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

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