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Senator Harkin Retiring Soon, But Still Has Legislative Priorities

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is calling it a political career after his current U.S. Senate term ends. But he told Cedar Rapids business and political leaders on Friday he still hopes to see some more priorities pass before hes through.

Harkin, a native of Cumming, Iowa, won a house seat in 1974. He defeated an incumbent to move to the U.S. Senate in 1984. Hes retiring at the end of his 5th term.

Harkin met with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Mayor Ron Corbett and Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers on Friday. He admitted to feeling a bit nostalgic and reflective about legislative battles when he sits down with constituent groups these days.

Im coming back to Iowa, Im going to be a part of this state and I want to see us continue to grow and prosper and do things, Harkin said.

But he also told the economic group that there are some important things he hopes to see through to the end before he does leave office. One in particular is the $12.3-billion dollar water projects bill passed by the senate on Thursday.

That bill funds 46 separate infrastructure projects including two in Iowa. One of those is just over $73-million dollars to pay for future flood protection on the east side of the Cedar River. Harkin said Congress has passed the bill and sent it on to the President. But he told the small group the job now is to insure Congress finds to funding to pay for the promises. He expects that to happen just after the election, but before he leaves office.

This water bills been sitting there, weve been trying to get it for a long time and we finally got it done and so I just want to make sure we get the money through, he said.

The five term senator may be best remembered as the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act which required accommodation for those with physical or mental limitations in public and at work. But Harkin said what he considers his second most important piece of legislation might come as a surprise.

One bill that I got through, no one knows about it now but everyone comes in touch with it every day, is this. Every time you turn on the TV, hit the mute button and see closed captioning at the bottom of the screen that was my bill, he said.

Harkins bill required all TV sets sold in the U.S., larger than 13 inches, to come with a decoding chip to receive the closed caption script. He said it was legislation that actually passed before the better-known Americans with Disabilities Act.

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