Bipartisan victories

We especially liked the spin that our friend Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, put on adjournment of the Iowa Legislature on Friday: “The environment was the winner during the 2014 legislative session!”  That was the first paragraph of his letter to constituents interested in environmental issues. In the second paragraph, Beall acknowledged that he worked hand-in-hand with Rep. Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia, to conclude a landmark session for environmental funding.

It’s amazing what can happen when legislators work for clean water and air rather than for an ideology. Our gratitude goes out to Beall and Huseman for showing everyone how the job should be done.

The result?

For the first time in its 25-year history, Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program was fully funded at $25 million. REAP is the program that adds to the top line of natural resource programming. Funding is used for parks, fish and wildlife, and capital improvements that go beyond annual operating budgets. Finally, to fully fund the hallmark program of Iowa’s parks system is a major victory for a better quality of life for everyone. It will be difficult to cut in back in the future.

Our pet project, lake restoration, received a $9.6 million appropriation. Last year Gov. Terry Branstad tried to wipe it out. Storm Lake’s dredging would have been dead in the water if Branstad had his way. Huseman saved the governor from his big mistake, because all over the state people are trying to save lakes atrophying from sedimentation and other forms of pollution. It is a groundswell in Emmetsburg, Storm Lake, Clear Lake and the Iowa Great Lakes. And, Sen. Beall was tickled that Twin Lakes finally gets in the queue for a diagnostic feasibility study on how to clean that little jewel in Calhoun County. Beall has been lobbying for Twin Lakes for years.

Recreational trails received $6 million in funding . May we finally have a bike trail around Storm Lake now, please? Counties may apply for grants that would require them to pay only for 20% of a new trail’s cost. Maybe this is what Buena Vista County has been waiting for lo these many years. People everywhere else in Iowa — Carroll, Sac and Dickinson counties, notably — see the value of trails in quality of life initiatives. Someday we will catch up.

The Iowa Parks Foundation will receive $2 million.

The Water Trails and Low-Head Dam grant program doubled to $2 million.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved increasing the state sales tax by one-eighth of a percent to fund natural resources. The language was quirky, but Beall thinks the increase could pass the legislature next session.

This is what can be accomplished when people drop their charges and counter-charges, and keep their ideologies in check. Beall and Huseman are using proceeds from gambling to make big steps in improving and preserving our natural resources. They know it’s the right thing, and they know that their constituents value healthy lakes and accessible parks.

We appreciate their bipartisan good work.

Another example of effective bipartisanship involved funding for services at work activity centers like Genesis Development of Storm Lake. These sheltered workshops had been cut out of funding because work inside the center doing such things as sorting redeemable cans was considered inferior to working outside the workshop. Of course, nobody bothered checking with the clients who happen to love their jobs at Genesis.

Except for Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, and Sen. Joe Bolckom, D-Iowa City, who led an effort to include work activity centers among 20-some “core areas” of job funding that will qualify for mentally handicapped adults.

Bolckom and Segebart led a study committee that arrived at a unanimous conclusion that work activity centers are a valued part of Iowa culture.

Usually it takes something like creating a statue of green revolution icon Norman Borlaug to reach a unanimous vote, and that is a close call.

On this issue, nobody wanted to score political points on the backs of those who often lack political voice: the poor and disabled.

Because of their good, bipartisan work, no sheltered workshop will have to alter their operations. Genesis can remain in the bottle redemption business, if it wants to.