Legislative Update 04/09/2015

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Quote of the Week

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.
Alexis de Tocqueville

Legislative Update


This week the House released its budget targets.  Not surprisingly, our budget targets differ considerably from the Senate’s budget targets.  In fact, our targets spend $173,817,330 dollars less.  That is right; 174 million dollars less!  Honestly, I’m having a really tough time wrapping my head around 174 million dollars because I don’t understand how much money that is.  Just to put it into perspective 174 million dollars would weigh 381 thousand pounds in 1 dollar bills.  That’s enough to make Atlas shrug (in reference to a novel from 1957 by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged) but apparently not enough for some of us in Des Moines. 

As mentioned previously, school funding is important and we in the House have given the first and the biggest bite of the apple to K-12 education!  House Republicans are being responsible with your tax dollars and not spending more than we take in or spending one-time money for ongoing expenses.  I will also tell you that the Senate version of budget targets does spend more than we take in and use one-time money.  We can’t afford to allow poor economic decisions derail our state’s economy or become like Washington, D.C. where it doesn’t seem to matter what we spend as long as it keeps us in power.  The Senate’s version simply is not sustainable for the good people of Iowa to support. 

Each and every portion of our government is facing reduction with the exception of Education.  Some would ask how we ended up in this mess and what we have to cut to get out.  Others would say we aren’t in a mess at all and can afford to spend even more on schools and more on our state government. 

The numbers do not lie and simply tell us what we need to know. Projected revenues and existing obligations to our state requires that we align our budget in this way with state funds and the money that you, the taxpayer, contributes for the operation of these services.  What is the answer to the question above?  We have to be vigilant and careful with the funds you entrust to us.  We have to ensure the legislative bills and appropriations continue to ensure the freedom of our citizens. 

Within our target figures, the House Republicans are seeking almost $2 million in reductions from Administration and Regulation, $1.1 million from Agriculture and Natural Resources, $1.2 million from Economic Development, $15 million from Health and Human Resources, $3.4 million from the Justice System and $205 million dollars from Standing Spending.  These cutbacks are significant, relevant and yet sustainable when looking at our current fiscal outlook.

It certainly seems like the weight of the world is upon us right now but just as this book mentioned above stated, Atlas held the world upon his shoulders and the greater the titan exerted effort, the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders.  The simple solution, of course, would be to shrug and let the weight off our shoulders.  This could be likened to spending one-time money or spending more than we take in.  I say, just as Atlas would, we should not shrug and we should bear that weight because it is the right thing to do even though it is the difficult thing to do right now.  The House Republicans are bearing the difficult weight and it is the right thing to do for our great state. 

I want to extend a special thank you to Father Jeremy Wind from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Spirit Lake for being here Thursday morning.  Fr. Jeremy blessed us with our Prayer of the Day and I was honored to have his presence and encouragement preside over us today.

Finally, a happy birthday to my sister, Jackie Kannegieter, who is celebrating her big day today.  Wishing her a very happy and joyful day!


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 Republicans released their FY 2016 General Fund budget targets on Wednesday.  And for the fifth year in a row, House Republicans have proposed a budget that spends less than the state will take in.
For Fiscal Year 2016, the state would spend $7,168,144,634 out of the General Fund.  This amounts to a 2.48 percent increase in state spending and spends 99.9 percent of the Revenue Estimating Conference’s latest estimate for ongoing revenue in FY 2016.
The General Fund would be spent as follows:
Administration & Regulation - $49,800,000 (decrease of $1,995,769)
Agriculture & Natural Resources - $42,000,000 (decrease of $1,111,995)
Economic Development - $41,400,000 (decrease of $1,181,886)
Education - $977,578,044 (decrease of $8,558,321)
Health & Human Services (decrease of $14,859,686)
Justice Systems (decrease of $3,380,575)
Standings (increase of $204,905,562)
As has been stated since the start of the session, K-12 education is getting the first bite of the apple, with funding for year two of the Education Reform legislation from 2013 and a 1.25 percent increase in supplemental state aid to schools.  Also, the increase in funding for continued implementation of the commercial property tax reform legislation is included as well.  The budget will also address mandatory increases in Medicaid due to further declines in federal funding participation.
House Republicans believe that it is important to lead by example when holding the line on spending.  They are doing this by reducing the Legislature’s own budget by over $1 million below the FY 2015 level.  Additionally, funding for organizational dues has been removed from all budgets. The Executive Council will be given a set amount of funds to pay for organizational dues that it has given approval to.   As the current round of early retirement benefits comes to a close on June 30, the funds spent in this program are being repurposed to other areas.
Budget Bill Status
April 22, 2015
Budget Bill Bill Number Bill Status
Administration & Regulation   House will start
Agriculture & Natural Resources SSB 1279 Passed Senate Appropriations Committee
Economic Development SSB 1281 Senate Appropriations Committee
Education   House will start
Federal Block Grants HF 630 Passed House, in Senate Appropriations
Health & Human Services   Senate will start
Judicial Branch   Senate will start
Justice Systems   Senate will start
RIIF (Infrastructure) HSB 246 Passed House Appropriations Committee
Standings   Senate will start
Transportation HF 637 Passed House, in Senate Appropriations

The Iowa House voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill designed to expand high-speed Internet access in areas of the state with slow internet speeds.  The bill passed on Tuesday with broad bipartisan support, 90 to 5. 
Internet service providers that choose to build high-speed internet infrastructure within areas that have slow service will receive a ten-year property tax exemption on their new investments.  The bill, known as the “Connect Every Acre” initiative, also establishes a grant program that can provide financial assistance to providers building high-speed infrastructure.  Both the property tax exemption and the grant program require the providers to build infrastructure that can facilitate 25 megabits of download speed and the three megabits of upload speed. 
Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds applauded the bill’s passage Tuesday in statement, comparing the importance of extensive high-speed Internet connectivity with the states road and interstate system. 
“It’s clear from today’s vote that the Iowa House of Representatives shares our view that high-speed broadband will connect agriculture and equipment through rural fiber, schools to online resources and businesses to the global marketplace,” said Reynolds. “We appreciate today’s vote of confidence from the Iowa House for this innovative proposal.”
The measure now goes to the Iowa Senate, where a similar bill has been pending since the legislative session began in January.  Along with the property tax exemption and the grant program, the House bill contains the following: 
-Identifies the State of Iowa CIO to coordinate statewide broadband availability and access between the public and private sector.
-Creates the Iowa Farms, Schools and Communities Broadband Grant Program to award grants to communication service providers to invest broadband access to farms, schools and communities.
-Provides a 100% property tax exemption for broadband infrastructure built within a “targeted service area” with relatively low Internet speeds.
-Streamlines the permitting process by requiring permitting authorities for non-wireless broadband related permits to be done within sixty business days.

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee passed House Study Bill 246, the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF), which now awaits floor debate. 
The Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF), established in Iowa Code section 8.57(6), is the primary funding source for public infrastructure-related expenditures.  All expenditures from the RIIF must comply with the vertical infrastructure definition. The code states that moneys in the RIIF shall be used as directed by the general assembly for public vertical infrastructure projects. Vertical infrastructure includes only land acquisition and construction; major renovation and major repair of buildings; all appurtenant structures; utilities; site development; recreational trails; and debt service payments on academic revenue bonds issued in accordance with chapter 262A for capital projects at board of regents institutions. Vertical infrastructure does not include routine, recurring maintenance or operational expenses or leasing of a building, appurtenant structure, or utility without a lease-purchase agreement. Projects that do not meet the definition of vertical infrastructure require language that notwithstands the statutory definition.
One glaring difference between this year’s version of the bill, is the lack of Technology Reinvestment Funding, which is typically included.  It will be addressed in another bill, later in session, although it is uncertain exactly where.
For FY 2016, the bill appropriates $119.1 million, with $114.4 million coming from the RIIF and $4.6 million coming from Revenue Bonds Capitals II (RBC2) Fund, and leaves $202,100 in the ending balance.  Total infrastructure funding, including prior appropriations and RBC2 funds, comes to roughly $203.4 million.  This bill includes many of the same programs as previous years, but some of the notable projects include:
Department of Administrative Services – $16.0 million for Major Maintenance
Major maintenance funds are used to correct deficiencies in State buildings and make a wide range of repairs.  Twelve state agencies and divisions participate in the DAS Vertical Infrastructure Program.  The Program includes approximately 900 buildings at more than 70 locations across the State.  Projects are ranked by priority order: threats to health, life and safety; nonemergency repairs to prevent exponential damage; increasing or maintaining access in accordance with the ADA; scheduled maintenance in order to prolong the equipment or building life; projects to increase operational or energy efficiency; and demolition. Emergency repairs are made as needed and occasionally bump a lower priority project on the list when they arise.  The level of funding for major maintenance has varied over the years, ranging anywhere from $3.0 million to $40.0 million.  The governor did not recommend any funding from the RIIF for major maintenance; however, he did recommend using the $4.6 million from RBC2 funds to go toward major maintenance, which the bill also includes, for a total of $20.6 million going to major maintenance.  There is currently $261.5 million of unfunded major maintenance projects.
Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship -$5.35 million for Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality initiative provides funding for prioritized watersheds to implement conservation practices that will reduce nutrient transport to bodies of water in Iowa.  Funded projects are typically managed by soil and water conservation districts.  There have been 13 projects funded through the program as of 2015.  This program was previously funded from the General Fund.  This appropriation will also include a program to measure water quality efforts, which will include a public-private partnership.
Department of Public Safety - $4.0 million for Radio Communication Equipment Replacement
This appropriation will go to purchase radio communications equipment for the Department of Public Safety.  This appropriation is for the first payment of the Iowa statewide interoperable communications system, which has been in planning since 2007.  This will replace the antiquated VHF radio systems currently in use by State agencies that have been in place for decades.  The system will also provide interoperable communications between State and local users.  The use of the infrastructure will be offered to local agencies with no recurring cost.   Currently, the State is working under an extension from the FCC for the 700 MHz spectrum.  This extension expires in June, and the State must show it is making progress on the system, or face the possibility of losing the spectrum. 
Iowa Veterans Home - $10.8 million for improvements
These funds will go towards replacing emergency fuel tanks for boilers and power generators, and to install spill containment; remodeling the existing laundry area and basement to accommodate commercial laundry equipment and replacing laundry equipment; and replacing 11 original air handling units.
The bill also increases funding for the UNI Schindler Education Center. It reallocates previous RIIF appropriations and accelerates the funding from three to two years.   This provision increases the FY 2016 and FY 2017 appropriations by $4.0 million and $2.3 million respectively, and eliminates the $6.3 million appropriation for FY 2018.  This change is intended to save approximately $2.0 million in construction costs due to the anticipated inflationary increases associated with the current funding schedule, and matches the governor’s recommendations. 
However, the bill does not match all of the governor’s numbers.  There is no appropriation for the IowaNext program, as such, this bill includes appropriations for those programs targeted to be covered by IowaNext and funds them at levels matching previous years (such as CATT, Iowa Parks Foundation, State Park Infrastructure, Great Places, etc.).  Additionally, there is no appropriation for the Historical Building.  The Department of Cultural Affairs has been working on raising funds for a partial renovation for the State Historical Building, which is projected to cost a total of $93.0 million with anticipated completion in FY 2019.  The Governor recommended $8.6 for FY 2016 and $20.7 million for FY 2017, and a total of $65.0 million State dollars with $28.0 million coming from private donations.  This year’s RIIF bill does not include these appropriations.

The Senate this week introduced its version of the Education Appropriations bill.  The proposal increases spending $39.8 million over FY15 levels.  This is about $3.5 million over the Governor’s proposal and $48.4 million over the House’s proposal. 
The primary increase in the Senate proposal are:

  • $2 million for the Iowa Tuition Grant ($48 million to $50 million)
  • $100,000 for the Iowa Tuition Grant for For-Profits ($1.975 million to $2.075 million)
  • $1.5 million for the Early Reading Initiative ($8 million to $9.5 million)
  • $8 million for Community Colleges ($201 million to $209 million)
  • $4 million for the University of Iowa ($231 million to $235 million)
  • $5.2 million to Iowa State University ($181 million to $186 million)
  • $7 million to UNI ($89 million to $96 million)
  • $253,000 to the Iowa School for the Deaf ($9.4 million to $9.6 million)
  • $106,000 to the Braille and Sight Saving School ($3.9 million to $4 million)
In addition to the funding, the Senate is also including a number of policy items that received action in either the House or the Senate but did not make it through the full process, including:
  • Eligibility for the GAP Tuition Assistance Program
  • The filling of school board vacancies
  • English language learner (ELL) funding for preschool students
  • Flexibility for preschool administrative costs
  • New payment disbursement for the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship
  • Flexibility for Drop-out/At-risk fund dollars
  • Increasing the Iowa Tuition Grant cap from $5000 to $5500
  • Requiring a full-time Talented-and-Gifted consultant at the Department of Education
  • Increasing the number of years that ELL students are eligible for weighted funding
The increased amount proposed by the Senate’s further exacerbates the spending increase they have already proposed with Supplemental State Aid to K-12 schools, which was originally a 4% increase, or $212 million, and is now a 2.625% increase, or $155 million.  The $155 million for SSA combined with the $40 million increase proposed in this bill exceeds the $180 million of new available revenue that is available for spending. 
The Senate plans to send the bill through committee this week.  The House plans to send its version of the Education Appropriations bill through subcommittee this week with committee action planned for next week. 


News from Around the District


It's the largest operation in the nation to be hit with the virus since December, federal documents show. The commercial egg-laying facility, located in Osceola County, more than doubles the number of birds destroyed so far in the country because of the disease.

"It's one of the bigger farms in the state," said Bill Northey, Iowa's secretary of agriculture. "But when there's an outbreak like this, you have to make sure the disease doesn't leave."

Because of avian influenza, the state's $2 billion commercial egg-laying industry has been on high alert this spring. Iowa, the nation's largest egg producer, has about 50 million hens and supplies nearly 1 in every 5 eggs consumed in the United States.

"Anybody that has a poultry operation — whether large or small, whether you've got hundreds of birds or one bird — this should be a wake-up call," said Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association.

Despite its virulent nature, officials say, the virus doesn't pose a danger to humans or to the food supply.

Last week, H5N2 avian influenza was discovered in a flock of 27,000 turkeys in Buena Vista County. Those birds also were euthanized to contain the spread.

Before Monday's announcement, more than 2.6 million birds had been killed by the disease or by authorities working to prevent it from spreading.

The virus is capable of killing an entire flock within 48 hours.

The names of the Iowa operators or their locations haven't been released. Olson said the family-owned operation in Osceola County provided liquid eggs for use in baked goods.

The virus' spread
Scientists and government officials believe the virus is being spread through migratory birds in the Mississippi flyway, where the strain previously has been identified. The birds are believed to transmit the illness through their droppings.

The disease has been discovered at more than 50 sites across the country in several states, including Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The turkey industry has been hit the hardest, with 2.4 million birds destroyed.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency over the bird flu outbreak and authorized the state's National Guard to help contain the disease. Avian influenza virus has been detected in three Wisconsin poultry flocks, affecting tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys, Walker's office said.

Federal and state health officials consider the risk to people to be low from these infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.

"Facilities have been very concerned about biosecurity," limiting deliveries and other access to facilities, Northey said. "We're hopeful these remain isolated cases. But there's no good way to know what will happen."

The northwest Iowa flock experienced increased mortality and samples were sent to the South Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for preliminary testing, the USDA said. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames confirmed the findings.

The facility and poultry facilities within 10 kilometers have been quarantined. State officials will test commercial and backyard poultry in the area for the disease to determine that they're free of the virus.

Market impact limited
While the outbreak is crushing for the producer, it's expected to have a limited effect on the egg market, say Iowa State University economists.

While the United States has seen itself shut out of some markets in the past when an outbreak occurs, so far most major buyers of American eggs have decided to keep buying products from unaffected areas, rather than shutting out the entire country, said Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University agribusiness economist.

"I don't see this as being a big deal at this point," Hayes said.

David Swenson, another ISU economist, said Osceola County posted total agricultural sales of $163.5 million in 2013, with poultry and egg production accounting for only 4 percent of that figure.

Still, the loss of 5.3 million hens is "a big deal for that producer and a big deal for however that operation is configured," Swenson said. "But poultry production up in that county is a small fraction of total agricultural output."

The federal government is expected to help producers with part of the losses from the disease.

Hayes expressed concern that despite all the biosecurity measures put in place in recent years in agriculture, it was a "surprise" that migratory birds "somehow managed to contaminate" the facility.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Department of Public Health said they will work directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure proper precautions are being taken, the USDA said.

Donnelle Eller,, Des Moines Register

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

This map illustrates that Iowa is among the least impacted states, largely because 28% of our electrical power is generated by wind power and a growing portion by natural gas replacing coal combustion.

The EPA is developing these emissions limits for future and existing power plants under authority of Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. This section requires EPA to develop regulations for categories of sources that cause or significantly contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. EPA has regulated more than 70 stationary source categories and subcategories under Section 111.

As the map shows, Iowa will be relatively unaffected by these rules.



 On Wednesday, April 22, 215, the House considered and passed Senate File 488 by a substantial bipartisan 93-aye to 3-nay vote.  The measure will now go to the Governor for his consideration.  The Iowa General Assembly last year passed legislation directing the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to convene a series of stakeholder meeting (comprised of persons representing businesses regulated by Iowa air quality program and who are paying existing Title V fees) to devise a replacement funding mechanism for state air quality programs into a future that will keep operation of the air program in state hands and allow air permit processing to be timely.  Senate File 488 reflects the recommendation of that stakeholder group.
This action provides the final legislative action on an issue almost a decade in the making in that the very success of air quality program to reduce hazardous air emissions, largely from combustion to power electrical generation, undercut the existing funding mechanism that finances much of the federally mandated air quality regulatory program.  In particular, in less than a decade, the tonnage of the four hazardous air emissions subject to a state (Title V) fees used to support operation of the federally mandated program declined by more than a third and is expected to decline another one-third in the next several years.  In the last decade or so, the Title V fees have tripled (currently $56 a ton) and without this legislation would have doubled again within the next two years. 
The sharp reduction in Title V taxable air emissions have occurred because of Iowa’s substantial shift in electrical generation form coal combustion to wind which now makes up 28% of Iowa’s electrical generation.  Additionally, the huge increase in natural gas production in recent years created by the fracking technology has made natural gas use in electrical generation cost-competitive with coal power, particularly in consideration or recent, ongoing, and prospective federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations to make coal combustion uneconomic.  Additional consideration leading to this legislation is that state funding for other (non-Title V) air programs has diminished and stagnated starting with the Governor Culver budget crisis in 2008-10 and culminating in the last two years when legislative Democrats made it crystal clear that they would not vote for any general fund budget increases for this purpose recommended by Governor Branstad in his last two budget proposals.  Current state funding for the state operated air quality programs is currently at the federally minimum required amount (maintenance of effort) needed for the state to retain primacy and control of the air regulatory program operations.  If the maintenance of effort is not sustained air quality regulatory efforts would revert back to the EPA.  EPA operation of state air quality program operation would have the consequence of greatly extended permit issuance time (likely to multiple years) that would grievously harm Iowa efforts to grow new businesses and jobs because companies could go to other states and get permit approvals within months as Iowa now provides.
Senate File 488 proposes to add additional rule making authority to the Environmental Protection Commission to assess new fees in addition to the Title V fees that it has had for two decades to additionally promulgate rules for: (a) air quality operating permits fees, (b) major source permit application fees, (c)  minor source application fees, and (d) asbestos demolition and renovation notification fees.  Each of these new and existing fee sources will be deposited into specific funds used to pay for the pertinent and exclusive permitting activity of each type of DNR air permit.  The funds will carry forward if not used within a year, but each fund has a cap on the maximum amount of revenue that can be collected each year of: (a) $8.5-million for Title V tonnage fees; (b)  $1.25-million for Major Source operating permit fees; (c) $1. 5-million for major source (new and reviewed) permit revisions and construction application; (d) $250,000 for minor source construction application, registration or template permit in lieu of construction permit fees; and (e) $450,000 for asbestos demolition and renovation notifications required by federal national emission standards for asbestos. 
All of these fees will be established in conjunction with recommendation of affected stakeholders groups who will meet at least once a year to make recommendation to the EPC and DNR on the amount of fees for each particular permit function needed to pay for the work that DNR must do to satisfy federal clean air programs requirements.  Additionally, the bill provides for the collection of expedited permitting fees that are outside the categorical and capped fees that entities desiring an expedited permit consideration and approval could pay to DNR for expedited permit consideration efforts.  However, these expedited fees could not be assessed on any permit activity that might exceed the federal requirement under the Federal Clean Air act as amended.  The bill freezes existing Title V fees for the balance of calendar year 2015; establishes an effective date of January 1, 2016 for the new fees authorized by this legislation, and is effective upon enactment.    


Tour of Our District


Sibley had its start in the year 1872 by the building of the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad through that territory.  It is the oldest town in Osceola County.

Sibley is named after Henry Hastings Sibley, a prominent General during the Dakota War of 1862, who eventually became the first territorial governor of Minnesota.  William L. Harding, governor of Iowa from 1917 to 1921, was born in Sibley in 1877.


State of Iowa Fun Fact


A culture known as the Effigy Moundbuilders inhabited northeastern Iowa between 1400 and 750 B.C. The more than 200 mounds of earth that remain within Effigy Mounds National Monument—several shaped like animals such as bears, birds and bison—were believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes or to track celestial events.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol



Pioneers of the Territory (1892), by Karl Gerhardt, outside the Capitol overlooking West Capitol Terrace and downtown.

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



Reps. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) and Josh Byrnes (R-Osage) met with Okoboji native Damon Dotson at the Capitol this week. Damon visited the Statehouse to perform “America the Beautiful” before the House.


Pictured here are Rep. Wills, Damon Dotson, and Rep. Byrnes.

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