Capitol Update Week Seven

House Republicans Release Plan for Balanced & Sustainable FY 2014 Budget

House Republicans on Wednesday released their budget targets for Fiscal Year 2014, proposing a balanced and sustainable budget providing an effective and efficient government for Iowans.

The proposal calls for state General Fund spending to be at $6.4139 billion in the next year starting on July 1.  This amounts to a modest increase in state spending of just 3 percent.  The House proposal spends 98.11 percent of the projected on-going revenue for the fiscal year.  When compared to what can be spent under the current expenditure limitation law, the House targets spend only 89.55% of that amount.  And, the state would have an ending balance of $840.3 million at the end of FY 2014.

The House budget proposal complies with the four budgeting principles established by the House Republican caucus before the session began and continues the practice established over the past two years of aligning state spending with revenue.  Over the last twenty years, annual revenue growth has averaged 3.34 percent.  The FY 2014 budget proposed by House Republicans ensures that state government will operate effectively within that amount.

The House budget proposal complies with the four budgeting principles established by the House Republican caucus before the session began.

For Fiscal Year 2014, the General Fund will be divided amongst the budget subcommittees in the following manner:

Administration & Regulation – $55.1 million (increase of $2 million over FY 2013)

Agriculture & Natural Resources – $36.4 million (increase of $1 million)

Economic Development – $45.0 million (increase of $7.3 million)

Education – $894.6 million (increase of $33.9 million)

Health & Human Services – $1.699 billion (increase of $30.8 million)

Justice Systems & the Courts – $702.2 million (increase of $16.3 million)

Standing Appropriations – $2.982 billion (increase of 95.5 million)

It terms of setting priorities, the House Republican plan maintain the priority of fully-funding state commitments.  The budget proposal fully funds property tax credits for the first time since FY 2002 and fulfills the commitment for mental health equalization funding.

The budget plan also includes the funding necessary to maintain Iowans’ commitment to education, by including the funding necessary to allow the Regents universities to freeze tuition, $10 million to the community colleges, and a two percent increase in supplemental state aid for our local schools.

Significant Bills Passed Through the Judiciary Committee

By the end of next week, a majority of the legislation that started in the House must be voted through committee or it is not eligible to advance this legislative session. The Judiciary Committee has been very busy reviewing legislation. Here are some bills that have already passed out of the Judiciary Committee and are ready for further debate:

HF 132-Seized Property Claim-This legislation requires someone claiming seized property to sign a claim form under penalty of perjury. It will ensure that the person claiming ownership of the property actually owns it. This prevents the owner from disavowing ownership in a criminal proceeding.

HF 184-Residency Restrictions-Currently, some cities prohibit 3 or more unrelated people from renting in certain areas of town. HF 184 will prohibit cities from restricting who can rent property together based on family relationships. This bill gives landlords more control over their property while still allowing the cities to have reasonable housing regulations.

HSB 121-Defining Material-This legislation is in response to an Iowa Supreme Court Ruling that defined seminude dancing as sexually-oriented “material,” similar to a book or magazine. Under the Supreme Court Ruling, cities and towns would no longer be able to regulate nude and seminude performances. HSB 121 clarifies that a live performance is not the same as a magazine or book and that these performances may be regulated on the local level.

HF 112- Forfeiture of Bail- This bill extends the time period for bond forfeiture from 60 days to 90 days. If a defendant does not appear in court a bail bond can be forfeited, HF 112 extends the time the defendant has to appear or be turned in by another person.

HF 158-Sledding and Municipality Liability-HF 158 exempts municipalities and employees from being held liable for injuries that occur on municipality property from sledding or tubing. This bill does not exempt the municipality from liability if they have done something to make the area unsafe.

HF 133-Firing Ranges-Current law prohibits discharging a firearm within 200 yards of an occupied building or feedlot.  HF 133 creates an exemption for current ranges owned by the state, county or a municipality that are operated by law enforcement for training and not open to the public.

Regents Vote to Approve Creation of a Transparency Task Force

Earlier this month the state board of regents approved the creation of a nine-member transparency task force. This task force was created with the intention of addressing concerns surrounding the release of information and increasing the public trust in the three state-supported universities. The task force will develop recommendations for the Regents on how to create and maintain transparency within the institutions. It will not only examine the universities, but will also develop strategies for the special schools, the board, and the board office.

The task force will be made up of one member of the Governor’s Iowa Public Information Board; one member appointed by the Speaker of the House; one member appointed by the Senate Majority Leader; one Regent to be appointed by the Board of Regent’s President (this person will act at the chairperson of the task force); one member from each of the three state universities appointed by each university’s President; the Executive Director of the Board of Regents; and one member of the public.

The Board of Regents hopes to formally approve the task force at its March meeting. The board is currently soliciting nominees to fill the slot of the public member. The public is encouraged to submit names, contact information, and a brief summary of why they are interested in serving on the task force by the close of business on March 6. Nominations can be sent to Ann McCarthy, Policy and Operations Officer, Board of Regents at amccart@iastate.edu or via the Board of Regents’ website at http://www.regents.iowa.gov/contactus/contactus.html.

Recap of Week Seven

On Monday, I met with the Jones County Safe & Healthy Youth Coalition. They had 22 youth and adults at the Capitol from Monticello, Anamosa and Midland schools. The coalition came to Des Moines to promote the social host bill I sponsored. Sheriff Graver was also with the group and spoke at a rally in the Capitol. After the rally, the group came to the House chamber.

On Wednesday, I attended a Senate Judicial Committee hearing, which they interviewed former Rep. Jerry Welter. He was nominated by the Governor to fill a seat on the State Judiciary Nomination Commission. He will go through a nomination process in the Senate before being appointed. The Commission interviews and selects nominees for appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court and Appeals Courts. He served the Jones County area from 1993 to 2000 in the Iowa House.

The Environmental Protection committee traveled to Nevada to tour a cattle farm this week. The 5,000 head farm belongs to Bill Couser and his wife. The tour was a planned trip to educate some of the committee members who aren’t familiar with the cattle feeding business. Couser’s farm was chosen because he won an environmental award in 2010 for his innovation in conservation. I was excited to see an Iowa farm taking measures to protect our environment. It was a great experience for our members.

As I said last week, I am continuing to work with the Lake Delhi Taxing District and the DNR to resolve a few remaining issues. I believe that we have made major progress on all but one. It is an issue of the easements necessary to rebuild the dam. That is why I introduced a bill and chaired a subcommittee this week to take feedback on House Study Bill (HSB) 163. This bill accomplishes a number of items. Most importantly it provides what is essentially a grandfathering of flooding easements that were held by the Taxing District prior to the dams failure, can be used when the dam is re-established, as long as the pool level is not increased. I believe that this will resolve one of the final hurdles to beginning construction of the dam and restoration Lake Delhi. I know it has taken what seems like an eternity but I do believe we made real progress lately. I will continue to work with the Taxing District and the DNR to address any other issues that may come up.

On Saturday I will be at the Delaware County Farm Bureau forum from 10 to 11:30 am. It is at the Farm Bureau office in Manchester and is open to the public. All are welcome to attend.

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

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