Forums held monthly while the Iowa Legislature is in session give Quad-City voters the opportunity to quiz local lawmakers about issues and pending bills.

But that doesn't mean everyone walks away satisfied.

The question of what role party politics play in getting legislation passed came up Saturday during the last of three forums held this year at the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University, Davenport.

Lawmakers in attendance were Sens. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, and Chris Brase, D-Muscatine, and Reps. Cindy Winckler, Jim Lykam and Phyllis Thede, all Democrats from Davenport, and Rita Hart, D-Wheatland.

After a few questions that prompted some legislators to talk about bills not going anywhere, Thede spelled out how things work in Des Moines.

“You are going to get frustrated at times,” she said. “There are 43 Democrats and 57 Republicans in the House. Who decides what gets passed and what doesn't get passed is up to the majority party. We are always stopped at every level.

“If you want things done, you have to talk to the other party. The majority party votes on these things. This is an election year and the majority is not interested in passing much of these things.”

“We can't perform miracles,” Hart said. “We have a divided government here. ... we have trouble finding common ground.

“We are only a reflection of our state, and our state is in disagreement.”

Lykam, however, said he believes most issues are decided in a bipartisan manner.

Smith, the lone Republican at the forum, agreed.

“The vast majority of time, we come together,” he said.

He said many times he goes up to Democrats to discuss issues and they are able to find accord. He said about 90 percent of the time, both parties can work out differences and pass legislation.

Thede and other lawmakers encouraged people to come to Des Moines, meet with their representatives and attend sessions to better understand how the system works.

Jennifer Sprague of Davenport was one of those expressing frustration over lack of action by lawmakers in the area of mental health funding. 

“It is sad the Democrats and Republicans have not been able to come together for the greater good,” she said.

Kate King of Davenport, representing the American Association of University Women, served as moderator Saturday.  At one point, she asked lawmakers whether using an arbitrator might help resolve some of the issues between parties.

Hearing their viewpoints at the forums is helpful, she said.

“It gives you a different perspective,” she said. “But if you are not happy with your legislators, you need to vote them out of office.”

Forum sponsors include the American Association of University Women, Iowa State Education Association, Scott County Farm Bureau, Working Iowa Neighbors Coalition of the Quad-Cities Federation of Labor, Business and Professional Women of Davenport and the Quad-City Area Realtor Association.

"The forums have been a great opportunity for the public to speak directly with elected officials and to have their questions answered," said Toby W. Paone, UniServ director for the Iowa State Education Association.

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