Legislative Update 01/21/2016

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Quote of the Week

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
― Robert A. Heinlein

Legislative Update


This week has been a productive one in the State House.  The first bill that we passed out of the House was education funding.  For the second year in a row, education has been the first bill to pass out of the House.  This year we have provided an increase of $81 million for education, which is 84% of the state’s new available revenue going to education. 

Many have said that providing this level of funding, which is a 2% growth, hurts schools and will reduce the number of teachers.  The truth is that the number of full-time teachers has increased during the time that Republicans have held control of the State House by 809 teachers.  Over the same period of time that Democrats held the State House the number of full time teachers dropped by 907. 

There will be those who will say the amount of State Supplemental Aid given will reduce teachers and increase classroom size and this, according to the graph above, is obviously false.  It is time to listen to reason and to do the right thing for our kids by not selling their future, just as the federal government has done. 

We have to remember our State’s economy is strong, but growth is slowing.  There is no economic emergency, but with slow growth we will need to be very strategic with our commitments.  Because of that, House Republicans are committed to giving taxpayers a seat at the table and provide a WIN for nearly all taxpayers by matching our state tax system with the federal tax system for deductions.

Today, I am proud to tell you that the House passed House File 2092 and sent it to the Senate.  House File 2092 provides benefits for small businesses, which are the drivers of our economy.  HF 2092 allows small businesses to make investments in their businesses and deduct those expenses so they can create even more jobs

HF 2092 allows teachers the ability to deduct up to $250 of out of pocket expenses that are related to classroom supplies and teaching.  It also allows for our senior citizens the ability to give tax-free contributions to qualifying charitable organizations and homeowners the ability to deduct mortgage insurance so they will keep more money in their pocket to spend in the community.  Finally parents and students will be able to deduct qualifying higher education expenses which reduce the cost of college and continuing education. 

I am proud of the work that we did in the State House this week because it is the right thing for Iowans and it is the right thing for the future of our state.  I will continue to work hard and bring our Northwest Iowa Values to the concrete of Des Moines.  Please let me know your thoughts and concern—I am very interested in hearing what you have to say.  Thank you for allowing me to represent you. 


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.
House Appropriations Begins Review of Standing Appropriations
A new subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee began the task of reviewing the standing appropriations within the state’s budget.  The Budget Review Subcommittee, led by Rep. Ken Rizer, will help set the foundation for the Standing Appropriations bill that will be started in the House this year.
Unlike other line items in the state budget, there are a series of state appropriations that are established in either the Iowa Code or Iowa Constitution.  These appropriations are known as standing appropriations.  The largest standing appropriation - State Foundation School Aid - is reviewed every year as the Legislature sets the annual Supplemental State Aid figure for growth in school funding.  But most of the remaining standing appropriations continue to be funded every year without serious legislative review.
The Budget Review Subcommittee will spend the next few weeks reviewing many of the existing standing appropriations.  They will work to identify what each line item does, reviews its level of funding, and determine if any efficiencies or reforms can be implemented to improve that line item’s function. 
The review will begin with an examination of Legislative budget.  Funding for the Legislature is set out in the Iowa Code, which grants the General Assembly a standing unlimited appropriation.  These funds are used to cover the costs of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the central non-partisan offices like the Legislative Services Agency and the State Ombudsman’s office.  Next week, the subcommittee will move on to look at local grant funding in the Department of Cultural Affairs and tourism funding under the Iowa Economic Development Authority.  On Wednesday, discussion will turn to child development funding distributed to local schools by the Department of Education and non-public school transportation funding.
The subcommittee is comprised of Representative Rizer, Representative Sexton, and Representative Dunkel as the Democratic member.  Meetings will be held on Monday’s in room 102 and on Wednesday’s at noon in room 304.

Legislative Forums

January 30
8:00am    Eggs and Issues - Forster Community Center, 404 1st Avenue, Rock Rapids, IA
11:00am  Town Hall Meeting - Sibley Public Library, 406 9th Street, Sibley, IA

February 6
9:00am    Eggs and Issues - Spencer City Hall Council Chambers, 418 2nd Avenue West, Spencer, IA
11:30am  Legislative Forum - Bedell Family YMCA,1900 41st Street, Spirit Lake, IA 


February 20
9:00am     Eggs and Issues - Spencer City Hall Council Chambers, 418 2nd Avenue West, Spencer, IA
11:30am   Legislative Forum - Dickinson County Courthouse, 1802 Hill Avenue, Spirit Lake, IA

February 27
8:00am    Eggs and Issues - Forster Community Center, 404 1st Avenue, Rock Rapids, IA
11:00am  Town Hall Meeting - Sibley Public Library, 406 9th Street, Sibley, IA

March 5
9:00am    Eggs and Issues - Spencer City Hall Council Chambers, 418 2nd Avenue West, Spencer, IA

11:30am  Legislative Forum - Spirit Lake City Hall, 1803 Hill Avenue, Spirit Lake, IA

March 19
8:00am    Eggs and Issues - Forster Community Center, 404 1st Avenue, Rock Rapids, IA

11:00am  Town Hall Meeting - Sibley Public Library, 406 9th Street, Sibley, IA

News from Around the District

Flocking together at Winter Games



Men, women and children of all ages should get out their black and yellow clothing in preparation for becoming part of a giant, 100-foot long American Goldfinch during the Ninth Annual People's Environmental Art Project (PEAP).

The free event, organized by Iowa Lakeside Lab, will be held during 2016 Okoboji Winter Games in a field next to First Lutheran Church in West Okoboji on Saturday, Jan. 30. Once everyone is assembled, Spencer photographer Judy Hemphill will photograph the image from above via airplane.

This year organizers are pleased to announce Sara Lynn Dunkerson as the winner of the 2016 design contest.

"What a surprise!" said the 29-year-old nurse who said she made the drawing after working a 12-hour shift. "The Peoples Environmental Art Project is a family favorite and is such a great way to tie nature, art and family together! We hang the photos from each year inside our house and show our kids where they are," she said.

Following the picture-taking, participants can warm up indoors at the First Lutheran Church Community Room while waiting for photographer Hemphill to arrive and display the photographs on a large screen. There will be raffle prizes and hot beverages and treats will be served by Okoboji High School After Prom Group. Hemphill and Chad Branham, Art Director, will select a final photo that will be for sale along with past years' photographs.

Event pre-registration is encouraged but not mandatory, as knowing the number of participants helps with planning.

"Those who pre-register are eligible for a 20 percent discount on the 2016 photo," said Jane Shuttleworth, Lakeside Education Coordinator and event coordinator. "Volunteers are also needed to help and will receive a free photo in exchange."

To pre-register or volunteer, people are asked to send a message with the first and last name of each person in their party to by noon on Friday, Jan. 29. In addition to Iowa Lakeside Lab and the Friends of Lakeside Lab, event organizers thank Beck Engineering for helping lay the design out ahead of time and to First Lutheran Church and Heritage Landing for use of grounds and facilities.
(Source:  Dickinson County News)

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Contributions to Chickadee Check-Off on State Tax Form Continues Its Modest Rise

Last year, roughly 7,500 out of a total 1.5 million Iowa taxpayers helped boost wildlife conservation with donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund on their state tax form.  This marks the first year in the last five where contributions and the number of contributors to the Fish and Wildlife fund have gone down. Donations to all the state tax form check-offs were down on 2014 returns.

“It’s disheartening after a five year positive trend to see donations drop,” said Shepherd. “Those donations go directly to research and habitat development for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species, so the funds are very important for natural resources.”

According to Shepherd, Iowans donated roughly $132,000 last spring when completing their 2014 tax forms. This is a 3 percent decline from 2013 returns but still represents a nearly 19 percent increase since the low point of the fund in 2009. 

The Fish and Wildlife Fund, known popularly as the “Chickadee Check-off,” is a mechanism the Iowa Legislature created in the 1980s for Iowa citizens to donate to wildlife conservation on the Iowa state tax form. Before this time, so called non-game wildlife had no dedicated funding.  At its height, Iowans donated more than $200,000 annually to the fund. According to Shepherd, main reasons for the decline are unknown but tax payers do need to be alert when filling out their form or working with a tax preparer.

“It is an inconspicuous line that is easy to pass over or forget, and many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” said Shepherd. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer, or make a point of looking for it whether they are doing their form on paper or electronically.”

 Donating on the tax form is easy: simply write the amount to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife Check-Off, line 57 on Form 1040, and the sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed. As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes. 

 “Currently only about half a percent of Iowans donate,” said Shepherd. “If every Iowa taxpayer donated just $1, it would mean $1.5 million for wildlife and natural resource conservation.” There is room to grow.

Proceeds from the check-off are one of the few means of support for the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity program, responsible for protecting more than 1,000 fish and wildlife species in the state. Money from the Check-off helps improve wildlife habit, fund research studies, support the reintroduction of threatened or endangered species, and much more.


Tour of Our District

Cayler Prairie State Preserve
 Cayler Prairie State Preserve is a 160-acre land parcel of tallgrass prairie located in the northwest region of the U.S. state of Iowa in Dickinson County near Spirit Lake. It is a National Natural Landmark. 

The Preserve is located on the western edge of the Des Moines Lobe landform region, where moving glaciers pushed into north Iowa 13,000-14,000 years ago forming the irregular knobs and basins seen on the preserve.

There are 225 native plant species on the preserve, including 35 species of grass such as big bluestem and muhly grass. Common springtime flowers are golden alexanders and Lambert's crazyweed and summertime blooms include sawtooth sunflower and prairie rose--the state flower of Iowa. Fall brings Missouri goldenrod, New England aster and dotted gayfeather. 

Hunting is permitted on the preserve and there are 72 recorded wildlife species there. Common species include Northern chorus frogs, eastern tiger salamanders, grasshopper sparrows, short-billed marsh wrens, least weasels, and badgers. There are also more than 25 butterfly species on the preserve including the Dakota skipper and regal fritillary.

The prairie was uncovered by botanist Ada Hayden in 1944, who recognized tallgrass plants growing in a hayfield. She recommended that it be preserved as one of the last remaining patches of old-growth tallgrass prairie in Iowa. In 1958, the Cayler family - who had owned the land since frontier settlement - sold the land parcel to the Iowa Conservation Commission. The tallgrass parcel was named as a National Natural Landmark in 1966, and was dedicated as a state nature preserve in 1971. Bufferland was purchased in 1998.


State of Iowa Fun Fact

A surveying mistake almost caused a war between Iowa and Missouri in the 1830s. The surveyor’s state boundary line slanted four miles further north on the east side than the west because he forgot to adjust his compass. Another official was sent to resurvey, but his line was a bit north of the original line, to the tune of 2,600 acres. When a Missouri official tried to collect taxes from the settlers who lived in the disputed acres, an Iowan sheriff arrested him. The governors of each state threatened each other with combat, with militias and volunteers called to gather at the border. Before any shots were fired, the federal government stepped in and drew the line (literally).

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

Grand Staircase

Connecting the Capitol's first and second floors on the east side is the Grand Staircase. Among the most unique and beautiful features of the Grand Staircase are the two figurines located at the base, attached to the top of the newel posts. The figurines were originally commissioned for the Illinois Statehouse, but later donated to the state of Iowa. The gas lanterns contained on the figurines were subsequently converted to electric and have been on display ever since being placed in the Capitol.

The newel posts of the staircase are constructed of 12 types of marble. Each newel post also has an alabaster wreath decorated with various carvings. These carvings include a bat, ladybugs, snakes, fruits and many other unusual items.

Map of the Week


The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) hosted Kelly Norland to the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives this week. Kelly Norland was visiting the Capitol for Optometry Day on the hill and to discuss issues with Rep. Wills.

Pictured here is Kelly Norland alongside Rep. Wills.

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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Copyright © 2016 State Representative, John H. Wills, All rights reserved.

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