Legislative Update 04/30/2015

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Quote of the Week

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Legislative Update


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.  And I believe our government needs to do the same.

All signs point to our economy slowing down again from a recovery that, at best, was slow to begin with.  When one looks at recent events with Avian Flu and the repercussions that will be felt with a projected 20% of our state’s layer hens being destroyed.  As well, corn prices are likely to drop even further because of the reduction in chickens and turkeys.  It will be months before these operations are able to be in full production again.  Therefore, it is prudent, responsible and wise to continue this path that House Republicans have followed and stick to our budget principles; do not spend more than we take in, do not spend one time money for ongoing programs, do not intentionally underfund programs, and return unused funds back to the Iowa taxpayers. 

The House has set its targets to reduce spending in a responsible and ethical manner so our state will operate at 100% of its capacity without interrupting services to our citizens.  We have cut most of our states departments in a responsible manner. We have given a priority to K-12 school system spending, which is one of the few increases in state aid to be given this year. 

Finally, I am super-excited about a resolution I sponsored that has been adopted, House Resolution 31, which recognizes the importance of our state’s soil to our state’s economy and well-being.  It is also fitting as we celebrate Soil and Conservation Week and truly focus on our natural resources.  Our farmers have managed this great resource we have been given and utilized it into the great economic driving force of our state. It is one of the overwhelming reasons we have enjoyed our state, our way of life and our livelihood.  I appreciate and am honored to represent you in the State House. 

On a personal note, I want to say thank you to my wife, Cami, who has been my clerk throughout this legislative session.  She ends her term today and I appreciate having her by my side while here in Des Moines.  I also want to say a special thank you to Laura VanBriesen for allowing Cami time away from her responsibilities at Homeology and making it possible.  We have truly treasured our time together and it has been a remarkable experience to share as a family. 

I strive to represent you the best I can and work hard to bring our NW Iowa values to the concrete of Des Moines.  Please continue to follow updates year-round on my website,

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.

House Moves Forward with Budget that Spends No More than State Takes In As National Data Shows Economy Slowing Down
House Republicans continued their progress on passing a budget that lives within ongoing state revenue at a time when national indicators point to an economic slowdown.
By the end of the week, the House will have debated the five budget bills it is responsible to start:  Federal Block Grants, Transportation, Infrastructure (RIIF), Administration & Regulation, and Education.  Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to have considered four of the budget bills started by the Senate:  Agriculture & Natural Resources, Economic Development, Judicial Branch, & Justice Systems.  This will leave two bills yet to begin the process - Health and Human Services and Standings.  Both of these bills are to start in the Senate.
All of the budget bills moved by the House will be funded within the on-going revenue estimate for FY 2016 of $7.1755 billion.  The need to keep on-going state spending within this amount was evident again on Wednesday when the U.S. Commerce Department released figures on the first quarter’s gross domestic product.
First quarter GDP for calendar year 2015 slowed to 0.2 percent growth.  The Washington Post stated that the national economy “ground nearly to a halt.”  The actual growth rate was well shy of the 1.0 percent growth predicted for the quarter and the 2.4 percent growth rate experienced in 2014.
The causes for the sudden slowdown are varied.  Exports took a significant drop in the first quarter, with the export of goods and services going down 7.2 percent.  Part of the blame for this is the stronger dollar, which has made goods for export more expensive in foreign markets. 
Another issue was the 2015 winter and its severe impact on certain areas of the country.  While Iowa’s winter was bearable, the northeastern US was repeatedly hit with massive snowstorms.  This impacted consumer spending, as New Englanders stayed warm in their homes instead of heading to the malls. 
Construction and manufacturing related to homes were stagnant during the quarter and the number of new hires grew, that growth was almost half of what was experienced in the last quarter of 2014.  The fact that Americans continue the trend of reducing their debt load and saving more also impacted GDP growth. 
The sluggishness of the economy is sending cautionary signals to economists and policymakers across the country.  Here in Iowa, the recent discovery of avian influenza in major turkey and chicken flocks has the potential to have a major impact on the ag economy.  And state revenue growth for Fiscal Year 2015 still remains below the figure projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference.
House Republicans’ efforts to pass a budget that spends less than the state will take in shows a commitment to common-sense budgeting practice that Iowans across the state are putting to use in their own homes.  This stance presents a stark difference when compared to the position of House Democrats who continue to insist that Iowa should spend every penny it has.  It is clear that their budget positions are “out of step” with the national economy and the every-day practices of the Iowans they serve.
FY 2016 Budget Bill Statuses – April 29, 2015
Budget Bill Bill Number Bill Status
Administration & Regulation HF 659 Passed House Appropriations Committee - On 4/30 Debate Calendar
Agriculture & Natural Resources SF 494 Passed Senate, Passed House Appropriations Committee
Economic Development SF 499 Passed Senate
Education HF 658 Passed House Appropriations Committee - On 4/30 Debate Calendar
Federal Block Grants HF 630 Passed House and Senate
Health & Human Services   Senate will start
Judicial Branch SF 496 Passed Senate
Justice Systems SF 497 Passed Senate
RIIF (Infrastructure) HF 650 Passed House Appropriations Committee - On 4/29 Debate Calendar
Standings   Senate will start
Transportation HF 637 Passed House, in Senate Appropriations Committee
   FY 2016 Education Appropriations Bill on the Move
The House Appropriations Committee this week approved the FY16 Education Appropriations bill, making it eligible for Floor consideration this week.
HF 658 appropriates $977.6 million in FY16 in General Fund dollars for the Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission, the Department of Education, Community Colleges, Vocational Rehabilitation, Iowa Public Television, and the Board of Regents.  This is a decrease of $8.6 million from FY15.
The difficult decision to reduce funding for next year must be considered in the context of the large increase for K-12 schools ($100 million) already approved the House this session, plus the skyrocketing cost of Medicaid, and other bipartisan budgeting decisions made in the last General Assembly. 

Here are the Education Appropriation targets of the House, Senate, and Governor compared to FY15 funding levels:
  • $977.6 million - House target
  • $986.1 million - FY15 Estimated
  • $1.022 billion - Governor’s recommendation
  • $1.025 billion - Senate’s target   
These are the changes in the House’s proposed budget: 
  • $175,000 increase for the College Student Aid Commission
  • $600,000 increase for the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship
  • $791,177 decrease for the Iowa Grants (zeroes out the line item)
  • $800,000 decrease for Teach Iowa Scholars ($500,000 remains)
  • $1 million decrease for the Iowa Tuition Grant ($47.4 million remains)
  • $175,000 decrease for the Iowa Tuition Grant for for-profits ($1.8 million remains)
  • $632,976 decrease for the Department of Education ($7.7 million remains)
  • $2.348 million decrease for Beginning Teacher Mentor Program ($1.673 million remains)
  • $250,000 decrease for the DE’s Attendance Center Data System ($250,000 remains)
  • $250,000 decrease for the Administrator Mentoring/Coaching System ($750,000 remains)
  • $1 million decrease for AEA Standards Distribution (zeroes out the line item)
  • $1 million decrease for Iowa Learning Online ($500,000 remains)
  • $250,000 decrease for the Teach Iowa  Job Posting Site (zeroes out the line item)
  • Board of Regents         
    • $64,105 decrease for the Board Office
    • $186,000 decrease for Iowa's Oakdale Campus
    • $500,000 decrease for Iowa’s Flood Center
    • $34,730 decrease for UNI’s STEM Collaborative
    • Redistributes $12,971,898 million from University of Iowa to:
      • Iowa State - $6,366,297
      • UNI - $6,605,601
In addition to the appropriations, the bill also contains a few policy provisions: 
  • HF 283 - All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship bill (passed the House 97-0 on March 19, 2015) which spreads a student’s received scholarship dollars over two years of higher education rather than one.
  • Language requiring the Department of Education to employ a full-time Talented and Gifted coordinator,  with funds coming from the existing TAG funding
  • HF 284 - Tuition Grant cap removal (passed the House 97-0 on March 19, 2015) which removes the $5,000 cap on Iowa Tuition Grants.
  • HF 156 - Preschool admin bill (passed the House 99-0 February 17, 2015) which gives additional flexibility to preschool funding and adds extra eligible expense items for administrative costs.
  • HF 346 - At-risk / Drop-out Prevention bill (passed the Housed 97-0 March 19, 2015) which gives additional flexibility to At-risk and Drop-out Prevention dollars.
  • A strike of the Independent Accreditation sunset date, allowing private schools to continue accreditation with approved entities beyond 2020.
  • Language preventing the Regents from entering into agreements to forgo property taxes in lieu of payments to the city (PILOT agreements).
The budget proposed by the House continues most funding at last year’s level.  It fits within the House’s overall budget picture which follows the House Republican budgeting principles that we won’t spend more than we take in, we won’t intentionally underfund the state’s commitments, and we won’t use one-time money for on-going expenses.

A responsible budget here allows the House to stand by its proposal to spend an additional $100 million new state dollars on K-12 schools (accounted for the in Standings Appropriations bill) with the 1.25% Supplemental State Aid increase passed by the House in January. 

Ag & DNR Budget bill Moves Onto the House Floor
On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, the House Appropriation Committee considered and passed Senate File 494 by a party-line 14-aye to 11-nay vote.  Senate File 494 as amended by the House Appropriation committee meets the House Budget target established for this Appropriation bill of $42 million in general fund dollars and $42 million in Environment First Fund allocation.  This budget target required a $1.1million reduction in the general fund appropriations funded by this bill and this resulted in the following spending changes different from the current year, Governor’s recommended amount and Senate action: 
  • The Iowa department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) general fund appropriation level is reduced $249,688-- from $17,655,492 to $17,405,804;
  • The DNR general fund appropriation level is reduced $362,307-- from $12,862,307 to $12,500,000;
  • The forestry health management general fund level is zeroed out ($450,000 reduction) but is replaced by an increase in EFF funds for this purpose of the same amount (from $50,000 to $500,000); and
  • The general fund appropriation to the floodplain management program is decreased by 2.5% or reduced $50,000 from $2 million to $1.95 million.
While the House and Senate have the same amount of Environment First funds to allocate, the effort of reducing the cumulative general fund appropriation for this budget area by $1.1million required some hard choices and reallocation of EFF moneys to ensure that both DNR and IDALS have sufficient funds to ensure that sufficient environmental regulation takes place, parks stay open, and IDALS has the ability to operate its regulatory functions.  This last area is of growing concern as a recent spate of headlines in state papers across the state have reported the recent and expanding H5N2 avian influenza outbreak in Iowa poultry farms.  On Monday, the full House Appropriation received a brief update on the situation from Iowa Agriculture Secretary Northey who told the Committee that another four to five flocks are likely to be confirmed with the contagion and a press release later in the afternoon confirmed this.  Hence with this news at the forefront of Budget Chair Representative Drake, he determined that in consideration of the importance of animal agriculture to Iowa’s economy that the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory would not take any general fund cut and for the second year in a row, would be fully funded at its $4 million level.
The difference between Senate File 494 and the amendment that was adopted by the House appropriation Committee is as follows: 
  • The IDALS general fund appropriation level is reduced $249,688-- from $17,655,492 to $17,405,804;
  • The DNR general fund appropriation level is reduced $362,307-- from $12,862,307 to $12,500,000;
  • The forestry health management general fund level is zeroed out ($450,000 reduction) but is replaced by an increase in EFF funds for this purpose of the same amount (from $50,000 to $500,000); and
  • The general fund appropriation to the floodplain management program is decreased by 2.5% or reduced $50,000 from $2 million to $1.95 million.  
In regard to EFF numbers the amendment made the following changes— 
  • REAP is reduced by $2.5 million from $16 million to $13.5 million;
  • IDALS Soil & Water Conservation Administration expenses are increase by an additional $1 million (from $2.55 million to $3.55 million);
  • IDALS Soil Conservation Cost Share is increased by an additional $250,000 from $6,750,000 to $7 million
  • As noted earlier, Forestry Health Management EFF appropriation is increase $450,000 to backfill general fund reduction (from $50,000 to $500,000); Volunteers and Keepers of the land is zeroed out (-$100,000) but those funds are shifted to the DNR State Park operation EFF allocation which is as follows
  • DNR State Park Operations EFF allocation is increased $900,000 (from $6.135 million to $7.035 million) this largely offsets DNR general fund appropriation reductions (of $362,307) and which it most likely would have taken out of State park operations.
All other budgetary appropriation lines are at last year’s amounts; and the House Appropriation Committee retains a Senate appropriation of $1.23 million of unencumbered agricultural management account of the groundwater protection fund (that otherwise could be used by the Iowa Department of Public Health for transfer to counties for private well closure) to Iowa State University for a three year effort to collect in-field practices data.  These funds will be used explicitly to record and track changes in water quality from use of different practices with the goal of determining which water quality practices will work most effectively on improving water quality.

Representative Drake expressed concern and remorse that he needed to reduce REAP appropriation amount from $16 million to $13.5 million, but budget constraints and the prioritized value of increased water quality work and keeping state parks open left him little choice but to cut the REAP’s slice of the pie.  It should be noted that REAP funding as recently as FY 2013 was $12-million, and that this budget Subchair’s efforts in prior year to focus reallocation of REAP funds for state parks and water quality efforts have been rebuffed by House and Senate Democrats.
In closing, Representative Drake noted that while this budget doesn’t have additional money for avian flu control and eradication efforts, IDALS has yet to determine what, if any, additional one-time funding might be required.  He was confident that as more information on this matter is generated, the General Assembly will find and provide the state financial wherewithal needed to cope with this animal epidemic that as of Monday, had adversely impacted more than 10% of Iowa’s layer flock which is 20% of the nation’s egg production annual output.

Disabled Veteran Homestead Tax Credit Fix Moves to House Floor
House File 653 passed the House Ways and Means Committee last week by a vote of 22 to 2. The bill is a Department of Revenue bill containing several provisions. One very important provision deals with the disabled veteran homestead tax credit that was changed in House File 166 earlier this session and has already been signed by the governor.
House File 653 allows veterans to apply for the credit until July 1 of this year for taxes due and payable this fall and next spring. The need for the application extension was caused by the eligibility clarification made in House File 166 earlier this session. That bill amended the eligibility criteria for the disabled veteran homestead tax credit to include a veteran with a disability rating based on individual unemployability.
The application extension will now move to the house floor for further consideration.

Routine Maintenance
During the RIIF discussion in the House Appropriations Committee last week, the issue of routine maintenance and its lack of funding in the FY 2015 budget, was reviewed.  Last year, the conference committee added the “routine and preventative maintenance” definition to the vertical infrastructure definition, so as to avoid having to continuously notwithstand the Code as this appropriation was routinely given in the bill.  Additionally, last year’s bill included a $4 million appropriation for routine maintenance, but the Governor vetoed the allocation.
The reason for the non-inclusion this year was born from the idea that a specific appropriation for these costs was not needed; state agencies and departments pay fees to the Department of Administration Services (DAS) each year, which should cover the routine maintenance needs.  However, DAS has let it be known it needs roughly $6 million annually according to its 5-year infrastructure plan.  The $6 million could address many of the routine maintenance needs while also providing a sustainable source of funding from a budgetary standpoint. 
DAS defines routine maintenance as, “expenditures made for the regular upkeep of physical properties (land, buildings, equipment) including recurring, preventative and ongoing maintenance necessary to delay or prevent the failure of building systems and equipment…building operational costs are not considered routine maintenance.  Tangible personal property…shall not be eligible for routine maintenance funds.”  Some specific examples of routine maintenance, according to DAS, include: parking lot upkeep, sidewalk repairs, asbestos removal, plumbing repairs, pest control, etc.

News from Around the District



Not only are concerns mounting over bird flu, but now there's growing worry over a highly contagious dog flu virus that's been reported in parts of the Midwest. Officials say this is the first time this strain of canine flu has been reported in North America. A dog flu outbreak has now been reported in Sioux City and has resulted in the closure of a dog park and has kennel operators there taking special precautions. Outbreaks have also been reported in Wisconsin and Illinois.  Dr. Randy Wheeler with the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association says samples are being tested daily.

So far, the H-3-N-2 strain of canine influenza has reportedly sickened more than 1,300 dogs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Of all the dogs that have become ill, only a handful have died. And Wheeler says it doesn't appear that this strain of dog flu is any more aggressive than other strains.

According to the C-D-C, there's no evidence of transmission of canine influenza viruses from dogs to humans, although cats can be infected under certain circumstances and guinea pigs and ferrets could also be at risk.

CDC considers the risk to people to be low

DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is responding to five probable cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry farms in Buena Vista, Sioux and Clay counties.  These five new cases would join twelve cases of the disease in Iowa that were previously announced. State officials have quarantined the premises and once the presence of the disease is confirmed, all birds on the property will be humanely euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.
Buena Vista 5 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 5.5 million birds that experienced increased mortality.  Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
Buena Vista 6 – Turkey farm that has experienced increased mortality.  An estimate on the number of birds at the site is still pending. Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
Buena Vista 7 – Turkey farm that has experienced increased mortality.  An estimate on the number of birds at the site is still pending. Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
Sioux 3 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 84,000 birds that has experienced increased mortality.  Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
Clay – Commercial laying operation that has experienced increased mortality.  An estimate on the number of birds at the site is still pending.  Initial testing showed it positive for H5 avian influenza.  Additional confirmatory testing is pending from the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames.
As the Department receives final confirmations of the disease updated information will be posted to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low.  No human infections with the virus have ever been detected there is no food safety risk for consumers.
Concerned residents both within and outside the areas affected by avian influenza are encouraged to use the Iowa Concern Hotline at 1-800-447-1985 if they have questions. The Iowa Concern Hotline is available 24 hours a day. All calls are free and confidential, and the operators are willing to assist wherever possible.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach operates the hotline and is partnering with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Health, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department and Egg Industry Council to provide up-to-date information to Iowans about the disease.


A major business based near George celebrated the completion of a major expansion Wednesday, April 22. Diversified Technologies Inc., the parent company of Dur-A-Lift Inc. and Sudenga Industries Inc., commemorated a new approximately 26,000-square-foot facility on its nearly 50-acre campus. The company hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony that featured remarks from Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who traveled through N’West Iowa during the past week as part of their annual 99-county tour, and welcomed dealers and distributors of its products from all over the world. 
-The N’West Iowa REVIEW.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources


A Resolution recognizing the importance of soils to Iowa’s future prosperity and healthy environment.

WHEREAS, soils are a preeminent natural resource that supports major economic sectors of our state, including agriculture, energy, forestry, and recreation; and

WHEREAS, healthy soils filter, store, and cycle nutrients, support biological activity and diversity, and filter, buffer, degrade, and immobilize organic and inorganic contaminants; and

WHEREAS, soil management is closely linked to the quality of our subsurface and surface waters, including groundwater sources, lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers; and

WHEREAS, soil is a vital ecosystem that provides keys to scientific advances that directly affect human health such as the development of new medicines and technologies; and

WHEREAS, soils are renewable only on the scale of geologic time; and

WHEREAS, Iowa’s future prosperity and well-being depend upon this precious resource; and

WHEREAS, the Soil Science Society of America and many other organizations are celebrating the 2015 International Year of Soils;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, That the House of Representatives recognizes the essential role of Iowa soils in supporting a thriving Iowa economy and healthy environment and ensuring a sustainable and productive future for the people of the State of Iowa.


 DES MOINES — Dozens of advocates packed an Iowa Capitol committee room Monday to urge state legislators to pass a three-eighths-of-a-cent sales tax for natural resources and conservation projects.

Representatives of hunting, fishing and conservation groups called on legislators to activate the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which was created in 2010 by a public vote but has not been funded.

Revenue from the new sales tax would go toward programs helping soil and water quality, fish and wildlife, and parks and trails.

The tax would generate roughly $150 million annually, according to the Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy advocacy group.

“If we had funded that trust not long after it passed, we’d already have $600 million out there on the ground. Those are opportunities probably lost,” Storm Lake Mayor Jon Kruse said. “The sooner we can fund the trust, the sooner we can make this better for all Iowans.”

Supporters of the trust fund say it would give farmers an incentive to use more land for conservation, help improve water quality and retain young professionals who seek recreational activities.

Those who spoke at Monday’s meeting support funding the trust fund.

A representative of Iowans for Tax Relief said the group is opposed to the tax.

“We are against raising taxes again on hard-working Iowans,” Iowans for Tax Relief’s Ernie Adkison said, referring to the 10-cents-per-gallon increase in the state gasoline tax that took effect in March.

Ken Snyder, a who farms near Ralston, said the trust fund could help put more land into conservation by motivating farmers who must compete with corn and soybean crop prices.

“What we need to do is have soil rental rates in those (conservation) programs competitive with corn and beans,” Snyder said. “There would be more incentives there to make it much easier for me to talk my neighbors into doing (conservation) practices that will protect the water that comes to Des Moines and all of Iowa.”

Chris Lovell, 22, of Clear Lake, said that when young people like himself decide where to put down roots, recreation is a key factor. Lovell added that he wants the state to do everything it can to protect its natural resources and outdoor recreation.

“This place (Iowa) is a gold mine for outdoor recreation,” he said. “The bottom line for me is the outdoors. It’s just a part of my soul. And it’s a part of a lot of other people’s souls, too, people my age. … We have to have things that are attractive for people to come back.”

Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, supports instituting the new sales tax to fund the trust fund. He said the state has been forced this year to address two infrastructure issues: the gas tax was passed to deal with roads and bridges in need of repair, and the trust fund would help Iowa’s soil and water.

“I’m very encouraged by the diversity of comments that were made and the various groups that were speaking in favor of the bill,” he said. “This can happen. I’ve seen other unexpected developments occur in the final days of the session. This could happen and in my mind would be the most significant legislation passed this session.”

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said he believes the trust fund could become a signature accomplishment of the 2015 legislative session.

“I think this legislative session needs a legacy issue, and I think this is the legacy issue. I think legislators need something to get excited about to get us out of here,” Hogg said. “This legislative session, without something like this, is going to stack up as a pile of dung, in the words of Tom Harkin (the former U.S. senator from Iowa). I think we need something that really puts us out on a high note.”
-Erin Murphy QC Times Bureau

It’s Morel Time 

People across the state have begun the annual tradition of gathering morels in the spring.  Mushroom hunting is a popular sport in Iowa, and the season is upon us.  Morel mushrooms can be found in later April.  Weather determines when and where they will grow.  Forests with elm or ash trees are good locations to begin looking for morel mushrooms.  With weather conditions in the 70s for much of this week, it is likely the ideal time to begin looking for morels.


Tour of Our District


The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce will host the 33rd annual Great Walleye Weekend Fishing Contest in conjunction with the opener.  For more information on the contest, visit their website -

The 139th walleye fishing season officially opens May 2 at Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji lakes. Beautiful weather is forecast this weekend, but lake conditions could create some challenges.

“The lakes are very cool and clear this spring,” said fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins. “We’re seeing 12-15 feet of water clarity on Big Spirit Lake and 6-7 feet of clarity on East Okoboji.  Walleyes are definitely more cautious and finicky in that clear water. When the water is this clear, the bite is usually a lot better after dark.  Daytime walleye fishing will be tough.

“Water clarity presents challenges anglers may be accustomed to, but lagging water temperatures are certainly another thing to keep in mind.  After a cold first half of April, water temperatures are struggling to get into the 50s,” Hawkins said.

Walleye population assessments in the Iowa Great Lakes indicate very healthy numbers of large walleyes.  

“We continue to see some of the best numbers of broodstock sized fish (17 inches and greater) that we have ever documented in the Iowa Great Lakes,” he said. The smaller, harvest-sized walleye numbers are probably best on the Okoboji chain, while a better percentage of the Spirit Lake population is above 17 inches.

Anglers heading to the lakes for the opener will be greeted with beautiful weather conditions; 75 degrees and sunny skies are forecast for Saturday.  There is a slight chance of showers on Sunday. Water temperature should increase this week, however, which may help the bite.

A quick check of state park campgrounds in the area found many sites with electricity still available at Marble Beach, Gull Point and Emerson Bay. 

Walleye season opens the first Saturday in May through February 14 each year. There is a protected slot limit on walleyes from 17 to 22 inches, with only one walleye over 22 inches allowed per day. The daily limit is three walleyes with a possession limit of six. 

State of Iowa Fun Fact


After white settlement began with the Black Hawk Purchase, Iowa became part of Michigan Territory. When Michigan achieved statehood in 1837, Iowa then became a part of Wisconsin Territory. Finally, two years later, Iowa Territory was carved out of the area of Wisconsin Territory west of the Mississippi River. The first Iowa Territory legislature met in Burlington before a territorial capital city was finally selected in Johnson County. In Iowa City, the government seat was established in a grand structure known today as Old Capitol. Built in the early 1840s, Old Capitol served as the last capitol of Iowa Territory and the first capitol of the state. Under the 1857 Iowa constitution, the seat of state government was moved to Des Moines, a more central location.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol



On January 1, 1885, Governor Buren R. Sherman became the first occupant of the present offices of the governor of Iowa, following the dedication of the state Capitol building the year before. Much of the decoration and original furnishings of that day are still preserved in the four-room suite. The large, ornate mahogany table in the center of the reception room is an example. The frescoed ceilings were painted in watercolors on the wet plaster more than 80 years ago.

The governor's private office was moved from the center room to the west office by Governor Albert B. Cummins in 1902. The governor's desk also was installed at that time and has been used by all subsequent chief executives of Iowa. Governor Nathan E. Kendall (1921-1925) provided the solid, straight back chairs for visitors. Frescoes of the Great Seal of the State of Iowa and of the Iowa Territorial Seal adorn the ceiling of the governor's private office.

The grandfather clock in the governor's office dates from about 1750 and once was owned by the prominent Iowa author Emerson Hough of Newton (1857-1923). The tall clock in the office of the executive assistant is the original master clock controlling other clocks in the Law Library, Supreme Court, and legislative chambers. Operated by air, the clock must be wound once a week.

The offices are 23 feet 9 inches from floor to ceiling. The draperies are velvet and lined with satin with an under drape of semi-sheer fabrics. Lamps in the inner office are of pewter. Prisms of cut Czechoslovakian crystal decorate the chandelier in the reception room. The woodwork was carved in cherry and mahogany by skilled German craftsman. The hearths and wainscoting are of fine domestic and imported marble. Paintings in the offices are the works of Iowa artists.

Map of the Week

The map of the week is of the Percent Change in Per Capita Real Gross Domestic Product document published location:
The map can be found here

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


Around the Capitol


Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Father Jeremy Wind at the Capitol recently. Father Wind visited the Statehouse on behalf of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spirit Lake to lead the House in prayer.
Pictured here are Cami Wills, Jeremy Wind, and Rep. Wills.


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