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      General Assembly begins 85th session

      For the 85th time, the Iowa General Assembly was gaveled in with its usual pomp and circumstance Monday.

      Helping open the session, firefighters from across Iowa, including Ottumwa.

      â??It is an honor to come up and represent fire departments across the State of Iowa, as well as Ottumwa,â?? said Assistant Fire Chief Mike Craff.

      This year, southeast Iowa has a new representative, Larry Sheets. Sheets, a republican, took the oath of office for the first time Monday morning. Prior to his swearing in, he shared his thoughts on what the assembly should do with Iowaâ??s surplus.

      â??Basically that money belongs to the tax payers. If they have overpaid, there should be a way we can get that money back to them,â?? Sheets said.

      On the other side of the political spectrum, democrats believe that money could be used for programs that are in need of funding, such as education.

      Democrats from southeast Iowa and other rural districts are worried that Governor Branstad could do away with allowable growth.

      â??They (the rural districts) want us to continue with allowable growth. There has been some discussion by the governor that we are going to change the way that we fund schools, I do not believe we are ready for that at this time,â?? said State Representative Mary Gaskill of House District 81.

      â??Students in Van Buren County, their school board must pay about $1300 a student, just to get the student to school. It is because of the bus routes and so forth, being that you do not have a bridge across the Des Moines River every mile. Where as metro units might have a bill of $230 per student to get their students to school. That is a tremendous difference in the effort that you can provide for education of a rural student,â?? said State Representative Curt Hanson of House District 82.

      However, Hanson knows that education reform cannot be a one-time fix; he believes that the state has to think long-term.

      â??Weâ??ve got to be very innovative. Weâ??ve got to make sure we are in the global marketplace, competing with the rest of the world,â?? Hanson said.

      On Tuesday, members from both chambers will be hearing Governor Branstadâ??s Condition of the State address.

      Contact information for House Members:

      House District 78:State Representative Jarad Kleine-mail: jarad.klein@legis.iowa.govphone: 515.281.3221

      House District 80:State Representative Larry Sheetse-mail:

      House District 81:State Representative Mary Gaskille-mail: mary.gaskill@legis.iowa.govphone: 641-682-6417

      House District 82:State Representative Curt Hansone-mail: curt.hanson@legis.iowa.govphone: 641.919.2314

      House District 84:State Representative David E. Heatone-mail: dave.heaton@legis.iowa.govphone: 319.385.9342Contact information for Senate Members:

      Senate District 39State Senator Sandra Greinere-mail: sandra.greiner@legis.iowa.govphone: 641.636.2293

      Senate District 40State Senator Ken Rozenboome-mail: ken.rozenboom@legis.iowa.govphone: 641.295.6551

      Senate District 41State Senator Mark Chelgrene-mail: mark.chelgren@legis.iowa.govphone: 641.777.7047Senate District 42State Senator Rich Taylore-mail: rich.taylor@legis.iowa.govphone: 319.931.1568