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Guest opinion from the Iowa House

DES MOINES– On Monday morning, January 12th, I was sworn in as your State Representative for the next two years. I am deeply grateful to have this opportunity to serve, and I am humbled by the challenges currently facing Iowa and the new General Assembly. In this space, over the next two years, I will attempt to update you as to my activities as your State Representative, my legislative goals, and the week-to-week developments in the Iowa Legislature and State Government. I will typically be in Des Moines from Monday through Thursday evening, and at home in Lisbon Thursday evening through Monday morning. On Friday mornings, I will attempt to conduct “listening posts” at various breakfast spots in the District. On Saturdays, I will endeavor to take part in the various legislative forums held in Linn and Johnson Counties.
As many of you already know, I do have a family in Lisbon and a law practice in Cedar Rapids; the commencement of the legislative session, of course, does not mean I am not also a husband, father, and attorney. Achieving a balance between legislative service and my personal and professional lives will, I imagine, always be a work in progress. However, as your State Representative, you should always feel free to contact me either via e-mail, nate.willems@legis.state.ia.us or phone either in Lisbon (319) 455-3014 or Des Moines (515) 281-3221.
During the first week of the legislative session, we heard from both Governor Chet Culver and from Chief Justice Marcia Ternus. Governor Culver announced an ambitious program to issue $700 million in bonds to invest in rebuilding Iowa’s infrastructure. Chief Justice Ternus offered suggestions for fine tuning and finding cost savings in Iowa’s judicial system. It may take a few weeks to see some of these ideas turned into actual bills, but as a member of both the Ways and Means and Judiciary Committees, I expect to have the opportunity to closely evaluate broad strokes laid out by the Governor and Chief Justice.
In addition to Judiciary and Ways and Means, I have also been named to the Education, State Government, and Labor Committees; also, I will serve on the Justice System Appropriations Sub-Committee. On the Labor Committee I have been named the Vice Chair under Chairman Rick Olson of Des Moines. All of the standing committees met briefly during the first week, though few bills have yet to be assigned to three or five member sub-committees.
With the challenging financial situation in which we find ourselves, balancing our budget will be a very difficult and painful process. The vast majority of Iowa’s budget goes toward education, health care, and our justice system. Budget cuts are likely to directly impact our school districts, community colleges, children’s health insurance and health care for low-income Iowans. I believe all of these things are of vital importance to our community, therefore for me, I do find our budget situation to be truly painful.
Iowa’s tight budget, hopefully, should prompt legislators to look at new ways of administering services and other policy issues with little or no fiscal impact. I have already been contacted by numerous constituents with their ideas for changes both large and small to the Iowa Code, and encourage you to become part of the process by contacting myself and our State Senator, Bob Dvorsky.