The 2006 Iowa Legislature convenes next Monday, January 9th, and its four-months-worth of work will be conducted in an election year. Leaders from both political parties publicly reject the idea partisanship and the tight battle between the parties to win a majority of seats in the House and Senate will influence the work of the General Assembly. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says he rejects “the conventional wisdow that because it’s an election year, that means nothing’s going to get done.” Rants says Republicans are working on several priorities issues “and for most of them, there is bipartisan support,” according to Rants. At the top of the list is an effort already discussed by Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack and legislators from both parties that would see the state try to help small businesses join together to buy health care insurance for workers to try to get cheaper premiums. Republicans hold 51 seats in the Iowa House. Democrats hold 48. In the Senate, there’s a tie with both parties holding 25 seats. Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says the 2006 session should look a lot like 2005. Gronstal says by focusing on areas of agreement, lawmakers were able to get things done last year. Gronstal acknowledges elections are often about disagreements, but he says Iowa legislators in the state capital can provide voters a “fresh” alternative to the kind of bitter partisan battles that are being played out in the nation’s capital. Gronstal says the bickering should be reserved for the campaign trail. “We’re going to try and push for the things that are important but we’re going to try and engage (Republicans) in bipartisan discussions and have a successful session,” Gronstal says. “And then (we’ll) spend the summer and fall telling people why we think they should elect Democrats and they can spend it telling people why they think people should elect Republicans.”Rants says the “to do” list of the 2006 session includes property tax reform, and tax reform is never easy. “Does the election make it harder? Potentially, but work still remains to be done,” Rants says.
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