Capitol Update Week Two

Stability and Growth in Education Funding

From 2002 to 2012, education funding in Iowa was a tumultuous period. This is evidenced by numerous across the board cuts – which affected education and every other area of the budget – and moves by the legislature to underfund the state’s responsibility in the school funding formula. Over that decade it happened no less than 6 times with the capstone being the 2010 10% across-the-board cut.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this graph is worth $530 million dollars.

The result of increasing state spending to unsustainable levels and spending one-time money for ongoing expenses mixed with an economic collapse caused education funding in this state to take a $530 million loss in one single year. The state is still trying to recover from that loss. This is an example that the House looks to as we form our budgeting principles.

It was on this foundation that House and Governor Branstad begin their work in 2011 of stabilizing not only education funding but the entire budget, while at the same time providing unprecedented growth to school funding.

Over $450 million new state dollars have been appropriated to Iowa’s schools since Republicans gained control of the House and the Governor’s office. Some of these years have seen more growth than at any point in Iowa’s history.

The Funding is just part of the picture

In addition to providing unprecedented growth in the school funding formula, the legislature also passed a bipartisan education reform package two years in a row. 2013’s education reform bill, House File 215, was where the real change happened.

On top of the $450 million new dollars provided to schools over the past 4 years, HF 215 appropriated an additional $150 million ($50 million incrementally over 3 years) and created a new teacher leadership and compensation system that will fundamentally change how teachers cooperate and grow in their profession.

This isn’t just money into the system for the sake of more money. It’s potentially revolutionary change in a system that doesn’t change often. The new TLC program went live this year in 39 school districts with the goal of being statewide in 2 more years, making Iowa the first state in the nation to provide a state-wide teacher leadership system and adequately fund it for success. States around the country

will be watching Iowa and following our lead into a new support system for teachers that will do much for student success in the future.

Here’s the resulting picture of the House efforts over the past 5 years:

Budget Year School Year   Growth Percentage State Aid Increase
FY 2012 11/12 0% Allowable Growth * $178 million
FY 2013 12/13 2% Supplemental State Aid (SSA) $30 million
FY 2014 13/14 2% SSA + 2% one-time payment $65 million + $57 million
FY 2015 14/15 4% Supplemental State Aid $148 million
    Total $421 million + $57 million

(* 0% growth was a $178 million increase in state funds because the school aid formula had been purposely underfunded by over $156 million the previous year by the legislature)

The big picture

We are all products of this state’s education system, through Iowa’s public elementary schools, private schools, home school families, community colleges, private colleges, and the state universities.   The state spends nearly 60% of its dollars on education in this state proving that education is our top priority.

Week Two Recap

Every morning the House is led in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. The prayer is led by a pastor from around the state, who is invited by a Representative. The Pledge is led by a high school aged page in the House. There are still some days available this session for a pastor to lead prayer. If you know any clergy from the area that would like to come, please send me an email. We can see if your schedule will work with any of the open days. I’d love to host someone from the district to offer the morning prayer. The House is in session Monday through Thursday until May 1st.

I will be attending the following forums. All are open to the public:

Friday 1/23/15- Jones Co. Economic Development forum at Anamosa City Hall at 12 pm;

Friday 2/6/15- Delaware Co. Farm Bureau forum at the Delaware Co. Farm Bureau office in Manchester at 10 am;

Friday 2/20/15- Jones Co. Economic Development forum at the Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa at 12 pm;

Friday 3/13/15- Delaware Co. Farm Bureau forum at the Delaware Co. Farm Bureau office in Manchester at 10 am

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330. Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update Week One

Governor Branstad’s Budget Proposal

Governor Branstad’s Budget ProposalThe Governor’s Budget spends $7.3410 billion in FY 2016, an increase of $346.7 million over FY 2015 or 4.95 percent. Branstad’s FY 2016 proposal spends more money than the Revenue Estimating Conference’s December ongoing revenue estimate of $7.1946 billion. The gap between ongoing revenue and the Governor’s budget is approximately $146.4 million.

For FY 2017, the Governor is proposing a General Fund budget of $7.5252 billion. This would be an increase of $184.2 million or 2.50 percent.

Each of the past four years, the budget passed by the Legislature has spent less than what the Governor proposed. The FY 2016 budget will continue this trend.

90 percent of Iowa’s budget goes to three areas – School aid ($2.9 billion), wages and benefits for state employees ($2.1 billion), and Medicaid ($1.6 billion).

Over the past decade, state revenue has grown by 4.1 percent annually, state spending on K-12 education grew by 4.2 percent, and Medicaid grew by 11.7 percent.

55 percent of the Governor’s FY 2016 budget proposal is targeted to education.

The House is looking forward to working with Governor Branstad and Senate Democrats to put together a budget that keeps Iowa in a strong financial position.

Internet Access Takes Center Stage In Washington and Des Moines

President Obama unveiled a series of measures this week aimed at making high-speed Internet access cheaper and more widely available. His announcement, made in Cedar Falls, focused chiefly on efforts by cities to build their own Internet networks as competitive alternatives to major web providers.

The president said he’ll urge the Federal Communications Commission to help neutralize state laws that effectively protect established Internet providers against municipal networks that want to build and offer services. Federal agencies will also expand grants for both municipal and rural providers.

Wednesday’s speech opens a different front in another issue that’s before the FCC: net neutrality. The president’s communique to the FCC marks his second since November when he asked the agency to apply strong net neutrality rules on Internet providers that would ban them from charging different prices for high-content web traffic from companies like Netflix. The video streaming service also urged the FCC last year to preempt the kinds of state laws that prevent municipal Internet networks from coming online in places like Colorado, for example, where a city must hold a successful referendum before undertaking such a project.

Cedar Falls is one of many cities across the country that have built their own publicly operated network, and a high percentage of the city’s households are subscribers. Nine Iowa cities offer similar services.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote last year that the public interest would be served if the FCC moved to “preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband.”   The FCC’s congressional charter gives it the authority to stimulate broadband deployment, a broadly worded commission that could also be used to authorize its equally controversial net neutrality rules.

Meanwhile, existing Internet providers are pushing back. In August, AT&T warned the FCC that public investments in municipal networks will only diminish private-sector investments that could both expand and enhance web access. And any move from the FCC to neutralize state laws would almost surely meet fierce–and perhaps successful–legal resistance from established providers.

President Obama’s visit coincides with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcing a multi-million dollar loan program to help rural carriers build broadband in unserved or underserved areas. It also coincides with Governor Branstad’s Connect Every Acre initiative, which he announced during Tuesday’s Condition of the State Address. His proposal would provide a 10-year property tax exemption for broadband infrastructure in place on or after July 1, 2014. A $5 million grant program would also help spur broadband access to farms, school and rural communities.

Week One Recap

We kicked off the 85th General Assembly Monday morning by swearing in all one hundred members of the Iowa House. The first week has mostly been filled with ceremonial activities. We elected our House speaker and let both the Governor and the Senate know the House was open to receive any communication. Governor Branstad delivered his annual Condition of the State address on Tuesday. He outlined his goals for this session as well as delivered his proposed budget.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Cady also delivered the Condition of the Judiciary on Wednesday. He touted the progress they’ve made instituting technology in the courts system. The Judicial branch has moved to a totally paperless process for all levels. He held up an iPad saying every case he has is stored on it. Last month, the four millionth legal document was electronically filed in the State’s court system.

This session, I will serve on the Agriculture, Ways & Means, Transportation, State Government, and Rules & Administration committees. As well as serving as an assistant majority leader. The committees met briefly this week to introduce new members and go over goals for the year. Next week the committees will dive in and get to work.

Me signing my oath of office after being sworn in Monday morning

Me signing my oath of office after being sworn in Monday morning

Wednesday night I attended an event hosted by the Alcohol Beverages Division. The event was at the agency’s warehouse in Ankeny. The facility was very impressive with over 22 million dollars in inventory currently stored there. The division is responsible for the distribution of hard liquor. They typically have around six weeks of inventory on hand. It is the agency’s only warehouse. I thought it was interesting to learn the State doesn’t own any alcohol. When a retailer makes an order through the agency, the State then pays the manufacturer and the retailer pays the State simultaneously. Last year, the Alcohol Beverages Division raked in 119 million dollars in revenue that went to the general fund.

I’m excited to be back in Des Moines to work for the people of District 96. It’s great to be part of a group of people who put partisanship aside to accomplish good for the people of Iowa.

If you are traveling to Des Moines, I encourage you to stop and tour the Capitol building. The House is in session Monday through Thursday until May 1st. Get in touch with me if you plan to come and I will mark it on my schedule. I love to meet and visit with people from the district.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Lee Hein

End of Session Recap

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End of Session Recap

At 5:55 AM on Thursday May 1st the Iowa House adjourned the 85th General Assembly.   I spend just short of 24 hours at the Capital on the last day.  We passed six of the eleven appropriation bills on the last day, remaining steadfast to our budgeting principles of spending less than we take in.

Three years ago, Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall.  As the session ends, Iowa is spending just 91% of what our outdated expenditure limitation law allows, our budget reserves remain full and the ending balance is projected to be $740 million.  We spent 98% of our ongoing revenues for ongoing expenses.  For the second consecutive year, House Republicans led the way on debt reduction.  Over the last two sessions, $225 million in debt has been retired.  Challenging budget times remain and the House Republicans remain steadfast in our commitment to responsible common sense budget budgeting.

The Cannabidol bill that started out at the beginning of the session as the medical marijuana bill. It was assumed dead, but transformed as the surprise of the session.  This bill as passed is not medical marijuana that could be smoked for medical purposes.  It is a very narrowly drafted bill for Iowans diagnosed by an Iowan neurologist that have intractable epilepsy.  They can seek permission to obtain Cannabidiol for treatment.

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive chemical found in the marijuana plants.   An Iowan who has been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy can apply to receive a card from the Department of Public Health allowing them to have up to 32 oz of Cannabidiol. A patient or a guardian who has the card issued to them and who follows the law will not be prosecuted by the state for possession of Cannabidiol. People who do not have the Cannabidiol Card are still prohibited from having Cannabidiol. The cards must be renewed every year. The University of Iowa shall submit a yearly report detailing scientific literature, studies and clinical trials regarding the use of Cannabidiol around the country. This bill has a sunset date of July 1, 2017.  At that time the data will be reviewed and the legislature will revisit the issue.

I actually thought that it was dead late in the evening on Wednesday.  But early Thursday morning a group of legislators led by Majority leader Linda Upmeyer huddled around a desk on the House floor to hammer out a compromise that would allow this issue to move forward. I supported it in the end because of the sunset provision and the data collection that allows us to review it in 2017.

As I look back on the session for me I believe it was a very successful session.  I have three issue that I worked on move to the Governor’s desk and be on.   First was an unused gift card bill that was brought to me by constituent Brad Davis of Manchester.  The issue was that unused gift card after three years where to be sent to the State Treasurer, if no one claimed them the money was put in the General fund.  The new law allows the business to keep the money if they are willing to honor the card as long as they are in business.  This is a good law for small business in Iowa.

The second was the Social Host bill.  I introduced it back in 2011.  It puts a state-wide law that fines landowners who if they are aware of under aged drinking is happening on at their property.  This is another tool in the tool box to help curb under aged drinking.

The last was the ground breaking ceremony Lake Delhi for the start of the rebuilding of the dam.  This was a huge step in bringing back the lake. It has been just short of four years since the dam was breached.  Since then a lot of people have put forth a lot of effort to make this happen.   I was proud to be a part of the ceremony and am looking for to the construction taking place this summer.

With that, we ended the 85th Iowa General Assembly.  The parade season will soon be upon us.  I look forward to being out meeting people and listening to your concerns.  If see me give a wave or a hello.  Enjoy the summer and have a safe one.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (319) 480-1997.

 

Capitol Update Week 15

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Iowa Unemployment Rate Increases to 4.5% in March

Last week, Iowa Workforce Development released the jobs report for March of 2014. The state’s unemployment increased from 4.4% in February to 4.5% in March. A year ago, Iowa’s unemployment rate was 4.8%.

Currently, Lyon County boasts the state’s lowest unemployment rate of 2.9%, followed by
Johnson and Shelby counties at 3.2% respectively. Allamakee County continues to struggle with an unemployment rate well above the state average at 8.3%, followed by Clayton County at 7.6% and Tama County at 7.5%.

5,300 jobs were added between February and March, while 1,800 jobs were lost during that same time. 7,100 workers also joined the labor force in March, which is an increase of 23,900 workers since a year ago. Iowa’s increasing labor force is a sign that the state’s economy is strong and continues to grow.

The state’s unemployment rate is tied for seventh lowest in the country.

New Media Rules Expands Transparency in the Court

Beginning May 1st, the Iowa Supreme Court will broaden the Court’s definition of news media. The new definition will allow for live social media to be used in the chambers, including tweeting and blogging.

Iowa has been leading the way in transparency in the Courts. Since 1979, Iowa has allowed cameras in the Supreme Court Chambers. It has taken many years for
other states to follow suit. Now Iowa is leading the way in social media usage in Court Chambers. Over the past 10 months a 15 person advisory committee
reviewed language submitted by Iowa Judges, attorneys and members of the media. The language expands the definition of news media to include anyone who regularly reports on matters of public interest in any medium. It also allows for social media to be used in the Court room, including Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Previous language used by the Court was vague and Reporters were not sure if the use of computers or phones to send social media messages was actually allowed during a live court room proceeding. The new language clears up any confusion and ensures all Iowans have better access to news coming out of the Courts.

As technology changes Court rules must change to ensure equal access for all Iowans. These new rules keep Iowa ahead of most states for transparency and helps keep Iowa Courts number one in the nation.

Drop in Deer Donations

The number of deer donated to a Department of Natural Resources program that uses the meat to feed the hungry dropped by 15 percent this year. Hunters still donated 3,900 deer to the “Help Us Stop Hunger” (HUSH) program. According to the Iowa DNR,
hunters have been very generous over the last 10 years.

Hunters donated 30 less tons of meat this year compared to last year. The DNR thinks donations are down because the deer population is also down. The Food Bank of Iowa coordinates distribution of the deer meat and is replacing the loss of venison with other protein, like canned chicken, or even peanut butter. Hunters in the program have donated 60,000 deer in 10 years — which is the equivalent of 10.8 million meals.

 
House Passes Support for Renewable Energy

This week the House passed Senate File 2343 by a vote of 91-4. The legislation provides an extension for the tax credits for wind energy and other renewable energy facilities that have been awarded production tax credits under 476C. The legislation also includes certain landfill bi-products as allowed fuel sources for an existing cogeneration subcategory.

Specifically, Senate File 2343 extends the deadline for putting in place a renewable energy facility to qualify for Iowa’s existing renewable energy tax credit. The current deadline is January 1, 2015—this section changes that date to January 1, 2017.

Additionally, Senate File 2343 adds methane gas, landfill gas, and biogas as allowed fuel sources for an existing 10.0 megawatt cogeneration subcategory of qualified facilities. This is currently limited to natural gas cogeneration. The bill also provides that thermal heat generated by the cogeneration facility and used for a commercial purpose may be counted toward satisfying the 10.0 megawatt reservation requirement.

Senate File 2343 makes a corresponding change to extend the 10-year duration during which a producer or purchaser of renewable energy may receive renewable energy tax credit certificates from an end date of December 31, 2024, to December 31, 2026. Senate
File 2343 is expected to have a fiscal impact of $2.0 million in FY 2016 and $5.3 million in FY 2017. The bill will now go to the Governor for his review.

Week 15 Recap 

This week marked the official end to the session. 100 days have passed since we started back in January. At this point, we say goodbye to the backbone of the legislature, our clerks. They work behind the scenes, helping answer emails, sending newsletters, writing
committee reports, and agendas for meetings. Again this year I was fortunate to have Dax Oberreuter from Ryan. He was a great clerk and made my job much easier. Thanks Dax, and I wish you well in your future—you are always welcome here at the capital.

As I am writing this newsletter, retirement speeches are being delivered. It is a true sign the legislature is nearing the end. Each retiring legislator has the opportunity to stand up and reflect on their past experiences as serving here in the legislature. Each one will be missed and I thank them for their service to Iowa.

All but one budget has been approved or moved to conference committee. The Standings bill is the last bill to be worked out, and negotiations between the House and Senate have started. The conference committees are working hard to reach agreements so
that we can close this session. The hope is that we can adjourn yet this weekend.
Thursday, Senator Zumbach and I made a quick trip back to Lake Delhi to be a part of the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the dam. This is just another step to bringing the lake back, but it was a huge step. It was great to see all the people who
showed up to be a part of this historic day. There have been a lot of people who have had a part in this and worked hard to see this day happen. It should be an interesting summer to watch the construction progress and the return of the lake.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330

 

 

Capitol Update Week 14

House Passes Education Budget

The House this week acted on the Education Appropriations bill (SF 2347) sent over from the Senate the previous week. There is much common ground between the two bills due to the chambers coming together on joint targets and working from the same starting point in discussions this year. The final result is a bill that benefits the students of Iowa greatly.

The biggest piece of the bill is the first of three total installments for the Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) system that was part of 2013’s education reform initiative. $50 million was appropriated to the first round of grantees, with $50 million to follow each of the next two years. In addition to this education reform funding, the bill also provides funding for pilots for English Language Learning initiatives, Iowa Learning Online’s system of online courses available for districts to use, funding for administrator mentoring and coaching which is necessary for the success of the TLC system, and funding for AEAs to support the TLC system. And finally, it provided another important part of the early literacy initiative in 2012’s education reform bill by providing $1.9 million requested to provide districts with an early warning literacy assessment necessary to identify students struggling with literacy before grade 4.

Following this, higher education received several bumps in funding. Community Colleges once again saw a significant increase of over 4%, with an $8 million increase. Private school students will benefit from a nearly 4% increase, $1.4 million, to the Iowa Tuition Grant. And the bill met the $19.2 million request that the Regents proposed for a tuition freeze. The University of Iowa saw a 2%, or $4.5 million, increase; Iowa State received 4%, or $7 million; and recognizing the impact of a tuition freeze on the University of Northern Iowa and their other unique funding needs, the bill provided 4%, or $3.3 million, plus an additional $4.4 million.

The bill also provided relief for those Iowans who are facing a disability, yet trying to gain their independence and find a job. Vocational Rehabilitation received an $850,000 increase, allowing them to maximize their federal match and clear the waiting list for Iowans looking for help.

Other areas receiving increases include state libraries, private school families through textbook assistance, students making a positive life decision in Iowa Jobs for America’s Grads (iJAG), preschool students in early head start programs, and Iowa Public Television.

House Republicans are proud of the work done on this bill, a bill that adequately funds education while still remaining within the principles of spending less than the state takes in, not using one-time funding for on-going expenses, and funding our commitments.

The bill will return to the Senate where a few differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill will be considered before a final resolution.

Week 14 Recap

On Monday, the House recognized the Iowa State Men’s basketball team with HR 124. The resolution congratulates the team and coaches for their accomplishments this season. The team went 26-7 and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Men’s Tournament. Members from the team and coach Fred Hoiberg were in the Chamber for the resolution. It was wonderful to see college athletes getting recognized for their hard work and dedication. I’m proud of the team and wish them luck next season.

ISU head coach Fred Hoiberg addressing the House.

ISU head coach Fred Hoiberg addressing the House.

Legislators at the Statehouse are starting to wind things down for the session. In the House, there are a few bills eligible for our consideration. Most of our work in the last few weeks however is budget bills. This week we passed the education budget, transportation, and standings budget.

Some budget bills this session will end up in conference committee.  Once the House and Senate both pass the same bill, it is sent to the governor.  If the Senate and House cannot agree on a bill it is sent to a conference committee which is made up of 10 members, five from each chamber. Of the five conferees, three are from the majority party and two are from the minority. Since Iowa has a split legislature, all conference committees will have five Republicans and five Democrats. Only language in the House and Senate versions of a bill can be considered. No new amendments can be added to the bill.

Once the bill is passed out of conference committee, it goes to the House and Senate for them to concur with the agreement. After both chambers concur, it goes to Governor Branstad for his signature.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update Week 13

Are In-State Students Treated Fairly By Regents’ Four Percent Increase Request?

As the Iowa Board of Regents has been advocating for additional funding for Iowa’s state universities, the group charged with overseeing the schools have been contending that it is important to treat all three schools the same. But does the Board’s proposed increase treat every in-state student the same?

The funding advocated for by the Board and moved forward by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee would a four percent increase of each school’s general aid appropriation. The four percent hike in funding would provide the following amounts of new money to each school:

University of Iowa                    $8,881,654

Iowa State University                $6,959,454

University of Northern Iowa      $3,328,913

The amount of the increases reflects the distorted funding methodology for the state’s three Regents schools. While Iowa State University has the largest number of in-state students during the 2013-2014 school year (18,950), their 4 percent increase is nearly $2 million less than what the University of Iowa would receive, which has 16,915 in-state students.

Using the 2013-2014 enrollment numbers, the four percent increase adds to the disparity in funding per in-state student. UNI would receive an additional $307 for each of its in-state students, which make up around 90 percent of the school’s student body. Iowa State would receive $351 per in-state student on its campus. And the University of Iowa would be the big winner, receiving an additional $525 per in-state student.

These figures tend to confirm a growing perception amongst Iowans that there is a serious flaw the ways state funds are provided to the three universities. While the Board of Regents is pushing legislators to treat each school the same, their funding formula does not provide anything close to equitable funding for each in-state student. In actually, the funding divide per student is getting worse.

With the Board of Regents promising action on the distribution formula in the next year, Iowa taxpayers will expect to see a move towards a more equitable way of funding the state’s public institutions of higher education.

Recap of Week 13

Recently, the Governor has been accused of secretly permitting secret agreements with former state employees. These agreements included higher settlements for confidentiality agreements. Governor Branstad has repeatedly denied any knowledge of these agreements and has issued an Executive Order that calls for transparency in all future agreements made. This executive order ensures that the public will be kept in the loop as long as Branstad is Governor.

The House this week approved HF 2462. The bill follows up Governor Branstad’s executive order and legislates the language into the Iowa Code. The bill makes these settlements public record. It also makes the reason for dismissal public as well. The House is also adding provisions to all of this year’s budget bills. The provisions state an agency can use settlements to terminate employees, but they cannot use appropriated funds with confidentiality clauses.

I am proud of the way the House has responded to this issue. Until this news broke a couple of weeks ago, I don’t believe anyone here in the House knew that these agreements existed. These measures ensure a transparent state government. Iowans have a right to know how their tax dollars are being used.

Monday night, the House passed the social host bill I’ve been working on. The bill provides a fine to adults who knowingly allow minors 17 and under to drink alcohol on their property. Currently, many cities and counties have their own local social host ordinances. The bill allows the local ordinance to have precedent over the state law as long as it is as strong or stronger than the state language. The bill passed overwhelmingly bipartisan. It passed the Senate on Thursday and now goes to the Governor for his signature.

On Thursday, Governor Branstad signed HF 2296. HF 2296 is the gift card bill I sponsored. Previously, businesses were required to turn over any unused balance on gift cards or certificates to the State Treasury three years after the card is issued. No surrounding state required companies to do this. Big corporations could funnel their gift card sales to neighboring states to avoid paying. Main street businesses did not have that luxury. Now, business owners keep the unused funds, as long as the card doesn’t expire. Brad Davis, who owns Pizza Ranch in Manchester and Monticello, brought this issue to my attention earlier this session. I want to give a big thank you to Brad for everything he has done. It was because of him and numerous others we were able to get this accomplished so quickly. The bill keeps money in the pockets of small businesses and keeps it out of the government’s hands.

Brad Davis, other legislators and myself at the HF 2296 bill signing.

Brad Davis, other legislators and myself at the HF 2296 bill signing.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update Week 12

House Advances Justice Systems Budget

On Tuesday, the Iowa House passed the Justice Systems Appropriations Bill, House File 2450, on a party line vote of 52-47. House File 2450 appropriates general fund money for essential public safety operations, including: the Department of Corrections, Office of the Public Defender, the Department of Justice, Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Department of Public Safety, the Parole Board and other departments.

House File 2450 appropriates $554.3 million out of the general fund for Fiscal Year 2015. This is an increase of $6.6 million from FY14. Some departments will see a reduction in funds; including the Civil Rights Commission, who requested a reduction in funding. While other departments will maintain current funding levels or see an increase.

After discussions with all the departments, House Republicans have determined the majority of the new funding should be dedicated to the Iowa State Patrol to ensure new State Troopers are hired. At night, many Iowa counties do not have a State Trooper available. House File 2450 appropriates $6.1 million in an effort to solve this problem. The increase in funds will allow at least 30 new State Troopers to be hired. This ensures Iowa will be better protected, no matter where they live.

Houses File 2450 also addresses settlements received by the Attorney General. Under the current proposal, the Attorney General will be required to submit a report to the legislature detailing all money generated by settlements and the planed use for the money. Additionally, the Attorney General will seek approval from the Executive Council before finalizing settlements to ensure the settlement best serves the people of Iowa. These new requirements will help the legislature understand how and where settlement money is spent when future appropriation requests are made.

Along with necessary funding, House Republicans are also seeking for more transparency from departments. Representatives reviewed reimbursement requests from the Victim Assistance Program to the Department of Justice and found that many requests were vague, incomplete and handwritten. House File 2450 will create a uniform reimbursement form for the Department of Justice to use when handling Victim Assistance Program payments. Many state agencies already have strong reimbursement standards, the language in House File 2450 will bring the Department of Justice and the Victim Assistance Program up to the same standards.

House File 2450 has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.

House Passes Bipartisan Economic Development Budget

The Republican led House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $42.6 million appropriation to promote economic growth in Iowa. Funding will flow to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Iowa Workforce Development and other state agencies. The bill will decrease the number of state employees by 16 positions.

The budget deal represents a bi-partisan compromise crafted among the parties representing both the Senate and House, which met in the Economic Growth Budget Subcommittee throughout the legislative session. The bill passed 97-2.

Most of the budget’s new money is devoted to Governor Branstad’s initiatives to increase job growth and income throughout Iowa. It fosters student internships in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by providing matching funds to employers who hire STEM interns. It also increases funding for apprenticeships and job training programs that are designed to increase workers’ skills.

House Oversight Committee Passes Bill Forbidding Confidential Settlements

On Wednesday, the House Government Oversight Committee passed House Study Bill 684 by a vote of 5 to 4. The bill will ban the use of confidentiality clauses in personnel settlement agreements for public workers. In addition, the bill makes public the reason and rationale for an employee dismissal, demotion, or resignation in lieu of a termination. Under current law, only certain personal information (such as name, dates the individual was employed, the fact that the employee was discharged, etc.) is allowed to be public information.

The bill seeks to remedy a practice in state government that has been used during, at the least, the last two Governor’s administrations. Last week, Governor Branstad issued an executive order banning the confidentiality clauses for future agreements and also made public all settlement agreements signed during his administration.

House Study Bill 684 codifies Governor Branstad’s executive order, ensuring that the practice of writing nondisclosure clauses into settlement agreements will not be practiced in future administrations. In addition, it will allow the state to disclose why certain disciplinary actions were taken against a state employee, potentially helping another employer from making a bad hire.

The bill will advance to the House floor for full consideration.

Week 12 Recap

On Tuesday I met Wade Bloomquist of Monticello and Stephanie Sailer of Manchester. Both were at the Capitol for the State Universities thesis program. The students set up booths in the rotunda and presented their findings to lawmakers. Wade is a senior at the University of Iowa studying math sciences. His thesis is titled Multiplication on the Punctured Torus. Stephanie is a senior at University of Northern Iowa. Her thesis is titled US Demand for Farm Tractors 1950-2011. It was great to meet both of them and listen to the exciting work they’re doing in their fields of study. I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Wade Bloomquist with his presentation in the rotunda.

Wade Bloomquist with his presentation in the rotunda.

 

Stephanie Sailer with her presentation.

Stephanie Sailer with her presentation.

A group of fourth graders from West Delaware Lambert Elementary came to the Capitol Tuesday and Wednesday. I met with the students and brought them to the House Chamber for a tour. Afterward, Sen. Zumbach and I sat down with them to answer their questions. It was great to have so many students come and view the chamber this week.

Sen. Zumbach and I with Lambert Elementary 4th graders.

Sen. Zumbach and I with Lambert Elementary 4th graders.

Members with the Iowa Cattlemen Association were at the Statehouse on Wednesday. They served lunch and I got to meet with farmers from around the area.

We continued with our budget work in the House this week. The House passed the Justice Appropriations budget. The budget includes funding for an additional 33 state troopers. We also passed the Economic Development budget. It includes additional funding over last year for job training for small businesses. Lastly, the IDALS (Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship) and DNR Appropriations budget was approved by the House. The House increased funding 2.2 million dollars for the Water Quality Initiative. The program is part of the nutrient reduction strategy. It provides funds for high-priority watersheds identified by the Soil Conservation division. The budget also increases funding for the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

The Health & Human Services budget passed out of Appropriations committee this weekand will be debated next week. With those eligible for debate, the House only has the Standings Appropriation budget to yet pass out of committee.

As I have always said, I will stick to my principles of not spending more than the state takes in, not intentionally underfunding entitlements, I won’t use one-time money for ongoing expenses and I will return money back to the taxpayers.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein