Lawmakers talk gas tax, gun control at forum

While transportation advocates argue that it’s ”Time for a Dime” as they push for an increase in Iowa’s gasoline tax, lawmakers who serve Webster County are questioning whether any action will be taken at all on that levy this year.

”To my knowledge, there is no bill out there at this juncture,” state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, said Saturday morning during an Eggs and Issues forum at Iowa Central Community College.

State Sen Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, said there is a bill in the Senate, but support from Republican lawmakers will be needed to move it.

State Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, made it clear during the forum that he will not support a gas tax increase.

”I am not voting to raise taxes on Iowans,” he said.

While the three disagree on the gas tax, they agree that Iowa will not join other states in implementing new gun control legislation.

”I don’t see any restrictions or expansions having a lot of traction,” Beall said.

He said he believes there will be an emphasis on improving mental health care as a way to help reduce gun violence.

”I am adamantly opposed, and I would fight with my very heart and soul against any type of gun registration,” Shaw said.

The three lawmakers also gave the roughly 45 people at the forum a summary of the bills they are working on.

Eggs and Issues is sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and the college.

Gas tax

Buck Boekelman, a Fort Dodge resident and longtime member of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association, introduced the motto Time for a Dime when he asked the lawmakers to support a proposed 10 cent increase in the tax on a gallon of gasoline. Like other members of the association, he calls the levy a user fee rather than a tax.

The state’s gasoline tax has been 22 cents per gallon since 1988.

Beall and Miller have generally been in favor of an increase.

Shaw has consistently opposed an increase. He said Saturday that he would rather use some of the state’s $600 million surplus to pay for road and bridge projects.

Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau told Shaw that the surplus money could all be spent on road and bridge work in the counties he represents. Shaw represents Calhoun, Humboldt and Pocahontas counties plus most of Webster County.

Bills they’re working on

Miller said she has introduced a bill that would require the state government to seek proposals from entities interested in operating a special facility for elderly sex offenders.

”I think it’s very, very clear that you cannot have dangerous individuals in the same facility with those who are just there for care,” she said.

Debate over what to do with Iowa’s oldest sex offenders began in last year’s legislative session in response to a 2011 incident at the Pomeroy Care Center in Pomeroy. In August of that year, William Cubbage, a sex offender who was then 83-years-old, allegedly raped a 95-year-old woman in that facility. He was then removed from the center and placed in a state prison.

Miller has also introduced a measure that would require doctors to inform women that the density of their breast tissue may affect mammogram results. She said cancer can be harder to detect in women with denser breast tissue. That bill, she said, has been approved by a subcommittee.

Beall is seeking to implement a pilot program that would teach schoolchildren Chinese or Spanish starting in pre-school and continuing through high school.

”If you’re buying something, you can speak any language you want,” he said. ”But if you’re selling something, like we in Iowa are trying to sell to the rest of the world, you need to speak the customer’s language.”

His legislation would spend $350,000 over three years for the voluntary program. He said 25 school districts would be eligible to apply to be part of the pilot program.

Shaw said he is working on a proposal to allow troops on active duty to cast absentee ballots via a secure online system.