Newsletters from NW Iowa legislators
Week four of the 2011 Iowa General Assembly was again filled with committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, and floor debate in the Iowa House. Information on all the bills, amendments, and floor action can be found on the Iowa General Assembly web at: www.legis.iowa.gov. Three very significant pieces of legislation were passed in the Iowa House this week:
"HJR 6 - Allows the Iowa Marriage Amendment to come before the people of Iowa for a vote. This bill passed with bipartisan support, 62-37 and moves to the Senate for their consideration.
"HF 149 - Strengthens Iowa's Right to Work law by creating an economic climate conducive to job creation. Business recruitment, tourism, and promotional literature will again identify Iowa as a right-to-work state so prospective employers know we are a business friendly state. HF 149 passed with bipartisan support, 65-34 and moves to the Senate for their consideration.
"HF 111 - Opposes the federal health care reform bill to prevent Iowa citizens from being required to purchase government-approved health insurance. HF 111 passed on a party line vote of 59-39 and moves to the Senate for their consideration.
House Approves The Health Care Freedom Act
As mentioned above, the Iowa House took the first step in responding to Iowans' opposition of the federal health care reform bill by passing a bill that would prevent citizens from being required to purchase government-approved health insurance. HF 111, asserts the state's rights under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, which limits the power of the federal government. The focus of this issue is the "individual mandate" that requires all Americans to have government-approved health care coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty.
HF 111 provides Iowans to have the right to choose private health care systems or private health care plans. The bill also states that no law can interfere with an Iowan's right to pay for lawful medical services, and that no law can impose a fee, tax, or penalty upon an Iowan for declining or failing to participate in any particular health care system or plan. The bill is based on state law in Virginia that challenged the federal law last spring. In December, a federal judge ruled that the individual mandate requirement violated the Tenth Amendment's limitation on federal power. This week, another federal judge in Florida declared the national health care law unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause. Twenty-six states, including Iowa, participated in this lawsuit.
Legislation Introduced to Restrict EPC's Rule-Making Authority
HF 112 and HSB 48 were introduced this week by the House Republicans and would restrict the authority of the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). HF 112 adds an additional requirement to EPC rule making authority that qualifies that any administrative rule that the EPC adopts must also be approved by the director of the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). HSB 48, would strip the EPC as well as the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) of their rule making authority. This bill leaves both panels with advice and recommendation roles with the rule making authority being shifted to the director of the DNR.
Over the last several years each panel have overstepped their authority. They have taken upon themselves to implement rules rather than go through the legislative process for the adoption of rules and regulation. The legislature's role is to direct, delegate and/or change state statutes with the detail needed to implement state and federal law. In several instances, the EPC has adopted rules or took action that was in part contrary to DNR director, staff, and departmental legal advice. On a couple of occasions their actions conflicted with the existing Iowa Code provisions. Both bills have been assigned to a subcommittee for further review.
Redistricting Starts in Iowa
Iowa will soon begin the process of redrawing the congressional and state legislative districts. This only happens every ten years, after census data becomes available. The states will begin receiving the data required in the redistricting process in the next couple weeks. Iowa's redistricting process is unique. Some states have appointed commissions to draw their district lines, while other states rely on the courts to settle disputes over political advantage in their various proposals. Iowa uses the non-partisan Legislative Service Agency to create its congressional and legislative plans. Our process is somewhat complicated, but very fair and effective.
The first redistricting "plan" must be delivered to the General Assembly within 45 days if the census data is received on or after February 15. If the data is received before Feb. 15, they have until April 1st. The plan cannot be amended and must be voted on by one of the legislative chambers.
If the legislature fails to pass the first plan, a second plan must be delivered to the General Assembly within 35 days of the rejection of the first plan. The second plan can be considered seven days after receiving it. Again, the bill must be voted on by one of the legislative chambers.
If the second plan fails, the third plan must be delivered to the General Assembly within 35 days of the rejection of the second plan. Again, the third plan can be considered seven days after its receiving it but can now be amended in the same manner as all other bills.
A plan must be adopted by the General Assembly by September 1, 2011 and signed by the Governor by September 15. If this does not occur, the Iowa Supreme Court is given the power to create the redistricting plan. In 1981, the third plan was enacted without amendment. In 1991, the first plan was enacted, and in 2001, the second plan was enacted. More information on redistricting can be found at: http://www.legis.iowa.gov/Resources/Redist/redistricting.aspx.
As we work on various issues, I would love to hear from you. Senator Feenstra and I will be holding our next joint legislative forums on February 12th at the following locations to discuss various issues concerning the Iowa Legislature:
"Le Mars Public Library at 9:30 AM
"Orange City City Hall at 11:00 AM
"Hawarden City Hall at 1:00 PM
"Akron Public Library at 2:30 PM
State Senator Randy Feenstra, Hull:
Overview: 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
Loyalty Trumps the Voice of Iowans
This past week the Iowa House passed the marriage amendment resolution. This would allow the Iowans to vote on what the definition of marriage should be. The House amendment passed 62-37 with three Democrats voting with all the Republicans. The bill now moves to the Senate.
The Des Moines Register noted on February 2nd, that several Senate Democrats who supported the marriage amendment in the past have now proclaimed that their loyalty to Majority Leader Mike Gronstal is more important than the vote to support the marriage amendment.
Citizens of Iowa, this statement is incomprehensible. Each person in the Senate was elected to serve the people of Iowa. However, it seems a few believe they are here to serve their leader.
Only one Senate Democrat stated that he would support the marriage amendment and would sign on to the bill. He is Senator Joe Seng from Davenport. His Senate district is highly Democrat, yet he simply says it’s a personal issue to him. Thank you, Senator Seng for having the fortitude to stand up for your own personal beliefs and to your leader!
Bills That Were Debated This Week
This past week the Senate was engaged in committee work which created the following bills below. These bills will now be debated on the Senate floor.
•SF 78 - A bill allowing the operation of motorcycles equipped with detachable stabilizing rear wheels on Iowa roads. •SF 93 - A bill enhancing the penalty for certain domestic abuse assault cases.
•SF 7 - A bill for providing for a .08 blood alcohol limit for operating motorboats. This bill is okay; however, I tried to create an amendment that would allow a person to be exempt from this rule if they are out on their own personal farm pond.
EPA Needs to be Shutdown
The State of Iowa gets 80% of its DNR funding (Department of Natural Resources) from the Federal Government. Iowa’s DNR is worried that they will lose some of this funding if they don’t submit to the ideas and rules of the EPA. (Federal Environmental Protection Agency)
The EPA has rule making power that expands to all states in the nation. It further pushes its power by controlling the money it gives to each state. This is a complete over-reach of power!
State Representative Dan Huseman, Aurelia:
Week four of this legislative session is history. Several bills passed the House this week and are now facing an uncertain future in the Senate. Even though the weather here in central Iowa was bad, lawmakers were able to keep their schedules as well as their promises.
One such promise was the passage of House Joint Resolution 6, also known as the Marriage Amendment. On Monday evening, the public was invited to the House Chamber to comment on the proposed resolution. As you may recall, the Iowa Supreme Court overrode the will of the people and provided for marriage between people of the same sex. This resolution declares that marriage is only legal and valid if it is between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court ruling did not allow the Legislature to make changes to the previous code language. Therefore, many Iowans have demanded they have a say in this issue, and have asked lawmakers to begin the process of changing the State Constitution. That begins with putting the issue on the ballot and letting citizens decide what is best. That is basically what this resolution does. It is not discrimination as some have claimed. The proposal simply lets the people of Iowa have a vote. The resolution passed easily and will now head for the Senate, where several Majority Party leaders have vowed to kill it. I supported the resolution.
On Wednesday, the House passed HF 149, which is also known as the “Iowa is a Right to Work State” bill. The bill is pretty simple. It requires the Department of Economic Development to include the phrase “Iowa is a Right to Work State” in bold letters on all business recruitment and promotional literature. The department may also put the wording on tourism material. This is not something new. These words used to be on our economic development materials, but were removed by a former Governor. The bill seeks to put this wording back. I supported the bill and it now goes to the Senate.
House File 111 also passed the House on Wednesday. This is really a simple bill as well, but it deals with a huge issue - the Federal healthcare legislation. The bill asserts the state’s rights under the 10th amendment to maintain control over health insurance. It would also prevent Iowans from being forced to purchase health insurance, as the federal law now requires.
HF 111 creates a new section on Iowa Code chapter 1, which deals with the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the State of Iowa. The new section would say that Iowans have the right to choose private healthcare systems or private healthcare plans. Finally, no law can impose a fee, tax or penalty upon an Iowan for declining or failing to participate in any healthcare system or plan. The federal healthcare law is moving through the court system right now and will most likely be decided by the U. S. Supreme Court. I supported this legislation.
Iowa’s economic picture seems to be brightening a bit. Latest numbers from Iowa Workforce Development show that the unemployment rate has dropped from 6.6% to 6.3%. While that doesn’t seem like much, we are headed in the right direction. Three years ago, the unemployment rate was 3.7%, so we still have about 106,500 people out of work. In our area, Lyon and Sioux Counties have the lowest rates at 3.4% and 3.7% respectively.
The latest revenue estimates also look better and much of this growth is being attributed to a strong agricultural economy. We are all hopeful for a robust recovery, but know there is still a long way to go.
Week five will bring a debate on allowable growth for schools, and several tax bills which have passed from the Ways and Means Committee.
Representative Dwayne Alons, Hull:
Income and Property Tax Relief Measures on the Move
House File 4, which calls for a 20% across the board cut to individual income tax rates, was unanimously approved by subcommittee last week. The last major tax relief measure signed into law was a 10% across the board cut in 1997. According to a study by the Tax Foundation, Iowa is ranked in the bottom ten for individual income tax rates. Iowa received low scores due to high rates and a progressive bracket structure.
According to the Tax Foundation these states have the worst business climates:
CA, MN, IA, OH, NY, NC, MD, NJ, RI, CT
According to the Tax Foundation study these ten states have the best tax climates:
MT, AK, NV, WY, SD, IN, NH, TX, FL, DE
States that do not impose an individual income tax received high scores, as well as states that have a flat, low tax rate with few deductions and exemptions. States that scored poorly have complex, multiple rate systems. The bill was approved on a bipartisan vote in full committee and now moves to the floor of the house.
House Study Bill 41, which establishes a school district property tax relief supplement for Fiscal Year 2012, was also approved on a bipartisan vote in full committee and will move to the floor of the house.
The previous two legislatures have not fully-funded allowable growth, thus pushing the burden to Iowa property tax payers. If the House passes zero percent allowable growth while fully-funding it, there still is property tax impact of $70 million.
Of that $70 million, $47 million of the increase would come from the budget guarantee. This bill would address the budget guarantee portion and protect Iowa property taxpayers from the full increase. The budget guarantee last year totaled $25 million, and the increase for FY 2012 is projected to be $22 million for a total of $47 million.
The Department of Management will notify each school district the amount they will receive and an appropriation will be made from the general fund. In addition, school districts that receive a property tax relief supplement are prohibited from levying additional property taxes, and the money must be used in the same manner and purpose that property taxes would have been used for.
Federal Healthcare Law Ruled Unconstitutional
The much-anticipated ruling of a Florida court in the multi-state challenge to the federal health care reform law arrived on Monday. The Florida court threw out the entire law and put the Obama administration’s plans for implementation into question.
As many legal experts anticipated, Judge Roger Vinson found that the law’s provision requiring all Americans to have health care coverage violated the Constitution’s limits on federal power over commerce. But these same experts were surprised that the judge focused on a factor that has not been as prominent in the discussion over the individual mandate - regulating inactivity.
Vinson found that the law was setting up federal regulation of inactivity, in this situation the decision by Americans to not purchase health insurance or sign up for Medicaid. Judge Vinson made an interesting analogy in discussing his belief that Congress’s actions went beyond the founders’ intent:
It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.
The Hudson ruling had found the individual mandate was unconstitutional, but allowed the rest of the bill to move forward. To the surprise of many legal scholars, Vinson threw out the whole law, because the bill lacked a severability clause.
Without the severability clause, Judge Vinson ruled that the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate rendered the whole bill unconstitutional. While Vinson threw out the whole bill, he did not issue an injunction to stop the federal government and the states from implementing the provisions of the bill. This means the Obama administration is free to continue implementation of the bill.
The decision has created confusion amongst the states as to their next move. In Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said for his state the federal law is “dead.” But Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has been silent about the ruling. In other states, officials continue to move forward with implementation.
Bills Passed This Week
HF 149 passed the House on Wednesday. The bill promotes Iowa’s Right-to-Work status by including that statement on all state marketing tools. HF 149 ensures the state begins to market one of its most valuable tools – our Right-to Work status. When companies sit down with state officials to determine whether or not they want to locate here, one of the first questions they ask is, “Is Iowa a Right-to-Work state?” That statement alone gives a welcoming approach to relocating companies.
HF 111, called the Health Care Freedom Act, also passed from the House on Wednesday. The bill ensures Iowans that the federal government will not control their health insurance. The bill prevents Iowans from being forced to purchase health insurance, mandated by the overreaching federal health care legislation passed last year. HF 111 stops this measure based on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that the mandate to purchase a government sanctioned health insurance policy is unconstitutional. Small businesses and individuals should not be subject to a fine, fee or penalty for not purchasing a government mandated policy.
HJR 6 was approved in the House on Tuesday. Following a well-attended public hearing on Monday evening, the resolution to place the definition of marriage as the only union between a man and a woman that is valid in Iowa on a future ballot was debated and passed. After a three hour debate, the final bi-partisan vote was 62-27 with one absent. We believe it is important for this issue to be decided by the people since there is a difference between the Supreme Court decision and the latest printed version of the Iowa Code. The Court opinion did not strike the definition of marriage in the Code, Chapter 595.2(1). Our Legislative Services Agency recognized that separation of powers. The definition can only be stricken or changed by legislative action and a signature of the governor, not smiling agreement by one political party, which is what happened when the Culver administration was in charge.
February 4, Sioux Center Pizza Ranch, 12:00 noon
February 11, Rock Valley, Cedar Rock Grill, 12:00 noon
February 18, Hull, Pizza Ranch, 12:00 noon
February 25, Inwood, Market Place Grille, 12:00 noon
February 26, Rock Rapids Forster Community Bldg., 8:00 am, “Eggs and Issues”
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