Greater Burlington Partnership Legislative Aide forum 12-1-23

Michele Beck (far left, aide Senator Joni Ernst), John Kaufmann (second from left, aide to Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks), and Penny Vacek (far right, aide to Senator Chuck Grassley) sat down for a legislative aide forum hosted by the Greater Burlington Partnership on Friday.

BURLINGTON 鈥 Federal legislative aides for Iowa senators Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, and Congresswoman Marianette Miller-Meeks took time to answer questions and discuss legislative priorities and their bosses鈥 work in Washington D.C. during a forum hosted by the Greater Burlington Partnership on Friday morning.

The panel included Michele Beck for Ernst, Penny Vacek for Grassley, and John Kaufmann for Miller-Meeks.

The forum began with each describing the top legislative priorities each aides鈥 office is currently working on.

Beck said Senator Ernst has been supporting small businesses, agriculture issues, and working with veterans.

Kaufmann said Congresswoman Miller-Meeks also counts support for veterans among her top priorities, as well as energy issues (particularly renewable energies and biofuels), and healthcare.

Vacek said Senator Grassley has been working to lower prescription drug costs and passing a farm bill.

When the topic turned to infrastructure, workforce efforts, and mental health issues, Vacek said there aren鈥檛 any current infrastructure plans in the works but clarified that this is due to existing legislation.

鈥淭here really currently isn鈥檛 anything just simply because of all the bi-partisan infrastructure legislation that was passed,鈥 Vacek said. 鈥淭here is just a lot of money from a different variety of programs that are constantly going to be coming back to the state.鈥

Vacek added that Grassley is also supporting legislation called the 鈥淧ELL Act,鈥 which aims to help address labor shortages by allowing students to apply for Pell Grants to short-term programs offered through community colleges.

Kaufmann said Miller-Meeks is hoping to get money to flow to southeast Iowa through appropriations bill funding next year.

鈥淪o, for example, that (bill) would be most relevant to the crowd here would be the Southeast Iowa Regional Airport Authority,鈥 he said. 鈥淭hey had submitted a project request and that made the final 15 that the congresswoman was able to submit to the Appropriations Committee.

鈥淗opefully, when they finally do get a new appropriation (bill) passed then I think that would be pretty beneficial to this area.鈥

Kaufmann also said Miller-Meeks wants to renew several sections of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

鈥淢any of those provisions are going to expire, and if they expire without any renewal or solution, that澳门开奖 going to have a major impact on businesses being able to actually hire and retain workers,鈥 Kaufmann said.

Addressing the mental healthcare question, Kaufmann noted that Miller-Meeks supported and helped pass the House澳门开奖 Telehealth Benefit Expansion for Workers Act this year.

鈥淭hat would give more coverage to individuals for telehealth services,鈥 he said. 鈥淚t would be a strong supplement in mental health treatment, especially for those in rural areas without direct access to mental health providers.鈥

When discussing services each office can provide to Iowans that many might not be aware of, Kaufmann said constituents can contact Miller-Meeks鈥 office to discuss any issues they might be having with the federal government.

鈥淥ur office has people on staff that are willing to reach out to the agency and see if the problem can鈥檛 be resolved,鈥 Kaufmann said. 鈥淚f (you鈥檙e) getting stonewalled by the VA or Immigration or Social Security or the IRS, please feel free to reach out to our office. We have a pretty good record of being able to resolve (these types of issues).鈥

Beck and Vacek added that their offices are also available to hear constituent concerns and are willing to work to help solve their issues.

When the discussion shifted to the topic of working across party lines to get things done, Vacek cited Grassley澳门开奖 reputation as one of the most bipartisan senators in Washington.

鈥淚f he were here today, he would say that you鈥檙e not going to get a bill passed out of committee or passed in the senate without bipartisan support,鈥 Vacek said. 鈥淗e澳门开奖 always worked across party lines to get legislation passed in the senate.鈥

Beck also touted Ernst澳门开奖 commitment to working across the aisle.

鈥淪enator Ernst feels exactly the same way and will work with anyone to get things done,鈥 Beck said. 鈥淭hat澳门开奖 why she澳门开奖 there and that澳门开奖 why we鈥檙e doing our job, considering how very few things can pass without 60 votes.鈥

And Kaufmann added that Miller-Meeks also shares the same philosophy and has worked on several bills this session and last session that were bipartisan.

鈥淧ractically speaking, we have a divided government,鈥 he said. 鈥淪o if you鈥檙e going to get anything done, you鈥檝e got to be able to work across the aisle.鈥

But sometimes the 鈥渨orking across the aisle鈥 is easier said than done.

When the moderator noted that the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant project cannot move forward until the federal government approves a budget, all three aides kept their answers simple and short

鈥淭he Senator wants nothing more than to have a Defense appropriations bill passed by Feb. 2nd,鈥 she said, adding that Grassley is 鈥渃autiously optimistic.鈥

鈥淲e鈥檇 like nothing more than that to happen in a timely manner,鈥 Beck said.

鈥(Miller-Meeks) expects that the Congress can get a longer-term solution passed so that way the Ammunition Plant could use their funding,鈥 Kaufmann said.

鈥淏ut as far as taking a guess, I will say that there澳门开奖 been a lot of things that have been surprising over the last few months, so if I give you some sort of a prognostication right now, it might not be true.鈥