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Paul Scott comment: The democratic process has worked for supporters of parks and other public properties

Posted: Sun, Mar 10, 2019 5:16 PM
Decorah's Jim Beeghly (center) speaks to a crowded Iowa House committee hearing (Photo courtesy of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation)

(The following is a comment by's Paul Scott):

"I realize that when the news media talk about the need for open meetings, sometimes the public's reaction is that their eyes glaze over.

But last week's victory by conservationists throughout Iowa and especially from NE Iowa prove the power still rests with the public--if people know what is happening. 

Legislation which would prohibit the state, counties and cities from expanding parks, wildlife habitat areas and trails by any amount was scheduled for a quiet public hearing at the Capitol--until the public found out about it and then there wasn't a room big enough in the State Capitol to handle all the people who wanted to speak, including a busload of people from Allamakee, Clayton, Winneshiek and Fayette counties.

Instead of being lobbied by special interest groups, the State Assemblymen were being lobbied by farmers, county supervisors, county conservation board members, Pheasants Forever members and Trout Unlimited members.  In addition, many members of the State Assembly received up to 1,000 e-mails in opposition to House File 542.

The legislation was tabled after lawmakers heard from the public and then it died on Friday when it couldn't get votes to be reported out of committee.  A separate Iowa Senate bill remains alive in committee, although considerably reduced in scope.

The lesson to be learned from this is that the public does have an impact--even in this era of the influence of big money donors.  The public especially can have an influence when decisions are made in open session and lawmakers hear directly from the people who would be affected by proposed legislation."