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The New Guy In Town

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Glenwood's David Sieck Settling In As Iowa's Newest Legislator

By Joe Foreman, Editor

DES MOINES - To say it’s been a whirlwind two months for David Sieck, the newest member of the Iowa State Legislature, would be an understatement.

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On Feb. 10, the Glenwood Republican easily defeated Democrat Steve Adams of Red Oak in a special election for the District 23 seat in the Iowa House of Representatives. A week later, the longtime farmer and former president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association was administered his oath of office at the state capitol.

He’s been on the go ever since.

“I missed the first five weeks of the session,” Sieck said Thursday during a recess in the House chamber. “I didn’t get any of the freshman orientation. I’ve had a few things I’ve had to learn and catch up on. We were so far behind when we started. When we turned our computer on, we already had 120 e-mails. I didn’t know the procedures and it took awhile to get my feet underneath me.”

As the “new guy” in the House, Sieck has turned to his fellow representatives for direction. He’s gotten help from lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. His desk in the House chamber is in an area that has a mix of both Republicans and Democrats.

“Rep. (Marti) Anderson has just been fabulous,” Sieck said of the Democratic representative from Polk County. “I send her thank yous because of all the help she’s given me.”

Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, Sieck has observed, have a mutual respect for one another, even though they may have drastically different views on particular issues. He noted many bills that make it to the floor of the House are bipartisan, but don’t receive publicity because they aren’t controversial.

As a former lobbyist for the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Sieck has familiarity with the legislative process, but he also turns to his daughter Maddi for guidance. Maddi, who served as a legislative page at the capitol during her junior year of high school in 2004, is seated at her dad’s side in the chamber as his legislative clerk.

Maddi said her experience as a page has been helpful, but just knowing her dad and how he goes about his business has been the biggest benefit.

“Being a page up here, that helped a little bit in regard to just knowing the operations,” Maddi said.

“But, just that I’m his daughter and I know how he operates, coming in here five weeks late, that’s been the biggest thing for us. I know he’s a terrible typist, slower than you can imagine. He’s able to dictate to me and knowing his shorthand has been more helpful than me being a page.”

Now in the home stretch of his first session in the House, Sieck is slowly settling in to his legislative role. The biggest surprise he’s encountered is the amount of time and work it takes to do the job diligently.

“When you’re here, you’re really here. You have to focus,” he said. “If you have a business back home, you can’t spend any time on that. That’s the hard part I’m finding. I’ve got Evan (son) back on the farm, but sometimes they’re calling me and I can’t answer.

“In here, you just go, go, go. Then you go home and try to catch up.”

Sieck is assigned to four committees in the House – Education, Environmental Protection, Human Resources and Public Safety – and he’s been involved in discussions and debate on several matters.

Education has been in the spotlight throughout the session as lawmakers debated allowable growth (increase of state aid) to public school systems. The Republican-controlled House has proposed 1.25 percent while the Democratically-controlled Senate has pushed for 4 percent.

Setting an (earliest) school start date was also a major Education issue.

On the Human Services front, Sieck has found himself in opposition to legislation backed by Gov. Terry Branstad that would close the Clarinda Mental Health Institute. Closer to home, he opposed failed legislation that would have reduced the number of licensed beds at both the Glenwood and Woodward Resource Centers, and continue to reduce licensed beds as residents are placed in other locations.

“They’re already down to about 200 clients now at the resource center,” Sieck said. “With that bill, every time a person moved out, that bed would go away and there wouldn’t be any new admittances allowed. That would eventually shut down the place.”

The 10-cent increase in the state fuel tax was a controversial matter Sieck got to deal with his first week on the job. The legislation had the support of the governor and many Republicans as a means to generate revenue for roads and infrastructure improvement. Sieck went along with the measure, despite hearing opposition from petroleum marketers who feared gas stations and convenience stores in communities close to neighboring states with lower fuel taxes will be impacted negatively.

Sieck said he voted for the measure because he promoted the need for improved infrastructure across the state when he ran for office.

Sieck said the legislation he’s having the hardest time wrapping his arms around is “the anti-bullying bill.”

Iowa already has anti-bullying language in its state code, Sieck said, but the new legislation would go even further by addressing bullying through social media.

“We’ve gotten a bunch of e-mails about it. It’s the governor’s No. 1 bill, but there’s a lot of controversy on both sides. The Ds (Democrats) probably want it more than the Rs (Republicans), who think it’s a whole lot of fluff.”

Sieck said he consulted Glenwood Community Schools Superintendent Devin Embray and State Sen. Mark Costello to get their views on the issue. Sieck said he’s still undecided on the matter, but has received more communication in opposition to passage of the bill.

Another major issue the legislature is expected to address by the end of the session deals with the legalization of fireworks sales in the state.

“I’ve called Sheriff (Eugene) Goos and I called the board of supervisors to get their thoughts on it,” Sieck said. “We have so many people bringing fireworks in from Missouri and Nebraska, if the state can make millions of dollars off of it, I’d rather have our state get it.

“Missouri has paid lobbyists up here to lobby against the bill. That tells you something.”

One of the highlights of Sieck’s first session in the legislature came in early March when he was given the opportunity to present House File 299, known as the “Loess Hills bill” to his fellow lawmakers. The legislation was developed in reaction to consideration given last year for the Loess Hills to be given a “federal reserve” designation. The federal reserve designation was denied out of fears that landowners’ rights could be compromised.

House File 299 prohibits conservation agencies like the Loess Hills Alliance from entering into any agreement with a local, state or federal government that would regulate a person who is a private landowner or the person’s use of that land. The bill would not restrict a private landowner from entering into their own agreement with a governmental agency.

“The Loess Hills Alliance was set up for the conservation of the Loess Hills, tourism and economic development,” Sieck said. “It’s stated that landowner rights were protected. The federal reserve designation was maybe going to take some of the landowners’ rights away.”

The bill is expected to be addressed before the conclusion of the session.

The session is scheduled to end May 1, but Sieck said he wouldn’t be surprised if it goes longer.

Sieck’s first two months in the House of Representatives has been a learning experience and he’s found out no matter how you vote on an issue, you can always expect to hear some criticism.

“You’re not going to make everyone happy in this job,” Sieck said. “You represent 30,000 people, but you make laws for 3 million. First, you think about your 30,000 and then you think about what it’s going to do to the 3 million when you make your decision, but if you always take care of what you think most of the 30,000 want you to do, you’ll be in pretty good shape.”