Democrats who control the debate agenda in the Iowa Legislature say they’ll use a portion of the reserve money the state has in a "rainy day" fund to help rebuild in areas of the state which were damaged by springtime storms. But Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says in uncertain economic times, it makes no sense to use all the $155 million available this year — as some of the cash may be needed next year for some other emergency.
"We do not believe we have the capability to mitigate every loss that occurred because of these disasters," Gronstal says. "We are going to focus on public infrastructure, helping small business owners and helping homeowners figure out how to move forward with their lives."
According to Gronstal, federal regulations have stymied state action in responding to the flooding. "It’s a frustrating challenge when we’re told by the federal government that if we choose to do certain things there will not be assistance forthcoming from the feds," Gronstal says. "…This is something we have to do in partnership with the federal government. We’re working very hard to do that. We do anticipate that early in the legislative session we will pass legislation to continue down a road of helping communities and families and businesses recover from these natural disasters and we’re going to continue to work on that."
Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran was at the statehouse this morning meeting with Governor Culver’s budget chief, talking about flood recovery for her city. House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says a priority for the upcoming legislative session is finding ways to help rebuild Cedar Rapids and areas of the state which were struck by flooding.
"We know that there’s a number of things that we will need to address," Murphy says. "We have been working with the governor and will continue to work with the governor closely and have meetings hopefully even before next Monday to continue to talk about what we’re going to try to do to in terms of addressing the needs of Iowans who have been affected by the flooding." The 2009 legislative session starts Monday morning.
In November, Murphy and Gronstal announced they’d appoint new legislative committees to examine disaster aid requests and devise a state response. Murphy and Gronstal, along with Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, held a news conference this morning at the statehouse to discuss a variety of issues. Click on the audio link below to listen to the news conference.