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Legislative Update 2/19/2015

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WILLS
State Representative

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives."  Ronald Reagan

Legislative Update

Friends,

The week was full of visitors to the our beautiful Iowa State Capitol.  I visited with many constituents who wished to discuss such things as REAP, State Supplemental Aid, Medical Marijuana, and the proposed Gas Tax.  I value hearing all the input and thoughts from the citizens of House District 1 and what is on their minds.  I really do appreciate the time and energy of so many to  help me understand your perspectives.
The most concentrated topic of this week, however, continued to be School Start Date. I've listened to many arguments and perspectives so please allow me to provide the view I have formulated on the issue surrounding school start date to give you an idea of where I am at on this important debate. Many thoughts and ideals were communicated over the past few weeks by superintendents, teachers, school board members and even some parents.
I found that many of these opinions just don't seem to take into accounts the most important factor, our students edication. My thoughts continue to be directed toward our kids and their inherent right to have an education outside of the brick and mortar school as much as the learning they receive inside those classroom walls.  Our kids deserve to know how to operate a business and work a job.  Our kids deserve to know what it is like to go on a family vacation and spend time with their extended families.  And I think most parents and students can agree that summer jobs, especially for those that depend on them for income, are important for learning a work ethic, learning to deal with people and learning to save money. All of these are key to being successful adults. 
Beyond that, arbitrary choices of school starting dates hurts local economies, especially the enhanced Lakes region, because it makes hospitality and tourism industry planning extremely difficult. All major national studies on the issue of school start dates point to a massive economic boon for the state tourism industry, summer workforce and state tax revenue:  When the school start date precedes Labor Day, our tourism industry, just in Okoboji, loses up to $1 Million per day.  When our schools themselves are seeking consistent increases in funding, that is significant!  So, the lost revenue to the state from Okoboji in sales tax alone could be $60,000/day.  When you add the lost school sales tax penny, you can add $10,000/per day. 
I am told that the the current average start date for Iowa schools is August 11th.  What that really means to our state, just in the Okoboji tourism area, is a loss in $19 Million.  That equates to $1.14 Million in lost sales tax to the State and $190,000 in lost revenue from the Sales Tax Option for our schools.  This signifies the lost revenue from just ONE tourism region in our state!  If you multiply that by all of the other areas in our state that have an interest in tourism and then consider the impact that the additional salaries, spending and associated benefits associated of an additional $19 Million flowing through an economy, the prospect for the school start date being pushed back is astronomical! 
For  all of these reasons, I support a late school start date as the BEST option for our kids.  It impacts our kids and the quality of the overall education they receive.
As always, please let me know your thoughts and thank you for allowing me to represent you in our State Capitol of Iowa. Together, we will make Northwest Iowa voice heard down here on the concrete of Des Moines.

With Warmest Regard,
John
 
School Funding
The House position continues the legislature’s trend of providing significant increases to the state’s K-12 system, bringing the 5 year total increase to over $570 million, a nearly 22% increase. 
According to the Department of Education’s Allocation Summary documents, Iowa will spend $10,231 per student in FY 15.  That means in classroom of 20, Iowa spends just over $200,000. 
Current revenue collections are trialing the December estimate.  In terms of actual dollars, actual returns are $100.6 million behind the REC projection.  If revenue continues to come in below expectations, the March revenue estimate may require that the 1.25% SSA already approved by the House be revised downward.
“It would be my suggestion that the best thing we could do right now is send the 1.25 percent increase down to Gov. Branstad and get that signed and enacted,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha.
“Then, if we need to have another conversation about additional dollars, we’d be happy to have that conversation,” Paulsen added. However, the discussion would include additional education reform measures that would attempt to address imbalances in the current collective bargaining system for teachers, he said.
Key collective bargaining reforms that would help control rising costs for school districts are:
  • Allowing an arbitrator to choose in between two impasse points, not just an either/or scenario.The reason to avoid arbitration is that, given what an arbitrator is currently allowed to consider, management is likely to lose.The playing field is tilted in favor of labor and against the folks funding the eventual agreement – the taxpayers.Giving the arbitrator power to consider points between two parties allows for a level playing field at the arbitration level of contract negotiations.
  • An arbitrator, during binding arbitration, should be allowed to compare public wages and benefits to those in the private sector.Currently, an arbitrator compares wages to other public sector employees.Those public sector employees are often represented by the same unions and thus the comparison amounts to comparing a union to itself.By including a comparison to the private sector wages and benefits, an arbitrator could look at the entire spectrum of facts and maintain parity between the public and private sectors.
Iowa’s collective bargaining law has no requirement for arbitrators to consider the impact a proposed pay increase will have on the state budget and the taxpayers.  Arbitrators only have to look at the state’s authority to raise or levy taxes to pay for the proposed pay increase.  They have no responsibility to look at the current tax rates in relation to the state’s ability to fund a proposed increase.  The playing field is wildly tipped in favor of public-sector unions and against the taxpayers.
Asset Verification
 HF 247 requires the Department of Human Services to contract with a vendor to provide real-time, computerized verification of assets for blind, disabled, and aged Iowans covered by Medicaid. This system is a part of an effort to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicaid program.
 Currently the Department does not have an automated process for asset verification in these areas.
Once implemented, the new verification system will enable the contractor to search multiple financial institutions and return the data to DHS typically in less than 3 days.  This streamlined process will reduce the amount of benefits that are given out to people that do not qualify.  HF 247 is on the calendar and eligible for debate.
529 College Savings
Treats Iowa Educational Savings Plans, or 529’s, like IRA’s allowing tax deductible contributions into plans until April 30.  HF 124 passed the House last week and is awaiting action in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  Senator Quirmbach controls the bill.
Tax Relief
 HF 125/SF126 passed the House last week making conforming tax changes for Iowa income taxes.  Generally speaking, this bill saves Iowa taxpayers and families money in areas such as:  out-of-pocket expenses for teachers, tuition and fees, and mortgage insurance premiums.  It saves Iowa businesses money through updates to the Research Activities Credit, and small businesses equipment costs.  Governor Branstad signed the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
House Democrat’s Anti-Growth Agenda
HF 18 Forced Unionism
As a condition of employment, a public employee must pay union dues regardless of their membership in a union.  Public employees who have chosen against joining the union which has the right of exclusive representation of the workers in their organization are forced to pay union dues.
HF 38 Prevailing Wage
This bill requires a contractor to pay workers the same hourly wage, plus benefits, for a public improvement costing more than $25,000 as the contractor would pay workers for a private construction or improvement project.  Small businesses are negatively impacted as their ability to even qualify to bid on these projects is severely curtailed not to mention the fact that property taxes would likely increase to cover increased cost of construction
Additionally, administrative costs become burdensome because local governments take on the responsibility to monitor contractors and subcontractors to ensure that the prevailing wage rate is paid.  Prevailing wage laws have negative economic impacts, not from requiring union rates, but from artificially requiring rates higher than the free market would offer and interfering unnecessarily in the labor-management relationship of private firms.
Minimum Wage
Instead of focusing on policies that pit one group of Iowans against another, the legislature needs to focus on policies that benefit ALL Iowans.  An increase in the minimum wage might poll well and it’s famous for its political value, but we can’t forget about those in the middle who make more than the minimum wage and still have much of their paychecks taken by government.
Everyone knows that an increase in the minimum wage has a jobs penalty.  The extent of the jobs penalty is unknown.  But the Employment Policies Institute released a study that says Iowa would lose between 5,229 and 15,687 jobs if the min wage went to $10.10/hour.  Last year the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report regarding the jobs penalty with a $9.00 minimum wage.  The most likely jobs penalty resulting from a $9.00 minimum wage is loss of about 100,000 jobs nationally.
According to Iowa State University professor Peter Orazem, the assumption that an increase in the minimum wage will help workers and benefit the economy is rarely true.
In an ISU press release on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 Orazem said, “An increase is not going to create jobs; it’s not going to make people richer.  It will help some people and hurt some people, so in the end it’s a wash in terms of the overall economy.”
According to the release, “Orazem referenced a 2002 study, published in the Journal Labor Research, in which he analyzed the impact of Iowa’s minimum wage.  The study looked at changes in worker pay from 1989 to 1992.  During this time, Iowa set its first state minimum wage, which was 50 cents more than the federal rate and exceeded the rate of neighboring states.  Orazem found a slight reduction in the number of people working after the rate was increased.  But instead of cutting jobs, businesses were more likely to cut hours, and that hurt workers.” 
Orazem added, “On average, that group actually lost income as the minimum wage increased; they didn’t gain income.”
When considering increasing the minimum wage, we must carefully consider the repercussions for Iowa’s small businesses and for Iowa workers.  Not only will small businesses have to evaluate whether to fire or cut hours of employees, but also workers may be bumped from essential services they are receiving such Medicaid, food stamps and child care assistance.
We need to do what we can to create opportunities for employers to grow as well as tear down obstacles for middle class families to have income security and upward mobility instead engaging in the divisive and worn-out class warfare arguments used by Democrats.  

 

Legislative Forums
 

February 21, 2015 

Spencer

9:00am-10:30am 

Council Chambers

420 2nd Ave. West 
 

Arnolds Park 

11:30am-12:30pm

Maritime Museum

243 Broadway Street

February 28, 2015
Rock Rapids
8:00am-9:30am
Forster Community Center
404 Main Street

March 7, 2015 

Spencer

9:00am-10:30am

Council Chambers

420 2nd Ave. West 


Spirit Lake

11:30am-12:30pm

Bedell Family YMCA
1900 41st Street

 

March 21, 2015 

Spencer

9:00am-10:30am 

Council Chambers

420 2nd Ave. West
 

Arnolds Park 

11:30am-12:30pm

Maritime Museum
243 Broadway Street


March 28, 2015 
Rock Rapids
8:00am-9:30am
Forster Community Center
404 Main Street

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.
     

State Supplemental Aid (SSA) 

On the forefront of most Iowans minds right now is Education and what the funding looks like, as well as timing.  I decided to try to provide an outline on how the process works to better understand how these decisions impact us all.
Iowa’s method of financing K-12 education involves trying to be fair for each individual student.  The state determines the amount of state aid it will provide annually, and divides it by the total number of Iowa students. According to the Department of Education Allocation Summary documents, Iowa will spend $10,231 per student in FY 2015.  That means in a classroom with 20, Iowa spends just over $200,000. 
The state adds to that amount with an appropriation called supplemental State Aid (SSA).   This is the growth that school districts ask for on an annual basis.  This year, the House is proposing a 1.25 percent increase ($50 Million) and the Senate is suggesting a 4 percent increase ($160 Million). 
When one looks at the figures, I don’t see how the four percent or six percent is fiscally responsible.  Let’s take a look at the resources available.  Governor Branstad’s budget spends $7.3410 Billion in Fiscal Year 2016.  The Governor’s FY 2016 proposal spends more money than the Revenue Estimating Conference’s December ongoing revenue estimate of $7.1946 Billion.  The gap between ongoing revenue and the Governor’s budget is approximately $146.4 Million.  The amount of ongoing revenue that is available for the entire state budget is $200 Million.   
If we adopted the 6 percent increase in supplemental state aid for education pushed by House Democrats in FY 2016, the state would spend 104.4 percent of on-going revenue.  If we adopted a four percent increase in the supplemental state aid proposed by Senate Democrats this week, the state would spend 101.6 percent of on-going revenue. 
House Republicans have committed to pass a budget that doesn’t spend more than the state takes in, just like our Iowa families do.  In order to maintain this commitment and increase school aid to the level asked for by school advocates, state revenue would have to grow by 8.63 percent.  Add in the funding for the education reform package we passed in 2013, revenue growth would have to be 9.54 percent.  Average revenue growth over the past 20 years has been 3.27 percent.  Right now, revenue growth is running at 4.9 percent, and that’s below the 6.56 percent needed to fund the Senate’s 4 percent proposal.
Some have said we should cut other programs to fund these levels for our schools.  We would have to cut $316.7 Million to fund six percent growth.  This would mean major cuts to other programs like higher education, funding our prisons and Medicaid.  Our state budget contains just three items that equal over 90% of our entire state's budget.  Those are Education, Medicaid, and State Employees salaries and benefits.  If we were to make significant cuts in programs, those would be the first place for us to look.
Others who recognize the funding problem are encouraging us to go to the state’s ending balance for the money to fund a larger increase for schools.  We have to recognize that when you use one-time money for ongoing expenditures, the “financial band-aid” must be addressed in next year’s revenue growth.  This could leave no new money for the rest of the state’s budget in the coming year, or worse. 
The result of increasing state spending to unsustainable levels and spending one-time money for ongoing expenses has led to across-the-board cuts very recently.  This is what happened back in fiscal year 2010, when schools saw a $530 Million loss in one single year.  The state is still recovering from that loss.  That recovery was only possible because Iowans decided that the state should spend less than it takes in.

News from Around the District

Ag Secretary Bill Northey Receives Special Award

Iowa secretary of Agriculture and Spirit Lake native Bill Northey has received a National Environmental Achievement Award for excellence in Public Service by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

The award is presented to current or former elected or public officials at the local, state and federal levels of government who have demonstrated exemplary commitment and service to their community, the environment, and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Northey was selected for his leadership in establishing and growing the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and for working in a collaborative manner with both point sources and nonpoint sources to improve water quality.

Environmental Protection &
Natural Resources

House Environmental Protection Committee Okays Landfilling of Yard-Waste For Methane Use 

On Thursday, February 12, 2015, the House Environmental Protection Committee passed House Study Bill 93, that became House File 266 by a unanimous 20-aye vote.  HF 266 amends the Iowa Code concerning the prohibition of landfilling of yard waste by creating a fourth exception to the prohibition that includes allowing the landfilling of yard-waste at a landfill that has an Environmental Protection Agency approval to use a methane collection system that produces energy.  The other allowable instances in which yard-waste may be landfilled include; (a) when yard wastes are delivered separated from other solid waste and is used for purposes of soil conditioning and composting; (b) the yard-waste is the result of collection of yard waste debris created by a severe storm in an area that has been declared a disaster area by the Governor of Iowa or the President of the United States; (c) or the yard waste materials is collected for disposal as part of an insect-pest, or plant disease eradication effort or from invasive plant species control efforts where alternative composting efforts would risk further spread of the pest, disease or invasive plant.  
Currently five of the larger landfills in the State or Iowa will be able to use this new flexibility to make productive use of a waste product.  For instance, the landfill serving the Des Moines metro-area estimates that it will increase methane
production from its land fill almost 50% and increase the number of homes provided with electricity from its landfill from just over 13,000 to more than 17,000. 
HSB 93 Subcommittee members included Rep. John Wills-CH, Rep. Liz Bennett, and Rep. Tedd Gassman.
 

Book Your Campsite!

The Iowa DNR will open reservations for state park campsites for Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, February 22. 
There is a three month span of time in which you can reserve a state park campsite for a Friday arrival on Memorial Day weekend.  You can get around this loophole if you want to stay the week before Memorial Day.  Therefore, some reservations for the weekend have already been reserved. 
You can reserve a spot online at http://iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com.  This website will also show you what dates and parks are available and what amenities are included.  Most parks also have sites available for walk up camping.  Memorial Day is Monday, May 25, 2015.

Tour of Our District

The Osceola County Courthouse in Sibley, Iowa, United States was built in 1902. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 as a part of the County Courthouses in Iowa Thematic Resource.  The courthouse is the second building the county has used for court functions and county administration.
 

 
Osceola County Courthouse circa 1914.

HISTORY
Sibley was chosen as the Osceola County county seat because it was the first town established in the county.  The first courthouse was a two-story frame building built in 1872 for $5,000.  The present courthouse was built from 1902–1903 and featured a cupola with a clock and a statue of Justice on top. The building had major renovation projects in the 1920s and in 1961. The cupola, clock and statue have subsequently been removed.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

Iowa is home to the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The Grotto of the Redemption, a religious monument in West Bend, is considered to be the world’s most complete man-made collection of minerals, fossils, and shells, the value of which is estimated to be more than $4.3 million.

Map of the Week

The map of the week is of the Student Proficiency Rates in Math document published location:

The map can be found here

Quick Links

Governor Branstad

 

Iowa Judicial Branch

 

Iowa Legislature

 

 Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey

 

Secretary of State Paul Pate

 

  State Auditor Mary Mosiman

 

State Senator David Johnson

 

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald

 

U.S. Representative Steve King

 

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

 

Visitors to the Capitol

Legislators Host Rock Rapids Constituents

Reps. John Kooiker (R-Boyden) and John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) and Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) met with Carrie Rice and Cassie Radtke from Rock Rapids at the Capitol this week. Carrie and Cassie visited the Statehouse on behalf of Enventis to participate in Iowa Communications Alliance Day on the Hill.

Pictured here are Cassie Radtke, Rep. Kooiker, Sen. Johnson, Rep. Wills, and seated is Carrie Rice.

Legislators Host IWiLL Member

Reps. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) and Megan Jones (R-Sioux Rapids) met with Lee Sorenson from Spirit Lake at the Capitol this week. Lee visited the Statehouse on behalf of IWiLL (Iowa Water and Land Legacy) to encourage legislators to support the movement.

Pictured here are Rep. Wills, Lee Sorenson, and Rep. Jones.

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