Legislative Update 01/21/2016

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Quote of the Week

“No nation has ever taxed itself into prosperity."
~Rush Limbaugh

Legislative Update


This week in the Capitol was a quiet one.  First we were at home for the Caucuses on Monday night and then, of course the blast of winter weather arrived on Tuesday before many could make it back to the capitol, so Tuesday was pretty quiet. Those of you that attended your Caucus event found it to be exciting and fun.  We made history with our Caucus this year with over 1867,000 Republicans casting ballots. 

Many of those who attended Caucus were first-time Caucus goers, which show that Iowans are energized and enthusiastic about the upcoming election for our next President.  Iowa’s first in the nation status enables us to develop a very good relationship with candidates and understand those candidates and what they believe in.  We take that job very seriously and understand that we are offered a tremendous benefit by having Presidential Candidates come and campaign in Iowa. 

Issues that are important this week for all Iowans include:
  • Coupling – which pairs our tax code with the federal tax code.  This is an important issue, especially for small business, teachers, seniors, homeowners, and families who rely on investments in small businesses.
  • 2017 Budget – currently there is no economic emergency in the state but there is a slowdown in our economy.  We have 153 million in new revenue projected for next year.  We need to ensure a strategic and conservative approach to ensure we can provide money for the commitments that we have made.  The Senate has produced budget targets that would spend 70 million dollars more than the state collects in on-going revenue.  Their proposal spends 101.1% of the on-going revenue and we cannot in all conscious allow that kind of spending to happen.
  • Bio-fuels Tax Credits Extension – on Wednesday the Agriculture Committee voted to extend expiration dates on four bio-fuel tax credits from January 2018 to Jan 1, 2025.
  • Secure and Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) – Three separate bills have been advanced into committee that deal with the SAVE Program which provides funding for our Schools to deal with Vital Infrastructure needs within the school system.
  • Reasonable Personal Protection Measures for Firearms Owners – Several bills were introduced that fight to protect our 2nd Amendment Rights.These bills do the following:  allow children under the age of 14 to be able to handle a handgun under proper supervision, allows suppressors on firearms, prevents the State from declaring an emergency and taking our right to possess firearms away, allows firearms to be legally carried on ATV’s or snowmobiles just like other vehicles, and protects the identities of people who possess a conceal carry permit or who apply for a permit.
This week has been an important one and even with the snow storm and the Caucus, much has been accomplished in Des Moines.  I understand that the Conference Committee for State Supplemental Aid has been meeting and progress is happening.  Last year as the same time very little movement had been made.  I am encouraged that we will have some good news fairly soon in regards to education funding.  I have been assured the goal with the committee is to have something concrete for our schools soon.  As a reminder, currently the House has a proposal to provide 2 percent additional revenue to schools and the Senate has a proposal to provide 4 percent in revenue to schools.  I anticipate the final percentage to be somewhere in the middle. 

Sometime this week, I will be approving a water quality bill to be released.  That bill has several very important components and I will expand on those components next week.  Rest assured any water quality bill that I will file will have the support of my colleagues, will be voluntary, and will make a very big impact on the water quality issue. 

As always, I appreciate your support and your input.  I work hard to represent you and take this position, which you have elected me to, seriously.  I work hard to represent your values on the concrete of Des Moines and we are making progress.


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.

Iowa State Employee Suggestion System
Were you aware that Iowa has a State Employee Suggestion System? If you were not aware of this program, don’t feel left out! Up until recently, some legislators and state employees were unaware of the State Employee Suggestion System. This system was brought into the light at the end of January when one legislator had the idea to put one in place, but was informed that Iowa already has already legislated this issue and the system is in place. Apparently enacting this system was ineffective, as in the past five years not a single suggestion has been made and thus no savings have occurred.
The laws for the Iowa State Employee Suggestion System can be found in Iowa Code 8A.110.  This section, in part states: “There is created a state employee suggestion system for the purpose of encouraging state employees to develop and submit ideas which will reduce costs and increase efficiency in state government […] When a suggestion is implemented and results in direct cost reduction within state government, the suggester shall be awarded ten percent of the first year's net savings, not exceeding ten thousand dollars, and a certificate.  A cash award shall not be awarded for a suggestion which saves less than one hundred dollars during the first year of implementation.” It is important to note that this subsection falls under 8A, which regulates the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). This means that the Iowa State Employee Suggestion System is administered by DAS.
State Employee Suggestion System is designed to be a positive program to help better government and reduce waste. Thus, it curious why individuals, who could have the most impact the system, are unaware of its existence. Why is that? How can knowledge of the system be increased so Iowa state employees can help reduce inefficiency in government? What are other states doing to ensure that its employees are engaging the system and thereby decreasing waste?
After some investigation, it is somewhat clear why the Employee Suggestion System is obsolete. A quick Google search for “Iowa state employee suggestion system” only reveals the statute that created this program and it is the third hit down on the Google search page. There is not a webpage that goes directly to a program overview where state employees can learn about the program and how to submit a suggestion.
What does pop up under this Google search, however, is the Arkansas and Nebraska State Employee Suggestion System. But, alas, this does nothing for Iowa state employees. The Arkansas State Employee Suggestion System is fully explained on its webpage, which gives a detailed account of rewards and how to get started.  Nebraska has a similar webpage, where Nebraska state employees can directly submit their suggestion. Both webpages were user friendly, encouraged state employees to suggest changes, and even offered to assist them in the process.
The DAS website was even less helpful, which was a surprise since DAS is the entity that is charged with administering Iowa State Employee Suggestion System. A search of “employee suggestion system” on the DAS website “yielded no results”.  Fortunately for state employees, lack of knowledge and lack of access to the Iowa State Employee Suggestion System was addressed at a subcommittee meeting at the end of January, where DAS kindly offered to “put up some posters” informing state employees of the system. Helpful indeed.
Aside from putting up posters, some alternative solutions to making state employees aware of the suggestion system might include newsletter articles, posting about it on social media, or even creating a webpage to guide employees through the suggestion process.


Legislative Forums

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

Road Conditions Slowly Improve

Roads remain in poor driving condition this (Wed.) morning following Tuesday's blizzard that dumped 10 inches of snow on the Iowa Great Lakes. It was combined with winds gusting at times up to 40 mph which produced whiteout conditions. While the snowfall has long since ended, gusty wind remains this (Wed.). It's supposed to subside later in the day.

Roads conditions range from snow covered and compacted in sheltered areas to 100 percent ice covered. Crews are plowing and applying sand and salt, but they say the wind in open areas is complicating things, as the material blows off.

Considerable ground drifting is continuing in the open areas as well.

Officials say it could take a couple of days to get some less-traveled county and township roads back to normal.

Regarding mail service, Spirit Lake Postmaster Jack Daniels tells KUOO news carriers will resume delivery today (Wed.) after being forced to suspend operations on Tuesday. Daniels is requesting residents clear sidewalks and areas around mailboxes to assist the carriers. Daniels adds no new mail made it in overnight as the mail truck was unable to make it from Sioux Falls.

Roads, including Interstate 90, along with Highways 60, 4, 71 and 59 in southwest Minnesota that were closed were reopened around 8:30 this (Wed.) morning.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Beverage Containers Control Law

Bags of Cans


Iowa's Beverage Containers Control Law, also known as the "Bottle Bill," helps reduce and clean up litter by recovering beverage containers for recycling.

Iowa's bottle bill deposit law covers all carbonated and alcoholic beverages. Consumers pay a five-cent deposit when purchasing a beverage container and receive a five-cent refund when returning the container to a store or redemption center.

The high level of participation by Iowa's businesses and Iowa consumers is the key to the program's success. An estimated 86 percent of beverage containers, or 1.65 billion, are redeemed annually in Iowa.

Bottle Bill Facts

  • It takes more energy to make a bottle from virgin materials than to make a bottle from recycled materials.
  • Energy savings from Iowa's Bottle Bill could heat 42,845 average Iowa households.
  • The current deposit law prevents litter and recycles 82,352 tons or 190,850 cubic yards of material per year - equivalent to a line of 784 large railroad box cars stretching more than 68,000 feet long.

How to get can and bottle refunds

The basic way the deposit/refund system works is for people to take their empty containers back to the stores where those products are sold. The only way a store can lawfully be exempt from redeeming cans and bottles is if it has an Iowa DNR “approved” redemption center. The store must have posted a certificate issued by the Iowa DNR that identifies the “approved” redemption center, its location and the hours it is open.


Tour of Our District

Island Park
Island Park in Rock Rapids is one of the largest and most scenic city parks in northwest Iowa. It's a great place to go for a picnic in the shade, to fish, for a leisurely stroll, for children to play and for families to camp. But in the beginning, it was neither an island nor a park. Records show that in 1846 the tract of land was granted to the State of Iowa by the U.S. Government to aid in construction of railroads. The site was conveyed to the Des Moines Valley Railroad Co. in 1869 and later to an English investor, then to Augustus Frank and finally, in 1887, to the Cedar Rapids-Iowa Falls and Northwestern Railroad Co.

Located on Park Street in Rock Rapids, it features 22 camper pads with electrical hookups, mini-zoo, swimming pool/aquatic center, public restrooms, 3 playground sites, fire rings and picnic shelters.

For a unique view of Island Park, hit the trail on foot or on bike. The one-mile long, 10-foot wide trail begins east of the Depot Museum, crosses east over an abandoned railroad, goes north along the east bank of the Rock River to the northeast corner of the park. This asphalt trail is perfect for biking, a leisurely stroll or a heart-pounding run.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

Iowa joined the Union during the Civil War, during which time it began to establish its reputation as the nation’s breadbasket. Food from Iowa fed a huge number of the Union troops throughout the conflict. The production of livestock and agricultural products, most especially corn, skyrocketed after the war. Like any other agriculturally-based economy, however, Iowa’s proved vulnerable to fluctuations in the national economy and the local weather. Like other Midwestern states, manufacturing became a major source of employment in Iowa during and after the Industrial Revolution.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

Governor's Office

The Governor's office is located on the first floor of the Capitol. This office is a ceremonial office as well as a working office for the Governor. This is where the Governor greets dignitaries and holds formal bill signings. The office features the many varieties of marble and wood used throughout the Capitol.

The Governor's office at the Capitol was first occupied by Governor Buren Sherman in 1885. The first Governor to occupy the office for a full term was Governor William Larrabee in 1886.

Map of the Week


The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) hosted Russ Adams of Orange City and Steve Barber of George, to the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives this week. Russ Adams and Steve Barber were visiting the Capitol this week for AEA Day on the hill.


Pictured here are Russ Adams, Steve Barber, and 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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