Legislative Update 3/31/16

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Quote of the Week

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
~~ Mark Twain

Legislative Update


Frustration reigns in the State Capitol.  First, we have the Senate who takes off on Thursday and comes back later on Tuesday from doing business while we could be doing the work of the State and finalizing budget targets.  I have worked hard on the budget in order to ensure a common sense and conservative budget is passed.  Then, we have Senate leadership stating that any water quality bills in the House would be dead on arrival in the Senate.  I have worked hard on water quality issues in order to ensure the issues that are important to you, receive the attention that they deserve. 
I have been in Des Moines as your State Representative for nearly 1 ½ years now and the frustrating thing is that budgeting and water quality are issues that my constituents find important.  They are vital to ensuring our state can move forward and be a leader in the nation.  Then we have Senate Democrats playing politics with the issues that Iowans care about.  Please join with me in telling the Senate to knock off these DC style politics, do what is right for Iowans, not what helps them in the upcoming elections.  The Iowa Senate is led by Democrats and it seems they are not leading at all, but blocking important legislation and issues for their own personal gain; all because it wasn’t their idea or they can gain from stopping good budgeting and legislation. 
With that, there was not a lot of activity this week in the State House.  We did have some debate and passed some good legislation but I would like to talk briefly about one of the most important parts of the legislative process.  When a legislator serves in Des Moines, we each have one person who helps tremendously in e-mail response, meeting scheduling, and other vital tasks.  Last year, my wife was my right hand helper and kept me in line.  She set the bar high and I appreciate the time together and the efforts she put into helping with my first year in the State House.  This year, I have a new clerk, Bonnie Forburger and, while I miss my wife, Bonnie has really stepped in and helped with a seamless transition.  The technical name for our assistants is Clerks, here in the State House.  I can tell you they are much more than that name entails.  Clerks here at the State Capitol are the people that help us organize and keep us Legislators moving in the right direction at the right times.  Here is a short list of things clerks do to keep our State Capitol functioning:  schedule meetings, ensure constituents needs are met, provide technical support, take notes and minutes at meetings, meet with constituents when the legislators are not available, arrange for meeting locations, provide administrative support for the legislator, take roll call at meetings.
At the Capitol you can look at the things that happen here like a three legged stool.  If one of the legs of that stool are missing, then the stool is either very unstable or falls over.  That three legged stool consists of Legislators, clerks, and our staff.  Of these three legs, you hear from me and see me.  The staff and our clerks are behind the scenes and help to keep things moving.  


Finally, I appreciate your trust in allowing me to represent you in Des Moines.  Please let me know the issues that are important to me so I can bring our NW Iowa values to the concrete of Des Moines. 


Representative John H. Wills

Legislative Priorities 


House Republicans are committed to these principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget:

  1. We will spend less than the state collects;
  2. We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
  3. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
  4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.
The House Republican position on government spending is reasonable, sustainable and based on simple common-sense budgeting principles.

It is important to Iowans that we do not spend more than we have and live within our means.  While standing by this principle for the last five legislative sessions, Republicans have found common ground with the Governor and Senate Democrats.  We expect that to continue this year.  Living within our means is something the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa do every day.  Government needs to do the same.
The full report from the Department of Revenue can be found here.

The state is limited by the expenditure limitation law which means the state is allowed to spend $7.351 billion of taxpayer’s hard-earned money. This is an increase of $176 million compared to the budget that was approved last legislative session. That’s more than enough to meet the needs of Iowans’ priorities.

House Republicans original budget target is lower than the state’s expenditure limitation, while Senate Democrat’s target is above. House Republican’s plan will not require any cuts. Senate Democrats will likely need to make some big changes to make their spending fit within the expenditure limitation

Need Help With Managed Health Care?

Medicaid Modernization launches this week.

The new Medicaid system will focus on wellness and preventative care to help patients lead healthier lives, while the old system simply worked to treat diseases as they occurred.

Contact Information:
Nic Pottebaum, Governor's Office:   515-725-3505
Paige Thorson, Dept. of Human Services:  515-281-4387

Additionally, consumers may contact Iowa Medicaid Member Services at 1-800-338-8366 and providers should contact Iowa Medicaid Provider Services at 1-800-338-7909.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is managed care new in Iowa?
A: Managed care is not new in Iowa.  Since 1990, a portion of Iowa’s Medicaid population has been under managed care.
Q: How many other states have managed care?
A: 39 other states contract with managed care companies for some or all of their Medicaid
Q: Will my benefits change under managed care?
A: No.  Members will receive the same health care coverage.  A change in coverage would require passage of a state law and approval by the federal government. 

News from Around the District

Gillnetting Operations May Get Into Full Operation Next Week

(Orleans)-- Gillnetting operations on the Iowa Great Lakes could get into full swing this week if the conditions are right. That word from Steve Reighard of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.   

Reighard says the fish hatchery in Orleans will be open additional hours once the operations are fully underway.    

Reighard adds gillnetting operations for northern pike were completed this past week.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Fire Helps Manage Iowa's Grasslands

The work to improve Iowa’s prairies takes center stage each spring when agencies and private landowners use fire to manage their grasslands and improve their value for wildlife.

Burning as a management tool helps to fend off encroaching woody species and nonnative plants in an effort to promote diverse native grasses and wildflowers.  Burning removes the accumulated thatch and reinvigorates native plants by simulating what occurred naturally for centuries.

But unlike Mother Nature, these burns must be well planned to maximize the benefits to the land and wildlife while minimizing the impact to neighbors.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources burns about 15 to 20,000 acres each year and each burn requires a plan, which includes fire breaks, notifying neighbors and contacting the local fire and rescue dispatch.

Smoke management is a big issue and wildlife biologists use spot weather forecasts to burn when the conditions are predicted to give the smoke a lift into the atmosphere or carry it away from nearby homes, roads or communities.

There are specific management goals for the area to be burned that is part of the long term management plan, said Scott Peterson, wildlife supervisor for central Iowa. 

“Once the conditions allow, we will start carrying out our burn plans across the state,” Peterson said. “This is an effort to diversify the landscape as much as possible to create a stable environment. Prairie was a dominant landscape and by using fire, hopefully we can bring some of those grassland species back, like Henslow’s sparrow, dickcissels, bobolinks and meadowlarks.”

Removing the thatch allows ground nesting species including pheasants and quail to move through the area easier. Burned areas sprout new growth within a week and within a few weeks there will be little evidence that the area was burned.

“Our grassland wildlife are among our most quickly disappearing species,” said Bill Ohde, wildlife supervisor for the DNR in southeast Iowa. “Prairie systems are extremely complex and as our knowledge base continues to grow, we will adapt our management of those areas.

“The timing of the burn will determine how the prairie responds to it. You may see us burning in the summer or in the fall to encourage wildflowers, which are important to attract insects, a vital food for young birds,” Ohde said.

One of the complaints they often hear, Ohde said, is that burning destroys all the ground nests.  While some nests are lost with the spring burns, the loss is only in the short term, and most birds will re-nest.

“We try to impact the nests as little as possible, but for the long term health and productivity of the grasslands and wildlife, fire is a tremendous management tool,” Ohde said.


Tour of Our District

Judd Wildlife Area

This 136-acre wildlife area is a wonderful destination for an enlightening and enjoyable nature hike. Located along the Little Sioux River, this area includes large open meadows, a winding prairie stream, and a softwood forest along the water's edge. Prairie birds such as Bobolonks, Dickcissels, and Grasshopper Sparrows are numerous, along with many other species of wildlife. This area is located one mile west of Highway 71 on 240th St. (south of Milford), one mile south on 210th Ave., and one mile west on 250th Street. 
It features:  wildlife area / hunting permitted / Little Sioux River canoe access.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

Iowa is home to the most crooked street in the world—Snake Alley in Burlington. The street was designed to link the downtown area with the shopping district. Because of the angle and sharp turns, it is restricted to one-way traffic only—downhill.

45 Things About Iowa You Probably Didn’t Know

Source: Flickr user Loco Steve

Tuesday, March 29 was Iowa State Flag Day. The flag, designed by Knoxville, Iowa native Dixie Cornell Gebhardt, was approved on March 29, 1921...95 years ago.

"Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain."

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate's photo.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

(This weekly series is the sixth of eight...)

Conference Committee

Conference committees are composed of Senate and House members representing both the majority and minority parties and both sides of the issue in dispute. The 10 members of a conference committee are appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House to study the points of disagreement between the chambers in an attempt to reach a compromise. If an agreement is reached, it is presented to both chambers in a report that contains the compromise version of the bill. The report cannot be amended by either chamber. If the report is rejected by either chamber, a second conference committee may be appointed. If no agreement is reached, the bill fails. If the conference committee report is adopted, the chambers again vote on the bill. If the bill is approved it will be enrolled and sent to the Governor for review.

Final preparation of a bill before it is sent to the Governor is called enrollment. When both chambers have passed the bill in the same form, it is prepared with all approved amendments incorporated. After the bill is enrolled, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House sign the enrolled version and the Secretary of the Senate or Chief Clerk of the House certifies that the bill originated in that chamber. The bill is then sent to the Governor for final action.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

The cornerstone is located on the southwest corner of the Capitol. The original cornerstone was laid in November 1871. It was 7 x 3 x 3 feet and inscribed with the names of Capitol commissioners. Inside the cornerstone were 40 items. Weaknesses were found in that first foundation and in 1873 a new commission was formed, a new foundation laid, and the cornerstone re-inscribed. "IOWA. A.D. 1873." is the current inscription. The same 40 items were returned to the cornerstone and another box added that brought the legislative history up to date. 

Map of the Week

The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

Pictured above are students from the Maquoketa High School FFA  They gave a presentation to Legislators on water quality.

Quick Links

State Representative, John H. Wills
Governor, Terry Branstad
Iowa Legislature
Iowa Judical Branch
Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey
Secretary of State, Paul Pate
State Auditor, Mary Mosiman
State Auditor, Mary Mosiman
State Senator, David Johnson
State Treasurer
U. S. Congressman, Steve King
Senator Chuck Grassley
Senator Joni Ernst
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