicos didn’t want to talk so much about what passed and what didn’t as they did the so-called secret settlements in which some ex-employees got paid hush money. Hopefully, a partisan effort will lead to a final conclusion of that issue but we’re betting that those same election-year politics will turn that thing even nastier than it is now. It seems like an issue that certainly will work against Gov. Terry Branstad.
However, we have a more pressing issue for the governor. Sometime soon, say before he rides in the North Iowa Band Festival Parade May 24, we hope he signs the bill allowing some epileptic patients the use of a cannabis-based, non-addictive oil.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said she wasn’t sure whether the governor would do so. For the sake of kids like Caleb Helland and Maggie Selmeski, and who knows how many other like them, we urge Branstad to act quickly.
Caleb, 9, and his family live in Mason City. His parents, Cassie and Justin, hope he can receive the cannabis oil and be taken off other medicines which have side effects such as liver and kidney damage.
Maggie, 2, and her family live in Colorado where marijuana is legal. Maggie’s mom, Rachael, has had Maggie on daily cannabis oil treatments for her intractable epilepsy since October. Last year, Selmeski said, her daughter could have up to 500 seizures in one day – one day! On Thursday, she told the Quad-City Times that since she started taking cannabis oil, the seizures have been reduced by 30 percent.
“Maggie’s got a little more spunk to her. She’s not that lifeless body anymore,” said Rachael, an Iowa native.
If those results can be repeated hundreds or thousands of times, the governor should make it possible. Everything else should take a back seat when relief is possible for those suffering so much.
Governor, sign the bill. And for the rest of the legislation – and the secret settlement situation – we’ll stay tuned to see how it all plays out.