Guest Post By House Democratic Leader Mark Smith
It’s no surprise that obstruction is the new buzzword for Washington, D.C. With Justice Scalia’s death and our own Senator Charles Grassley in the center of the storm, I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this obstruction for the next year.
What might surprise Iowans is that the GOP obstruction gripping Washington right now also has a firm grasp here at our State Capitol in Des Moines, too.
For six years straight, Republicans who control the Iowa House have ignored state law and delayed funding for public schools.
Our law on public school funding is designed to make sure Iowa public schools are first in line by setting basic state funding 18 months in advance. The rest of the state budget is then put together by the Legislature during the next legislative session.
It gives school districts time to plan, use resources efficiently, and make sure every kid gets a world class education. The law has been on the books for over 20 years and was even signed in to law by Governor Branstad.
Right now, Republicans are two years behind. They are 377 days late setting funding for public schools for the upcoming school year and have again missed the deadline for the following school year.
Six years of GOP obstruction at the State Capitol means school leaders are again scrambling to figure out their budgets and will likely have to raise property taxes and class sizes.
While GOP obstruction in our public schools is the most egregious example, there are certainly others.
Republicans have refused to bring up a bi-partisan bill to stop bullying in our schools. It’s been approved by the Senate for many years and even has the backing of Branstad. But, House Republicans still won’t bring it up.
Obstruction has been the key to Republican success in privatizing the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care for seniors, kids, and Iowans with disabilities. After months of delays and unanswered questions, Republicans have blocked a Senate bill to stop privatization or even provide basic oversight to ensure no Iowan falls through the cracks.
Obstruction is also the strategy House Republicans have used on a host of other topics in the Legislature that would actually help working families get ahead.
Bills to raise the minimum wage have been stalled since 2011. Expanding preschool to more four year olds has been stuck for six years. A bill to make sure Iowans get paid for the work they’ve done while protecting honest businesses has passed the Senate three times, but has never been brought up in the House.
Despite strong public opposition, GOP obstruction even led to the closure of two mental health institutes in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda last year.
While obstruction may get the GOP what they want in the short-term, it’s a long-term disaster for Iowans who are fed up with gridlock and politics. I hear from Iowans every day who want us to work together and make progress, especially in our public schools.
The last thing they want is our State Capitol run like Washington, D.C.
The longer House Republicans travel down the path of obstruction, the further behind our schools and families fall.
Like most Iowans, I believe it’s time to chart a new path: progress.
by Mark Smith
Iowa House Democratic Leader