About 100 people attended to talk with state Sen. Tom Greene, Rep. Dennis Cohoon and Rep. Dave Kerr.

The legislative forum Saturday morning in Burlington struck a more civil tone than lawmakers heard last year when the monthly meetings stopped short of all-out shouting matches.

Maybe it was because no bills have been debated in the Iowa Legislature yet, or perhaps the presence of a non-partisan moderator helped. Whatever the reason, the 90-minute discussion at the Burlington Public Library went off without a hitch.

State Sen. Tom Greene, R-Burlington, Rep. Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington, and Rep. Dave Kerr, R-Morning Sun, each addressed the crowd of about 100 people to start, then took questions from the audience.

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One by one, their constituents were called to the front of the room to state their opinion and ask a question. Sometimes the legislators would respond, other times moderator Bob Bartles would move on to the next question.

Medicaid privatization was one of the first issues addressed Saturday.

Greene, a retired pharmacist, said he was not happy with the way Medicaid has been executed by the private managed care organizations hired by former Gov. Terry Branstad's administration.

"In my Senate district, I do not have one provider that has said this privatization has been a good thing," said Greene, elected in November 2016. "I've talked with Gov. (Kim) Reynolds, I've talked with her health care advisor, and I've told them changes need to happen.

"If there are not very affirmative and positive scenes for both the providers who provide the service ... and the clients who they see and service," Greene continued, "I will voice my opinion very loudly that we need to go back to Iowa Medicaid 2015."

Before the managed care system was implemented in April 2016, the health care program for more than half a million poor and disabled Iowans was managed by the state.

Rep. Cohoon said he has requested information from agencies in Tennessee, South Carolina and Arizona to see how they run privatized Medicaid and why it has worked better in those states than it is in Iowa.

Kerr, also elected in 2016, echoed Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven in stating Iowa will continue to move forward with privatized Medicaid.

"For me, let's see what another year brings is all I can say on this program," he said. "Medicaid is a growing percentage of our budget and people rely on it. Let's hope and pray that everything works out."

Education funding, water quality, the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System (IPERS), can and bottle redemption and Planned Parenthood also were discussed.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers urged the lawmakers to prioritize education funding to help divert people from the criminal justice system, Jerry Parks of Burlington noted IPERS' track record of being one of the best retirement accounts in the country and Charles Fuller of Burlington advocated for can and bottle redemption centers to remain open as an incentive for people not to litter.

Burlington's next legislative forum will be 9 a.m. Feb. 17 at the library.

Eggs and Issues

Before the public forum at the library, lawmakers gathered at the Greater Burlington Partnership for their Eggs and Issues event with Chamber of Commerce members.

Des Moines County Conservation Director Chris Lee gave a presentation on water quality that directed most of the forum's discussion.

Lee told the group 50 percent of Iowa's waterways "fail to meet basic water quality standards," according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

"In a state whose basis of their economy is on its natural resources and land, that's a bit of a scary statistic considering that water quality is a direct reflection of land health," he said.

Gov. Reynolds said in her Condition of the State address earlier this month she wanted a water quality bill to be the first piece of legislation signed into law this year.

Senate File 512 and House File 612 are the two bills in the Legislature likely to get the most attention as a starting point to address the state's water quality concerns.

The Senate proposal passed one chamber last session but failed to make it through the House. It would divert a portion of funds from Vision Iowa project bonds and use sales tax dollars people currently pay on their water bills to go toward water quality initiatives. The House bill would redirect funds from the water excise tax for anti-pollution efforts.

The next Eggs and Issues event will be 7:30 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Partnership.