Week 4:
Events, Events, and more Events

Ringgenberg Fellow in Legislative Affairs

Iowa State Senate Democratic Research Staff | Des Moines, Iowa

February 2, 2019

My 4th week at the State Capitol started off right where my work from last week left off. With Senator Wahls’ trip finalized, I was tasked with more trips to coordinate (as there is always more work to do). As nothing is public yet, I can’t say who is going where but this is a larger trip than Senator Wahls’ as I will have to coordinate between numerous senators and locations statewide instead of just one district. Hopefully I will be able to update with more specific details once the start is announced.

This week I also recorded and edited another radio ad for Senator Rich Taylor, this time about payday loans. In the state of Iowa, payday loan lenders can still charge upwards of 300% interest on loans that are often taken out by Iowans that are in dire need of the money. Numerous other states have outlawed this predatory practice and I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Taylor that it is time for Iowa to outlaw exorbitant interest rates. Thankfully, this bill sponsored by Senator Taylor looks like it has a good chance of passing the Senate and hopefully the House sees eye-to-eye with their colleagues in the Senate that this is a practice that needs to end.

One small perk of working at the Capitol is that special interest groups, among others, often hold receptions and other presentations at the State Capitol in order to lobby to the legislators. These events are meant to try and influence the State Representatives and State Senators yet very rarely are they closed off events. In order to make the legislators happy, many groups cater in food as a perk and usually as an incentive for both legislators and staff to show up to their reception. As session started and bills started being drafted and sent to committee, many groups ramped up their lobbying efforts. For me, that meant that every day this week there was free breakfast and, 3 out of the 4 days when the Senate was in session, there was free lunch as well. These groups can range from breakfast sandwiches from the Firefighters Union, sub sandwiches from an anti-marijuana legalization group, to a full pasta bar by the Iowa Gaming Association. While lobbying at lowly interns or the Senator’s Clerks does little for these associations, it’s good public relations for them to feed both the staff and the legislators. Even though I can’t vote on a bill or maybe disagree with everything a group stands for, free food is always a nice perk and helps me save a little money at the end of the day.

One other small thing this week is that a presidential candidate came to caucus on Thursday in order to talk to the Democratic Senators. I suppose I should have mentioned this in earlier blogs but every day after the Senate gavels in both parties go to caucus where all the Senators meet and organize their party’s agenda for that day. Caucus is one of the more exciting parts of my day as you get to see how organization of legislators occurs, starting at the leadership and working down to the freshman Senators. After talking about the bills being brought up that day, Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, talked to our caucus. I have already met and talked with Andrew when he visited Iowa numerous times, campaigning for Democratic candidates for the midterm election, and this summer during my last internship in Des Moines. Andrew’s big policy issue is Universal Basic Income or UBI for short, which is where the federal government would pay every adult American $1,000 per month every month. Eventually I believe a version of UBI would be the path forward for the United States. I think it is too early and radical for the U.S. at this time and Mr. Yang has no political experience. While having no political experience doesn’t mean you can’t become president anymore (as we have seen in the past general election), it greatly impacts Mr. Yang. I do think him running for president is good in order to advance the argument of Universal Basic Income as well as other economic policies, even though he may have a slim chance of winning.

As boring as it may look this is my cubicle where I do most of my work  when I’m not on the Senate floor or at caucus
Something a little more exciting,  this a photo I meant to include in my last post of CNN reporter Jake Tapper and Senator Kamala Harris sharing a moment with the audience during a commercial break during the CNN town hall I attended.

Alex Salisbury '19

Alex is a history and political science major from Iowa City, Iowa.