The Johnson Report

Sunday, March 4, 2018

We just finished Week 8 of the 2018 legislative session with some major bills passing the Senate and our second "funnel" approaching in two weeks.
The funnel is a self-imposed deadline established to weed out bills that have languished in the committee process. As a registered independent beginning with the 87th Iowa General Assembly, I have taken part in a loosely knit group known as the Centrist Project. Independents are sprouting up in state governments across the country, and candidates with an "I" behind their names have declared for Congress and other federal offices.
Just this week Centrist Project participants unfurled a new banner, Unite America. What we see happening across the political landscape is a growing partisanship and a deepening divide. I receive words of encouragement every day to continue down a road less traveled. Independents are not proposing an issue-specific platform that we each pledge allegiance to; rather, we have declared five common principles we believe can unite all people to repair our politics. Following are those pillars, with my brief observations of how they have applied this session and last.

First, we put the public interest ahead of any partisan or special interest.

Government should represent “We, the people” — not the party leaders or those who can buy access to power. As independents, we believe good governance is about rising above partisanship and putting the people first. Government at every level needs more transparency. By that, I mean ample opportunity for the public to know what bills are being considered. Last year the majority party in just a few days rammed through a sweeping elimination of most bargaining rights for public workers.

Second, we use common sense and find common ground to solve problems.
We reject today’s "zero sum" politics and desire to work together with Democrats and Republicans in an inclusive and civil manner to get things done.

As independents, we think for ourselves, understand different perspectives, follow the facts, identify root causes, offer new ideas and make logical decisions. A good example of this is criminal justice reform, another chapter of which passed the Senate this week 47-2. The Senate can do the same with the first major improvements in years to our mental health treatment strategies.

Third, we stand for the timeless values of opportunity, equality and stewardship.
We want to empower every American to realize his or her full potential, uphold equal rights for all under the law and ultimately leave a stronger country for the next generation.

As independents, we believe in both fiscal and environmental responsibility.
Fiscal sanity is a rare commodity around the Capitol this session. The best example is the $1 billion tax "reform" that the GOP pushed though the Senate last night. What happened to the party of personal responsibility? It's hardly responsible to cut taxes by a billion dollars without explaining which government programs are going to be deeply slashed or pulled off life support.
And environmental stewardship continues to suffer. Clean, safe water knows no politics and no special interest save for consumers. Working together, we can do better.

Fourth, we champion competition, transparency and accountability in politics.
We seek to rebuild Americans’ trust in government by holding ourselves to the highest standards of honor and honesty and by fixing the broken incentives that contribute to political dysfunction.

As an independent, I support reforms to ensure our political process truly represents the people — including keeping the way Iowa draws district lines, considered a model for the nation. Gerrymandering is not welcome here.

Fifth, we believe in the shared responsibility of civic engagement.
As Americans, we understand it is our civic duty to be informed and engaged on important issues. As independents, we encourage increased citizen participation in our political process and in service to our country.

One way I promote that is to share with young people why we need them as future citizens, residents and community leaders.