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

Capitol Update Week 11

House Republicans Commitment to Iowa Veterans

As we continue to move through the session, House Republicans continue to work on mainstream bills that are a priority for Iowans, including the Home Base Iowa plan.

This package of legislation is designed to attract veterans back to Iowa and ensure they have the opportunities they need to be successful when they return.

Military Pension Income Tax Exemption: Fully exempt military pensions from state income tax.

Survivor Benefits Income Tax Exemption: Fully exempt military survivor benefits from state income tax.

Occupational Licensure: Directs Iowa’s occupational licensing boards to adopt rules allowing credit for military training and experience in the licensing process.

Hiring preference: Allows private sector employers to grant a preference in hiring and promoting veterans.

Plate fees: Eliminates the special plate issuance fees charged for plates associated with military service.

Monitor credits: Requires community colleges and universities to file reports on the amount of credits they are giving veterans for their service in the military.

County Veterans Affairs: Helps County Commissions of Veterans Affairs keep veterans records confidential as well as improving the policies dealing with the care and maintenance of veteran’s graves.

On Wednesday, the House passed the bill, 93 to 2, and sent it to the Senate.

Iowa’s Income Growth Ranks Tenth Highest

Iowa’s rate of personal income growth grew to the ninth-highest in the county between 2012 and 2013, according to a report released Tuesday. In those years, Iowans’ personal income grew $139 billion—representing a 3.2 percent increase from 2012. But the state also experienced a 0.6 percent decline in incomes during the first three months of 2013 as farm incomes slipped under falling crop prices. Other Midwestern states experienced a similar decline. Iowa still ranks 22nd in per capita income, sitting right at $45,000 per person, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The national average is $44,543. Connecticut has the highest per capita income at $60,847.

The bureau’s report says that the national income growth rate slowed between 2012 and 2013, dropping nearly two points. North Dakota had the highest income growth in 2013 at 7.6 percent. The top ten states are as follows:

1-North Dakota (7.6 percent)

2-Utah (4 percent)

3-Idaho (3.7 percent)

4-Texas (3.7 percent)

5-Oregon (3.5 percent)

6-Colorado (3.4 percent)

7-Oklahoma (3.3 percent)

8-Washington (3.2 percent)

9-Iowa (3.2 percent)

10-Nebraska (3 percent)

Week 11 Recap

The Dyersville Chamber of Commerce visited the Statehouse on Tuesday. I met with Chamber members and business owners. Denise Stillman gave an update on the current status of the Field of Dreams.

Rep. Nancy Dunkel, Sen. Tod Bowman and I met with community leaders from Dyersville: Karla Thompson, Denise Stillman, Ann Cannon and Lisa Maiers.

Rep. Nancy Dunkel, Sen. Tod Bowman and I met with community leaders from Dyersville: Karla Thompson, Denise Stillman, Ann Cannon and Lisa Maiers.

On Wednesday Governor Branstad signed the corn checkoff bill. It allows the corn checkoff board to raise the checkoff cap. Under the bill, the cap can be raised one cent with a referendum vote during the next five years. After five years, the cap can be raised another cent, totaling three cents. The raise must be voted on by the corn producers in order to take effect. To clarify, the bill simply allows the cap to be raised. The corn producers have to vote to actually raise it. The bill also creates an Iowa Corn Checkoff Task Force. I’m happy the Governor has signed the legislation.

This week the House began to pass budget bills on the floor as we brought up the Judicial Branch budget. This budget funds Iowa’s court systems throughout the state. The budget appropriates $174,586,612 in General Fund dollars for the Judicial Branch. This is an increase of $5,899,865 over FY 2014. It also appropriates $3,100,000 for the jury and witness revolving fund. It adds language stating it is the intent of the General Assembly that the Judicial Branch emphasize the expansion of family treatment courts on a statewide basis.

Next week the House will debate the Agriculture & DNR budget and the Justice budget which funds Iowa corrections and law enforcement. The Standings budget and Health & Human Services budget are expected to pass out of Appropriations committee next week also. These are the six budget bills that originate in the House. The other four budget bills originate in the Senate. At this time, the Senate hasn’t passed any of their four out of committee.

I will continue to 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.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update Week 10

Iowa is an All★Vet State—Greene County first Home Base Community

This week, the Governor’s office announced Iowa is among three states to be designated an All★Vet State by Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The All★Vet States initiative was created to highlight opportunities, services, and support being offered by states to attract and hire transitioning service members and military spouses. Michigan and Tennessee also received the All★Vet State designation.

In addition to this new designation, last week Greene County was designated the state’s first Home Base Iowa Community. Home Base Iowa is the new private-public partnership aimed at making Iowa the top state for job-seeking veterans. Greene County was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero – General Nathanael Greene.

Greene County and the city of Jefferson have created an incentive package for veterans considering a move to the area, which includes the following:

  • Banks are eliminating closing costs for veterans applying for VA loan financing
  • Businesses are offering a $2,000 relocation support package
  • A central housing site has been established on the Chamber of Commerce website
  • A 100 percent three-year property tax abatement is offered for veterans’ families who purchase homes in the area
  • An online pre-application job form that allows veterans to apply for many jobs simultaneously

For more information about Home Base Iowa and how to support and engage veterans, please visit: http://www.homebaseiowa.org or contact 855-9HB-IOWA (855-942-4692).

Iowa’s high school graduation rate increases for class of 2013

A report issued by the Department of Education last week shows that for the third year consecutive year, the state’s graduation rate has increased while at the same time, fewer students were dropping out of high school in Iowa.

Graduation rates for the class of 2013 increased for all but one subgroup of students. Of particular note are significant increases among students whose first language is not English (1.82 percent), Hispanic students (2.02 percent), and Native Americans (10.5 percent).

The statewide graduation rate is 89.68 percent, marking a three-year trend. That’s an increase from 89.26 percent in 2012, and 88.32 percent in 2011.

Four-year graduation rate Annual dropout rate 9-12
  All Students   All Students
Class of 2013 89.68%    
Class of 2012 89.26% 2012-13 2.82%
Class of 2011 88.32% 2011-12 3.20%
Class of 2010 88.80% 2010-11 3.38%
Diff. 2012-2013 0.42% Diff. 2012-2013 -0.37%

Four-year graduation rate

Though current federal rankings are not yet available, Iowa has consistently landed at or near the top of national rankings for four-year graduation rates. The four-year graduation rate for the class of 2013 increased from the previous year in 170 school districts (54 percent) out of the 316 Iowa districts that had high schools. Thirteen school districts (4 percent) saw no change in their graduation rates from the year before, while 133 districts (42 percent) saw a decrease.

Annual dropout rate

Iowa’s annual dropout rate decreased in the 2012-13 school year from the year before. The 2012-13 dropout rate was 2.82 percent, a decrease of 0.37 percent from the 2011-12 dropout rate of 3.20 percent.

 

The rate reflects the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who drop out of school during a single year. The state’s 2012-13 dropout rate represents 4,108 students.

Further information

Iowa Public High School, Class of 2013, 4 Year Graduation Data by District and Subgroup

https://www.educateiowa.gov/documents/graduates/2014/03/iowa-public-high-school-class-2013-4-year-graduation-data-district-and

Class of 2013 Four Year and Class of 2012 Five Year Graduation Rates and 2012-2013 Dropout Rates by District

https://www.educateiowa.gov/documents/graduates/2014/03/class-2013-four-year-and-class-2012-five-year-graduation-rates-and-2012

Child Care Assistance Passes House

Child Care Assistance (CCA) is a statewide subsidy program that helps pay for the care of a child while their parent works or goes to school. CCA is available to the children of eligible parents with income at or below 145 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The parent also has to be absent for a portion of the day due to work or school up to an average of 28 hours a week.

Eligibility for child care assistance occurs in six month periods. If income, employment, or academic conditions change at any point and the parent does not meet the CCA eligibility requirements, the parents are required to notify the DHS.

Currently, people can receive child care assistance if they go to school or work for 28 hours a week, but they cannot receive child care assistance if they both work and go to school for a combination of 28 hours per week. This is a challenge for many parents that would like to work while going to school so they can find better jobs. To help encourage this change, the House passed a bill that would change this requirement in four counties through a pilot program. In these counties, parents will be able to receive child care assistance if they go to work and school for an aggregate of 28 hours per week in fiscal year 2015.

The cost to implement a statewide shift in child care assistance is very hard to predict. Reliable information is important to correctly improve this program and prevent underfunding issues in the future. It is the intent of the House Health and Human Services Budget Chair to pursue a statewide expansion of this initiative next session.

Week 10 Recap

Maquoketa Valley seniors visited the Capitol on Tuesday. The group traveled to Des Moines for a government class. They received a tour of the Capitol and the House Chamber. I enjoy visiting with students and answering their questions. I wish more people had the opportunity to come see our beautiful Capitol building.

Maquoketa Valley Government Students & I in the House Chamber

Maquoketa Valley Government Students & In the    House Chamber

 

I got to meet University of Iowa student William Collier this week. William is originally from Newton, Massachusetts. He is studying environmental science at UI. He job shadowed me Tuesday afternoon. William is with other University of Iowa Students here during spring break to shadow legislators and learn more about government. I’m pleased William chose Iowa for his college education. It is great to see college students interested in our environment. He is excited to work to preserve resources and keep our planet clean.

On Wednesday Jon Zirkelbach and his wife Tracy visited the Statehouse with the Jones County Farm Bureau. John was the winning bidder on the flag and Capitol tour I donated to the Monticello School Foundation. Thanks to Jon and Tracy for their generous donation. I brought Jon and his group in to see the House chamber. I got to spend time with them talking about issues and bills going through the House.

Bruce Knipper, Mike Recker, and Bruce Nieman from the Delaware County Farm Bureau also were at the capital on Wednesday. We had a nice visit about issues concerning Delaware county and the Farm Bureau.

Delaware County Farm Bureau members Bruce Knipper, Mike Recker, and Bruce Nieman

Delaware County Farm Bureau members Bruce Knipper, Mike Recker, and Bruce Nieman

Wednesday evening we met with Cedar Rapids City officials. While it is not in my district, I got to discuss a traffic issue with Cedar Rapids’ City Engineer Dave Elgin. The intersection of 6th St. SE and 12th Ave. SE is on the truck route to Cargill’s corn plant.   I explained to Mr. Elgin that with the new construction and added traffic in the area it has made it very difficult for grain trucks to get through that intersection. He promised to look into the situation. My goal was to make it safer for the truckers who travel to Cedar Rapids and Cargill corn plant.

We had a lot of debate throughout the week. Most bills were technical corrections or simple changes. Everything we voted on passed the House with bipartisan support. We will work in the coming weeks on sorting out the details for the budget and the remaining bills on the calendar.

Friday the 21st I will be at the Jones County Farm Bureau forum from 10am to noon. It is at Java Jones in Monticello. I hope to see you there.

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,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update Week Nine

House Votes to Protect Iowa’s Education Standards and Student Data

The House this week passed a bill with unanimous support to address some of the controversy surrounding the Iowa Core and Common Core State Standards.  The bill provides greater transparency and opportunities for public input on the state’s education standards, prevents standards from being implemented without the legislative oversight, reiterates local control of text books and curriculum, and provides greater protection of student data.

Background

Common Core, a set of education standards developed at the national level, has garnered significant interest across the country.  The topic is often controversial, with concerns about nationalization of education, the privacy of student data, and the cost of assessments.

Iowa joined 44 other states in adopting the Common Core into the state’s set of education standards, the Iowa Core, in 2010.  But a number of states have put the brakes on implementation.

HF 2439 – Iowa Core Technical Clean-up, Public Input, and Student Data Privacy

For the standards themselves, the bill requires that the Department of Education and the State Board of Education solicit public input and suggestions to revise or amend.  There is to be at least three public meetings across the state and input will be collected through the Department’s website.  The goal will be to identify any opportunities to strengthen the standards with input from Iowans.

Additionally, any future changes to the Iowa Core standards cannot be implemented until the proposed changes are brought before the legislature while in session.  The bill also reiterates that any curriculum, lesson plans, instructional methods, and text books are chosen at the local level and not chosen by the state or federal government, nor prescribed by the Iowa Core standards.

Finally, the bill provides additional protections for student data collected by districts and the state Department of Education.  The Department is to establish data collection, privacy, and sharing policies for student; inventory and report what student data are collected and the data’s purposes; and create a detailed data security plan that includes privacy compliance standards, a data breach plan, data retention/destruction plans, and guidelines for authorizing parental access to student data.

The bill prevents the state from including biometric, health, criminal/juvenile justice records, family voting or political information, religious information in student data files. Student data is prohibited from being shared outside the state except under certain circumstances where sharing is necessary to conduct the business of the Department of Education in carrying out its duties.  The department must use only aggregate data in public reports.

The bill, in the end, largely mirrors Governor Branstad’s Executive Order 83 issued last fall.  The passage of this bill sends a strong message that the Governor and the House are committed to maintaining control of our standards and student data, not allowing the federal government to interfere with Iowa’s intentions.

Governor Branstad joins egg lawsuit against California law

On Thursday, March 6, 2014, Governor Branstad joined a lawsuit in the Eastern District of California opposing California’s egg-production law that discriminates against Iowa’s egg producers.  Governor Branstad, along with other five other states, argues that California’s egg-production law is unconstitutional and violates the commerce clause.

Iowa’s egg farmers lead the nation in egg production by producing nearly 15 billion eggs per year.  Almost one out of every five eggs produced in the United States are produced in Iowa.  The Iowa egg industry contributes about $2 billion in total sales and impacts about 8,000 jobs.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, and co-signed by the AG’s of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Gov. Branstad, argues that the court should rule that California’s law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The commerce clause prohibits any state from enacting legislation that regulates conduct wholly outside its borders, protects its own citizens from out-of-state competition, or places undue burdens on interstate commerce.

California’s law puts unnecessary burdens on Iowa farms which could force some Iowa farmers out of business.

Facts about Iowa egg production:

  • Iowa is the number one (#1) state in egg production.  Iowa farmers produce over 14.4 billion eggs per year.
  • Approximately 9.1% of those eggs – 1.07 billion eggs per year – are sold in California.
  • Iowa farmers export more eggs to California than any other state.
  • 30% of the eggs imported to California are produced in Iowa.

Week Nine Recap

The deadline for the second funnel is this week. All bills originating from the House must pass out of committee in the Senate and all Senate bills must pass out of committee in  the House in order to remain alive for the session. Committees have until Friday the 14th to pass bills out. All bills still in committee will be dead for the session. Only the Ways & Means and Appropriations committees are funnel proof.

The gift card bill I introduced, HF 2296, passed the funnel deadline. It was passed out of the Senate Commerce committee Thursday afternoon. The bill allows businesses to keep the balance of gift cards customers haven’t yet redeemed. Currently, businesses are required to submit the unused balances to the state Treasury three years after the card is issued. It now goes before the whole Senate for their consideration. The House passed the bill unanimously in February.

We passed a Senate bill out of Environmental Protection committee that gives landfills permission to take yard waste from severe storms or devastating tree diseases such as the emerald ash bore. The emerald ash bore outbreak will have an enormous economic impact and produce tons of waste material. Some thought will have to be put in to other alternatives.

The social host bill (SF 2310) passed out of the House Public Safety committee Thursday afternoon, remaining alive for the session. The bill provides a fine for an owner or leaser that knowingly allows minors to drink alcohol on their property. The bill is now eligible for debate on the floor.

Next week, we turn our focus away from committee work and toward floor debate and the budget. The only committees that will continue to meet are funnel-proof Ways & Means and Appropriations. We will work to finalize the budget and debate bills that survived the funnel.

Next Saturday, March 21st, I’ll be at the Jones County Farm Bureau Forum at Java Jones in Monticello. The forum runs from 10 am to noon and is open to the public.

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,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update Week Eight

House, Senate agree to FY 2015 General Fund Budget Targets

House Republicans announced this week that they had reached agreement with Senate Democrats on the size of the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget.  Next year’s general fund budget will spend $6.9718 billion.

The overall budget will spend 99.84% of on-going state revenue.  This is just 91.14% of the allowed amount under the state’s expenditure limitation law.  The agreement also complies with House Republicans four budgeting principles:

  • We will spend less than the state collects;
  • We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
  • We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
  • We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers

In addition to reaching agreement on the overall size of the budget, House Republicans and Senate Democrats also agreed to the allocation of funds amongst the seven budget subcommittees.  The FY 2015 budget breaks down as follows:

table 3514

Within the budget targets, the state will meet the commitments made by the Legislature and Governor Branstad in the historic 2013 session.  Funding is provided for the 4 percent increase in supplemental state aid for schools, funds the Education Reform agreement, and implements the commercial property tax bill.  Additionally, the budget provides funding levels to ensure a second year of tuition freezes at Iowa’s three Regents universities.

The agreement on joint budget targets between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate is a first in recent legislative history.

Transforming the budget targets into budget bills will begin on Thursday, March 6 as budget subcommittees will resume meeting that morning.

House Focuses on Privacy Issues

Iowans value their right to privacy, and this year the Iowa House is working hard to prevent individuals and the state from violating that privacy. So far, House Republicans have passed three major bills aimed at protecting the privacy of Iowans in their home, travels and online. House File 2368 allows a parent or guardian to protect their child from identity theft, House File 2289 prevents the government and others from using unmanned aerial vehicles to invade privacy at home and elsewhere and House File 2278, which limits the collection of information from Regional Transit Authorities, have all been sent to the Senate for their consideration.

Under current law, a person over the age of 18 may place a security freeze on their credit through a consumer credit agency. A security freeze prevents a credit reporting agency from releasing credit report data without consent and helps prevent identity theft by stopping others from opening credit cards, bank accounts and obtaining loans with another’s identity. Unfortunately, the law did not protect children from identity theft. Under HF 2368, a parent or guardian of a person under 16 can request a security freeze be placed on the persons credit. This security freeze is also available to people who have had a guardian appointed. There have been numerous cases of people stealing children’s identity and opening bank accounts, credit cards and even taking out home loans. Because no one ever worries about a credit score of a child, most parents never think to protect their child’s credit report until it is too late.

New technology makes it very easy for the government or private citizens to follow, observe and record an individual for various purposes. Nothing in Iowa code currently regulates the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), House File 2289 is focused on changing that and ensuring the privacy of Iowans is protected. Under the proposed bill, government agencies could not acquire UAV’s without approval and once they acquire the UAV’s they cannot record data without a warrant or in very limited emergency situations, with court approval. Additionally, individuals could not use UAV’s to stalk, harass or intimated others. Currently the Federal Aviation Administration is working on guidelines for UAV use, but it could be several years before they are fully developed. House Republicans did not want to wait until UAV’s were commonly used before acting to protect the privacy of Iowans and ensure that when UAV’s are used it is in accordance with good law.

House File 2278 limits how regional transit data can be shared with organizations, businesses and government agencies. Regional transit districts could soon be changing the way they collect fares in some situations. Passengers may be more likely to use cards to pay the fee to ride and these cards can be used to collect data on the rider. House File 2278 specifically limits how that information can be used and shared even if a company is paying for the fare. A regional transit district would be prohibited from releasing specific information about a rider. Instead, only aggregate data would be allowed to be disclosed to government entities, organizations, school districts, educational institutions and employers who subsidize or provide fare cards for individuals. This would prevent anyone from accessing where a specific individual traveled.

Privacy issues will continue to come up throughout the legislative session. These three bills are currently waiting for subcommittees in the Senate. If the Senate fails to act within the next 7 days, then it is doubtful that these privacy bills will become law this year.

Two Surveys Reveal Strengthening Iowa Economy

Site Selection Magazine ranked Iowa sixth in list of states with the largest number of projects per capita in 2013.  Iowa won the per-capita ranking with 104 projects overall.  Qualifying projects have to have a minimum $1 million capital, at least 20,000 square feet of new construction or create at least 50 new jobs.  Texas, Ohio and Illinois took the top three rankings based on total projects alone.

Meanwhile, the Creighton University index of nine Midwestern and Plains states dropped slightly in February, reflecting extremely cold weather that hurt winter sales.  Iowa kept its lead in the region, as the state’s score reached a high of 64.5.  Index scores above 50 indicate a state’s economy is expanding over the next few months.  Iowa particularly benefit from manufacturing and agricultural equipment sales.  The index surveys supply managers in a nine-state region.

Week Eight Recap

The House and Senate leadership released their budget targets this week. House Republicans and Senate Democrats agreed to the targets after looking through and analyzing Governor Branstad’s budget proposal. The budget, which funds Fiscal Year 2015, spends a total of $6.9718 billion. That is 99% of on-going revenue. It’s also 91 percent of the spending limit set by law.

A couple highlights for FY 2015 are a 9.7 percent increase in education spending and a 7.13 percent increase in economic development spending. Also, there is a nearly two percent cut in administration & regulation spending.

It’s important to note this budget spends less than the state takes in. We will not use one-time money (like federal stimulus dollars) to fund on-going needs. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs, and we will return tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers. Iowans expect us to come to Des Moines and work across isle to compromise and get things done. We will not resort to Washington D.C. bickering and gridlock. I’m proud we could all come together to accomplish a budget that meets the principles of Iowans.

Tuesday night I attended the Iowa Agriculture Leaders Dinner. The event was sponsored by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Guests included lawmakers, commodity groups, environmental leaders, and other distinguished guests. Dr. Lowell Catlett, an Ag Economics professor at New Mexico State University, delivered an interesting speech. In 1970, farmers fed 3.2 billion people eating an average of 500 calories a day. Dr. Catlett went on say that today we feed 7.8 billion people eating an average of 2500 calories a day. This is made possible by the American farmer and his dedication and passion.

We voted nearly 40 bills out of the House this week. One was House File 2368. The bill allows a parent or guardian of a person under age 16 to place a security freeze on the child’s credit. The freeze prevents a credit bureau from releasing credit card data without consent. This helps prevent identity theft by stopping others from opening credit cards and bank accounts with the child’s identity.

I will be at the Manchester Legislative Forum Friday the 7th. The forum runs from 9:30 to 11:30 and is open to the public. I encourage you to attend. I will be at the Delaware and Jones Republican County Conventions this Saturday. Both run from 9 am to noon.

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,

 

Rep. Lee Hein