Pilot Guest Editorial

Thursday, April 4, 2002

Iowa priorities

At least one of Gov. Vilsack's Republican challengers for the governor's job is tearing into his lack of priorities, asking what single big thing has he accomplished? The same can be said of the Iowa Legislature.

Priority, defined by Webster's, is "Precedence, esp. established by order of urgency or importance." And yet the order of business for this session is shaping up the same as many sessions of recent years. The big things - urgent and important - are left for the end, when deadline pressure, fatigue and entrenchment shape lawmaking more than reason.

The two biggest issues now facing the state, with two weeks to go: education funding and livestock confinement regulation.

It was encouraging to read a week ago that the Republican plan for funding education, and Vilsack's plan unveiled a week earlier, sent an identical amount of money to public schools for basic aid - $59 million. You might think there was a ghost of a chance that the sides could agree.

But no, as soon as they could, the sides dug into the details and found plenty to argue about...

Here's a litany of our own. Stop bickering.

Vilsack says he's willing to work with lawmakers, but no discussions have started. It's about time they did.

As for livestock confinements, a bipartisan committee finally unveiled a proposal to tighten regulations. Predictably, those on either side of the issue complained that it smells funny. High on the list of objections is that the proposal was drafted in secret. Let alone our basic position that all public business ought to be conducted in public, the committee held its discussions out of the limelight to avoid partisanship - laudable at least on that count - but of course, some details were overlooked because not everyone was consulted. And now they feel burned.

The Farm Bureau weighed in heavily recently. And as it throws itself around in the Legislature, it's hard to characterize the organization as anything other than obstructionist. ...

But an encouraging note comes from Farm Bureau President Craig Lang, who was quoted as saying "We don't want to kill the bill. We want adequate time to discuss the issues."

If we take Lang at his word, and believe that "adequate time" means sometime within our life span, then the problem is laid back at the feet of legislators. More time is necessary. And time is what we don't have.

Next time, first things first.

- By the editors of the Ames Tribune