Legislative Update 03/16/2017

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Quote of the Week

The tax code is now nine times longer than the Bible and not nearly as interesting.
~~Rob Portman

Legislative Update


This week marked my anniversary to my wife and friend of many years.  I want to thank Cami for all she has put up with through the years.  She has been my friend, my partner, and my rock and I appreciate her and all she does for our family and livelihood. 

We began this week with news on the state budget.  The State Revenue Estimating Committee (REC) met on Tuesday and lowered the expected FY 2017 revenues by an additional 105.9 million dollars.  In December, the REC lowered estimated revenues by 117 million dollars, which has already been de-appropriated. 

Democrats are criticizing the budget management of Republicans but conveniently leave out the fact that they supported plans that increase state spending by more than $1 BILLION over the last two years.  Without the Republican majority’s strong stand, key areas like local school budgets would be facing deep cuts.  Iowans can count on House Republicans to stand strong against reckless government spending ideas. 

Inaccurate revenue projections are not limited to Iowa.  At least 30 states nationwide have had to make budget reductions in the middle of their fiscal year.

On Wednesday I learned of a letter to the Editor that was filed by my friend, Senator Johnson.  While I appreciate all that the Senator has done for me and for us in NW Iowa, the recent change in his views is troubling.  I talked with Senator Johnson soon after the letter to the editor and told him that he is still my friend, despite our differences in philosophy and he should always count on me if he needs help, outside the political arena.  I did inform him that I will not abide by his mis-representing the work we are doing in the legislature. 

This week we dealt with the following bold solutions and sent them to the Senate:

School Funding Flexibility:  House Files 564 and 565 provide schools with more flexibility, allowing locally elected officials to utilize unused funds that are typically reserved for specific purposes.  These bills recognize that no two school districts are exactly alike and will allow each school district to better meet the specific needs of our students and teachers.

Protecting Young Iowans from Synthetic Drugs:  House File 296 will protect Iowa’s kids by keeping deadly synthetic drugs off the streets, while also making it easier to prosecute sellers of those drugs.

Supporting Families with Autistic Children:  House File 215 addresses the unique challenges parents of children with autism face by extending insurance coverage for autism treatments to Iowa families.  Coverage for autism can be very expensive but is very beneficial for future growth.  This legislation ensures access to programs with proven, positive outcomes in the child’s development.

Privacy Protections for the 21st Century:  House Joint Resolution 1 extends Fourth Amendment privacy protections to Iowans’ electronic communications and data, ensuring Constitutional rights keep up with today’s technology.

Reining in an Out of Control Federal Government:  House Joint Resolution 12 calls for a Convention of the States to address the Federal Government’s power and jurisdiction.

Reforming Iowa’s tax credit programs
All session long, House Democrats have blamed tax credits and exemptions for inaccurate revenue projections.

Many of these tax credits passed in a bipartisan way over the years.  Reforming Iowa’s tax credit programs should be a bipartisan endeavor but it appears that Democrats simply want to talk about it rather than act unfortunately. 

This week the Appropriations Committee introduced House Study Bill 187 to reform the state’s various tax credit programs and track their fiscal impact. The bill sets a cap on the total amount of tax credits that can be redeemed each year and eliminates refundability of tax credits where businesses or individuals can receive a refund even if they have no tax liability.

There should be no sacred cows as we reevaluate these tax credits to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal. Every tax credit needs to be on the table.

As always, I appreciate serving you, House District 1, and will continue to bring our Northwest Iowa values to the concrete of Des Moines.  Please let me know if you have any issues or thoughts.

Representative John H. Wills

P.S. If You’re Keeping Score…
In the last 73 days … The Des Moines Register has had 57 editorials attacking Republicans.

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.
Photo of the Week
For the next several weeks, we would like to include a "Photo(s) of the Week" and publish those photos in our newsletter to show Iowans our beautiful district.  

If you would like submit a photo, simply click this link for submission John Wills and
please include your description of the photo.
This week's photo...

Beautiful sunrise over Spirit Lake.  
(Photo by Norm Meinking)

2017 Legislative Forums

March 25 – 8:00am – Eggs & Issues – Forster Community Center, 404 Main St, Rock Rapids

News from Around the District

Lyon County Entities Get Grants

The Lyon County Riverboat Foundation has awarded 22 grants totaling $463,425.36 during the latest round of funding through its Competitive Grant Program.

The semiannual grants were announced Tuesday, Feb. 28, during an awards ceremony at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort near Larchwood.

Fourteen Lyon County entities received new grants totaling $258,975.36 for 15 projects during the most recent round of funding.

The foundation also made payments totaling $204,450 to seven previously awarded and committed multi-cycle grant recipients.

LCRF’s Competitive Grant Program — now in its 12th cycle since its inception in July 2011 — distributes 50 percent of the annual net receipts from the casino in the form of grants and scholarships twice a year.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

State Forest Nursery Packet Promotes Butterfly and Bird Habitat

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) State Forest Nursery is promoting butterfly and songbird habitat with its March Butterfly and Bird seedling packet. 

“This packet consists of four shrub and one tree species selected for their potential to attract butterflies and songbirds to your property,” says State Forester Paul Tauke. “There has been an increasing amount of attention and concern over the declining number of pollinators active on our landscape. Planting a Butterfly and Bird packet is one small way to help these species recover and improve the health of our environment.”

This Butterfly and Bird packet is only available in March. Cost for the 250 bare-root seedlings is $190 plus tax, shipping and handling, the same price as a regular 200-seedling packet. The Butterfly and Bird packet includes 50 each of the following:

Arrowwood produces white flowers in late May to early June followed by bluish-black berries in the fall. Found in open woodlands, along forest edges and stream sides, it attracts and provides a nectar source for butterflies such as the spring azure, red admiral, eastern comma, red-spotted purple, white-m hairstreak, question mark, and the striped hairstreak, a species of special concern, and the threatened Baltimore butterfly. It is a larval host for Henry’s elfin butterfly.

Chokecherry flowers from April through July and attracts butterflies, honeybees and other pollinators to its flowers and nectar. The caterpillars of the red-spotted purple butterfly use chokecherry leaves as a food source. It is a larval host for the great ash sphinx and the hickory hairstreak, another butterfly species of special concern. It is a nectar source for Juvenal’s duskywing and Henry’s elfin butterflies. Robins, thrushes, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, jays, bluebirds, catbirds, kingbirds and grouse eat chokecherries.

Redosier Dogwood
Redosier dogwood produces cream flowers in May and June. It is a larval host for the spring azure butterfly, and nectar source for the American snout, banded hairstreak and white-m hairstreak butterflies. Redosier dogwood also provides food for the northern flicker, robin, eastern bluebird and purple finch.

Ninebark produces clusters of white flowers and blooms in late spring to early summer. Its flowers provide a nectar source to butterflies and other pollinators. 

This medium to large native tree is a valued urban shade tree. It is a vital larval host plant for many butterflies, including the emperor, question mark, American snout and wild cherry sphinx. The round, deep purple fleshy fruit of the hackberry is attractive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, and is edible to humans.

The seedlings are between 8 and 24 inches, depending on the tree or shrub species.

To take advantage of this offer, call the State Forest Nursery at 1-800-865-2477 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and mention the “Butterfly and Bird Packet.” 

For more ideas and information about attracting pollinators to your property, download the new Iowa’s Woodlands:  Vital Habitat for Native Pollinators at

Each month, the State Forest Nursery creates a different specialty packet with a unique mix of tree and shrub species. This month’s specialty packet is only available to order through March 31, 2017.

Anyone can purchase seedlings from the Iowa State Forest Nursery for CRP projects, to increase wildlife habitat, pollinator potential or to diversify backyard woodlands. More than 40 species are available from the nursery. Seedling choices, including photos and descriptions, can be seen in the seedling catalog at and click on “Seedling Catalog.”

For more information about this monthly special or other tree and shrub seedlings, contact the Iowa DNR State Forest Nursery at 1-800-865-2477.   


Tour of Our District


The City of Spirit Lake is the largest city in Dickinson County and the capstone of the Iowa Great Lakes. It is located to the south of Big Spirit Lake, the largest natural lake in Iowa, and on part of the western shoreline of East Okoboji Lake. The glacier-dug chain of lakes is well known for its beauty and recreational opportunities. The city takes its name from the Dakota Sioux who referred to the large lake to the north as “Minnewaukon” or “Lake of the Spirit.”

In the fall of 1856 three brothers-in-law, O.C. Howe, B.F. Parmenter and R.U. Wheelock, visited the lakes region. They were so impressed with the area that they determined to return, acquire land and lay out a town. Other families had built cabins along the shores of the several lakes that summer, but this settlement met with tragedy on March 13, 1857 during a clash between the early settlers and a renegade band of Sioux led by Chief Inkpaduta. On that fateful day all of these early pioneers were killed except for four women who were taken captive.

When the news reached Ft Dodge, Howe Parmenter and Wheelock were among the 100-man relief expedition which returned to the lakes. In June of 1857 the three men along with George E. Spencer became the original proprietors of “Spirit Lake City,” as it was then called.

Just to the north in the Minnesota Territory tensions still continued between the Dakota Sioux and the early pioneers. Local citizen concern led to the building of a fort in the Iowa lakes area in the summer of 1857 on the ground where St. Mary’s Catholic Church now stands. An historical marker placed at the corner of Hill Avenue and 11th Street by the “Ladies of the Lake” Chapter of the DAR commemorates this old fort. That same summer several houses were built nearby.

In 1879 the town of Spirit Lake was incorporated and was designated as the county seat of Dickinson County. The first census of the town in 1880 recorded a population of 277. The completion of two railroads into the lakes area was a major factor in increasing the population to 751 by 1885. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Depot became the home of the Dickinson County Museum after 1973. That building along with a later addition still serves as the museum.

The first court house was built in 1860, but was destroyed by fire in 1872. A court house constructed in 1890 was razed in 2006 and was replaced by a state-of-the-art facility in 2007. An historic replica of the 1890 court house tower and a Veterans Commemorative War Memorial are part of the new project.

As people were drawn to the shores of these beautiful lakes, accommodations were needed. One of the first hotels, the Lake View House, was built in 1859 and located at what is now Hill Avenue and Lake Street. After it was purchased by Orlando Crandall, it was renamed the Crandall House. The Antlers Hotel was built on the same site in 1902. The Antlers has now been renovated and restored for use as apartments and retail stores.

Another corner building that retains some of its 1894 appearance was first the A.M. Johnson Dry Goods Store on the corner of what are now Highways 71 & 9 and Hill Avenue. It has housed a variety of businesses and is currently Edward Jones Investments. To the north on Hill Avenue and Lake Street is the beautifully restored First Bank and Trust Building, which was previously the First National Bank.

Those who sought cultural activities near the turn of the century could take advantage of the summer Chautauqua gatherings located on grounds at the north end of Hill Avenue. In 1892 the Spirit Lake Park Association built an auditorium on the shores of East Okoboji for the crowds who thronged to hear speakers and musical groups.

Downtown in the early 1900’s the Opera House, located in the first brick block of the town (the Stevens Block), was the center for all operettas, town and school plays, Lyceum programs and even basketball games. In the late 1920’s a fire destroyed this fine old gathering place.

Sportsmen were eager to try their skills in the lakes and lands where fish and game were plentiful. The isthmus between Big Spirit and East Okoboji Lakes has been the setting for two previous fish hatcheries (1880 and 1915) and now is the location of the Spirit Lake Fish Hatchery, which attracts thousands of visitors annually.

One of the most famous sportsmen to live in Spirit Lake was Fred “Dood” Gilbert, known as the “Wizard of Spirit Lake.” Gilbert, a renowned trap shooter, was enshrined in the Amateur Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame in 1969. A park toward the north end of the city bears his name.

Another Spirit Lake native loved to fish as much as the rest of his family and made a name for himself not by competing in the sport, but by founding the Berkley Fly Company. In 1937 Berkley Bedell began his business in his home while still in high school. The expanded Berkley and Company became a national leader in the fishing tackle business. Now named Pure Fishing, the industry headquarters is located on Highways 71 and 9. Bedell also served as a U.S. Congressman from the Sixth District from 1975 through 1986.

The early pioneers lived through crop devastations by blackbirds and grasshoppers; times of plenty and times of drought. The water levels, often a point of discussion, rose to record highs after heavy and persistent rains in the spring and summer of 1993. Residents of Spirit Lake and surrounding communities constructed various sandbag barriers along lakefront properties and roadways. The water receded only after emergency enlargements of the Lower Gar and Orleans outlets.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

The Oak was designated as the official state tree in 1961. The Iowa Legislature chose the Oak because it is abundant in the state and serves as shelter, food, and nesting cover for many animals and birds. It is difficult to find a tract of natural woodland in Iowa that does not harbor at least one species of Oak. No other group of trees is more important to people and wildlife. Acorns, nuts of Oak trees, are a dietary staple of many animals and birds. Wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, wood ducks, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, nuthatches, grackles, and several kinds of woodpeckers are a few of the species that depend on acorns for a significant portion of their diet.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

Map of the Week

The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

Last week Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with County Conservation Boards. The group was visiting the Capitol to talk with legislators as a part of County Day on the Hill.
Pictured here are Rep. John Wills (Spirit Lake), Howard Paul (Spirit Lake), Marry Barrick (Ruthven), and Jon Kruse (Storm Lake).

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Shaylyn Doorneweerd of People Bank in Lester, Shaylyn is participating in the Iowa Bankers Association Banking Leadership Institute and the group was visiting the Capitol to meet with various Iowa political figures and elected officials.


Quick Links

State Representative, John H. Wills
Governor, Terry Branstad
Iowa Legislature
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Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey
Secretary of State, Paul Pate
State Auditor, Mary Mosiman
State Auditor, Mary Mosiman
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U. S. Congressman, Steve King
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