Legislative Update 2/11/16

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Quote of the Week

"The health care bill is nothing about health care - it's about controlling people."
~~David Lincoln

Legislative Update


The tax coupling bill has an impact on the FY 2016 ending balance and the FY 2017 on-going revenue levels.  Any agreement will impact discussions on school aid and budget targets.
The Governor has already recommended a plan for coupling that has a negligible effect on FY 2016 revenue while adding an additional $48.5 million to FY 2017. 
The Governor’s plan does not couple at all for tax year 2015.  That means that taxpayers would not be able to take advantage of any of the tax extenders Congress just passed that have an Iowa component when they do their taxes this April.
The Governor then recommends permanently coupling with the IRC in tax year 2016 with the exception of Section 179 expensing or bonus depreciation. The Governor’s plan permanently leaves out those provisions. Section 179 expensing is an accelerated depreciation mechanism for business purposes and bonus depreciation is something similar to that except for larger expenses. The Governor’s recommended coupling provisions are estimated to have a negligible impact on FY 2016 General Fund revenues while increasing FY 2017 General Fund revenues by $49.2 million.
The House approved a different plan on Thursday, Jan. 28.  The House plan couples with everything except bonus depreciation in tax year 2015.  It also does not add the permanency of the Governor’s plan.  There is a $95.7 million impact on FY 2016 revenue/ending balance.  That money goes directly to taxpayers.  Additionally, $86.5 million is added to FY 2017 on-going revenue with roughly $55 million of that available for appropriation under the state’s expenditure limitation law.

Senate Democrat’s Budget Targets
Senate Democrat’s released budget targets which spend about $70 million more than the state collects in on-going revenue. As a percentage, they spend 101.1% of on-going revenue. 
For the 4 years Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office, they spent the following percentages of on-going revenue:
FY 2008 – 102.23%
FY 2009 – 105.52%
FY 2010 – 107.85%
FY 2011 – 111.82%
Senate Democrats did not release their plans on medicaid savings or tax coupling or even a simple balance sheet which makes it difficult to see a complete picture of their spending plans.  However it is extremely difficult for level of spending proposed to not include savings resulting from the Governor’s managed care plan.
As part of their targets they propose an early retirement plan that “saves” taxpayers $10.6 million.  House Republicans are extremely skeptical that is a reliable number.  Last session Senate Democrats proposed a similar plan which resulted in zero savings.  It was rejected by House GOP budget negotiators.
Senate Democrats are proposing a 4% increase in Supplemental State Aid for schools but the money necessary to fund that 4% increase is not included in their budget targets.  To fund 4% they need to provide an additional $65.8 million in spending within the target for the Standings Bill.  But only $2.9 million more is provided.
That means either they have cut another area included in the Standings Bill – such as property tax credits – or they are willfully underfunding their 4% SSA increase and instead forcing property taxpayers to pay more to make up for their lack of funding.

Another Week, Another Supplemental Bill from Senate Democrats
If last week’s supplemental appropriations bill wasn’t enough to satiate their appetite for more government spending, Senate Democrats unveiled another proposal for spending the state’s ending balance. 
In Senate Study Bill 3106, Senate Democrats are proposing to create a Statewide Land Mobile Radio Communications System Fund, which would fund the operation of statewide land mobile radio communications system.  This system would be under the control of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Transportation.  The bill appropriates $20,371,298 to the fund from the FY 2016 ending balance and allows the fund to not revert and remain available for appropriation from the fund until the end of FY 2022.
If this discussion sounds familiar, it should.  The issue of building a new radio network for police, fire, and emergency responders has been in the works for years, due to changes in access to the radio spectrum.  The current frequencies utilized are being auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission.  The change in frequencies is requiring states to develop new networks.  This process has been on-going for a number of years, with Iowa being one of the final two states to implement the change.
One of the reasons that last year’s session went past the 110 allotted days was the inability of Senate Democrats to reach an agreement amongst themselves on this issue.  The state had gone through a well-litigated procurement process that awarded the contract for building the network to Motorola.  This was contested by the other bidder, but those challenges were rebuffed in court.  It was not until the last days of session that the Senate acted on the issue, appropriating money for the first year of construction.  But the Senate’s language with the bill forced the Governor to line-item veto portions of the bill so that the state could move forward. 
Enactment of last year’s bill should have ended the issue and allowed the state to move forward.  That didn’t happen, as State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald refused to sign the agreement with Motorola.  Why did he refuse to sign?  He claimed that he did not have legal authority to sign the agreement and to do so would require action by the Legislative Council.  Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refused to commit to vote for what Fitzgerald requested.  So the state continues to sit in limbo, with the threat of FCC action pulling the state’s access to the radio frequency required for this network.
And with the introduction of Senate Study Bill 3106, the bill raises a lot more questions than it answers.  Does this mean the state can finally proceed with Motorola in signing a contract and beginning construction?  What happens to the funds appropriated last year - are they allowed to be spent on the network?  And why is the Department of Transportation, an agency which had told everyone that they had their own, non-compatible network, part of the group overseeing the fund and this network?
One thing is very obvious from Senate Study Bill 3106 - the state’s ending balance is burning a hole in collective pockets of Senate Democrats and they cannot resist the urge to spend it as fast as they can.
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.

Budgeting like Iowa families and businesses, Keeping our promise to Iowans
Iowans expect us to craft a budget that spends less than the state collects and lives within its means.  Iowa families and businesses budget under this common sense approach and government should do the same.
House Republicans have offered a realistic and responsible budget plan for the next fiscal year that makes meaningful investments and protects the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa. 
Nearly the entire increase is devoted to increases in Supplemental State Aid for K-12 schools and commercial property tax relief.
As is the case every year, the level of the increase for school aid is tied directly to the level of on-going revenue brought in by the state.  The ending balance, the cash reserve and the economic emergency fund have no impact on school funding.
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 House Republican budget plan spends 99.9% ($7.168 billion) of on-going revenue ($7.320 billion) ensuring that government does not spend more than it has and lives within its means.  This is a 2% ($145.8 million) increase over FY 16.
Individual line-items in each budget subcommittee are being determined by each of the appropriate budget subcommittees.  The Standings budget target includes Supplemental State Aid, Teacher Leadership money, and the backfill to local governments as a result of the property tax reform bill in 2013.
Partisan rhetoric from legislative Democrats claim the GOP plan will dramatically affect government services in a negative way.  It is difficult to argue that a nearly $180 million increase will tie the hands of government agencies and prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities.
The House Republican budget plan does not use the ending balance, the Cash Reserve or the Economic Emergency Fund.  According to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in regards to the ending balance, “It should be noted that these excess funds are considered one-time revenues that can carry-forward from one fiscal year to the next.  The transfer amounts can be unpredictable from one year to the next…  Reliance on these revenues for ongoing operational expenses of government programs can result in budget shortfalls if an economic downturn causes a drop in annual tax revenue.”
The Cash Reserve is used to cash flow the state budget.  Taking money from it jeopardizes timely payments to school districts and local governments.
The Economic Emergency Fund is used for catastrophic problems such as the floods of 2008.


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

News from Around the District

Blood Run master plan continues to take shape

The Blood Run master plan continued to take shape during a workshop and open house at the Rock Rapids Forster Community Center Thursday and Friday, Jan. 7-8.

“The Blood Run master planning process is essential for establishing a future for the park and its future educational purpose, which will be important for preserving and interpreting the area,” said Lyon County Economic Development director, Steve Simons.

“These sessions offer the public the opportunity to provide input and feedback that will be included in the master planning effort for the future of the resource,” said Simons. “The many stakeholders — from tribes, government organizations and local people — help determine what the master plan will show as the possible future uses for the Blood Run National Historic Landmark site.”

The Blood Run National Historic Landmark is the largest recorded and most complex site of the Oneota tradition, which had been intensively occupied from about A.D. 1300 to 1720 and hosted a large population of Oneota people. Today, their descendants are members of several American Indian nations, and numerous earthen mounds are still present on the landscape. When it was inhabited, Blood Run functioned as a ceremonial and trade center.

New to the master plan is an interpretation and execution component designed to enrich the Blood Run site. “That’s really enhancing the master plan and our ability to focus in much more detail what the activities and experiences visitors will have here,” said Brenda Williams, associate of Quinn Evans Architects. “I think everyone agrees that getting children and youth educated is such a wonderful opportunity to teach them about stewardship of this place and about cultures that are different than theirs, and that these cultures are still alive and connected to this place,” she said.

Randy Teboe, director of cultural affairs for the Ponca tribe of Nebraska, also spoke of the importance of preserving the Blood Run site. “The reason this area is important is because we want to be able to reconnect with our ancestors, and by doing that we can help learn and teach our young ones and other folks the traditions that have fallen asleep,” said Teboe. “By using this land we want to reawaken those traditions and bring them back.”

The Blood Run master plan process will lead to a completed master plan in July 2016. “The master plan is a foundation for the use of the Blood Run site,” Simons explained. “This is a large undertaking and may take decades to be completed. South Dakota has dedicated the Good Earth State Park at Blood Run and a possible scenario for the Iowa master plan for the best use of the Blood Run National Historic Landmark site could lead to a partnership with South Dakota or a bi-state park.”

“The next part of this is to continue to build local capacity for what we’re doing, so the information about a bi-state park between Iowa and south Dakota can be invigorated to continue so that we can keep moving forward and start the capacity building so that people are engaged, the purpose of the park is affirmed, and prioritized so we can share what this area of the state has to offer and be represented to the best level that we can,” agreed Todd Coffelt, state parks bureau chief.

According to Simons, the project is invigorating and exciting. “As we have worked through the local meetings last fall and last week, the concept and vision of what is possible and what the Blood Run area may look like in the future is coming together and taking shape.” The long-term vision for the park includes everything from education and interpretation programs and visitor experiences to facilities and trails through the site and management needs and resources.

Leading the master planning process are the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and Quinn Evans Architects. An additional master planning meeting and workshop is tentatively planned in Lyon County in March.

The master plan process timeline project and other documents, as well as e-mail updates for future events and workshops can be found on the project website:

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Nutrient Reduction Strategy is Sound
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a sound and scientific manner to address our state’s water quality issues.  Recently a conservation report was conducted that generated a newspaper headline that read “Millions Spent, but no lasting gains.”  While we can argue the validity of this report, I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture behind this article and be realistic in saying money will never remedy the real problem. 
My take away from this report is that no matter how much money is budgeted towards water quality projects; we must target those dollars strategically to have the most impact as possible.  This session, I have written and introduced a bill in the Iowa House (House File 2211) with a number of efforts that I believe will put us on the right path to clean water.  
As some have suggested we don’t need to move away from a statewide conservation program, because keeping our waterways clean requires active participation by all in our state.  However, we need to increase the number of watersheds that are being treated. 
House File 2211 complements the Nutrient Reduction Strategy with a key group of actions.  First, the bill directs the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to review available data and prioritize Iowa’s waterbodies for nutrient-rich “hotspots”.  Once we are able to pinpoint where the high level of nitrates and phosphorus exist, then we need to evaluate our watersheds based on economic and quality of life impacts to Iowans. 
Second, the bill proposes that we double the current amount of watershed project coordinators and start targeting them to the priority watersheds identified by IDALS and the DNR.  Many of these coordinators have been working in the conservation field since the early 1990s, and hold a deep understanding of the problems that Iowa faces.  On average, each of our current coordinators, working closely with landowners and farmers, stop 22,665 tons of sediment, 35,834 pounds of nitrogen, and 25,318 pounds of phosphorus from reaching bodies of water each year according to IDALS.
Third, the bill will invigorate a new part of our economy by giving private business the same training as our government conservation workers.  This will provide for seamless planning and design of conservation practices.  Together with our state and federal agencies these new public and private employees will total around 300 people within two years. 
If each of these new coordinators, working with farmers and landowners, is able to reduce pollutants by the averages reported by IDALS, that would be over 6.8 million tons of sediment, 10.7 million pounds of nitrogen, and 7.6 million pounds of phosphorus removed each year in separate and targeted watersheds, pending adequate funding.  To put it in a way that most people can understand just the sediment that would be prevented from reaching a waterbody would fill 523,038 dump trucks that would stretch over 2,000 miles if placed end to end.  These coordinators already do fantastic work but will continue this legacy into the future.

ATV and Fishing Bills Move in Natural Resources
 Over the past week, the House Natural Resources Committee has passed two bills.  The first, House File 2066, allows a person to carry a weapon while on an ATV or snowmobile.  Under current law, this was prohibited.  Additionally, the bill clarifies that a person on their own land does not have to have a permit to carry a weapon on an ATV or snowmobile.  However, this bill does not allow a person to fire a weapon from an ATV when hunting game or a protected species.  This bill passed with 17 ayes and one nay, Democrat Lisa Heddens.
The second bill was House File 2046.  HF 2046 allows a person to fish without a license on private lakes and ponds with consent from the landowner.  If you violate this provision, you are subject to a $25 fine.  The bill passed committee with a vote of 12-8. 


Tour of Our District

Ellerbroek Shooting Range

This shooting range is complete with benches, target holders and trap throwers.  There are also archery targets and elevated shooting platforms.  The range is located one mile south of Sibley.

Leinen Park
This 100 acre park is currently being mined for gravel to create a fishing lake and generate income for park development.  The park is open year round and features native prairie reconstruction, wildlife food plots allowing public hunting.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

Herbert Hoover, a West Branch native, was the 31st president of the United States and the only Iowa-born person to become US President.  He is the most recent cabinet secretary to be elected President of the United States.  Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, its inaugural year, after failing all the entrance exams (except mathematics) and then being tutored for the summer in Palo Alto.  The first-year students were not required to pay tuition.  Hoover claimed to be the very first student at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

USS Iowa Model

A model of the battleship USS Iowa is on display in the west wing. The model is 18 feet 7 inches long and weighs approximately 1,350 pounds. It is on loan from the U.S. Navy Department.

One of the battleship's two bells is located near the model.

Map of the Week


The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

Rep. John Wills (R- Spirit Lake) hosted Susie Bormann from Sibley-Ocheyedan, Amy and Jerry Jurrens from George, to the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives this week. Susie, Amy, and Jerry visited the Capitol for the Iowa Association of School Boards.


Pictured here are Susie Bormann alongside Amy and Jerry Jurrens.

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) hosted Steve Simons of Rock Rapids to the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives this week. Steve Simons was visiting the Capitol for Professional Developers of Iowa (PDI) day on the hill.


Pictured here is Rep. Wills alongside Steve Simons.

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) hosted Dr. Keith Klemme of Milford and Jane Snider of Sanborne, to the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives this week. Dr. Keith Klemme and Jane Snider were visiting the Capitol for Chiropractic day on the hill.


Pictured here are Jane Snider, Rep. Wills, and Dr. Keith Klemme.

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) hosted Jon Martin of Dickenson, Sen. Johnson, Shayne Mayer of Rock Rapids, to the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives this week. The county attorneys were visiting the Capitol for County Attorney’s day on the hill.


Pictured here is Jon Martin, Sen. Johnson, Rep. Wills, and Shayne Mayer.

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
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