Rep. Patti Ruff holds legislative forum in New Albin

The New Albin Community Center was the site of a legislative forum Saturday, February 7 where Iowa House of Representatives member Patti Ruff fielded questions from the audience. The first topic of concern was the proposed 10-cent increase in the gas tax. The bill was scheduled to be released Monday, February 9 and will come to a vote in the next couple weeks. Another item discussed was the need for fiber-optic broadband to "connect every lowan." The focus should be on bringing this fiber optic technology to small rural towns and the local telephone companies, Ruff said. Concerns were voiced about two of Iowa's mental health facilities in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda facing closure. According to State Senator Rich Taylor, "it may be going against state law that specifically requires mental health facilities in Mount Pleasant, Independence, Clarinda and Cherokee." If these patients are returned from the state to regional facilities, it would affect lowans at the county level, it was pointed out. Allamakee County is one of 22 counties in one such local region, some of which have triage centers and crisis centers, but after determining the priority of patient treatments, where they go next is still an open question. On the topic of education, Ruff reported that the House is pushing for a six-percent increase in school funding, while the Senate is holding firm at four percent. Ruff told the audience that most schools need a three percent to 3.5% increase just for general costs. The forum lasted for a little over an hour and was attended by approximately 20 people. Photo and report by Lori Darling.

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