Brown: Continue to focus on rural Iowa economy in upcoming legislative session

Iowa State Sen. Waylon Brown speaks at a Republican fundraiser at the Charles City Public Library. Press file photo by Kelly Terpstra
Iowa State Sen. Waylon Brown speaks at a Republican fundraiser at the Charles City Public Library. Press file photo by Kelly Terpstra
By James Grob,

As far as Iowa Sen. Waylon Brown is concerned, the legislative agenda is the same as it was before.

“I’m going to continue focusing on the same thing I have the previous years — the best way we can grow and revitalize rural Iowa,” Brown said in an emailed statement to the Press this week.

“Our rural areas are very important to our state and I want to be doing everything we can to help them attract more people, enable them to create more opportunities and be the best place to grow up and raise a family.”

Brown, a Republican from St. Ansgar who won his seat in 2016, represents the 26th Iowa Senate District which includes Floyd, Worth, Chickasaw, Howard, Mitchell and parts of Cerro Gordo and Winneshiek counties.

Brown and his Republican colleagues will control the agenda when the new legislative session opens next week. Republicans have maintained control of the governor’s office as well as both houses of the Iowa Legislature.

Kim Reynolds won her first elected term as governor, and although Democrats picked up five Iowa House seats to narrow Republican control in that chamber, from 59-41 to 54-46, Republicans slightly increased their margin in the Iowa Senate in the 2018 mid-term election, from 29-20 to 31-18, with one independent.

“There are a number of issues that have come up over the last few months that we will be discussing, but my primary focus will be how we can help our rural areas,” Brown said. “I’d like to focus my energy on bills that help expand and strengthen our workforce, make our tax climate more business-friendly and competitive with other states, and what we can do to help our small local businesses.”

Brown is a small businessman and former Mitchell County Farm Bureau Board member. He owns a construction company and farms in St. Ansgar.

Some of the issues that other Republican leaders around the state have mentioned they could consider in the upcoming session include property taxes, gun rights legislation, sports betting, bottle redemption laws and industrial hemp legalization.

“While we’ll be discussing many issues at the capitol over the next several months, I’d like to look at all the bills that come across my desk and ask how it will help and support the communities in my district that need help and support,” Brown said.

Last year, a bill to provide a long-term funding stream for water quality projects was approved by the Iowa Legislature, but Reynolds and legislative leaders all said that bill was only a start, and more funding would be needed.

Other laws that passed in 2018 included  mental health bills, an opioid scrutiny bill, alternative health care plans for small businesses, fetal heartbeat legislation, immigration restrictions, and a 1 percent increase in public education funding.

Also last year, the state over-projected how much it would take in for revenues, so the legislature was forced to cut more than $35 million to balance the budget. A big chunk of those cuts came at the expense of Iowa’s three state universities.

Lawmakers on both sides have said they plan to push criminal justice reform this year, which stalled in the Iowa House in 2018. Both parties have indicated an interest in addressing Iowa’s skilled labor shortage. Republicans also passed a major income tax cut bill in 2018, and some have said they intend to focus on property tax cuts in 2019.

“We have been promoting pro-growth policies through the last two years in the Iowa Senate,” Brown said. He added that he has fulfilled the promises he and his Republican colleagues made to voters all over the state on the campaign trail.

“I look forward to the start of the legislative session and continuing to work with my colleagues on growing and strengthening rural Iowa,” he said.