A smaller, smarter Iowa government

Iowa government needs to be smaller, smarter and more service oriented.

In order to accomplish this, it needs to reform the way it does just about everything.

State government relies too much on press secretaries, communications directors, political staffs and middle managers.

If a department head cannot speak for him or her self, then he or she should not be a department head. Taxpayers should not be paying for the re-election campaigns of politicians. Let the politicians run for re-election on their own dime. Tax dollars should go to the people who work on the front lines like troopers, prison guards, and teachers; the people who do the actual work.

Every state worker should be cross trained. A general knowledge of the services offered by other state agencies would make each worker more productive. Workers would become citizen ambassadors; helping Iowans find their way through the state government maze. Cross training is used in business to create better customer service and greater efficiency. There is no reason it cannot work in state government.

Finally, Iowa needs a Sunset Law. Under such a law, an expiration date is placed on all new state programs. When the expiration date is reached a bipartisan citizens group meets to review whether the program is still needed. If the answer is no, the program is abolished. Twenty states have enacted similar laws.

A smaller, smarter and more service oriented government will markedly improve Iowa’s business climate and help create good jobs.


Vote could be sooner than 2012!

The media is incorrectly saying the earliest the Iowa Constitution could be amended is 2012.

It is true that it is difficult to amend the Iowa Constitution. However, the media has only been talking about one of the ways---where the question must be approved by two consecutive session of the General Assembly and then placed before the voters.

Those who wrote the Iowa Constitution put a second mechanism in place. It allows voters every 10 years at a general election to bypass the Legislature and call a meeting to propose amendments to the state’s core legal document.

The question will next be presented to Iowans in November 2010.

If Iowans vote for holding a convention, the Legislature is required in the next session to approve a law establishing a system to elect delegates to the gathering. Amendments proposed by the convention would go before the voters for their approval “at such a time as the general assembly shall provide,” says Article X of the Iowa Constitution.

If voters approve holding a convention in 2010, the proposed amendments theoretically could go on the ballot sooner than 2012.

In a previous post, I said voters should approve holding a Constitutional Convention. It is necessary to require the Legislature and Governor to abide by laws that they pass for everyone else---specifically Iowa’s open meeting law.

The recent news from Des Moines gives even more reason for voters to approve holding a convention. The people deserve a vote on two additional amendments:

1) Should marriage be defined as between a man and a woman? 2) Should tax increases require a two thirds vote of the Iowa Legislature?


Iowa needs a sunshine amendment!

How long would your family or business last with an attitude like this:

* The rules you set apply to everyone…but you.

* Your decisions are made in secret…so they can be sprung on others.

* And when things do not work out…you blame your colleagues.

Obviously, it would not be long before your family would fall apart or you would be put out of business.

Sadly, too often, this is how a six-billion dollar corporation known as Iowa government operates.

This lack of transparency and accountability is one of the causes of the current financial crisis. At both the state and federal level, lawmakers and others—all too often meeting in isolation behind closed doors--did not know how bad things were until it was too late.

In Iowa, we have a golden opportunity to do something about it.

Because the legislature and Governor have refused to deal squarely with the issue of openness, an amendment to the Iowa Constitution is necessary.

Those who wrote the Constitution put a mechanism in the document to do this. It’s the once-a-decade ability for voters at the general election to bypass the Legislature and call a meeting to propose amendments to the state’s core legal document.

The question of whether Iowa should hold a constitutional convention will be presented to Iowans in November 2010. We should vote for it.

The amendment I am proposing would simply say: “The Legislature and Governor shall operate in the open and any open meeting laws that the legislature imposes on other government entities shall also apply to the Legislature and Governor.”

This is similar to a constitutional amendment that was approved by Florida voters in 1992. Florida’s “government in the sunshine” law is now a model for the nation.
Requiring lawmakers to operate in the open and live under the laws they pass would restore accountability and public trust.

A classic example of why this is necessary came during the 2008 session with the so-called “Iowa sunshine law.”

The law would have set up additional regulations for all local governments---but specifically exempted the legislature and the Governor.

Three amendments were offered that would have required the legislature and Governor to abide by the same open meeting laws that were placed on local governments.

This was so troubling to legislative leaders that they killed the entire bill at the last minute rather than risk the possibility of being required to operate in the open…under the same law that applies to everyone else!

A constitutional convention “will scare the bejeebers out of the powerful and the elites,” noted columnist David Yepsen in the Des Moines Register. “But that’s why it’s there and is needed. They can control the Legislature with their big campaign contributions. They’re less likely to control a constitutional convention.”

If Iowans vote for holding a convention, the Legislature is required in the next session to approve a law establishing a system to elect delegates to the gathering. Amendments proposed by the convention would go before voters for their final approval.

Think what a difference this would make.

Secret meetings would be replaced with open debate. Back room deal making would be replaced with honest dialogue. Instead of meeting in closed door party caucuses to plot against each other on the taxpayer’s tab, Republicans and Democrats would do what they were elected to do. They would be required to work together to use their competing ideas to find the best solutions to problems.

National Sunshine Week is being celebrated March 15-21. It’s a time when governments are encouraged to operate in an open and transparent way.

It is a perfect time to join the fight for open, honest and accountable government. The best way to do that is by encouraging a “yes” vote in 2010 on the question of whether Iowa should hold a Constitutional Convention.


A new, revitalized Iowa Republican party

Iowa Republicans should focus on three key areas to begin winning elections again:

1) Lincoln’s words about a “house divided” are as true today as when they were spoken. Our party was born in the 1850’s out of a need to unify the country. Social conservatives and fiscal conservatives must come together. They really are after the same thing—they just have different approaches. Fiscal conservatives focus more on building strong communities. Social conservatives emphasize strong families. Iowa needs both.

2) We must reach out to fellow Republicans, Independents and Democrats. Fourteen percent of Iowa Republicans voted Democratic in 2008. We must welcome back disenfranchised Republicans—Tea Party People, Ron Paul Supporters and others. Then we must bring our message of optimism and opportunity to every working class neighborhood, every disaffected union household, every farmer, every business person, every friend and foe alike and invite them to join our cause!

As usual, Ronald Reagan had it right.

“I want the record to show that I do not view the new revitalized Republican Party as one based on a principle of exclusion,” Reagan said in a remarkable 1977 speech. “After all, you do not get to be a majority party by searching for groups you won’t associate with. If we truly believe in our principles, we should sit down and talk."

3) We must become the party of ideas, solutions and openness--not petty politics and negative campaigning. This is perhaps the most important point. When we approach things from that standpoint of coming up with conservative solutions to the problems facing Iowans—making Iowa the best in the world in key areas—people will vote for our candidates every time.