Local legislators ready to get back to work

A preview of the 2022 session

State Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center) and state Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour).

The last few sessions of the Iowa Legislature have ushered in a slew of changes to state law, and Marshall County’s delegation — Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) and Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center) — are excited to keep up their work heading into 2022. In recent interviews, they shared their goals for the upcoming session, which began Monday, Jan. 10, and some general long-term priorities.

Fisher, who hails from southwestern Tama County, will represent portions of Marshall County and the northeast corner of Tama County for one last time in 2022 before redistricting shifts him into a new district after the next election.

Tax relief is a key priority for Fisher heading into the upcoming session, but he isn’t convinced that immediately eliminating the state income tax is the right move.

“I just don’t think it’s feasible at this point,” Fisher said. “(Do it) incrementally, and be cautious. There’s still some volatility in the economy and how things turn out. That’s going to be a big issue this session, I’m sure.”

As the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing mandate for employers with at least 100 workers is still tied up in court battles, Fisher said the House GOP is closely monitoring the situation and hopes to introduce more legislation protecting employees who could potentially lose their jobs over the mandate.

Overall, Fisher has been pleased with the state’s response to COVID, but he had harsh words for the federal government on the matter.

“There’s probably things the government can and should be doing. I’m just not convinced that the federal government is doing the right stuff,” he said. “I feel confident that Iowa is responding as best we can and doing it well. It’s the federal government that’s mucking it all up. I think the federal government needs to stand down with the mandates and let common sense and freedom rule.”

On education, Fisher said he’s “very frustrated” with public schools for believing it’s their job to teach students about LGBTQ issues, and he would rather kids learn about them in their homes.

“The schools need to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic — the basics that taxpayers believe they’re paying for — not all this other social justice stuff like Critical Race Theory and transgenderism and so forth,” he said. “We’re going to continue working on that. We did some legislation last year to try to deal with it. I’m sure there’ll be more this year, and that is a priority for me.”

In the agricultural realm, Fisher remains supportive of state and federal efforts to create more competition in the meatpacking industry and promote more equitable agreements for farmers. He also said he would support a law that allows employees to keep firearms in their cars regardless of employer policies.

Edler: Keep promoting growth in Iowa

For Edler, who was first elected in 2016, keeping Iowa growing is the top priority this year and every year, and he seeks to continue promoting a tax climate favorable to businesses both small and large.

“Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a corporation, you’re much more welcome in Iowa under the current tax climate, and we continue to push for that,” he said.

Edler said he supports a push to eliminate the state income tax if it can be done in a “responsible way” that ensures a functioning government is still funded.

After almost two years of canceled classes and remote or hybrid learning, Edler said it’s imperative to get students “caught up” and instill a sense of accountability in school districts across the state.

Citing a promise he made to a law enforcement officer, Edler still considers overhauling Iowa’s mental health system a top priority going forward.

“We’re making headway, but it is a very complex system given the acuity of need. We’re trying to figure out what we need to do differently to accommodate that,” he said.

Like Fisher, Edler is waiting for the Supreme Court to hear arguments on the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing mandate before making decisions specific to Iowa, but he called the mandate for private businesses “an absolute overreach of the federal government.”

“I just hope the Supreme Court makes the right decision and gives people the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to be vaccinated,” he said. “It’d be nice if the federal government would realize they don’t have this ability and walk it back because they are creating workforce issues.”

He cited conversations with business owners who told him that prospective employees have asked whether they would need to be vaccinated to work a job, and when they’re told they do, they’re no longer interested in the positions.

On the debate over which books should be taught and made available in schools, Edler said that if they can’t be shown on TV news due to possible Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fines, they shouldn’t be in school libraries.

As a farmer, Edler would like to continue to promote the use of 10 percent ethanol blend while respecting small filling stations without placing an “undue burden” on them, and he remains concerned about a California law that would increase the space requirements for farm animals and would affect meat shipped into the most populous state in the U.S. from top pork producing states like Iowa.

“It’s kind of frustrating when individuals who don’t even know about animals or about farms try to dictate how we raise them because we do what’s best for the animal, because it’s best for us,” Edler said. “It’s like a banker trying to do surgery.”