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|10/17/2012 ||Email this article Print this article |
Grimes would bring independent voice to Iowa House
|Carolyn Grimes (No party, Clinton)|
|Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton)|
|Wolfe will build on foundations in a second term in Iowa House|
| Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) is seeking a second term in the Iowa House of Representatives and is facing a challenge from independent candidate Carolyn Grimes, also of Clinton, for a seat in House District 98. |
House District 98 covers Clinton and the eastern part of rural Clinton County.
Wolfe, 49, has practiced law in Clinton with her father, Jack Wolfe for 20 years. The oldest of eight children, she graduated from Mater Dei High School in 1981 and earned her law degree from the University of Iowa Law School in 1992. She has a 17-year-old son who is a senior at Clinton High School.
Wolfe was elected to the Iowa House in 2010 after defeating Dave Rose (R-Clinton). She said she's running for re-election to build on the foundations she established in the first term.
"During my first term in office, it became apparent fairly quickly people who had been there longer were able to get more things done for their district just because they had time to build up the respect and trust of the other legislators," Wolfe said
"This past term, I worked hard to create a foundation of respect and trust, both with my colleagues in the legislature and with my constituents back here. I think in the upcoming term, I'll to able to build on that foundation and be in a position to represent my district."
Fixing problems caused by the legislative redesign of the state mental health care system is one of Wolfe's main priorities for a second term, and she's also concerned about the Iowa attorney general's decision to regionalize victim services funding, which could result in the closing of Clinton's domestic violence shelter and the loss of other victims services.
"Mental illness is something that affects a lot people, a lot of families. It also impacts the amount of money we have to spend on our jails, police force and all sorts of other services . . . If we aren't able to adequately fund our mental health services, then we need to be prepared to increase our spending for our jail and law enforcement services," she said.
Wolfe believes adequate funding for road infrastructure is important for economic development, one reason she has advocated for expanding Hwy. 30 to four lanes while serving on the House transportation committee.
The four-laning of Hwy. 30 is necessary to fully take advantage of opportunities provided by the Lincolnway Railport, she said.
She supports property tax reform and thinks a bill will pass in the upcoming session, but believes the governor's push for a 40 percent reduction in commercial property tax rates is not viable because of the financial impact to local governments.
She declined to set a target for a specific percentage reduction, saying the final number should depend on what kind of tax credits are included in the legislation.
"It'll be a combination of tax credits, tax cuts, income tax credits and property tax cuts, and the huge challenge is going to be doing that in such a way as not to destroy local government's ability to provide necessary services to their citizens, because the way they fund most of their budgets is by property taxes."
Wolfe said it's important whatever bill is passed focuses on providing relief to small businesses that are struggling rather than giveaways to large industries that are in good financial shape.
"(Small businesses) need more help. We would make sure whatever bill we create provides them with more help."
It's important to look at the full picture of Iowa's business climate and not just property tax levels, Wolfe added.
"We do have to keep in mind Iowa currently has a lot of incentives available to businesses that can greatly reduce, or in some cases, do away with their corporate income taxes, and you have to consider those incentives when you're looking at property tax reduction because it all works together," she said.
Wolfe said the state "dropped the ball" with an overly generous and fiscally irresponsible incentive package to Egyptian fertilizer producer Orascom, though she supports the concept of using tax incentives to attract employers.
"In general, I do think we need to allow local governments the ability to offer incentives but there needs to be some oversight, it needs to be reasonable. The incentives need to be in proportion to the number of jobs that are going to be created.
"Especially for Clinton County, it's important our economic development leaders are able to work with the state to obtain some of those incentives to bring jobs to our area."
Wolfe has no specific proposals for education reform but noted state leaders and education officials have been continuing discussions started from the 2012 reform effort, which she described as non-partisan and sincere.
She said she wants to see specific proposals presented before taking a position on reforms.
"I'm not in any way an expert on education, so I'm a little uncomfortable saying 'Here's what needs to be done in the future,' Wolfe said.
However, she said funding for higher education is a priority, especially community colleges that are "well-equipped to put together specific programs that target certain skills and abilities that are going to be helpful and useful in the decades to come."
"It's one of the most important things we can do to ensure our kids are equipped to deal with the fast-changing world," Wolfe said.
Wolfe supports maintaining tax credits for wind energy, ethanol and biodiesel as long as the state can afford them.
"It's important to encourage alternative energy development, and that's what those credits help to do, but we must be fiscally responsible."
She also supports nuclear energy development.
"I personally do think nuclear is a viable source for base load energy, and it's important to make it safer and less expensive," Wolfe said.
Wolfe in 2012 supported a bill to allow MidAmerican Energy to charge customers in advance for the costs of constructing a nuclear power plant, but she said she sees both sides of the issue. If the bill is raised again, Wolfe said she would push for a provision to refund the fees to customers in the event the plant is not built.
"I voted yes because I do think its important to be realistic about the need for nuclear power," she said.
Wolfe said she supports union rights and would vote in favor of "fair share" legislation as an issue of fairness.
"I would oppose any attempt to weaken Iowa's public and private unions' ability to bargain," she said.
She believes any changes requiring state employees to contribute to health insurance costs should come through negotiations.
"Health care is something unions have always been allowed to bargain for. They've given up benefits in the past to keep free or reduced-rate health insurance. If that's going to change, that's fine, but it needs to be part of a fair bargaining process," Wolfe said.
Wolfe supports increasing the gas tax 5-10 cents over a two- or three-year period to fund road and bridge infrastructure, and she points out she was one of few legislators willing publicly to take that position in the last term due to fears political opponents will use the issue against them.
"We all want good, safe roads and bridges. We have to be willing to pay for those things."
Wolfe said she also wants to see a certain percentage of fuel tax revenue set aside specifically for local governments.
"That's important because our cities are having more and more problems funding infrastructure services," she said.
Wolfe said she'd like to clear up several gray areas in the state's firearms laws, such as clarifying where guns can be prohibited.
"I don't think it's fair to gun owners that it's not clear whether or not they're breaking the law if they bring their gun certain places. It's not fair to local governments not to know whether or not they can legally deny people the right to bring guns into certain places," Wolfe said.
She supports a measure to add a second amendment provision to the state constitution that failed to pass in the last session.
Although the federal protection extends to the states, Wolfe said the state supreme court is allowed to interpret the state constitution in a more protective way than the federal supreme court.
"We do need it, because it allows our supreme court the right to provide gun owners with more protections than the federal supreme court does," she said.
Wolfe said she also hopes to address unintended consequences of firearms legislation that prohibits people from possessing guns in cases related to consent decree no-contact orders
Wolfe said she has no specific goals related to the environment but wants to work to balance regulations with the ability of businesses to thrive.
""I'm open to looking at whatever comes up as far as environmental regulations. If we have regulations that are unnecessary or unnecessarily restrictive then, we need to address that. On the other hand, I certainly do not believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and I believe regulations provide necessary oversight.
Wolfe opposes the effort to amend the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage.
"I voted against putting the civil rights of a minority group to a popular vote. One of the fundamental things the constitution protects is discrimination against minorities. Trying to get around that by amending the constitution to allow discrimination would be a horrible tragedy," she said.
In the same vein, she supports the retention of Supreme Court justice David Wiggins despite controversy over the 2009 court ruling in Varnum v. Brien.
"I certainly don't think any judge should be removed from office for one ruling even advocates for removal acknowledge was the legally correct ruling," she said.
Wolfe is concerned lack of Congressional action on what has been termed the "fiscal cliff" will result in cuts to federal programs administered by the state, such as Medicaid, child care and the food stamp program.
"With the loss of federal funds, states will have to make up the difference or push the cost to local governments. That's going to be a huge challenge," Wolfe said.
She disagrees with Gov. Branstad's refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, saying it will cause the state to spend money on health care for 150,000 Iowans who otherwise would be covered under the expansion.
Legislators will have to work across party lines to respond to challenges brought about by the federal government, Wolfe said.
"We're all going to have to work together. We can't turn it into a partisan issue."
Wolfe said while political conflicts in the legislature usually center around party leaders rather than the rank and file, she has and will continue to work with Republican colleagues.
She said she sees a bigger split among rural and urban legislators than she does among Democrats and Republicans in Des Moines.
Wolfe said her perception is her opponent agrees with her on most policy issues, so she points to her experience in the House and the fact Grimes is running as an independent, which she says will be a disadvantage in a two-party system that typically spends half its time caucusing with other party members.
"I've never had a problem speaking my mind. I don't hedge," Wolfe said.
"I think I'm doing a good job. I think I worked hard, and I have the respect of my colleagues in the House, and I'd like to think I have the respect of the community leaders I've worked with."
By Jeremy Huss
Carolyn Grimes (No party, Clinton) is a long-time Republican activist who is running as an independent candidate for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives in House District 97, challenging incumbent representative Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton).
Grimes, 67, has lived in the Clinton area since moving to Iowa in 1975.
"I discovered I had always been an Iowan, I just lived somewhere else," Grimes said.
Grimes has a bachelor of arts degree in English and French from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania and has a varied work experience that includes working as a teacher, editor of a travel guide, travel agent, office assistant and factory worker, among others. For the past 20 years she has worked at a small business in Clinton that deals in alarm and security systems.
Grimes served as chair of the Clinton Bicentennial Commission and has served on the Clinton library board of directors for more than 20 years.
She became involved in Republican politics working on behalf of Norm Goodwin's campaign for the Iowa Senate in 1978 and ran his campaign again in 1982. She later worked on additional campaigns for non-partisan candidates and city council offices as well as other Republican candidates.
She ran unsuccessfully for the Iowa House in 1998 on the Republican ticket.
"I didn't have a lot of control over my own campaign because the Republican Party was telling me what issues were going well in their polling, and these would be issues I was supposed to deal with. I decided I didn't want to do that again, so I decided I would just run on my own this time," Grimes explained.
"I also have been having some philosophical differences with the Republican Party," Grimes added.
"The Republican Party has moved away from me more than I have moved away from it. They have let themselves be sidetracked by social issues rather than letting their campaigns focus on the economic issues that really need to be addressed,"
Grimes said she doesn't have a specific legislative agenda, although one issue she intends to focus on is eliminating overly burdensome regulation.
"I don't have any legislative priorities as such. I would just like to do what I can to help bring jobs to Iowa in general and this area specifically.
"I think we need to have some sort of legislation that will improve the business climate. We've been moving into that direction, I think, but there's still things to be done, and we need to ease some regulations as well," Grimes said.
One example she gives of burdensome regulation is a change that required alarm and security companies like the one she works for receive certification by the state fire marshal, adding additional time and expense.
"So all of a sudden, the people who had been doing these jobs for 20 years had to go take basic training in them so they could get a certification to do what they've been doing successfully for 20 years," she said.
"Before, if you were in this business and you didn't do a good job, you just went out of business. And now you're being regulated."
Grimes said she will work to ensure people who work in regulated industries have a voice regarding what those regulations will be.
Grimes supports property tax reform but believes the governor's proposed 40 percent reduction in commercial property taxes over eight years is unsustainable due to the impact it will have on local governments.
"I would rather see them do something over a shorter period of time and see how it's working before they upped it all the way to 40 percent," Grimes said.
"Because such a large chunk of property taxes goes to the schools, and if the schools aren't getting the money they need, then it seems as if they would have to raise local property taxes on homeowners to make up the difference, and I don't think that's necessarily a viable option," she said.
Grimes said she's comfortable with a 10-15 percent reduction over a handful of years while keeping an eye on the impact on city and school budgets before taking more dramatic action.
She supports using tax credits to attract businesses but would like to see the credits tied to job creation requirements
"I think there's a program that does that, but it's for businesses who add 10 percent or more new jobs, and some of our small businesses aren't in a position to add that large a percentage of new jobs. I think perhaps we could expand that program somewhat so everyone who adds a job gets a specific amount per job as a tax credit on either income or property tax," Grimes said.
Grimes would also like to implement a mechanism that would enable small businesses to save money for capital projects, something she says they currently can't do because of tax implications.
She is withholding judgment on whether the incentive package for the Orascom fertilizer plant was appropriate, though she said the cost seems high compared with the number of jobs created.
"It seems high, but I think only time will really tell if it was worth it or not, because in addition to the 165 jobs that were created in that particular business, it may prove to be advantageous to local farmers. It may have commercial impacts on the area surrounding the business itself," Grimes said.
Grimes also wants to focus on providing incentives to Iowa's existing small businesses.
"Sometimes we concentrate on just brining new, big businesses here, but we have to remember 80 percent of Iowa's businesses are small businesses, and they're already here. If we can do anything to help them be able to add employees, that's probably going to be cheaper than the incentives we give to big companies coming in," she said.
Grimes said the short-term focus of the legislature regarding education should be securing a permanent exception from No Child Left Behind requirements, which failed in 2012 because Iowa's system of teacher evaluations does not meet department of education standards.
She supports revising the teacher evaluation system but is not in favor of tying teacher pay exclusively to student test scores, saying other factors that affect ability to learn, such as a students' home environment, need to be considered.
"That being said, to some extent you have to look at the test scores . . . and there have to be other measures besides just test scores," Grimes said.
Grimes said Iowa can borrow a model from other states such as New Jersey, which has an extensive teacher evaluation system that includes classroom observations, goal-setting and other components in addition to test scores.
She said it's also important to ensure teachers are continuously observed and evaluated after their first two years.
She supports a proposal to require all school districts to have a specific number of hours of instruction instead of using the current system that is based on the number of days in school.
"I wouldn't have any problem with that. I think that's probably not a bad idea," Grimes said.
She noted that would provide an opportunity for utility and transportation cost savings by switching to a four-day school week.
Grimes said Iowa students have a high rate of college debt, and she would support a student loan forgiveness program in targeted high-need regions and high-need professions.
"I think they're probably being forced to borrow more than they should to pay tuition," she said.
Grimes said it's important to support alternative energy, but she believes it may be time to end purchase credits for ethanol-blended gasoline.
"Ethanol is very important in this state. But I almost feel by now we shouldn't need to have a tax credit on it because it has been around for so long, and people have gotten used to it," Grimes said.
"I think we have enough wind here we definitely need to explore wind energy. I think all alternative energy sources should be explored and helped to some extent, but I don't know if any of them ever will really take over a major market share from what we have now. They can probably help," she said.
She supports nuclear power in general but would have opposed a 2012 bill allowing MidAmerican Energy to begin billing customers for future construction of a nuclear plant.
Grimes wants to maintain Iowa's status as a "right-to-work" state and would oppose "fair share" legislation.
"I don't really see fair share as being fair share, because if people do not belong to a union, I don't see making them pay the union for what the union does on behalf of its members as fair," Grimes said.
She supports requiring public employees to contribute to health insurance costs, saying it makes for more responsible health care consumers.
"I know it's something they say has been negotiated instead of raises in some years, but you did have it in the year it was negotiated. Until we start controlling health care costs, we've all got to take some responsibility," she said.
However, Grimes said collective bargaining is a fundamental right of unions, and she would oppose limiting the ability of unions to bargain for health insurance.
She also supports legislation allowing union members to bargain directly with management rather than going through the union.
Grimes supports a modest increase in the gas tax but not the 10-cent-per-gallon jump some have proposed.
"I might be able to go to 5 cents per gallon and revisit registration fees and some of the other fees related to transportation.
Grimes said she previously supported the full increase but changed her mind after looking at the financial impact it would have on her own employer.
"If we're trying to create a business environment conducive to growth, increasing the cost to fleets of vehicles is not the way to go," Grimes said.
Grimes said most gun owners are responsible citizens who keep weapons for hunting and self defense and shouldn't be penalized by the law.
She said current firearms legislation in Iowa is sufficient.
Grimes said she would deal with environmental legislation on a case-by-case basis and work to balance agricultural interests with environmental protection.
She said has not researched specific environmental issues but believes most farmers are good stewards of the land.
Gay marriage is one area where Grimes clearly separates herself from the Republican Party.
"I am opposed to changing the constitution on that because there are basic rights every individual has. I think the supreme court was correct in its ruling," she said.
Grimes declined to make public her stance on the retention of Iowa Supreme Court justice David Wiggins, saying she will voice her opinion at the ballot box.
Grimes said being an independent representative could prove to be an advantage in accomplishing things in the legislature.
"Someone else asked me what I will do when everybody is in caucus, and I said I will read the legislation, and I will call people back in my district who are involved in those particular issues and ask what they think about it," Grimes said.
Grimes said she believes in representative government and feels that ideal has been lost somewhat. She is running as a "no party" candidate in an effort to return to representative government.
"It seems to be lately legislators are less a representative of their district and more a representative of their party," Grimes said.
She said her election would send a wake-up call signalling Iowans want to see compromise in order to get things accomplished.
While she and her opponent share many policy views, Grimes said she would be a more fiscally conservative representative and would be able to work with both parties as an independent.
"The advantage of electing me over Mary Wolfe is, I would work for compromise between the two parties instead of advocating one party agenda. I would do everything I could to represent the views of majority of people of this district," Grimes said.