Cedar Rapids Gazette
January 15, 2009
House Rebuild Iowa Panel Starts Work
By: James Lynch
DES MOINES-Members of the House Rebuild Iowa Committee created to deal with the state's recovery from floods and tornadoes last year were singing from the same songbook at their first meeting even if there were a few sour notes.
"We're all new at this," Chairman Tom Schueller, D-Maquoketa, said as he opened the meeting. "Whatever we do can be good ... and there is plenty of work we can do."
There was no disagreement, but some, like Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, wished lawmakers had been called back for a special session to begin to address the disaster recovery issues.
"We couldn't do the work of this committee if we weren't here," he said.
Rep. Tom Sands, R-Columbus Junction, who Louisa County district was devastated by flooding on the Iowa and Cedar rivers, agreed, but looked ahead.
"This is long overdue," he said. "But that's behind us. It's time to get to work."
"Better late than never," added freshman Rep. Kerry Burt, D-Waterloo, a firefighter who was on duty for a week straight when the Cedar River flooded his community.
There was consensus that partisanship had no place in the Rebuild Iowa process. "The floods and tornadoes didn't discriminate between Democrats and Republicans," Rep. Pat Grassley. R-New Hartford, said.
Rep. Dick Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, said more than 3,000 homes and businesses in his southwest Cedar Rapids district were flooded.
"We're making magnificent progress, but we need a lot of help," he said.
Although Cedar Rapids may have suffered as much as half the $10 billion damage done by floods, Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, said recovery is a statewide issue. He urged his colleagues "even in tough economic times to consider the long-term cost of doing nothing."
Rep. Roger Thomas, D-Elkader, has seen plenty of that. The 2008 floods were the fifth during his time in the Legislature and towns in his northeast Iowa district have disappeared as a result of previous floods.
"It's time for the state to step up," Thomas said. He wants to use tax credits to get private sector involvement in the recovery process and also called for better watershed management to prevent future flooding.