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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (515) 281-7330.
Rep. Lee Hein