Legislators Updates Week 1
Chuck Soderberg, Le Mars, State Representative from District 3
On January 10th, the 84th Iowa General Assembly gaveled into session for the first year of the two-year Assembly. As I begin my fourth term in the Iowa House, it is an honor to represent and serve as your District 3 Representative. I look forward to continue working hard on your behalf. I want to thank everyone who has provided input on a variety of important issues. Throughout this year’s session, I will continue to openly communicate with you on issues by holding frequent Saturday morning Legislative Forums as well as provide you with weekly written updates of legislative activities. If you would also like to receive my electronic newsletter, just email me your email address.
I am very appreciative of the committees I have been assigned to work on as they will be addressing some very important issues for northwest Iowa. My committee appointments and the issues they will address include: 1. Commerce and Regulatory (serving as the Committee Chair) – banking, insurance, telecommunications, energy, utility and regulatory. 2. Economic Growth – economic and business development policies and programs. 3. Environmental Protection – water quality and air quality and environmental issues. 4. Ways and Means – addressing all tax issues.
With this year’s 110-day legislative session now in full swing, the weeks activities included Governor Culver’s annual Condition of the State address, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady gave his Condition of the Judiciary report, and a number of committee meetings. Governor-elect Branstad and Lt. Governor-elect Reynolds will officially take office at the Inauguration on January 14th. Legislative Landscape at the State Capitol Changes The outcome of the November election significantly changed the landscape of the Iowa legislature. For the last four years, the Democrats have held a large majority in the House and Senate. The November 2nd election changed the landscape in the legislature significantly as the Republicans now hold the large majority of 60-40 in the House. In the Senate, the Democrats maintained their majority but only by the slim margin of 26-24. Governor –elect Terry Branstad has his staff in place and is prepared to take swift action to get 114,000 Iowans back to work, reduce our tax burden, and to submit to the legislature for our consideration a fiscally responsible budget that does not spend more than we have revenue for.
The majority party of each respective chambers are responsible for establishing and managing the legislative agenda as well as the committee process. The House Republicans will make every effort to work with the Democrats to craft and adopt legislation to make a positive impact on Iowa. However, we will not compromise our values in doing so. The Iowa Taxpayers Come First in the Taxpayers First Act The Taxpayers First Act, House Study Bill 1(HSB 1) is the first delivery on House Republicans campaign promises to reduce spending and the size of government. House Republicans were serious about our efforts over the last two years and campaigned that the taxpayer should come first and that the state should not spend more than it takes in.
The road to delivering that promise starts with this bill. The key elements of this bill include:
• Creation of a Taxpayer Relief Fund (TRF) - This will change the law so that after the cash reserves are full, all of the remaining taxes collected will go back to the taxpayer rather than more government spending. This amount is projected to be $318 million. House Republicans believe this one time money should not be used for additional spending - but should be returned to the taxpayer who created the positive ending balance by paying increased taxes due to the state not fulfilling its commitments.
• Two-Year Budget - Governor-elect Branstad is expected to insist on a two-year budget. The House Republicans will deliver a two-year budget after our budget reforms are signed into law. We will use the two-year budget to fund the long-term tax reductions made possible by the TRF and fund minimal growth in essential areas such as public safety, Medicaid, and education.
• De-Appropriations - This bill deappropriates just over $500 million from all funds over a three year period. This is the first step to fiscal responsibility and eliminating the spending gap projected to be approximately $700 million for next year.
• Establish Priorities This bill also provides two supplemental appropriations funded from the reductions made to this years budget. The bill establishes a $25 million appropriation to eliminate the states 18 month Mental Health waiting lists in Iowa and will begin the process to redesign the mental health delivery system in Iowa. The second supplemental will fund the underfunded expense for indigent defense. Both areas are priority needs to deliver necessary services to Iowans. A public hearing on this bill will take place on Tuesday, January 18th at 6:30pm in the House Chambers. HSB 1 is scheduled for debate in the House on January 19th.
Randy Feenstra, Hull, State Senator, District 2
As your State Senator, I am your voice in Des Moines and encourage your input. Please feel free to contact me at
If you would like to read my comments on a daily basis, you can go to my web-site at www.newgenerationrepublican.com
The session is underway and there is a lot of optimism filling the Capitol. Both parties have expressed an interest in working together and finding solutions to the State’s economic and social issues. This pageantry will last until the first bill gets debated and then lines from both parties will be drawn. However, until that point, it’s great to be living in this utopia.
My goal is to passionately defend social conservative issues and create policy that reduces taxes through a more effective and efficient government. I have been put on some of the best committee’s in the Senate. They include Education, Ways and Means, Commerce and I am Ranking Member of State Government.
Many of the key issues of the state tend to flow through the State Government Committee so it is a humble honor for me to be heading up this key committee for the Senate Republicans.
This year, most of the new policy will be centered around the key issues below:
1. Getting a vote to allow the citizens of Iowa to define marriage
2. Developing a balanced budget that has a $700 million deficit
3. Developing a plan to create new jobs in Iowa and support current business
4. Deregulating agriculture and business regulations that are stifling growth
5. Developing better policy that protects the unborn
6. Creating educational policy that will keep teachers in the class room
7. Redistricting legislative boundaries (happens every 10-years)
I have submitted many bills for this legislative session some of them include:
1. Union dues can no longer be collected by government organizations
2. County offices can be consolidated to save tax money
3. All new part-time government employees will not be offered retirement benefits (IPERS)
4. 12-year term limits on ALL elected state offices (House-Senate-Judiciary)
5. Abortion ban after 12-weeks from conception
6. A 50% reduction of corporate income tax
7. Federal tax deductions will be coupled with state income tax filing
8. Partial rollback of commercial property taxes (through income tax rebate)
9. Marriage defined as a union between one man and one women
10. Commission selecting Supreme Court Judges should be divided evenly by party
These are just a few of the bills that I have submitted. We should be able to create good positive policy for the state this year. I am truly looking forward to this challenge. Thanks for electing me to be your voice!
Dan Huseman, Aurelia, State Representative from the 53 District
The first session of the 84th General Assembly convened on January 10th, 2011 at 10:00 A.M. The atmosphere in the House chamber was, as usual, festive and up beat as lawmakers mingled and got reacquainted. The political climate in Iowa has changed as Republicans have regained the majority in the House of Representatives, and Terry Branstad will once again serve as Governor. Democrats continue to hold the majority in the Iowa Senate by a small margin. The people of Iowa decided at the voting booth that state government was headed in the wrong direction and a change was needed. Now that this has happened, it is time for lawmakers to abide by the wishes of the people.
As a member of the majority party, I am once again going to become a committee chair. This will be my second stint as head of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals budget sub-committee. As in the past, my goal is to put together a fair and honest budget, treating all committee members with respect. Keeping members informed produces the best legislation, and makes the process run smoothly. I look forward to working with the minority to do what is best for the citizens of Iowa.
Governor Chet Culver delivered his final Condition of the State address on Tuesday morning, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court spoke on Wednesday. Other time was spent in caucus, organizing committees and establishing schedules. Governor Branstad takes the oath of office on Friday morning, and he will submit his budget to the Legislature later this month.
As the session unfolds, Republicans and Democrats will work together on common issues such as economic development, job creation, education, healthcare and the state budget. There will be disagreements and differing viewpoints, but I am convinced we can have a successful session. This is what our constituents expect of us.
My committee assignments are Agriculture, Transportation and Appropriations.
Your opinions and ideas are important to me. Please feel free to contact me at any time. It is an honor to serve as your Representative in Des Moines, and I welcome your comments and suggestions.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson, District 27
The Anderson Report
Following one of the most historic elections in Iowa history, the 2011 Iowa legislative session convened this week with a sense of renewed excitement. This election was historic in the sense that many new legislators and a new governor were elected, but also historic in the undeniable and unmistakable message that the voters conveyed in November. I began my legislative career on Monday, joined by my wife, Angie, and children, Joseph and Eva, as I was sworn in as your state senator for District 27.
The three standing committees on which I serve all held organizational meetings this week. My committee assignments are Labor and Business, Commerce, and Ways and Means. We had introductions of members, adopted rules, and I was assigned my first bill in the Ways and Means Committee. I am excited to gain valuable experience as we begin subcommittee work on that bill.
House Republicans passed a major policy initiative this week with HSB1, the Taxpayer’s First Act. The bill reduces state spending by more than half a billion dollars (net) over the next three years; and in addition, sets aside $327 million in a Tax Relief Fund so that any additional one-time money the state receives at year-end goes to the taxpayer first rather than more government spending. Savings will come from the elimination of funding for wasteful projects such as heated sidewalks and taxpayer-funded lobbyists. The bill also contains a provision that would require state employees to pay a portion of their health insurance and restricts state spending on office supplies. I fully support the efforts of my colleagues in the House to reduce the size and cost of government.
We must now work together to pass a sustainable and responsible budget that funds the core essential services of government and reflects the priorities of our state. We must accomplish this without continuing to shift burden onto local governments and must end the past practice of using one-time dollars for ongoing expenditures.
Governor Culver’s Condition of the State Address was held on Tuesday in a joint session of the legislature. My fellow senators and I convened in the House of Representatives. Having been chosen by the Senate Minority leader, I was designated as the Republican senator who escorted Governor Culver into the House chamber. Culver proceeded to give his remarks and although well-intentioned, the Governor’s comments are somewhat distorted. Under his tenure, Iowa bonded on the backs of our grandchildren, spent more than we took in, and virtually wiped out Iowa’s rainy day funds. As Iowa still faces a long and tough economic road to recovery, Senate Republicans are committed to being the fiscal voice of reason.
On Wednesday, interim Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady gave the annual Condition of the Judiciary Address in another joint session. The Chief Justice made his comments, and while his remarks were well received by some, the justices continue to fail to recognize the will of everyday citizens. As shown in the November elections, Iowans made their voice clear, and they intend to be heard by all branches of government.
Upcoming Town Hall Meetings:
Marcus Town Hall
9:00AM to 10:00AM
City Hall, South Meeting Room
Cherokee Town Hall
11:00AM to 12:00PM
Sioux City Town Hall
10:00AM to 11:00AM
11:30AM to 12:30PM
Dwayne Alons, Hull, State Representative, District 4
The first week of session is filled with all legislators settling in to the specific place in the chamber where much time will be spent reviewing bills, contacting constituents by telephone or e-mail and debating and voting on bills. Each legislator attends introductory committee meetings to meet the new members and discuss possible topics of legislation that could come forward. In addition to that the first Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are devoted to speeches in the House chamber by the Governor and Chief Supreme Court Justice.
Governor Culver gave the first speech. He painted a very rosy picture of the State by concentrating on things like renewable energy, children in Iowa having medical insurance coverage because of HAWK-I; preschool numbers; and relatively low unemployment. However, we must deal with reality.
Little was said of his signature on the four largest budgets in State history, forcing a $500 million property tax increase, borrowing over $800 million that will be double to pay back, and leaving a $700 million spending gap for the new governor and legislators.
The debate and questions about the current preschool program are not about the value of preschool. The problem is that the current preschool program is simply too expensive. The state does not have the money to maintain it. Iowans were able to send their children to preschool four years ago, and they will continue to be able to do that after this legislature crafts a more affordable preschool system.
The Power Fund is a stimulus program the state can’t afford mainly due to the spending gap created by the use of over $700 million in one-time dollars in the state’s budget. With that kind of hole, many programs will have to be changed or eliminated.
There are 110,000 Iowans are out of work – that’s about 50,000 more or 3% higher unemployment than January 2007. Spending taxpayer money, picking winners and losers and starting more government programs obviously is not working. Employers, big and small, need more certainty, simpler regulations and lower taxes, not taxpayer bailouts. Government should move out of the way to allow employers to start hiring again.
The second speech was given by Senior Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady – the person writing the court decision on “same sex” marriage. He started out by painting a bleak picture of the courts being able to fulfill the mission of providing access to justice for the people of Iowa. Blame was cast on the cuts to the budget between 2001 and 2009. Staffing was reduced by 17% and that reduced number of people has to deal with double the number of cases. The point was made that justices maintain a personal touch – it can’t all be done by computers.
Judge Cady then tried to speak to the decision given on the Varnum v. Brien case, but it reverted into a lecture on the lack of understanding by many in the legislature and the people of the state about our Constitution. He made a point of the Courts “standing with principle” and not with public opinion. However, no mention was made of standing with the principles in the Constitution based on the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” At one point Judge Cady mentioned that “ultimately this issue will be settled by the people,” but he made no recommendation to the legislature that the process should begin. As I have said before, the courts are independent of the other two branches of government, but they are not independent of the people. The people are still in charge of what is Constitutional.
Appropriations Committee Approves Taxpayers First Act
The Taxpayers First Act is the first delivery on House Republicans’ campaign promises to reduce spending and the size of government. House Republicans were serious about our efforts over the last two years and believe the taxpayer should come first and the state should not spend more than it takes in. That road starts with this bill.
The key elements include:
•Creation of a Taxpayer Relief Fund (TRF) This will change the law so that the first dollar after the cash reserves are full will go to the taxpayer rather than more government spending. What is at stake with this component of the bill is the projected $318 million ending balance. House Republicans believe this one time money should not be used for additional spending - but should be returned to the taxpayer -- it’s Iowans’ money first.
•Two-Year Budget Governor Branstad campaigned on a two-year budget for the state and has indicated that he will insist on a two-year budget. House Republicans have indicated that we will deliver a two-year budget after our budget reforms are signed into law - including a limit on transfer authority and a process that does not abdicate the legislative authority to appropriate funds. This bill puts in motion the process to have the REC set an estimate so we can develop a two year budget. House Republicans will use the two-year budget to fund the long-term tax reductions made possible by the TRF and fund minimal growth in essential areas such as public safety, Medicaid and education.
•De-Appropriations The bill deappropriates just over $500 million from all funds over a three year period. This is the first step to fiscal responsibility and eliminating the spending gap projected to be around $700 million for next year using the December REC figure and built-in expenditures for next year.
•Establish Priorities The bill provides two supplemental appropriations - funded from reductions in the current year rather than spending down the ending balance. The bill puts in place a $25 million appropriation for 18 months to eliminate the mental health wait lists in Iowa and at the same time, puts in motion the process that will be started immediately in the House to redesign the mental health delivery system in Iowa. The second supplemental will fund the underfunded expense for indigent defense. Both areas are priority needs to deliver necessary services to Iowans within the resources the state has available.
The bill was approved on a 15-10 party-line vote and is scheduled for debate on Wednesday, January 19. A public hearing has been called for Tuesday, Jan. 18th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in the House chamber. Iowans can call (515) 281-5129 to sign up to speak.
Veterans Day on the Hill
Veterans Day at the Capitol will be on Wednesday, January 19th. The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs will be available to discuss the latest veteran-related legislative priorities. Also in attendance will be representatives from Veteran Service Organizations. This will also be an opportunity for veterans to discuss current issues with their State Representatives.
The schedule for Veterans is as follows:
7:00-9:00 Legislative Reception
10:00-10:30 Veterans Day Program (Capitol Rotunda)
Governor Brandstad (Invited)
Chair, Senate Veterans Committee
Chair, House Veterans Committee
Ranking Member, Senate Veterans Committee
Ranking Member, House Veterans Committee
Brig. Gen. Timothy Orr, Iowa National Guard
10:30- Noon Veterans visit elected official and discuss legislative priorities
Noon Veterans Depart Capitol
January Legislative Forums
January 29, Rock Rapids Forster Community Bldg., 8:00 a.m.
January 29, Sheldon TEA Party Forum, Sheldon Community Bldg., 10:15 a.m.
(Content of legislators' reports is as submitted to KLEM. The newsletters have NOT been edited for content or length)
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