Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
The Washington Chamber of Commerce is rebooting its monthly legislative forums Saturday, giving Washington County residents a chance to take their concerns to lawmakers during the legislative session.
State Reps. Jarad Klein (R) and Joe Mitchell (R) as well as State Sens. Kevin Kinney (D) and Jeff Reichman (R) will all be at the second floor of the county courthouse from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Jan. 15 for the event, which is free and open to the public.
“The Washington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to provide Washington County residents the opportunity to share their views with state lawmakers that represent Washington County,” an email from the Chamber said. “Monthly legislative forums are held … on the third Saturdays of January, February, March and April.”
The event will feature an update from each legislator, followed by a Q&A session moderated by Chamber Member Erik Buchholz.
“We go through the room one by one and we ask people individually, ‘Is there anything you’d like to make a comment on or a question?’” Chamber Director Michelle Redlinger said. “Sometimes we’ve had … larger than normal groups, and at that point we’ll give everybody a random raffle number when they come in and then we’ll call people at random so it levels the playing field. But I don’t anticipate anything like that for this session, especially this first one at the beginning of the year.”
While only one invited legislator, Kevin Kinney, has RSVP’d to the event as of Wednesday morning, Redlinger said the forums had a history of good attendance and good relations.
“The chamber is a non-partisan organization and our role in the community is to facilitate conversations,” she said. “I have not had any issues with legislators not showing up, and definitely not purposefully.”
By nature, the topics covered in the public forum depend on what questions are asked. Hot-button statewide issues for this legislative session include income tax changes, education funding and distracted driving laws, but whether any of these come up Saturday is anyone’s guess.
A number of other topics with more local implications are also likely. In recent months, Washington County has seen myriad debates over unfunded mandates and mental health care reform, among other issues.
“They like to brag that they’re reducing our taxes, but in the meantime they backdoor us and raise our taxes potentially, or negatively impact our community,” said Washington County resident Lee Wilson said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. “I want you guys, as a constituent, to push back on some of these unfunded mandates.”