MUSCATINE — While Iowa senators and representatives are in session, the Legislative Conversations will return in March and April to Muscatine.
Sponsored by Muscatine Community College and the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, these forums will be held on March 6 and April 3 from 9 to 10 a.m., and will be open to the public.
Last year, the college was unable to host the forum because it coincided with the emergence of the coronavirus in Iowa.
“Usually we have it the first Saturday in February, March and April, since it’s typically when they’re in sessions and there’s a lot of potential bills moving,” said Naomi DeWinter, MCC president and this year’s moderator. "But last year was just around that time where everything was shut down.”
With continued concerns about the pandemic, it was decided that this year’s Legislative Conversations will be virtual. Audience members will be able to participate in the conversation by going to eicc.edu, to submit their questions through the chat function.
“We hope that we’ll have equally good attendance this year, as well as participation from the community,” DeWinter said. “I know that you would see a lot of regulars come every month to stay in touch with their legislators, and I know they’ve appreciated that chance just to be face-to-face with the person who’s representing them in Des Moines.”
Although the presentation of the forum is different this year because it is virtual, DeWinter said she felt they would still see these regulars and there was a chance they could draw a bigger audience for the forums since people won't have to travel in order to attend.
“I know that the individual politicians who are attending have asked for the link, so they’re getting inquiries from their people and supports, so I feel like people are used to this kind of format now and know how to connect and what to expect from it,” DeWinter said.
This year’s legislation forum is expected to include a mix of familiar and new faces of local legislation. This year’s guests include Senator Zach Wahls from District 37, Representative Bobby Kaufmann from District 73, Senator Mark Lofgren from District 46, Representative David Kerr from District 88, Senator Tim Goodwin from District 44, and Representative Mark Cisneros from District 91.
While these forums will only be an hour long, DeWinter hopes the lawmakers will answer as many questions from the virtual audience as possible.
“We wanted to make sure that only the people who are knowledgeable about that question answer it, instead of each person on the panel answering it,” she said.
Though no topic will be off limits during the forum, DeWinter added that as moderator, she would be focusing on the constructive questions and would ignore comments that didn’t contain questions or were derogatory.
“My intention is to ask every question that we have time for that is posted in the chat,” she said. “We’re just thankful that these representatives and senators are giving the time and energy back to our community for us to have this interaction, and so we’re happy to be able to facilitate these forums. Even if they’re virtual, we’ll be sure to make the most of them.”