Area constituents share concerns at first legislative coffee of 2024

Iowa Sen. Tom Shipley and Iowa Rep. Tom Moore paid a visit to the YMCA in Red Oak Feb. 3.
The stop was part of the first legislative coffee event of 2024, sponsored by the Red Oak Chamber and Industry Association.
After providing a legislative update from each chamber, Shipley and Moore opened up the meeting to audience questions.
Clint Rubey addressed the two legislators, mentioning that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was discussing reorganization of the AEAs and also had decided that state tax money could go to private schools. Rubey asked the two for their opinions.
Moore said that Reynolds had an agenda of things that she wanted and, he felt that the legislature over the last few years had emboldened Reynolds a bit.
“She believes she can roll anything out and it’s going to be rubber stamped, and that’s not the way the House thinks right now. I’m not going to speak for the Senate, but I guarantee that she was not happy that we have not approved the legislation,” Moore said. “I have told her I don’t work for you, I work for 31,000 people of southwest Iowa, and that’s the way it should be. We’re three separate branches. Each has their role; sometimes we get along, and sometimes we don’t.”
Shipley said he had also been approached about the proposed restructure of the AEAs, and had been confronted by a constituent that it had been passed by the Iowa Senate. Shipley said that was not the case.
“It was passed out of subcommittee with recommendations for amendments. If that happens, I’m going to be amazed. It’s sort of a procedural move, if you will. Sometimes amendments get added, and sometimes they don’t. The Senate majority leader makes specific mention that a lot of his rural collegues have serious reservations about this, me being one of them,” Sipley said. “People remind me, you don’t get any more rural than me. When it takes seven counties to come up with 62,000 people, it’s pretty rural.”
Shipley also said he didn’t understand the rationale behind the AEA restructure completely. but said there were some issues.
“I heard from a teacher that lives in an area that borders Red Oak, and she’s not particularly happy with the AEAs. I’ve heard some other comments of disapproval about the AEA, but not a lot,” commented Shipley. “I wish this thing would have been done altogether differently. I wish we had started the process involving superintendents and AEA administrators. There have been some mixed messages, and there are some things that do need to be fixed. There’s no question it needs to be fixed when it’s been around as long as it has without anyone really touching it.”
Larry Brandstetter addressed the legislators, citing that school districts had dates for their budgets to be done, and the stability of the AEAs is important to their budgeting process. Brandstetter asked if the situation would be settled before those dates came due. Moore said the situation had already been settled.
“What we do and when we do something, we’ll fall in line with what can be accomplished by school districts. We’re not going to roll something out, expect it to pass, and expect school districts to jump on board with it. School districts are negotiating salaries right now. We haven’t talked about state supplemental aid yet, and that’s supposed to be done in the first 30 days. This week, it will become a major part of our conversation. The AEA thing has consumed the building for four weeks, and that’s because of the way it was rolled out,” Moore advised. “We’re going to make sure that we partner with our school districts so they are able to accomplish this in a proper timeline.”
Shipley agreed, and said the timeline for the proposed AEA changes just wasn’t realistic.
“One of my collegues is a school superintendent from Northwest Iowa, and he’s on the education committee. The timeline just doesn’t work to make all the school districts decide what they want,” Shipley stated.
Red Oak superintendent Ron Lorenz voiced his concerns about state supplemental aid.
“The only proposal that I have seen, or am aware of, is one in the Senate that includes no number, but says that the number will be set during the legislative session. Am I to take that as a signal that it’s not going to get done in 30 days, and that the legislature is abdicating its responsibility to do it in a timely manner, and is saying we’ll get it done when we get it done, don’t worry?” asked Lorenz. “If that’s the case, the legislature has imposed additional deadlines on us, posting requirements, and things like that. I don’t know how to engage in collective bargaining, set budgets, and meet all the statutory requirements if we don’t get a number.”
Shipley said he did not sit on the education committee, but often shared his own ideas, and said the Senate usually did its best to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible.
Moore said the governor’s initial number for supplemental state aid was 2.5%, and Moore believed that was because the AEA bill was to include $96 million.
“I think she expected the AEA thing to be done by now, and then we’d deal with 2.5% SSA because you’re getting $96 million. I don’t agree with that. I haven’t agreed with that for the last three years. I’ve advocated for 5% and  I will again. I don’t know if that’s even enough with our inflation rates the way they are,” stated Moore.
Red Oak Public Library Director Kathi Most voiced her concerns about Senate Study Bill 3131 which was a bill to change how library control was structured.
Shipley said he had heard about the bill, and was planning this week to study the bill more and determine the motivation behind it, as it would remove library boards of directors.
Most said she had been a librarian for 40 years, and all of the ordinances and state codes already said if the town wanted that, they could simply hold an election and do so.
“I guess I’m trying to figure out why you would want to take away the freedom of the people saying how they want it structured and doing a state-level override that takes it all away when the community already has the power to change that themselves,” Most said. “I had someone come to me at the library months ago and let me know there was a storm coming. I thought they were talking mainly about banning books. I had no idea that they maybe knew this was coming, and were trying to let us know that the legislature may be going around an entire system that has always been designed to allow people in a free country would have the choice and say in.”
Shipley said he shared Most’s concerns and he resolved to get to the bottom of the proposed file. He also argued they were far from obsolete.
“I’ve been in a number of libraries over the past six months, and I’m here to tell you, what the libraries do is extraordinary,” Shipley said. “I sit on that committee and I will be very blunt with them and tell them don’t expect me to support going down this path.”
Most advised the library was heavily frequented by patrons, and she never felt the community of Red Oak would decide the city didn’t need a library.
The next legislative coffee is planned for 8 a.m. March 2 at the YMCA in Red Oak.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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