On the Hill with Klein — Week 3
Week three in Des Moines has been busy with subcommittees, committees, and continuing budget discussions. We have yet to have floor debate; I anticipate that will change next week. Don’t forget you can follow live debates by logging onto the Iowa House Web site; www.legis.iowa.gov.
On Tuesday, in the House Public Safety Committee we heard comments from Colonel Dave Garrison of the Iowa State Patrol. Colonel Garrison covered a variety of issues in the hour meeting, including staffing concerns and the communication systems used by the Iowa State Patrol. The presentation was designed to ensure members of the Public Safety Committee had an accurate view of how the Iowa State Patrol functions and what the Legislature can do to help ensure the public safety needs of Iowans are met.
Colonel Garrison is a 23-year DPS veteran who has served various roles with the Iowa State Patrol. After serving as a road trooper in southwest Iowa, Colonel Garrison, went on to work as a trooper pilot in Des Moines and then as the departments public information officer. He has also worked with the patrol’s vehicle theft unit, governor’s security detail, district commander for the Capitol Complex and in the DPS Professional Standards Bureau. The Colonel’s extensive background gives him insight to the various needs of the Iowa State Patrol.
A major focus of the Iowa State Patrol is to increase visibility of officers on the roads. Many of the Iowa State Patrol unmarked cars are getting a makeover including adding the State Patrol shield and lights. As Colonel Garrison explained it, even after 23 years of service, when he’s not on duty, he still takes his foot off the gas when he sees an officer on the road. This is a common reaction of most drivers. The State Patrol hopes that increased visibility of its officers encourages Iowans to slow down and drive safe. As the State Patrol expands visibility, staffing and budgeting will become an issue that the Legislature must address. Ensuring that the funding needs of the State Patrol are met will be a major issue for the Iowa Legislature this year.
With state troopers spread across the state, communication is essential. Colonel Garrison highlighted some of the trouble officers have run into while attempting to reach one another. While the State Patrol works hard to ensure all officers have the best radio access there are times the radios are less than clear. A combination of state and federal funding is being used to update radios of troopers throughout the state. The Public Safety Committee is keeping an eye on this issue and is prepared to offer legislative help the State Patrol should the need arise.
Colonel Garrison’s presentation highlighted the great work being done by the Iowa State Patrol and how essential it is for the Iowa Legislature to provide the necessary funding to keep Iowans safe.
On Thursday, Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, adjunct general of the Iowa National Guard, gave his Condition of the Guard.
In his speech, Gen. Orr reported that the Guard is mission-focused and warrior ready. He outlined the vital link between our Iowa communities and our military as well as how their organization is adapting as our active duty forces begin to shrink over the next several years.
According to Gen. Orr, approximately 260 Soldiers and Airmen are currently deployed, which is among the lowest number of deployed service members from the Iowa National Guard since the start of Operations enduring and Iraqi Freedom. They have also mobilized troops to Kosovo, Afghanistan, Qatar, Honduras and Kuwait this year.
He did outline a concern over the fact that nearly 28 percent of returning Iowa soldiers were looking for work at the end of 2011. He also laid out the efforts that they have undertaken to remedy this problem-- in coordination with Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, U.S. Department of Labor, Principal Financial Group and the Guard’s Job Connection Education Program – they have reduced this number to only 6 percent today.
Our next local forums are Saturday, Feb. 16, 10:00-12:00 at the Washington County Courthouse and 1:00-2:00 at the Keokuk County Courthouse.
If you need to contact me before the upcoming forums you can reach me in Des Moines through the House switchboard at 515-281-3221, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If all else fails, you can also call or text me on my cell phone at 515-689-5430.