Senator Amanda Ragan and Representative Sharon Steckman hosted a general legislative forum Saturday morning in Mason City. The event was open to the public.|Senator Amanda Ragan and Representative Sharon Steckman hosted a general legislative forum Saturday morning in Mason City. The event was held at the Mason City Public Library and was open to the public. About 40 people showed up, and the classroom was full.
Constituents were invited to share their concerns and suggestions on current issues before the Legislature. The legislators provided an update on the 2011 session and answered questions.
One topic discussed at length was Iowa’s preschool program, which serves about 21,000 4 year olds, according to Steckman’s comments. Republicans, who now control the Iowa House, have cut the program.
Another topic discussed at length was health care and health insurance concerns. One young man, Justin Anderson, asked Steckman and Ragan “Why are companies even allowed to offer crappy insurance plans that don’t do anything for people? We’ve got to do something about it, I guess that’s why we’re all here.” Another man in the audience said “I think a lot of us have the illusion we have good insurance.”
Andrea Goedderz, a member of a young persons group in North Iowa called North Iowa Connect, asked the legislators “What can be done to bring in young professionals to Iowa?” “Iowa is a low wage state, that’s a problem,” Steckman said. “And Generation Iowa was just cut,” she continued. Generation Iowa, with support from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, “researches, investigates, and explores possibilities and solutions ‘to retain, attract and engage the Next Generation of Iowans'”.
Steckman said overall, on the new legislative session, “I was hoping for more independent thinking on the votes. Every vote has been 60-40, 60-40. We have lots of divisive issues.”
On a positive note, Steckman told the audience that the Iowa economy is looking better. “We have had 14 months of positive trends in Iowa.” Currently, the Iowa budget is over $900 million in surplus, contrasted with many neighboring states that have huge deficits. “The Minnesota state budget has a deficit larger than our entire budget,” Steckman said.
View a short video of the public forum: