Capitol Update

Problems Continue to Grow at Fort Madison Prison

Last Thursday, the House Oversight committee called in Department of Administrative Services Director, Janet Phipps Burkhead, to answer questions on the continual delays and rising costs at the new Fort Madison Prison. Unfortunately, the committee was left with more concerns and questions than real answers. Representatives now believe there may be additional costs and longer delays before the prison can be opened.

Director Phipps was appointed in May of 2014, and in previous Oversight meetings the committee had been told by the Department of Corrections that the Director had been working with DOC to resolve problems. After over 9 months on the job, the Director was unable to answer many basic questions about the problems plaguing the unopened prison. Representatives were disappointed with the Directors’ knowledge of the major issues and are following up with questions and document requests, in order to better understand how so many problems happened on this project and what parties are responsible.

While she could not answer many important questions, Director Phipps did tell the committee there is an additional $20 million being requested by the General Contractor, Walsh Construction, for equitable adjustments. When asked for specifics, the Director was unable to give examples of the equitable adjustments and could only tell the committee the request is made when a company believes it has provided additional resources or labor not part of the original bid. The committee was unable to get additional information on these equitable adjustments from the Director. This $20 million in equitable adjustment requests had not previously been shared with Representatives during the Oversight investigation. The Director was unsure if the State would have to pay the additional money.

The largest issue preventing the prison from opening is the ineffective smoke evacuation system. Director Phipps told the committee it will take a fire specialist another four to six weeks to finish modeling the buildings and determine the best way to manage the smoke. Once those models are complete, a Fire Marshal will be asked to review the plans and if they are approved, then reconstruction of the smoke evacuation system will begin. The Director could not tell the committee how much the design, or construction is expected to cost or when it will be completed.

Representatives also asked the Director about problems with the geothermal system. While she had little information about original problems and the cost to fix the system, she did inform the committee that the geothermal system appears to be fixed and working. Unfortunately, this week, it was reported that there may be additional problems with the system. Prison officials had to shut down a sprinkler system in a building that houses a library, gymnasium and chapel due to cold temperatures. According to the Department of Corrections, there is cold air leaking between the ceiling and the roof of the building and the temperatures dropped below freezing in that area. Additionally, there is cold air leakage in the mechanical alleyways adjacent in two housing units, the DOC did not say if water was shut off in either of those buildings. Representatives are just learning about these additional issues and will be following up with questions.

Currently there is no estimated date to open the prison. Once the buildings receive occupancy permits, it will take approximately another three months to retrain Corrections Officers before prisoners can be transferred. Representatives are worried it could be another year before the new prison is occupied.

The bi-partisan House Oversight Committee will continue to push for answers from all parties involved with the construction of the prison. Within the next week, members are expecting more detailed answers and documents from DAS. Once those documents have been reviewed the committee will be calling in more individuals involved with the prison construction to understand how all the problems occurred and to find a solution to ensure problems of this magnitude never happen again.

Nominations for Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Awards Sought

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, the Office of the Governor issued a press release in which Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey encouraged Iowans to nominate farmers for the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award. The award goes to farmers who have taken voluntary actions to improve or protect the environment and natural resources of our state. Nominations are due by June 15, 2015 and the nomination form can be found at http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/EnvironmentalLeader.asp. The award is a joint effort between the Governor, Lt. Governor, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources to recognize the efforts of Iowa’s farmers as environmental leaders committed to healthy soils and improved water quality.

Farmers that are nominated should have made environmental stewardship a priority on their farm and incorporated best management practices into their farming operation. As true stewards of the land, they recognize that improved water quality and soil sustainability reaps benefits that extend beyond their fields to citizens of Iowa and residents even further downstream. Nominations may be submitted on a year-round basis and are due by June 15th of the year to be considered for the award. Farm owners and operators are eligible for consideration.

An appointed committee of representatives from both conservation and agricultural groups will review the nominations and select the winners. The recipients will be recognized at the Iowa State Fair. Since creation of the award in 2012, 219 farm families have been recognized. Winners are presented a certificate as well as a yard sign donated by Monsanto. Hagie Manufacturing also sponsors a recognition luncheon for award recipients following the ceremony.

Agriculture Theft on the Rise

I wanted to tell you about an agriculture issue brought to my attention that deals with livestock and crop theft. In 2011, 428 people were convicted of livestock or crop theft. Compare that to the number of car theft convictions in the state, which is 407. There are more livestock thefts than car thefts in the state of Iowa.

Of the 428 convictions of crops or livestock, 407 were charged with aggravated misdemeanors, which carry a sentence of up to two years. The remaining convictions are serious misdemeanors and simple misdemeanors which carry a sentence of up to one year and 30 days, respectively. If you combine and figure the averages of the sentences, a person who is convicted of livestock or crop theft is incarcerated an average of 52 days.

When we started discussing this issue in Des Moines we introduced a bill setting a minimum 30 day sentence on all crop or livestock theft convictions. However, we learned most people convicted are already serving over 30 days of jail time. I’m not sure we will advance the bill since it is already being implemented. We are exploring other options such as setting a hefty fine to deter people from livestock theft. I want to make sure farmers get reimbursed for their stolen crops and livestock. The discussion will be ongoing.

I bring this up to make sure the agriculture community is aware this is happening. There have been a few times I’ve been off my head count myself. It makes you wonder. Unfortunately we are living in an era where stealing things from other people is way more common than we realize. Please keep an eye out for your neighbors and keep alert around the confinement buildings and grain bins. Also, investments in locks and security cameras might be something farmers should consider this season.

Dan Rickels and Darrick Hall from Jones County Farm Bureau and I in the House Chamber

Dan Rickels and Darrick Hall from Jones County Farm Bureau and I in the House Chamber

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) 281-3221.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update

Economic Indicators, Revenue Give Mixed Signals on Regional Economy

In its latest release, the Department of Revenue’s Iowa Leading Indicators Index showed modest growth in December 2014. The Index rose to 109.4 for the month, a slight hike over November’s rating of 109.3. Six of the eight components making up the Index improved in December, including average weekly manufacturing hours, residential building permits, and the Iowa Stock Market Index. The Index had remained relatively stable for the last six months of 2014, with December’s figure being only one-tenth of percent below July’s number.

Pointing in the negative direction is Creighton University’s Iowa Business Conditions Index. This monthly indicator fell in January to 52.2, down from 53.4 figure reported for December. While any number above 50 is viewed as indicating economic growth, the Iowa index has fallen in six of the past nine months. Also raising concern are forecasts from USDA concerning farm income in 2015. USDA says that farm income will continue to fall from the 2012 highs, while input costs continue to creep up.

The conflicting economic forecasts and slow, but sustained revenue growth is not just isolated in Iowa. These conditions are also being experienced in a number of the neighboring states. In Missouri, lawmakers and Governor Jay Nixon are considering actions to take in light of slowing tax revenues. Nixon has stopped over $500 million of state spending in the current fiscal year and is proposing additional revenue streams to fund new spending for schools and health care.

In Wisconsin, legislators are faced with having to close a growing budget gap. Revenue in the Badger state is 2.7 percent below the previous year, and the tax collections are now projected to be $619 million below state appropriations. Governor Scott Walker is proposing a series of cost savings measures, including a $300 million cut to higher education.

To the west, Nebraska saw tax revenue fall in January. That state saw tax revenue fall 6 percent when compared to January 2014. For the fiscal year, Nebraska tax revenue was still growing by 1 percent.

The outlier of the group is Minnesota, as that state’s economy continues to exhibit solid growth. Revenue for November and December 2014 was 6.4 percent higher than what the state had projected at the start of November. For the first six months of the fiscal year, actual revenue had exceeded projections by 2.3 percent.

The economic forecast for all states in the region is complicated by factors that are benefiting other parts of the economy. The strength of the US dollar has made the price of imported products significantly cheaper. That strength creates headwinds for US exports, including agriculture products. The drop in exports has been a factor in falling commodity prices and layoffs at major regional manufacturers like Caterpillar and John Deere.

Zero-Based Budgeting Bill Passes House State Government

The House State Government committee voted earlier this week on HF 1; a bill requiring state agencies and departments, as well as the judicial branch to adopt a zero-based budgeting approach. The bill passed out on a party line vote 12-10.

Currently, state executive departments and agencies use estimates based on 75 percent of funding provided for the current fiscal year, and the form for budget submission is decided by the director. The judicial branch operates on the same procedure. With this bill, executive departments and the judicial branch will be required to use zero as their base approach when determining their budgets. Additionally, it requires the departments to prioritize requested expenditures, with support as to why every request is needed.

It is a useful tool to help the departments and agencies justify why they need the amounts they request, and also helps with the budgeting process by helping legislators identify the “low hanging fruit” should adjustments need to take place. It also prevents across the board cuts, and provides an open and transparent process throughout.

Opponents argue that this would place an undue hardship on departments and agencies, and it would take up a lot of time. Additionally, they argue this practice disrupts the legislative budgeting process, and the governor should have deference to decide what budgeting principles to use.

If signed, Iowa would join Georgia as the only two states following a true zero-based budget system; although both states are in good company as many other states use hybrids of several budgeting principles in their overall budget process.

NEWS FROM DISTRICT 96

On Monday, Anna Mary Rinikerand her daughter Elizabeth visited the Capitol. They both had the day off so they decided to come to Des Moines for the day and stop by the Statehouse. Elizabeth is a sixth grader at Anamosa High School. Elizabeth was very interested in the legislative process. We took a tour of the House Chamber, the Governor’s office, and went to the top of the dome.

Anna Mary Riniker (left), her daughter Elizabeth (center) and myself in the House Chamber.

Anna Mary Riniker (left), her daughter Elizabeth (center) and myself in the House Chamber.

Farm Bureau members from across the state came to Des Moines Wednesday to talk with legislators. I met with members from both Jones and Delaware Counties. We discussed the pending gas tax as well as other topics important to their members.

The gas tax bill passed out of Transportation committee on Wednesday. Since the bill deals with taxes and fees, it also had to go through Ways & Means committee. The bill passed out of Ways & Means on Thursday. It now moves to the House floor where we will likely debate it next week. The Senate has an identical bill. It passed out of their committees this week as well.

I wanted to give everyone an update on Lake Delhi. The Lake District Trustee Board met to review the recommendations made for awarding the Phase 2 project to General Constructors Inc. GCI was the lowest bidder and based out of the Quad Cities. According to the recommendation, General Constructors Inc. met all the technical and commercial requirements of the bid specifications. After discussion, the District Board of Trustees awarded the project to General Constructors Inc. whose low bid came in less than the original engineers’ estimate. Phase 2 will is scheduled to start in early March if the weather cooperates. The target date to start filling the Lake is October 23rd.

Friday morning I am speaking to government classes at Monticello High School and Kirkwood. I will be at the Jones County Economic Development Forum at the Lawrence Center in Anamosa on Friday the 20th at noon. I’ll be joining Lt. Governor Reynolds will be touring Orbis Corporation in Monticello on the 20th at 2:45.

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) 281-3221.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update

January Figures Bring State Revenue Concerns

State revenues fell in January, raising concerns that the state may not meet last December’s projection for growth during the current fiscal year.

January’s General Fund revenue was $29.5 million (-5.0%) below what the state took in during January 2014. This put revenue growth for the first seven months at a positive $152.4 million, or growth of 4.1 percent. While still positive, state revenue had grown by 5.8 percent through December 2014. Compared to the Revenue Estimating Conference’s FY 2015 projection in December, actual revenue growth is behind the 6.8 percent increase projected. In terms of actual dollars, actual returns are $100.6 million behind the REC projection.

Individual income tax collections were 1.3 percent below those in January 2014. For the fiscal year, individual income tax returns have grown by 4.2 percent. That is below the REC forecast of 5.7 percent growth. As it has been for much of the fiscal year, withholding payments were again higher than last year’s figures. Revenue from estimate payments was down once again. Income tax payments accompanying returns were also down in January (-8.0%) when compared to January 2014.

Sales and Use Tax collections were also below the previous January’s level, with the difference being a negative 6.7 percent this month. For the fiscal year, sales and use collections are running at the 4.4 percent growth level projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference.

Corporate income tax collections for January came in at $32.6 million. This figure is 30.8 percent lower than the January 2014 figure of $47.1 million. For the year, corporate income tax receipts are 5.6 percent below the REC estimate. This figure amounts to a reduction of $17.5 million.

Continuing the month’s trend, tax refunds were also down when compared to what was returned to taxpayers in January 2014. Tax refunds totaled $9.5 million for the month, which was down $3.3 million from last year. For the year, refunds are down 5.1 percent. The Revenue Estimating Conference has projected a 5.4 percent reduction.

While state revenue remains positive for Fiscal Year 2015, the chance that collections could exceed the REC projections is starting to slip away.

Northey Encourages Century & Heritage Farm Owners to Apply

On Friday, January 30, 2015, the Iowa Department of agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release in which Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey encouraged eligible farm owners to apply for the 2015 Century and Heritage Farm Program.  The program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Farm Bureau and recognizes families that have owned their farm for 100 years in the case of Century Farms and 150 years for Heritage Farms.

Applications are available on the Department’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov by clicking on the Century Farm or Heritage Farm link under “Hot Topics.” Farm families seeking to qualify for the Century or Heritage Farms Program must submit an application to the Department no later than June 1, 2015.

The ceremony to recognize the 2015 Century and Heritage Farms is scheduled to be held at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday, August 20, 2015. The Century Farm program began in 1976 as part of the Nation’s Bicentennial Celebration and 18,328 farms from across the state have received this recognition.  The Heritage Farm program was started in 2006, on the 30th anniversary of the Century Farm program, and 736 farms have been recognized.

Last year 344 Century Farms and 86 Heritage Farms were recognized.

Public Input Sought on Iowa’s Science Education Standards

The Department of Education announced a series of forums to collect public input on Iowa’s academic standards for science. This follows a series of meetings, which began in early November, by a team of 19 Iowa leaders in education and business to review Iowa’s science standards, as well as rigorous science standards from other states, and to make a preliminary recommendation for improvement.

The review is in response to Governor Branstad’s Executive Order 83, signed in October of 2013, related to local control of education standards and assessments. The Executive Order states: “…the adoption of state standards should be done in an open, transparent way that includes opportunities for Iowans to review and offer input.”

The public can weigh in on the standards in a person or via an online survey. The survey is located here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VW6SHDY?c=Iowa_Science_Survey and is available until February 27th.

Here are the dates and times of the public forums:

Wednesday, Feb. 11: Waukee (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Waukee Community Schools District Office

560 Southeast University Ave.

Tuesday, Feb. 24: Ottumwa (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Great Prairie Area Education Agency

2814 North Court Street

Wednesday, Feb. 25: Dubuque (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Keystone Area Education Agency

2310 Chaney Road

Thursday, Feb. 26: Sioux City (4:30 – 6:30 pm)

Northwest Area Education Agency

1520 Morningside Ave.

The team will consider the public feedback before sending a final recommendation to the Education Department and to the State Board of Education next spring.

The review of science standards will be followed by reviews of the other parts of Iowa’s statewide standards, which cover social studies, mathematics, English language arts and 21st century skills. Each review will follow a similar format.

Review teams will be made up of Iowans with expertise in each subject area. For example, the science standards review team includes education and business leaders with expertise in physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering, technology and application.

Iowa lawmakers adopted statewide academic standards in 2008. The standards set consistent expectations for learning in schools across the state. The standards are a set of goals, not a curriculum, so decisions about how to help students reach the standards remain in the hands of local school administrators and teachers.

Last year the House unanimously passed a bill designed to create a similar process. House File 2439 would have provided greater transparency and opportunities for public input on the state’s education standards, among other things. It required the Department of Education and the State Board of Education to solicit public input and suggestions to revise or amend any standards. It also required at least three public meetings across the state with public input collected through the Department’s website with the goal to identify any opportunities to strengthen the standards with input from Iowans. The bill received no consideration in the Senate.

Further information is available on the Department’s website. https://www.educateiowa.gov/resources/boards-commissions-committees-councils-and-task-forces/iowa-core-science-standards-review-team.

NEWS FROM DISTRICT 96

The gas tax consumed a majority of our time this week. We’ve dissected the bill in caucus with our members. I attended the subcommittees for the bill in the House and Senate. Each chamber introduced the bill and it passed both subcommittees unanimously. Next, it will go to the full Transportation committee for their consideration.

Dave Lubben from Monticello was at the Capitol this week. Dave visited the Statehouse to participate in Grow Ag Iowa Day on the Hill where he met with legislators to discuss agriculture issues. Grow Ag Iowa was here to promote funding for the agriculture research and the diagnostic lab at Iowa State University. Dave and I are pictured below in the rostrum of the House chamber.

hein grow ia ag2015

Todd Hospodarsky visited the Capitol Wednesday. Todd teaches social studies at Monticello High School. He was here supporting social studies and civic education as a part of state standards.

On February 20th, I will be at the Jones County Economic Development Forum at the Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa. It starts at 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) 281-3221.

 Sincerely,

 Rep. Lee Hein

Capitol Update

Governor Unveils Broadband Proposal

Governor Terry Branstad’s newest proposal to expand high-speed Internet access resembles last year’s proposal, but it also has important differences.   The new bill attempts to incentivize broadband expansion in areas of Iowa where Internet speeds are below 25 megabits per second of download speed and three megabits per second of upload speed.

Under the bill, an Internet provider could apply to the state’s chief information officer for a grant and a three-year property tax exemption for their new investments in underserved areas of Iowa.  It also would require local governments to either approve or deny applications for broadband infrastructure within 60 days of their submission.

Unlike last year’s proposal, this year’s “Connect Every Acre” proposal does not include a process for private companies to lease bandwidth from the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).   It also does not include provisions governing the siting of cellular towers, another contentious issue from last year.

The House Commerce Committee is considering the legislation and hearing from stakeholders.  Tuesday’s meeting featured representatives from Mediacom, Century Link and a small Iowa communications company.   A subcommittee of three Republicans– Representatives Peter Cownie, Tom Sands and Chuck Soderberg–and two Democrats will closely consider the bill this week as they gather further input from stakeholders and the public.

Military Homeownership Assistance Program Helps

423 Veterans in FY 2014

The Military Homeownership Assistance Program is now in its tenth year and is still going strong. The program provides down payment assistance to military service members and veterans purchasing homes in Iowa. The goal of the program has been to help these heroes make their permanent home in Iowa by providing a $5,000 grant to help with the down payment and closing costs associated with such a large and important purchase.

The program is a joint effort of the Iowa Finance Authority and the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs and is funded through an appropriation by the Legislature. Since the program’s inception in 2005, the program has funded more than $15.4 million in homeownership grants to 3,244 military service members, veterans, and their families. All funds are granted out on a first come first serve basis and are subject to the state appropriating money to the fund.

In fiscal year 2014, the Military Homeownership Assistance Program aided 423 service members and veterans in achieving homeownership. More information about the Military Homeownership Assistance Program and the application is available at IowaFinanceAuthority.gov.

Grant Improves Heart Attack Care

On Tuesday, the American Heart Association announced a $4.6 million grant that will launch a program called Mission: Lifeline Iowa.

The goal of this project is for all Iowans to receive the same quality of care, whether they are living in rural Iowa or a metro area. The mission of the program is to improve the system of care for people in rural Iowa that have serious heart attacks.

According to the American Heart Association website, more than 250,000 Americans experience a STEMI (ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) heart attack each year. Many of these patients fail to receive the appropriate treatment for their condition within the recommended timeline. These types of heart attacks carry a substantial risk of death and therefore require a quick response from medical personnel.

The Mission: Lifeline grant will utilize heart monitors that will help providers determine where the damage is happening within the heart. The monitor sends information to the hospital, where heart specialists can analyze the data while the patient is transported to the hospital. The grant also provides funds to educate the public. It is better to call 911 during signs of a heart attack and not drive the person to the hospital yourself.

For more information, visit http://www.heart.org

NEWS FROM DISTRICT 96

Pastor Merlyn Farrand visited the Capitol this week. He is the pastor of New Life Assembly Church in Manchester. Other clergy from around the state joined Pastor Farrand as they spent the day meeting with legislators. The Pastor presented me with a Founders Bible. Each legislator received one. It is nice leather bound book with the legislator’s name engraved on the cover. I want to thank Pastor Farrand for the generous gift.

Pastor Farrand with his wife Linda, and I in the House                   Chamber

Pastor Farrand with his wife Linda, and I in the House Chamber

This week was also filled with committee meetings. Committees are finally starting to discuss and pump out bills to be debated on the floor.

A couple of bills considering the Gas Tax are being looked at. Leadership of all four caucuses in the House and Senate have held meetings with the Governor to find common ground.  The bill is currently being drafted and will move to committee in the coming weeks. There is a lot of discussion on the items to be included in the bill.  The bill will raise the user fee on all fuel by 10 cents. There is a biodiesel component that provides a kick back for B10 and over.  County bonding will be restricted to some degree under the bill. It will still be allowed, but in a limited form. Another significant program in the bill is Access Iowa. It prioritizes certain roadways and highways that need repaired.  There still is a lot of work to be done but things are on the move.

I am including a link to a chart that explains how and where the funds are generated and where they are spent by the DOT.  The link is:

http://www.iowadot.gov/pol_leg_services/images/fiscal_year_2015_transportation_funding.pdf

Wednesday the Iowa Motor Truck Association was in the Capitol to talk to legislators. They had 15 semis at the Capitol. Legislators were given rides around Des Moines. They explained where blind spots are and other issues such distracted drivers that truckers face every day.

Thursday morning General Orr of the Iowa National Guard gave his speech on the condition of the Guard.  We can be proud of our guard and the service they have provided when called to duty. My thanks go out to all those who serve in the Nation Guard.

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 Three

School Start Date Discussion Begins

The school start date has long been a controversial topic in Iowa, even prior to the current law’s enactment in 1985. Talk about what to do with the start date is usually part of every new legislature, but for the past 30 years no action has changed what current law requires. This past December, however, Governor Branstad issued a letter to the Director of the Department of Education, Brad Buck, that changed the conversation.

The current law, Iowa Code 279.10, subsection 1, requires that schools start no later than a day during the week in which September 1 falls. Subsection 4 then provides a waiver opportunity for schools that want to start sooner if they can prove that starting during the week of September 1 would “have a significant negative educational impact.” That language has been the crux of the problem.

The Department of Education has for years declared they have no guidance from the legislature to enforce that clause. As a result any requests from schools to start earlier than the statutory date have had their waivers automatically granted.

Branstad’s letter in December asked Director Buck to put an end to that practice. Schools can still receive waivers, but they should no longer be automatically granted.

Following the Governor’s request, the Department created and issued guidance on January 21st (located here) that puts the burden of proof on school districts. The guidance outlines what will and won’t constitute a “significant negative educational impact”.

The fight here doesn’t fall along partisan lines, as many issues before the legislature typically do, so the conversation is playing out a bit differently than others. Two bills are currently moving through the legislative process, one in each chamber. House File 13 held a subcommittee last week and passed unanimously. It now sits before the full committee. Senate Study Bill 1058 is scheduled for a subcommittee later this week. Both of those bills remove any start date from statute and leave the decision to local school boards.

The education community is fully behind this approach. It’s quite evident that schools favor an earlier start date. Only 2 of the 338 school districts started according to the statutory start date. In the previous 2 school years similar stories played out with 10 starting at the statutory date in 2013/14 and 8 starting there in 2012/13.

The tourism industry has been the primary driver behind any opposition to House File 13, stating that early starts reduce the opportunities for families to plan summer activities, for businesses that thrive on tourism to maintain a customer base and employed staff with kids returning to the classroom, and negatively impact the revenue the state brings through tourism activities.

I want to find a compromise we can all agree on. I would like the schools to start later than they currently do. I also think school districts, community colleges, and universities should start on the same date. Leaders in the House have expressed an interest to work on this issue in a manner that will hopefully satisfy both sides of the issue as much as possible.

Coupling Bill Passes House Ways and Means

House Study Bill 67 passed the House Ways and Means Committee this week by a vote of 25-0. The bill updates Iowa law to conform with certain tax provisions Congress finally enacted in December for tax year 2014.

The bill updates the provisions in the Iowa Code for the Iowa research activities credit to include revisions in the federal research credit (the basis for the Iowa credit). The federal research credit was extended for the 2014 tax year in the Tax Increase Prevention Act.

House Study Bill 67 also updates the Iowa income tax code to couple with the 2014 federal changes (with the exception of bonus depreciation). The more significant federal tax changes that this bill couples with include:

  • Deduction of up to $250 for out-of-pocket expenses for teachers
  • Tuition and fees deduction for higher education expenses
  • Election to deduct state sales/use tax in lieu of state income tax as an itemized deduction
  • Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums as deductible qualified residence interest
  • Nontaxable IRA transfers to eligible charities
  • Small businesses can now expense (instead of depreciate) the first $500,000 of equipment cost (known as Section 179 expensing)

The bill does not couple with the federal provision for 50 percent bonus depreciation for both individual and corporate income tax for assets acquired in 2014. This is the same stance that has been taken since 2008. The bill will now move to the floor for further consideration.

The bill does not couple with the federal provision for 50 percent bonus depreciation for both individual and corporate income tax for assets acquired in 2014. This is the same stance that has been taken since 2008. The bill will now move to the floor for further consideration.

NEWS FROM DISTRICT 96

We’ve had a busy third week here in the House. Ducks Unlimited members from around the state came to the Capitol to discuss issues with legislators. Bob Shimanek and Jack Dietiker of Monticello and Anamosa were here representing the group.

2015hein_moore du

High school students in the Monticello FFA chapter came to the Statehouse on Tuesday. They asked questions and were very interested in the legislative process. I gave them a tour of the Capitol building and showed the House chamber.

2015 hein monticello ffa

On Tuesday night, the House passed the supplemental state aid bill that increases funding for school districts by the Governor’s recommendation of 1.25 percent. It passed 56-43 and moves to the Senate for their consideration. A group of Young Cattlemen were also here Tuesday. All members in the group were in their 20s and 30s. They were here to discuss priorities of the Cattlemen’s Association. I also showed them around the Capitol.

hein_grassley cattlemen 2015

Wednesday night the Iowa Pork Producers hosted a reception legislators were invited to. I got to see both Delaware and Jones County folks at the event. It’s great to see the agriculture community get together talk about the issues and celebrate innovations.

I will be at the Delaware County Farm Bureau Forum on Friday, February 6th, at the Farm Bureau building, 115 E Delaware Street, in Manchester. The forum starts at 10 am. I hope to see you there.

Contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Lee Hein

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.

bar 1 22 15

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