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Legislative Update 05/07/2015

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Quote of the Week

Liberty is not a means to a political end. It is itself the highest political end.

— Lord Acton

Legislative Update

Friends,

I can finally see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel in this legislative session.  Each day I thank God for the ability to serve you, the people of NW Iowa’s House District 1.  I have done the best I can to represent you.  In the process I have learned a lot this first legislative season and am extremely grateful for that opportunity for growth. 

To be clear, when I say that we are nearing the end, last Friday (May 1) was the official finish to this year’s legislative session.  We have passed some very good bills, some of which have become law, and signed by Governor Branstad.  We continue to debate budget bills which are still required to close out this legislative year. 

At a time where our budgets are so tight, I still find it overwhelmingly hard to swallow that some continue to politicize these circumstances by stating  disappointment that it took so long to get so little for Iowa’s schoolchildren.   A quick look at our state’s budget shows the House Republicans are not shortchanging our children but making them a priority with one of the few budgets in this state that is actually growing, at the expense of all else.  When we look at inflation rates in the Midwest we find that inflation rates here are 1.7 percent this year.  So with this 1.25 percent in SSA and a potential additional amount in one time monies we are more than providing for our children.  I say, let’s stop with the Washington politics and move forward as Iowans. 

State Supplemental Aid (SSA) for our K-12 schools was the major topic this year and that has taken a lot of our time and effort.  In recent weeks there have been new solutions floating around the capitol on SSA that I do find encouraging.  Schools have set their budgets and now continue to wait for the SSA to come in. 
 
At this point the SSA funding issue has not been settled.  At a time when Iowans’ family budgets are tight, our government budget should be prudent too.  I believe Iowa families would not choose to buy a new car but instead would buy bread and staples in challenging times and I expect nothing different from our state government.  So, just like our families would do, our government also needs to prioritize the available money we do have.  In the budgets that have been passed in the House this year that is precisely what you will find. We cannot escape the fact that we are in a period of tight budgets. As well, we do not yet fully understand how the Avian Flu might affect our state’s economy in the next year and we must be vigilant. 

Sincerely,

Representative John H. Wills
 


Legislative Priorities 

2015-16 HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET PRINCIPLES

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 House Republican budget plan spends 99.9% ($7.168 billion) of on-going revenue ($7.175 billion) ensuring that government does not spend more than it has and lives within its means.  This is a 2.48% (173.8 million) increase over FY 15.
 
Partisan rhetoric from legislative Democrats claim the GOP plan will dramatically affect government services in a negative way.  It is difficult to argue that a nearly $180 million increase will tie the hands of government agencies and prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities.
 
Iowans are sending $7.175 billion to state government coffers.  That is a tremendous amount of money. Spending more than they are sending to the state sets hardworking taxpayers up for either future budget cuts or a tax increase.  Instead of that, the Legislature should simply live within its means.
 
The House Republican General Fund budget plan does not use the ending balance, the Cash Reserve or the Economic Emergency Fund.  According the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in regards to the ending balance, “It should be noted that these excess funds are considered one-time revenues that can carry-forward from one fiscal year to the next.  The transfer amounts can be unpredictable from one year to the next…  Reliance on these revenues for ongoing operational expenses of government programs can result in budget shortfalls if an economic downturn causes a drop in annual tax revenue.”
 
The Cash Reserve is used to cash flow the state budget.  Taking money from it jeopardizes timely payments to school districts and local governments.
 
The Economic Emergency Fund is used for catastrophic problems such as the floods of 2008.
 
If there are legitimate one-time expenses – such as paying off state debt, or making targeted investments in key infrastructure projects, or improving water quality – then using one-time resources like the ending balance may be appropriate.  House Republicans voted to pay off state debt using ending balance dollars in 2013 and 2014.
 
The Iowa Department of Revenue released a report last week showing that some of Iowa’s most important indicators point to an economic dip that could indicate a coming contraction.  Agriculture is emanating particularly worrisome signs even as the report collected data through March of 2015, many weeks before the state’s bird flu epidemic hit. 
 
The Iowa Leading Indicators Index (ILII) is a compilation of eight economic measurements.  Four of them--diesel fuel consumption, average weekly unemployment claims, the U.S. Treasury bond yield spread and the number of residential building permits--positively impacted the index.  But the agriculture future profits index, the new orders index, average weekly manufacturing hours and the Iowa stock market index all contributed negatively. 
 
The agricultural profits index contributed most to the decline, as the 12-month moving average of corn, soybean, hog and cattle profits shrunk for all four commodities.  Prices for corn, hogs and soybeans are down from March of last year.  And while cattle prices are up, the breakeven point for them has increased.  The new orders index was the second-largest contributor to the index’s decline, as its 12-month moving average of orders received for manufacturing continues to slide from last year.   
 
The department’s report summarizes previous changes in the ILII with six-month intervals, and the latest percentage decrease of 1.5 percent between September 2014 and March 2015 is the worst six-month performance over the past three years.  The last positive percentage change over a six-month interval came between May and November of 2012, but every interval between then has been negative.
 
The index is considered to have reliably signaled an economic contraction when it declines by at least a two percent annualized rate over a six-month period and a majority of the eight indicators decline over that same period.  This latest report comes very close to signaling a contraction.  With the last six-month index having a majority of indicators declining and the overall index declining by 1.5 percent, the index was only .5 percent short of signaling an economic contraction.   
 
The full report from the Department of Revenue can be found here.
 


News from Around the District

IDEAL WEATHER ALLOWS FARMERS TO MAKE TREMENDOUS PROGRESS IN PLANTING CROPS

Ideal weather the past week to 10 days allowed area farmers to make tremendous progress in planting corn and soybeans. As a matter of fact, Paul Kassel, a Crops Specialist with the Iowa State University Extension Service, tells KUOO news most of the corn is in the ground.

While the weather was good for planting and fieldwork, Kassel says it was also good for growing weeds.

Kassel says subsoil moisture, for the most part, is in pretty good shape. He says that will improve even more with the rain chances that are in the forecast.



Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

INTERNATIONAL HUNTER EDUCATION CONFERENCE
COMING TO DES MOINES

More than 200 hunter education and shooting sports professionals will be in Des Moines for the International Hunter Education Association – USA conference May 18-21, at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown Hotel.

Participants are coming from nearly every state, Canada, Mexico, Guam, New Zealand and Kyrgyzstan. This is the second time the conference will be held in Iowa; the first was in 1994.

“We have 57,000 hunter education instructors, most of whom are volunteers, who train more than 700,000 students annually. This conference provides a valuable opportunity for hunter education program administrators to discuss their program needs, standards and reciprocity,” said Steve Hall, executive director for the International Hunter Education Association – USA. 

The International Hunter Education Association – USA is the professional hunter education association affiliated with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the 50 state fish and hunter education programs. 

Since 1949, nearly 40 million students have completed hunter education courses that cover firearm safety, bowhunting, wildlife management, caring for game in the field, responsible hunting, landowner relations, wildlife identification and more. 

“Hunting is a safe activity that’s getting even safer because of hunter education,” Hall said.

“Hunter education teaches responsibility while hunting and combined with our expanding shooting sports programs has significantly elevated the image of hunters and hunting.”


 

Tour of Our District

GRANITE, IOWA THE MOST NW TOWN IN IOWA

Granite was founded on June 12, 1886 at the request of the owners of the land, Richard and Bessie Pettigrew. The community of Iuka was then officially filed on March 14, 1887. The name of Iuka later on changed to Granite in late 1887.  A manufacturing company called Miller Loaders exits on the East Side of town. It creates loader attachments for tractors and other machinery. Granite is also known for the Granite Threshing Bee which it holds once every summer. A demonstration of Wheat Threshing, a kids tractor pull, a lunch, and a parade featuring old tractors and cars are the highlights of the Bee.

Loading the wagon for the threshing bee. Photo by Bonita Davison.



State of Iowa Fun Fact

TWO TULIP FESTIVALS IN IOWA

The Orange City Tulip Festival, our state's closest is a celebration each third weekend in May known for its tulips, musical production, and authentic Dutch costumes, dances, and food.  The other Tulip Festival is in Pella, IA.
 



Tour of The Iowa State Capitol


THE SUPREME COURT CHAMBER

The Supreme Court Chamber was dedicated in 1886. The bench is made of Santo Domingo mahogany, featuring carvings by William Metzger. Metzger carved the original bench, and he also carved the expansion of the bench.

The ceiling of the courtroom was replaced following a fire in 1904. That fire also destroyed most of the ceiling of the House of Representatives chamber, one floor above.

The Supreme Court has general appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. The Court has authority to supervise the trial court, to prescribe the procedure in matters brought before it and provides the rules for admission of attorneys to the practice of law. It also has the power to prescribe rules of civil, criminal, and appellate procedure. Any rules prescribed by the Court and reported to the Legislature become effective unless changed by the Legislature.

The Court will hear approximately 220 oral arguments within the course of a year. Annually, the Iowa Supreme Court issues approximately 350 rulings on cases. This chamber, which is no longer used for court cases, is now utilized as a committee room for the House of Representatives. All court business is now conducted in the new Judicial Branch Building on the Capitol Complex.




Map of the Week

The map of the week is of the CONFRIMED AVIAN INFLUENZA CASES BY COUNTY document published location.

The map can be found here


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State Representative, John H. Wills
Governor, Terry Branstad
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Secretary of State, Paul Pate
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State Auditor, Mary Mosiman
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