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Legislative Update 03/26/2015

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Legislative Update

Friends,

Thank you for the well wishes and for the encouragement I received this past week.  The Iowa House passed over 15 bills this week that will be on the way to the Senate or the Governor’s desk.  Most of the bills that were passed reduced the size of government and protected our citizen’s rights. 

I managed House File 577 that is now heading to the Governor’s office.  HF 577 deals with Hunter License Requirements and allows individuals 16 years and older who have not yet passed a hunter’s safety course to receive an apprentice license and hunt with a qualified adult or parent. Bills like HF 577 are common-sense bills that facilitate opportunities, such as hunting for the first time, even if a child has not yet completed the hunter safety program.  It allows for safe recreation and the development of appreciation of our state’s incredible natural resources, along with the freedom to determine interest in an activity without penalty imposed. This is good government instilling power in its citizens, as it should be.  It was my pleasure to champion this bill through the Iowa House so it could be sent to the Governor for his signature. 

Another bill that progressed this week allows for sweeping changes to our income tax system in the State.  This bill would allow you, the taxpayer, to choose between the existing complex tax system in place or a 5% flat tax, with few deductions.  This potential income tax enhancement will save our taxpayers over $500 million a year. 

We are doing great things for our fellow Iowans here at the Statehouse, and I am grateful for the support and encouragement from you.  I am disappointed in the lack of action from the Senate on two issues vital to our K-12 schools.  The first I have written quite a bit about, our State Supplemental Aid for our schools.  The first bill off the floor of the House increased funding to our schools by 1.25% that is responsible and that is what we can afford considering our current revenue coming in to the state.  The Senate, currently controlled by Democrats, has continued to rebuff and delay sending this bill to the governor.  The Conference Committee has met very little and it has only met with a partisan flare at heart. 

Second, has been the school start date.  Again, the Senate Democrats have stifled a bipartisan vote from both the House and the Senate and not allowed this bill to go to the Governor’s desk.  A bill that I understand to a compromise between tourism interests and schools, which passed the House with overwhelmingly bipartisan support actually passed the Senate yesterday.  But the Democrat leader put a ‘motion to reconsider’ on the bill which freezes its progress.  In fact, the leader of the Senate, Senator Mike Gronstal, said, “I’m in no rush.” 

While Senator Gronstal may be in no rush, I assure you school parents, students, and superintendents and teachers are anxious to set their school calendars for this fall.    Why is he not in a rush to allow our schools to set their budget?  Why is he not in a rush to allow schools to set their start date?  This is unacceptable for our state!  We need to tell our Senate Leader that he should be in a rush.  He should be looking out for the wellbeing of our KIDS and not making a political game of our kids’ education.  It’s time to put the Washington, D.C. politics aside and do the work Iowans sent us here to do.

Respectfully,

Representative John H. Wills

 

Legislative Forums
 

March 28, 2015 
Rock Rapids
8:00am-9:30am
Forster Community Center
404 Main Street

Sibley
10:30am-11:30 am
Sibley Library
406 9th Street

Legislative Priorities

2015-16 HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET PRINCIPALS

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.
 
 SCHOOL FUNDING
 
Legislative Democrats are not focused on student achievement or learning.  They are focused on education spending.  There is a difference and the facts clearly support that the Democrats top goal is increasing spending, not improving student achievement.  There is no link between setting the supplemental state aid figure and rising student achievement.  There is, however, a link between spending more than the state collects and forcing across the board cuts after the fact.  House Republicans are not going to spend more than the state collects.
 
The first bill House Republicans approved in 2015 was school funding.  Schools are getting the first bite of the apple when it comes to state spending.  The problem is the apple, due to falling revenues, is not as big as many had hoped.  Other important responsibilities such as funding Medicaid, economic development and public safety still have to receive funding in addition to education.
 
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
 
Collective Bargaining/Arbitration Reform
The playing field is wildly tipped in favor of public-sector unions and against the taxpayers.  HF 549, sent to the Senate this week, begins to level that playing field for school boards and administrators in negotiating contracts with teachers unions and helping rein in costs and align them with revenue.  School districts, like the rest of government, should not spend money it does not have.  Spending beyond revenues leads to across the board cuts.  That result hurts students, families and teachers.
 
School districts need the tools to contain costs and provide predictable and reliable offerings and objectives.  HF 549 makes three 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.
 
Democrats attempted to make the case the HF 549 continues a trend that attacks school district staff.  The facts say the opposite.  In the last ten years, teacher salaries have gone up 36.6%.  Increasing teacher salaries has been a priority for Republicans in the House for over a decade.  In addition to teacher salaries going up, the number of full-time teachers, administrators and total school employment are all up.  The numbers below clearly show school district staff are NOT under attack.

 
  • In the last ten years, the number of full-time teachers has gone up 2.4%. 
  • In the last ten years, school employment has gone up 4.3%. 
  • In the last ten years, the number of administrators has gone up 3%.
In the last ten years, student enrollment has gone down 1.3%.   
House Democrats also made the case that the current collective bargaining law is working great and doesn’t need to be changed.  Yet it was Democrats who attempted to gut the collective bargaining law and our Right to Work law by passing the Forced Unionism bill in 2007 and the Open Scope Bargaining Bill in 2008.  The Open Scope Bargaining Bill was so flawed Gov. Culver was forced to veto it over impending property tax increases.


School Start Date Bill Moving
 
The House this week sent a school start date bill (SF 227) back to the Senate which approved the bill Wednesday but did not send it down to the Governor.  Senator Gronstal filed a Motion to Reconsider.  The bill passed by the House sets the earliest school start date at August 23rd, and sets up a process by which individual prekindergarten through 8th grade buildings can request waivers for year-round schools.  This is in contrast to the Senate’s language of total local control on the issue.
 
The House-passed, bipartisan bill is an attempt to find a middle ground between the two sides of the issue, those who support total local control, and those who support a start after Labor Day in September.  The Governor has made it clear that he will veto any bills that arrive at his desk that provide total local control on the issue.  August 23rd, as passed by the House, appears to be a date that will satisfy most of those engaged in the debate. 
 
The school start date has long been a controversial topic in Iowa, even prior to the current law’s enactment in 1985.  Talk about what to do with the start is usually included with every legislature, but for the past 30 years no action has changed what current law requires.  This past December, however, Governor Branstad issued a letter to the Director of the Department of Education, Brad Buck, that changed the conversation.
 
The current law, Iowa Code 279.10, subsection 1, requires that schools start no earlier than a day during the week in which September 1 falls.  Subsection 4 then provides a waiver opportunity for schools that want to start sooner if they can prove that starting during the week of September 1 would “have a significant negative educational impact.”  That language has been the crux of the problem.
 
The Department of Education has for years declared they have no guidance from the legislature to enforce that clause.  As a result any requests from schools to start earlier than the statutory date have had their waivers automatically granted.
 
Branstad’s letter in December asked Director Buck to put an end to that practice.  Schools can still receive waivers, but they should no longer be automatically granted. 
 
The fight here doesn’t fall along partisan lines, as many issues before the legislature typically do, so the conversation is playing out a bit differently than others.   Senate File 227 passed the House 71-28 with a mixture of Democrats and Republicans voting on both sides of the issue.
 
If a bill heads to the Governor’s desk that he refuses to sign, the state date will remain as it currently is:  a day in the week of September 1st with waivers granted under the Department’s new strict guidelines.  

Income Tax Cut 
FY 16 is obviously a tough budget year and Republicans are under no illusions that the income tax cut bill will make it to the Governor’s Desk.  That should not stop legislators from discussing Iowa’s income taxes which have one of the highest top rates in the country.  Income taxes have not been reduced since 1998.  17 years ago!  It is a fact that after a brief dip in state revenues, they increased immediately.  
 
Government spending advocates will always fight against a reduction in income tax rates.  They will always obfuscate the facts to confuse Iowans and protect their government funding.
  
Every significant change in Iowa tax policy has taken years to achieve.  The property tax discussion spanned over a decade.  The fuel tax debate lasted nearly as long.  We expect the fight to lower income taxes to take time as well.  If Republicans do not force discussion on tax reductions, no one will.


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 appears to be intent on killing the bill.  It was assigned to him on Feb. 10.
 
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.
 
Ultrasounds
HF 573 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.  The bill was sent to the Senate on March 16.  Senator Dotzler has not moved the bill.

News from Around the District

NATURE CONNECTIONS OPEN HOUSE PLANNED
  
Nature Connections of Northwest Iowa extends an invitation to students to attend "Young Investigators Connecting Children with Nature Through Project Work".

The drop in open house is from 2-4 pm Wednesday, April 22.  RSVPs to jane-shuttleworth@uiowa.edu or 712-337-3669 Ext. 7 are requested by Monday, March 23.  Food and refreshments will be served.

The goal of Nature Connections is to reach every Northwest Iowa early childhood student, educator and school administrator through a series of four cohorts over a seven-year period, with each cohort receiving three years of training and follow-up coaching.

Now in its fourth year, over 2,500 students, teachers, associates and administrators have been impacted by Young Investigators.  The Young Investigators celebrates the first cohort to graduate from the Young Investigators training.
 

NORTHWEST IOWA:  TELL THE IOWA SENATE IT'S TIME TO VOTE ON SF 425!!!

Senate File 425 has come under attack from former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his anti-gun supporters.  These groups have chosen to willfully mislead the public and your state Senator regarding the effects this measure will have on Iowans.  The NRA is working to move this omnibus pro-gun bill to the floor, and your communication and participation will make the difference!  This bill contains provisions to address many important safety improvements.  These include:  creation of an instant permit to carry verification system by law enforcement; strong language to increase penalties for illegal firearms transfers and crack down on “straw purchases;" protecting and respecting the privacy of the personal data of law-abiding Iowans with a carry permit; allowing parents to teach their children gun safety when they see fit; and legalizing firearm sound suppressors.  Additionally, this legislation updates Iowa code to remove outdated and duplicative provisions, such as the mandatory annual permit to acquire a handgun.  

The opposition has no plans to back down, and neither should you!  Urge Senate leadership to stand up for this important pro-gun legislation.  Ask them, will they choose to respect the rights of their constituents and the law enforcement officers who keep them safe and bring SF 425 up for a vote, or will leadership kowtow to a group that is fighting to kill a bill that contains safety improvements just because it respects your Second Amendment rights?  

Iowans have waited too long to see much needed fixes to restore and improve recognition of their firearms rights.  The time to act is now.  Call and email Senate President Pam Jochum (D-50) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-8).  Respectfully urge that SF 425 receive a vote, and that the language as passed by the House in HF 527 be adopted!  You can also call the Senate switchboard at (515) 281-3371.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

HOUSE PASSES WASTE CONVERSION TECHNOLOGY/PLASMA GASIFICATION
AS A WASTE MANAGEMENT PRACTICE BILL

 

On Thursday, March 19, 2015, the House considered and passed House File 544 by a unanimous 96-aye vote.  The bill proposes to add ‘Waste Conversion Technology’ which includes ‘plasma gasification’ to the list of preferred pollution prevention measures found in the Waste Management Assistance Act found in 455B.301-315.  Under the bill, ‘Waste Conversion Technology’ includes plasma gasification, along with anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis.   The bill explicitly defines-- ‘Waste Conversion Technology’ as thermal, chemical, mechanical and biological processes capable of converting waste from which recyclable materials have been substantially diverted or removed into useful products and chemicals, green fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel and clean renewable energy.  HF 544 additionally creates a new term ‘waste conversion technology’ in the hierarchical list in descending order of preference for solid waste management policy and utilization (455B.301A.1) between ‘recycling and reuse’ [455b.301A.1b]. and ‘combustion with energy recovery’ [455B.301A.c].  This legislation will allow emerging technology such as being adopted by a waste collection services that uses high heat to both consume hydrocarbons in waste and produce recyclable metal slag and a glasslike product that can and is intended to be used for insulation products.
 

TURKEY SEASON BEGINS

The spring season begins April 4th in Iowa.  On the 4th, Iowa youth can participate in a youth turkey season that covers two weekends.  This allows hunters younger than 16 to participate in the season.  The youth hunters must hunt with a mentor that is 18 or older.  The mentor must have a valid turkey hunting license for one of the spring seasons.  The youth season ends April 12.
 
The first regular spring turkey season is April 13 - 16.  The second season is April 17 - 21.  The third season is April 22 - 28.  The fourth turkey season is April 29 - May 17.

Tour of Our District

HISTORY OF DOON, IOWA

All through the ages rivers and waterways seemed to pioneer the development of unexplored areas. So it was that Doon became the first permanent settlement on the Big Rock river in Lyon County, Iowa.

The settlement of Doon centers around one illustrious pioneer, Mr. H.D. Rice. Many of the first in the area were directly or indirectly due to this aspiring citizen.

H.D. Rice of Petersen in Clay County, Iowa, heard wonderful tales of Lyon County, and proceeded in May of 1868 to explore the Rock River region. He was charmed with the beauty of the place where now stands the town of Doon, and returned to the site in July of the same year with his friend, L.F. Knight. Upon reaching the forks of the Little Rock, Big Rock and West Branch streams, they built a cabin and thereby started the first permanent settlement in the county.

Rice returned for his family, and while he was gone, Knight penned his thoughts in the following lines:
"Sitting in solitude on the band of this beautiful stream, far removed from all humanity, with naught but the song of the wild birds or the soft murmur of the waterfall to break the silence of this green, glad, solitude, I cannot help but recall those touching words of Robert Burns' beginning,

‘Ye banks and braes O'Bonnie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair:
How can yet chant ye little birds?
And I sae weary, fu' O' care!"
And this the town received its name, "Bonnie Doon."

When Rice later returned with his wife, she became the first white woman in Lyon County on the Rock River. He then proceeded to build a more permanent home and this became the first frame building in the area. (1869) All of the lumber was hauled from Sioux City. This building later became a crossroads stopover, and when the area was connected with the outside area by virtue of the stageline established between LeMars, Doon, and Luverne, Minnesota in 1871–he developed the building into a hotel. This building still stands in the town of Doon. It was removed from its old location near the southwest corner of Doon and is now the residence of Jim Hoogendoorn. Rice later erected a fine hotel in the business district of Doon and it became one of the finest and largest in Northwest Iowa. The "Bonnie Doon", as it was called, contained 54 rooms, and for many years was the stop over of many an agent, salesman, or adventurer.

Among other "first" attributed to this fine citizen of New England's Smith and Brewster ancestry are: the first postal and stage coach agent, first Justice of the Peace, and first mayor of the incorporated town of Doon.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

BEST PLACE TO ACT LIKE A KID:  ARNOLDS PARK, IA


This unique amusement park is one of the best summertime tourist attractions in Iowa for families. No matter what age your children are or how young you are at heart, you will find something worth doing in this park. There is a beach where you can build a sandcastle or rent equipment and get out on the water.

There are also rides, carnival style games, and of course those delicious foods that you expect to find at any amusement park. What more could you ask from one of the best tourist attractions in Iowa?

The park is open from late May to early September with day passes running $25 for adults and $17 for children. You receive unlimited access to all rides with this admission price.

 

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

USS IOWA BATTLESHIP


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.  This battleship was in commission during both World War II and the Korean conflict.  It was again commissioned in 1984 and utilized until 1990.
One of the battleship's two bells is located near the model.

Map of the Week

The map of the week is of the Imprisonment Rate and Community Supervision Rate - 2013 document published location:

The map can be found here

Quick Links

State Represenative, 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 Senator, David Johnson
State Treasurer
U. S. Congressman, Steve King
Senator Chuck Grassley
Senator Joni Ernst

Visitors to the Capitol

WILLS HOSTS SIBLEY CONSTITUENTS

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Rachel Loutsch and Connie Mataloni at the Capitol this week. The two visited on behalf of the Sibley Public Library to attend the 125th anniversary celebration of the Capitol Law Library.  

Pictured here are Rep. Wills, Rachel Loutsch, and Connie Mataloni.

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