Capitol Update Week 15

House Moves Six Appropriations Bills in One Day

In a flurry of budget activity on Tuesday, the House moved forward on six of the major appropriations bills.  In taking these actions, House Republicans maintained their commitment to funding state government within the amount of on-going revenue

The House passed the Fiscal Year 14 Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) appropriations bill.  House File 638 spends a portion of the state’s gaming revenue on a variety of infrastructure projects.  This year’s RIIF bill includes increases in funding for lake dredging and water quality projects, a new emphasis on performing routine, deferred, and major maintenance of state facilities, and new construction at the three Regents institutions.  HF 638 now awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Action was also taken on the Agriculture & Natural Resources budget (SF 435) and the Justice Systems budget (SF 447).  Each of these bills provide significant funding enhancements.  In Senate File 435, operating increases were provided to the Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.  The bill also includes $42 million in funding through the Environment First Fund.

The Justice Systems budget made a number of changes in funding levels within the Department of Corrections, reflecting the impending shifting of populations as the new facilities in Fort Madison and Mitchellville start to come on-line.  Funding for the Department of Public Safety and Public Defense was set at the level proposed by the Governor.  Both SF 435 and SF 447 await further action by the Senate.

Two bills that started in the House were sent to conference committee. Amendments by the Senate to the Administration & Regulation budget (HF 603) and the FY 14 Education budget (HF 604) were rejected by the House as the each spent significantly more than the House budget targets.  Meetings of these conference committees are beginning.  Last week, the Economic Development appropriations bill (SF 430) was also sent to conference.

One major sign of progress was resolution on what level of funding is provided in this year’s budget bills for FY 2015.  Like two years ago, the second year of the budget is funded at 50 percent of the FY 14 level.  A few categories, like school aid, Medicaid, and property tax credits, will be funded at a higher level.  This was also done two years ago.

The setting of the FY 15 funding level allowed the House to complete its work on the Transportation appropriations bill for the next two years, HF 602.  The Senate is expected to send the bill to the Governor soon.

While House Republicans maintained their commitment to funding an effective and efficient state government, House Democrats displayed their penchant for spending every available penny and more with a series of votes that would have pushed the state much closer to seeing the return of across the board cuts.  The pinnacle of their efforts was an amendment for a one year appropriation of $160 million from the state’s ending balance to an unnamed group of environmental projects.  Where the money goes, how it is distributed, and what happens in future years were not even discussed.

Governor Signs HF 541

On Wednesday afternoon I witnessed Governor Branstad sign into law House File 541, a bill dealing with dam reconstruction standards, which I sponsored and floor managed through the House.

The bill seeks to use the former easements that where in place when a dam was overtopped by unprecedented flooding. This will allow such a facility to use the flood easements that applied to the dam before the disaster in order to reconstruct the dam and would not require additional easements to be added.  This would specifically affect the reconstruction of the Lake Delhi dam.

This bill resolves one of the final pieces in getting the reconstruction of the Lake Delhi dam underway.  I’m pleased it was able to move through the process and the governor signed the bill.

The legislation passed the House and Senate in a bipartisan manner.

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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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