Capitol Update Week 14

Senate Democrats Release Targets, Propose to Spend More than Projected Revenue

Senate Democrats released their proposed budget targets on Tuesday. And true to form, they did not shy away from spending more money than the state is expected to take in during FY 2016.

The targets put forward would spend $7.357 billion in FY 2016. This would be an increase of $362.8 million or 5.18 percent over the spending levels in FY 2015. When compared to the ongoing revenue projection by the Revenue Estimating Conference, the Senate budget targets are spending 102.5 percent of ongoing revenue.

Below are the individual target levels proposed by the Senate:

Senate FY 16 Target    Change from FY 2015

Administration & Regulation             $ 51,892,994                    $ 97,225 increase

Agriculture & Natural Resources       $ 43,111,995                       no change

Economic Development            $ 44,275,763                    $ 1,693,877 increase

Education                                 $1,025,960,305                $ 39,823,940 increase

Health & Human Services         $1,904,413,758                $ 45,810,739 increase

Justice Systems                       $   742,213,713                $ 10,750,793 increase

Standings                                 $3,545,281,310                $264,645,960 increase

TOTAL                                      $7,357,149,838                 $362,822,534 increase

As part of the Senate Democrats target, they announced that they would be proposing another round of early retirement incentives. The latest round of incentives, known as the State Employee Retirement Incentive Program, expires on June 30.

While all the details are not known yet, it does appear that the Senate Democrats’ budget proposal does not comply with any of the House Republican budgeting principles:

  • We will spend less than the state collects;
  • We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
  • We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
  • We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

Civil Asset Forfeiture – Are Changes Needed?

Should law enforcement be allowed to seize property if the owner has not been charged or convicted of a crime? That question has made headlines around Iowa in the past several weeks. Iowa’s civil asset forfeiture laws have come under heavy scrutiny after several publicized cases. This Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing to gain a better understanding of these laws. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency explained the law while representatives from the Heritage Foundation, the County Attorney’s and several members of law enforcement discussed how the law is implemented in Iowa and if the law is effective in Iowa. The committee did not make any recommendations regarding the law, at this time.

The concept of asset forfeiture is nothing new. It’s been around since before our country was founded. However, it has taken various forms and sometimes been abandoned for long periods of time. In the 1990’s Iowa’ s civil asset forfeiture law came under heavy criticism and then Attorney General Bonnie Campbell who worked to craft the law Iowa currently uses. The law was modeled after the Commission Forfeiture Reform Act from the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.

Iowa’s civil asset forfeiture law can be found in code 809A. These laws allow the state to confiscate property if it can be shown the property was more than likely than not used to commit a crime or furnished in exchange for the crime. This should not be confused with criminal asset forfeiture. The rights of the individual and standards of proof required to seize the property are different. Civil forfeiture has lower standards for the seizure of property and a person who has property seized under this law, has no right to an attorney. These laws are complicated and anyone facing a civil asset forfeiture is highly encouraged to contact an attorney for assistance.

Some have argued the current law does not provide enough protection for potentially innocent individuals. A person does not have to be charged with a crime for property to be taken through civil asset forfeiture, although in many cases charges are brought forward. A person who has not been charged with a crime, but who lost property to civil asset forfeiture will have to hire their own attorney to fight for the return of their property. Others have questioned how the money and property seized is used. Counties in Iowa benefit from the seizures and questions have risen regarding the spending of this money and if this encourages seizures.

While some may oppose this law, many in law enforcement believe civil asset forfeiture does serve an important purpose. Under Iowa law, property that can be tied to criminal conduct can be seized. Many believe this law strikes at drug dealers, human traffickers, and others who deal with substantial amounts of money for criminal purposes. Often times, a third party, with little or no information of the crime, is used to transport large amounts of money across state lines in order to avoid criminal charges. Civil asset forfeiture gives law enforcement anther tool to go after these criminals.

At this time, the legislature is continuing to evaluate the current civil asset forfeiture laws to determine what, if anything should be done to address the law. Any action will be thoroughly investigated to ensure changes protect both individual rights and assist law enforcement.

Weekly Recap

On Tuesday, the legislature met in a joint session for the Pioneer Lawmakers Association of Iowa program. The Pioneer Lawmakers Association recognizes the group of legislators who were sworn in 20 years ago. Jerry Welter, a former Representative from Jones County was at the Statehouse to attend the ceremony. He served from 1993 through 2001 and is a member of the Pioneer Lawmakers.

Also on Tuesday, the House and Senate held a joint memorial service to honor former legislators who passed away. A memorial service is held once every general assembly and honors members that have passed away in the last two years. This year’s memorial service recognized the memory of 19 lawmakers who are no longer with us.

Friday marks the end of week 14 of session. There is only two weeks left of the scheduled session where clerks, staff, and legislators are paid. It looks like we will be here past that deadline as we have the last few years. The House is working on budget bills in an attempt to start wrapping things up. The transportation budget is ready to be debated next week. The others will follow after that.

hein paustian

Rep. Ross Paustian and I with members of Iowa Pork Producers from Eastern Iowa

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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