Legislative Update 2/18/16

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Quote of the Week

“The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.”  --  Alex de Tocqueville

Legislative Update


This week has been a very busy one with what is known as Funnel Week.  This is the first “funnel” where bills must have made it out of the committee in which they were assigned to remain eligible.  Funnel week is a way to keep bills moving along and keep us, as legislators, involved in the process.  If we did not have the funnel week the potential to carry the legislative session on over a long length of time would be increased. 

In some instances, some bills that are less than perfect, are passed out of committee with the idea that those working on them would keep working on them in the next few weeks to arrive at a workable bill.  Some bills worth noting that have made it out of Committee this week includes a couple water quality bills, several gun rights bills, hunting regulation bills, and others.  We had some intense work this week to pass these bills onto the next level in the House of Representatives. 

My bill that deals with water quality was passed out of the Agriculture Committee today.  It is HF 2211 and will make a huge impact on water quality in our state if it is enacted in the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.  HF 2211 does not pour more money into water quality but rather directs the money we do have to be more productive and achieve more. 

After this week, we will start to move quickly to floor debate and working to move bills that were sent from the Senate to us.  In a few weeks we will reach another funnel week in which any bill that is to be considered “alive” for the year must have had its day on the House Floor or the Senate Floor and sent to the other body to be considered there. 

School funding has become bogged down in the Conference Committee.  The Senate has started the process to make school funding a political football, just like last year.  Despite my earlier confidence that we would have Supplemental State Aid done by March, I don’t think that it will happen unless people contact the Senate Leadership..  I have been told that Senate Leadership has said they know we cannot afford 4 percent but right now they want the media attention on the issue.  When one looks at the Senate budget it is obvious they have approximately 2.5 percent at the most, in their budget dealing with Supplemental State Aid. 

Please call Senate Leadership and express your displeasure with the State Senate politicizing our children’s education.  It is really frustrating for us in the House as school funding has been a priority for us only to have it turn to a political football.  We need to do what is right for Iowan’s and not what is right for the upcoming election this fall.  See below for more information about the Senate Democrats’ budget shell game.  Here is the contact information for the Senate:  Switchboard:  (515) 281-3371 / Gronstal:  (515) 281-4610 / Jochum:  (515) 281-5933

Finally, there is another frustrating note in the State House.  The Senate has decided not to move forward with coupling our state tax code with the federal tax code.  In a nutshell, this will hurt many Iowans who have done the right thing but will soon find out they will be hurt because of this decision by the State Senate.  Iowa’s tax deduction coupling bill is the name for the legislation which pairs state taxes with federal tax law under Section 179. This would allow tax deductions for equipment purchased, certain investments made, and particular individual deductions claimed by main street business, family farms, and millions of Iowa’s for investments made in tax-year 2015.

Here are some of the items that will not be eligible for a deduction on your Iowa taxes if the Iowa Senate does not act:
  • Small business equipment purchases (including business vehicles, computers and office furniture)
  • IRA contributions to charity
  • Gain from qualified small business stock
  • Basis adjustment for S corporation charitable contributions
  • Built-in gain tax five-year recognition period
  • Educator expense deduction ($250 per teacher)
  • Qualified tuition deduction ($2000 per student/loan)
  • Conservation easement deductions
  • Deduction for food inventory contributions
So as you may note in this week’s Update from the State House, all is not rosy on Capitol Hill.  Many times I have said to you that I am here to help.  This time, I would like your help.  Please contact the Senate Leadership and tell them you want action on State Supplemental Aid and on the Coupling Bill.  We need action that is good for Iowa and not political rhetoric.  So please let them know that you do not like what they are doing. 
So when we consider that all is not rosy, I am reminded of the short quote below by T. S. Elliot, which is what it feels like we are doing right now in the State House.  Please help me by contacting the Senate. 
“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”
T.S. Eliot


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.

The Senate Democrats' Budget Shell Game

Based on Senate action this session, the Democrats’ budget violates the 99% expenditure limitation law, wipes out the ending balance entirely and nearly half of the Economic Emergency Fund.
Based on their actions so far, the Senate Democrats’ budget plan not only can’t fund 4% SSA, it can’t even fund 2% SSA. There isn’t any money left over for SSA after they dismantle managed care and add in their new FY 16 supplemental spending bills. Their budget targets don’t match their actions.
It’s time for Senate Democrats to quit playing games and get to work on behalf of the Iowans that elected them. They refuse to act on tax coupling, they won’t settle Supplemental State Aid for schools and instead they are spending time on a Medicaid bill that faces a certain veto from the Governor.

Remember, the last time Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office, they left Iowans with a $900 million budget gap and $800 million in new debt.
Senate Democrats are attempting to stall and distract from the reality that they can’t make their own budget work.

Providing Certainty to Iowa Taxpayers

Senate Democrats continue to hold taxpayers hostage by not acting on federal tax code coupling.
We all likely know many people that would benefit from the House bill.

Senate Democrats need to quit stalling and provide certainty to Iowa taxpayers. Who benefits from the House Republican plan?
  • Small businesses are the drivers of our economy. HF 2092 is the only proposal that helps them make investments in their businesses so they can grow and create even more jobs in our communities
  • Teachers will be able to deduct out-of-pocket expenses related to classroom supplies.
  • Seniors will be able to give tax-free contributions to qualifying charitable organizations.
  • Homeowners will be able to deduct mortgage insurance, just like they would mortgage interest, keeping more money in their pockets to spend in their communities.
  • Parents and students will be able to deduct qualifying higher education expenses, reducing the cost of college and continuing education.

Legislative Forums

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

Need Help With Managed Health Care?

Contact Information:
Nic Pottebaum, Governor's Office:   515-725-3505

Paige Thorson, Dept. of Human Services:  515-281-4387


News from Around the District

Project Receives $4 Million in Grant/Loan Funds

The USDA has just announced that Lyon & Sioux Rural Water will be using over $4 million in grant and loan funds from the USDA to help pay for a new facility constructed recently near George.
water 1
Lyon & Sioux Rural Water System, Inc. is using a total of $4,094,000 in USDA Rural Development loan and grant funds to pay for the construction a new water treatment plant at their well field outside of City of George and make other water system improvements for their customers.

Bonnie Koel, Administrative Manager of Lyon & Sioux gives us the background of the project.  She says they also constructed five miles of 8” water mains to connect to existing distribution piping.

She says that previously, the five George area wells had been used with chlorination only for treatment since they were constructed in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Since 2012, she says the levels of the well water have come up again.

The USDA funds consisted of $3,594,000 loan and $500,000 ECWAG (Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant).

The water treatment plant and pipeline was put into use in April, 2015.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers Paddlefish Fishing Season Opens March 1

The paddlefish fishing season opens March 1 on the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers and runs through April 15 (sunrise to sunset). The paddlefish season was opened on these rivers March 1, 2015 after being closed since 1986 due to concerns of habitat loss and declining population numbers.

Anglers fishing for paddlefish must have a valid Iowa fishing license, along with a special paddlefish license and unused transportation tag. The paddlefish license is required for snagging the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers and is limited to Iowa waters only. New this year, Iowa anglers are allowed to fish the Big Sioux River from bank to bank from the Missouri River confluence to the I-29 Bridge.

Paddlefish are one of the largest freshwater fish in North America. They feed on microscopic organisms called zooplankton.  Since they are filter feeders, they can’t be caught with the traditional hook and worm.  Snagging is the only efficient method of catching paddlefish.

Use heavy weights (from one ounce on up to 4 or 4-1/2 ounces), a medium-heavy to heavy rod at least six feet long and braided line of at least 50 pound test strength. Treble hooks can be no larger than 5/0 or measuring more than 1-1/4 inches in length when two hook points are placed on a ruler. A gaffe hook or other penetrating device cannot be used as an aid in landing a snagged fish.  Wear a lifejacket and bring along dry clothes.

Paddlefish prefer slower, deep water. “These fish are extremely migratory, traveling hundreds of miles. They will try to get out of the current when they can so areas behind wing dykes with slow moving, deep water are places to target,” says Van Sterner, fisheries biologist. “They don’t associate with the bottom like catfish, but will be suspended to watch the electronics and if they are there, you should see them.”

The paddlefish slot limit on the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers requiring the release of all 35-45 inch fish protects the primary breeding stock. Most of the fish harvested will probably be below the slot limit. To properly measure a paddlefish, use a flexible tape and measure along and over the center line contour of the fish while it is lying flat. All paddlefish measuring 35-45 inches from the front of the eye to the natural unaltered fork of the tail must immediately be released alive.

Immediately after being caught, the transportation tag issued with the license must be visibly attached to the fish’s lower jaw. It is the angler’s proof of possession of the carcass; it must be attached so it cannot be removed without mutilating or destroying the tag. The transportation tag must be attached before the carcass is moved in any manner from the place of harvest and remain affixed to the paddlefish until it is processed for consumption. The paddlefish shall remain intact except for the snout in front of the eye until the fish reaches the final processing place, defined as the angler’s residence or the location where consumption occurs.

If you catch a jaw-tagged fish (numbered band in the lower jaw), call the phone numberon the tag and report the tag number, date of capture, capture location and eye-to-fork length. The Iowa DNR and other state fisheries agencies tag paddlefish to better understand and manage populations. Tagging provides valuable information to estimate population size, fish movement and growth.

For more information about Iowa’s special paddlefish season, visit the DNR website at


Tour of Our District

Higgins Museum of National Bank Notes

The Higgins Museum in Okoboji opened in 1978, with its stated purpose being the acquisition, preservation and display of the National Bank Notes. What's inside is the chance to view and enjoy the largest collection of National Bank Note issues on permanent exhibit anywhere in the country. There are also a few cool historical displays including a money making machine, a bank teller window and vault, and a bullet safe.

Many people regard these notes as America's commemorative paper money. The Landing of Columbus, the embarkation of the Pilgrims, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and other great events of our history are illustrated on the notes of the first charter period. All of the notes honor the towns (including one for Estherville), the banks, and many thousands of individuals who played key roles in the development of our country and its resources.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

Iowa stands in a class by itself as an agricultural state. Its farms sell over $10 billion worth of crops and livestock annually. Iowa leads the nation in all corn, soybean, and hog marketings, and comes in third in total livestock sales. Iowa's forests produce hardwood lumber, particularly walnut, and its mineral products include cement, limestone, sand, gravel, gypsum, and coal.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

World War II Memorial Plaza

Dedicated in November 1997, the purpose of this memorial is to honor all those who served so valiantly during World War II and to provide posterity with knowledge about the compelling reason for the involvement of the United States in the war: "The preservation of freedom around the world." The centerpiece of the "Freedom Flame" monument is a 50-foot-high stainless steel stylized flame. Leading up to the flame is "Freedom Walk," a walkway through time, beginning with Pearl Harbor. The plaza floor is comprised of a global map showing the five major theaters of operation. The "Wall of Memories" is an appropriate backdrop for the Freedom Flame. The total cost of this monument was $735,000-'a sum which includes a fund to ensure the memorial's future maintenance.

Incorporated in the World War II Memorial Plaza is the Pearl Harbor Memorial. The Iowa Pearl Harbor Veterans' Association formed a committee to erect a memorial on the grounds of the Capitol in honor of Iowans who made the supreme sacrifice during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in honor of the survivors of the attack. The committee requested permission to place a memorial on the grounds in January 1991, and was able to raise the funds and erect the memorial. It was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1991.

Map of the Week

The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

Correction from last week:  Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) hosted Dr. Keith Klemme of Milford and Jan Snyder of Sanborn, to the floor of the Iowa House.  Dr. Keith Klemme was visiting for Chiropractic Day on the Hill  and Jan Snyder was visiting the Capitol representing Northwest Iowa Community College.


Pictured here are Jan Snyder, Rep. Wills, and Dr. Keith Klemme.

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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