Legislative Update 03/12/2015

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

Legislative Update


This week was one filled with debate on the House Floor and I debated 2 bills this week which both passed on the House floor.  It felt good to finally get to some of the “meat” of why I am in Des Moines, which was to make sure our Northwest Iowa voice is heard on the concrete of Des Moines.  Both of the bills I debated passed overwhelmingly on the House Floor and were sent to the Senate for consideration. 

One bill I debated on Tuesday was House File 247 or commonly referred to as the Asset Verification Bill.  This bill requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish a program for electronic asset verification of people who are on or who are seeking to receive Medicaid benefits for Blind, Aged, or Disabled persons.  Today the only asset verification system implemented by the State of Iowa is self-identification.  It is estimated that Iowa has at least .5% fraud occurrence within Medicaid benefits.  This bill will identify those fraudulent cases and save that money for Iowa, directing it toward people who need and actually deserve that money.  That ½ percent of fraud currently costs our state over $18 million dollars each year!  Once this bill is implemented Iowa will salvage over $18 million dollars and place it back where it can be used appropriately and fairly. This bill was brought forward from the Human Resources Committee which I sit on.

The second bill I had the privilege to debate on the floor of the House on Tuesday was House File 266 which is a bill regarding the disposal of yard waste in landfills that operate methane collection systems.  The overarching debate on this bill was a small group who felt businesses do not know how to run their business and that yard waste will fill these landfills faster.  One particular landfill yearning to use yard waste will actually increase electricity production to 18,000 homes from 11,000 homes simply with the addition of this yard waste.  This bill was brought forward from the Environmental Protection Committee of which I am Vice-Chair.  This bill went to the Senate and was passed just today and so will be heading to the Governor as one of the first bills to be signed by him this year.

Among other significant bills that were debated and sent to the Senate were HF 352; requiring zero based budgeting in the State of Iowa, and HF 527; a bill relating to the manufacture, sale, use of firearms, and providing penalties.  These are all compelling bills for the state of Iowa and resulted in a very productive week in the Iowa House. 

With Warmest Regard,

Representative John H. Wills


Legislative Forums

March 21, 2015 



Council Chambers

420 2nd Ave. West

Arnolds Park 


Maritime Museum
243 Broadway Street

March 28, 2015 
Rock Rapids
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.
The Iowa Legislature passed two milestones this weekend.  The legislative session hit its halfway point on Saturday (March 7) - the 55th day in this 110-day session. We know from experience that legislators may go shorter, but usually go longer.  This year the 110th day is May 1.  May Day!

The other big milestone was on Friday (March 6), the first "funnel" deadline.  The "first funnel" is part of a process legislators use to narrow the list of issues to be discussed each year.  Bills have to make progress by certain dates (funnels) or they are no longer able to be debated.  All bills are assigned to committees as the first step in the legislative process.  Legislators serving on these committees are the first people that decide a bill's fate. If committee members decide a bill should move on, they vote to pass it.  For a bill to survive this first "funnel" deadline, it needs to have been passed out of committee.  Any bills left in committee after this deadline are now dead.

In Iowa, about one in twelve bills gets signed into law each year.

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 trailing the December estimate.  Actual returns are lagging behind the REC projection.  If revenue continues to come in below expectations, the March revenue estimate (due March 19) may require that the 1.25% SSA already approved by the House to be revised downward.
Spending more taxpayer money above the 1.25% level requires real reductions in other areas of the state budget like Medicaid or it requires an immediate tax increase.  During debate in January on the SSA bill, House Democrats suggested raising business taxes and using money originally targeted for debt reduction to increase spending on education.
Senate Democrats have taken the position that the Legislature needs to enact a 4% increase now, regardless of the current state revenue numbers, and then figure out how to fund it later.  These are same flawed practices former Gov. Culver used to get the state into a huge financial mess during his only term in office.

Key House GOP Bills 
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 earlier this session and is awaiting action in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.  Senator Quirmbach controls the bill and has done nothing with it since it was assigned to him on Feb. 10.
Collective Bargaining/Arbitration Reform
The playing field is wildly tipped in favor of public-sector unions and against the taxpayers.  HSB 204 begins to level that playing field for school boards and administrators in negotiating contracts with teachers unions.  The bill makes three small, yet very significant changes to the binding arbitration section of the Iowa Public Employment Relations Act:
Private Sector Comparison:  Requires an arbitrator to consider a private sector worker’s comparison of wages, hours, and conditions of employment when rendering an arbitration decision.  Under current law an arbitrator can only look at a comparison of other public sector worker’s wages and benefits.
Ability to Pay and Tax:  Prohibits an arbitrator to consider the ability of the public employer to levy taxes, and the ability of the public employer to finance economic adjustments.  Currently arbitrators are required to consider the fact that the public employer can raise taxes to pay for increased wages or benefits.
Selection of a Midpoint:  Allows an arbitrator to pick between the two parties final impasse item offers, rather than one or the other which is required by current law.
Student Data Privacy
HF 582 puts additional protections for student data collected by school districts and the state Department of Education.  There must data collection, privacy and sharing policies for students and there must be parental access to student data along with data breach, retention and destruction plans.  Additionally the state cannot include, among other things, health, family voting or political information in student files. 
2nd Amendment Protections
Under HF 527 Iowans will still renew their carry permit every 5 years, but will only be required to retrain every 10 years.  Additionally the bill allows parents to train their children under the age of 14 how to safety operate and pistol or revolver.  The bill legalizes suppressors and creates a process for a chief law enforcement officer to approve the paperwork necessary for the purchase of a suppressor.  Finally the bill creates permit privacy for gun owners.  Permits to carry and permits to purchase would no longer be public information.  This information remains available to law enforcement.  The bill was sent to the Senate on March 10.
HF 58 requires that prior to performing an abortion, a physician must certify in the woman’s medical record that the woman has undergone an ultrasound imaging of the fetus; that the woman is given the opportunity to view the ultrasound image of the fetus; and that the woman is given the option of  hearing a description of the ultrasound image and hearing the heartbeat of the fetus.
Synthetic Drugs
HF 279 was amended and passed unanimously out of the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. The bill focuses on Iowa’s fight against synthetic drugs. HF 279 reorganizes the synthetic drug list and makes it clear in the code as well as adding additional chemicals approved by the Board of Pharmacy. Additionally, the bill gives the legislature two years (instead of 60 days) to approve synthetic drugs temporarily designated as schedule I substances by the pharmacy board. Finally HF 279 treats simulated substances and imitation substances the same for prosecution. This language is key to stopping the spread of synthetic drugs throughout the state.

Key House Agriculture Bills
On Thursday, March 5, 2015, the House Agriculture Committee passed 5 bills at the last Committee meeting in which House Files first referred to the Committee needed to get Committee approval in order for the bill to stay alive for future floor consideration.  The bills were: House File 574 (formerly House Study Bill 186); House File 575 (formerly House Study Bill 209); House File 578 (formerly House File 415); House File 583 (formerly House File 425) and House File 586 (formerly House File 440). 
House File 574 proposes to add another type of renewable fuels infrastructure financial assistance to facilitating the upgrading of retail motor-fuel storage and dispensing equipment necessary to dispense E15 gasoline (gasoline with a blend of 15% ethanol).  In many cases while new retail motorfuel dispensers are certified to dispense E15 gasoline; there may be one part or component in the fuel storage or piping systems that results in the whole system being restricted from dispensing E15 gasoline.  Expansion of E15 gasoline use will provide another means to expand beyond the E10 blendwall in addition to growing E85 sales which are limited by the fact that only about 10% of the U.S. motor vehicle fleet are flex-fuel vehicle that the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows to use E85 motorfuel.  E15 on the other hand is allowed by EPA to be used in about 80% of U.S. auto fleet that is 2001 models year or newer or are flex-fuel vehicles.  Expanding ethanol consumption by U.S. automobiles will create additional demand for ethanol and that is turn should help bolster sagging corn prices that have been depressed below growing cost breakevens because of a glut of supply created by recent bumper crops of corn.
House File 575 is a technical/ update bill for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.  The one notable substantive change is that it changes the name of the ‘Division of Soil Conservation’ to the ‘Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality’.  House File 578 proposes to explicitly state in the Iowa Code  that an owner or person in charge of a property subject to a Department of Natural Resources investigation for an environmental regulation violation has the right to be allowed and present while the DNR personnel investigates any actual or possible violation and may take independent samples or photographs.  The instigation for this legislation are reports that there have been instances in which a property owner does not know that there is a pollution event that is being investigated until they are presented with an administrative fine and a bill for wildlife loss/damages.  At that point, the physical evidence, killed fish for example, have disappeared downstream and so the property owner has no means of contesting or corroborating the departmental accusation and finding.
House File 583 adds the regulation and permitting of animal truck wash facilities to the Open Feedlot Environmental Protection Code chapter (459A).  This would allow for the effluent and resultant solids from these operations to be treated as manure rather than hazardous waste that ultimately has to be landfilled. The bill makes a number of corrective and technical changes to update the bill and conform the open feedlot program with the federal NPDES program pursuant to the 2013 agreement between EPA and DNR pursuant to changes in the clean water program needed for the state to retain primacy for these water quality regulatory matters.   The fifth bill approved was House File 586 which proposes to make several confinement feeding operation regulation updates to lessen the public record notoriety on inadvertent, non-pollution manure management plan violations, recognize that identification information on manure application vehicles need to be simplified to cope with field and road dust and manure conditions; and ensure that DNR personnel entering onto livestock facility premises complies with biosecurity protocols that a livestock facilities establish to prevent the spread of catastrophic contagions to their livestock.

News from Around the District

Caution Urged on Lake, River Ice
Extra caution around ice is being urged by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as warmer weather is causing conditions to deteriorate rapidly.

Three men drowned Saturday after falling through the ice on a farm pond in Union County.

Ice depths are not uniform on any body of water and there is no such thing as safe ice. Warmer weather makes the ice even more unpredictable. There are many factors that impact ice formation making some locations thinner than others. With the warm weather, ice conditions can change a lot in one day. Verify the ice thickness for yourself and test it often. If the ice does not look right, stay off it.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Water Works Votes to Sue Three Iowa Counties Over Nitrates

Des Moines Water Works will file a federal suit against three rural counties in northwest Iowa, an action that could trigger far-reaching effects on how states approach water quality regulation.

The action follows a 60-day warning that sparked little promise for solving water quality concerns at Water Works, according to utility trustees. The board voted unanimously during a special meeting Tuesday to file a lawsuit against drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties.

This lawsuit is a bad move for Iowan's and for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy.  The process will destroy trust between city and rural areas and it will cause a set back in the efforts that have occurred already.  This approach has the potential to cause federal over-reach.  Each Iowan should be opposed to these strong arm tactics and legal wrangling.  There is solid evidence that shows Nutrient levels have not increased in Iowa's rivers and streams but have declined.  


House Passes Landfilling of Yard Wastes for Methane Energy Conversion 

 HF 266 was passed On March 10, 2015, by a largely bipartisan 93-aye to 6-nay vote.  The bill amends the Iowa Code concerning the prohibition of landfilling of yard waste by creating a fourth exception to the prohibition that would include 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.  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. These are: Metro Waste Authority [Polk County]; Waste Commission of Scott County; Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency; Central Disposal Landfill [Winnebago County] and Des Moines County Solid Waste Landfill.  EPA has designated 15 more Iowa landfills as candidates for this technology.  
Passage of this legislation will allow the landfill serving the Des Moines metro-area to increase methane production from its land fill over 50% in the next decades and will increase the number of homes provided with electricity from the Metro Waste Authority landfill 11,500 currently to an estimated 17,700 in 2035.  The other existing 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.
An amendment was offered to the bill, H-1030, that proposed to limit the bill’s application to the existing 5 landfills with methane capture systems, the yard waste collected for disposal could not exceed the amount needed to operate the methane collection system in a cost-effective and environmentally beneficial manner; and the energy would have to be used to power onsite operations, or be purchased by utility or off-site beneficial use and would prohibit any flaring not incidental to energy generation.  H-1030 was resisted by the bill’s manager and he read aspects of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s document specifying the goals and effort to reduce methane emissions from landfills largely through combustion of methane for energy production.  H-1030 lost on a voice vote.

Tour of Our District

From the Parking lot you can see the "Ridge" which is what this area is known for.  If you walk from the parking lot along the fence line and climb the ridge of the lateral moraine.  At that vantage point you can truly step back in time!  As you look to the south and the west you see the flattened landscape in which a herd of bison can be imagined.  Now turn to the northeast and the footing completely drops from your view.  This site is thought to have been a "Bison Jump Site" which Native American's used to harvest buffalo. 
Walk down the "nose" of the ridge and you can actually feel the bumps of the loess soil form into catsteps! 
Geological History
This site shows a textbook example of a lateral moraine.  Rubble, piled up as the glacier receded formed a ridge in the otherwise flat landscape.  The moraine was covered with blown silt (loess)  cover the ridge with what appears to be "steps" from afar.  These steps are known as "catsteps".
This site is a high quality restored prairie and shows excellent examples  of lead plant, pale purple coneflower, and gray headed coneflower. 
The site has many species of wildlife that abound there and is popular with hunters, bird watchers and hikers.  

Devil's Ridge has been renamed in memorial to Ron Spengler, former Conservation Director Ron Spengler. He was the first director of the Osceola County Conservation and served 31 years.


State of Iowa Fun Fact


The Iowa Legislature designated the Wild Rose as the official state flower in 1897. It was chosen for the honor because it was one of the decorations used on the silver service which the state presented to the battleship USS Iowa that same year. Although no particular species of the flower was designated by the Legislature, the Wild Prairie Rose (Rosa Pratincola) is most often cited as the official flower.
Wild roses are found throughout the state and bloom from June through late summer. The flower, in varying shades of pink, is set off by many yellow stamens in the center.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol



The First Floor Rotunda area allows the beauty and dignity of the building's interior to become apparent while standing under the dome. Broad, lofty corridors extend west, north, and south, with the Grand Staircase to the east. The walls and ceilings are ornately decorated. Suites opening from the south corridor are occupied by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Auditor of State, and Treasurer of State. The original Supreme Court Chamber and justices' offices are located to the north and the Secretary of State to the west. Legislative committee rooms are located along the east corridor. The floor opening on the First Floor of the Rotunda is not an original part of the building. It was installed in 1915 to provide light and ventilation to the basement area. The 2010 renovation included covering the first floor rotunda opening with a glass tile floor.

Map of the Week

The map of the week is of the Regular Total Income Surtax Property Tax Rate Impact 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 March of Dimes Advocates

Reps. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) and Megan Jones (R-Sioux Rapids) met with Jodi Lange and Tegan Lange from Spirit Lake at the Capitol this week. The two visited the Statehouse to attend March of Dimes Day on the Hill to lobby on their behalf.

Pictured here are Rep. Wills, Jodi Lange, Rep. Jones, and seated is Tegan Lange.


Wills Hosts Farm Bureau Members

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Dan Dreeszen and Mark Bohner from Spirit Lake at the Capitol this week. Dan and Mark visited the Statehouse on behalf of Dickinson County Farm Bureau to discuss issues with legislators.

Pictured here are Mark Bohner, Dan Dreeszen, and Rep. Wills.

Wills Hosts Osceola County Supervisor

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Mike Schulte from Sibley at the Capitol this week. Mike visited the Statehouse on behalf of ISAC (Iowa State Association of Counties) to attend County Day on the Hill.
Pictured here are Mike Schulte and Rep. Wills

 Wills Hosts Lyon County Supervisors

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Kirk Peters from Little Rock and Mark Behrens from George at the Capitol this week. The two are Lyon County Supervisors and visited the Statehouse to attend County Day on the Hill.

Pictured here are Lyon County Supervisors with Rep. Wills. 

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