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

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