Sunday, October 26, 2014
   
Text Size
Banner

Weekly reports from Legislators

As we move into the last weeks of the Iowa General Assembly, week twelve was the second legislative deadline when most of the policy committees must be completed with their work. This means the number of bills that remain eligible for consideration yet this year were further reduced. Information on all the bills, amendments, and floor action can be found on the Iowa General Assembly web at: www.legis.iowa.gov.

Job Creation and Cost Saving Bills Stalled in the Senate

The Senate majority party has shown no signs of moving a number of key spending reforms and job creation bills approved by the Iowa House. Iowans sent a clear message last fall. They wanted this state to take a different direction than we had experienced over the last four years when the status quo meant more spending, more programs, and more government. Several key bills stalled in the Senate include:

"HF 45 - The Taxpayer's First Act reduced spending the current fiscal year (FY 2011) by $500 million and established the Tax Relief Fund (TRF). The TRF captures any state revenue that remains after expenditures and after the reserve accounts are full. Essentially, it is money that Iowans overpaid in taxes. Senate Democrats responded by gutting the bill when they eliminated $490 million of the $500 million in spending cuts. The TRF remains alive in on-going negotiations with the Senate Democrats.
"HF 2 - The Health Care Freedom Act maintains the right for Iowans to choose private health care systems or private health care plans. Additionally, they would not have to pay any penalty, tax, fee, or fine for declining or failing to participate in any particular health care system or plan as defined in the National Health Care bill that President Obama signed into law last year.
"HF 149 - This bill reiterates Iowa's commitment to our Right to Work law by requiring that all the state's economic development material advertise the fact that Iowa is a Right to Work state. Iowa's Right to Work law has been under attack the last four years.
"HF 4 - This bill establishes a 20% across the board state income tax cut. The top rate, which is all income exceeding $45,000, is reduced from 8.98% to 7.18%.
"HF 525 - The Collective Bargaining Reform primarily focuses on the scope of negotiations and the arbitration process. The bill relieves a labor organization the responsibility to cover employees within their collective bargaining units. Since 2007, the public employee unions have bitterly complained about the requirement that they must represent non-union workers. This bill accommodates their concern. The bill makes it clear they no longer have that responsibility. The bill also allows arbitrators to find middle ground between management's offer and the union's offer. This flexibility will save the Iowa taxpayers money.
"HF 148 - This budget reform restricts the amount a Governor can transfer within the budget without legislative approval. It also changes how the state estimates revenue for budgeting purposes.
"Administrative rules reform has also been passed to ease burden on Iowa employers including:
HF 324 - State rules can go no further than Federal requirements.
HF 323 - Environmental Protection Commission quorum and rule limitation.
"The House also blocked efforts to move four significant labor bills that were pushed last year - Fair Share, Open Scope Bargaining, Doctor Shopping and Prevailing Wage.

House Passes Economic Development Department Reorganization Bill

On March 30th, the House passed HF 590 with bipartisan support and now moves to the Senate for their consideration. The bill reorganizes the Department of Economic Development into a new public Economic Development Authority, a private non-profit Corporation, and a vision board known as the Partnership for Economic Progress. The new makeup of the economic development arm of government will allow for a lean, more timely and flexible approach to economic development in Iowa. This bill is one of the Governor's top priorities and is necessary in order to leverage public and private dollars to expand job creation in Iowa.

Late Term Abortion Ban Passes the House

HF 657, a bill that prohibits the abortion of an unborn child that has reached the post fertilization age of 20 weeks passed the House on March 31st with bipartisan support and now moves to the Senate for their consideration. As mentioned last week, the bill establishes that a physician who performs one of these late-term abortions would be charged with a class C felony and the medical facility that allowed the prohibited abortion to be performed could lose its license and eligibility for state funding. The bill includes an exception to the ban when a physician deems a medical emergency exists and it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother.

The Nebraska abortionist, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, announced last fall that he would like to move his practice to Iowa by opening a clinic in Council Bluffs. The facility would perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. If passed by the Senate, this legislation would outlaw abortions in Iowa after 20 weeks, effectively banning Carhart from practicing in Iowa.

House Passes Bill to Ease Development Burden

A bill correcting a problem many communities and developers are faced with, now known as HF 655, passed the House on March 31st with a vote of 83-13 and moves to the Senate for their consideration. Currently, Iowa law states that once a development has been platted, the property is taxed at a higher value after three years even though it may not have been permanently improved. The bill corrects several key issues - it strikes the 3 year limitation on platted properties and allows the property to be taxed as an undeveloped land until a permanent structure is constructed, it allows the new assessment process to be used on all subdivisions plats recorded after January 1, 2004, and it applies to assessment years beginning January 1, 2011.

With the construction slowdown, many developers and contractors have lots they cannot sell but are still required to pay the higher property taxes after three years. This situation has forced a number of developers and homebuilders statewide to abandon platted properties once the three years has expired and the property taxes are raised. This problem has occurred in Plymouth County.

As we work on various issues, I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments or know someone who would like to receive my electronic newsletter via email, please feel free to reach me during the week at (515)-281-3221, on weekends at (712)-546-6136 or email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

State Senator Randy Feenstra, Hull:

Out of Control Bureaucracy

Being Ranking Member of State Government, I see an endless number of appointments that need to be approved by this committee. As I was signing some of these appointments for approval, I realized how Iowans and the legislature no longer have control of government.

Iowa has 175 boards and commissions. Most of these boards and commissions have some form of rulemaking ability, or have the ability to administer policy. The legislature rarely gets involved in this area as administrative law becomes the arm that tries to reign in unconstitutional rules and creates a framework for due process.

I am sure people could argue that all 175 boards have a purpose. However, the voice of society has become muted by the efforts of all the boards and commissions doing their own thing without the purview of the legislature.

The only power the legislature has is to approve the people that sit on these boards. The governor in charge, at the time, is the person that submits the names to the Senate. These boards become highly political because of the submission and approval process.

It’s time we take back our voice and return to a point where the representative body (the legislature) creates rules and policies!

Redistricting Map

On March 31st the first official redistricting map was presented to the legislature. This change in legislative districts occurs every ten years. It has been noted that Iowa is recognized as having one of the best redistricting processes in the county.

The plan, whether accepted or rejected, has to be voted on. Each chamber must pass the plan with a majority and the Governor must sign in order for the plan to be adopted. If the first plan is rejected, the Legislative Service Agency has to deliver a second plan and possibly a third.

The new map shows that my district (Senate District 2) would pick up Cherokee and O’Brien Counties and lose Lyon and Plymouth Counties. However, we will have to see how the process plays out. There are seven Senate districts that have no current seated Senator. The maps also show the federal congressional seats have changed. Congressmen King and Latham are put together and Loebsack and Brailey are in the same district.

This creates a new twist in Iowa politics. Both parties will need to decide if they can live with the new districts for the next ten years. This map has significant policy implications if one party has an advantage. It can create a more liberal or conservative agenda based on who can get elected from each party.

Forums: Friday, April 8th, Inwood noon; Saturday, April 9th, Orange City-8:30, Maurice-10:00, LeMars- 11:30, Akron-1:00, Hawarden-2:30pm

Please feel free to contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . If you would like to read my comments on a daily basis, you can go to my web-site at www.newgenerationrepublican.com.

Representative Dwayne Alons, Hull:

Abandoned Power Projects Cost Iowa $10.2 Billion of Investment, Thousands of Jobs

As Iowans discuss the possibility of additional power generation being constructed in the state, a new national report shows the impact on state economies when power projects are not built.

The United States Chamber of Commerce last week released “Progress Denied: A Study on the Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects”. Their study found that over the past decade, 351 different energy-related projects had been stopped by issues related to receiving permitting approval by state and federal regulators.

For Iowa, the Chamber identified four different projects proposed for construction in Iowa that did not occur due to regulatory road blocks. The best known of these would be the proposed Alliant power generation facility that was slated to be constructed outside of Marshalltown. This project, which was proposed to replace an existing coal-fired plant in the area, was shelved in 2009 when state regulators continued to impose new requirements on the company in order to proceed.

One of the other uncompleted projects was LS Power’s proposal for a 750 megawatt generation facility outside of Waterloo. This project was proposed in 2007, but immediately ran into regulatory barriers imposed at the state and local level. In 2009, LS Power announced its intention to abandon the project. The other power projects identified in the report were the Big River Resources Ethanol plant proposed for Grinnell and the Green River Express transmission lines that were to move electrical power from South Dakota to Chicago.

Constructing these four projects would have brought 19,300 jobs to Iowa and an investment of $10.2 billion dollars. The annual economic output of just these four projects would have been $1.1 billion, with $200 million of that going out in salaries and benefits to the 5,400 permanent jobs that would have been created if they had been built.

The report clearly shows that meeting the power needs of American businesses and consumers has tremendous impact on the economy. As federal policy moves to limit the options for power generation, meeting these needs has the potential to be a major driver in the economic recovery of Iowa and the nation.

House File 561 is the next step in the process to see if bringing new technology through nuclear power to Iowa is the right approach for meeting the state’s need for electricity for the next 50 years. People are going to have to understand that the cost of power will increase, no matter what happens. With the federal government making it very difficult to build new coal-fired plants and reluctance to use natural gas as a fuel source, we are going to have to find other ways to generate power. The nuclear bill gives us an option for the Utilities Board to consider. House File 561 DOES NOT direct MidAmerican Energy to build a new power plant. The bill authorizes the Iowa Utilities Board to do an analysis of such a project to determine if it is in the best interest of Iowan’s today and in the future. We should not let a natural disaster in Japan block the way for the last option for electrical generation to be built.

Late Term Abortion Ban

HF 657 prohibits abortion of an unborn child that has reached the post fertilization age of 20 weeks. A physician who performed one of these abortions would be charged with a class C felony, and a medical facility that allowed the prohibited abortion to be performed could lose is licensure and eligibility for state funding. The bill includes an exception to the ban when a medical emergency exists. This is defined as being necessary to prevent the death of the mother or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. The bill includes language clearly stating the provision does not create a right to an abortion, nor does it establish that life begins at 20 weeks after fertilization. Instead, the bill recognizes that life begins at conception. The bill moved from the House on a 59 to 39 vote to the Senate.

Changes for Iowa’s Disability Services System

Reforming Iowa’s mental health system picked up steam last week as a House Republican working group on the issue unveiled an initial proposal for improving the system. Beginning in FY 2013, the state would assume responsibility for services to adults with mental illness, children with serious emotional disturbances, and children and adults who have co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Under the House Republican proposal, DHS would be the agency in charge of overseeing the services. They would contract with lead agencies in six regions around the state to provide the services. Lead agencies would work with the community mental health centers (CHMC) in the state. The regions would be based on the current catchment areas for the Comprehensive Substance Abuse Treatment program. This would help promote the need for interaction and cooperation between mental health and substance abuse providers in treating those with co-occurring disorders.

Each region would have at least one CMHC, and under the proposal any CMHC or other mental health provider that meets the criteria set by the state would be eligible to provide mental health services covered by the program. Lead agencies would be prohibited from preventing Iowans from selecting to receive services from any willing provider in their region. To ensure people are getting the proper level of service, an agency independent of the lead agency would be responsible for performing a functional assessment on Iowans seeking services.

Selection of the lead agency would be done through an RFP process that would occur in FY 2012. A transition committee of stakeholders in the process is established at the same time to address issues that come up as the Department and providers prepare for this change. For the intellectual disability system, the Legislature and other parties would continue to work on transitioning the system in the 2012 legislative session.

Two important steps are taken in the House proposal to address funding issues for the system. First, the proposal establishes a Disability Services System Redesign Savings Fund to capture savings generated by steps taken during this process. These funds are reinvested back into the system to provide funding service improvements.

Secondly, the proposal calls for the state to increase the funding it provides through the property tax relief fund by $125 million over the next three years. Beginning in FY 2014, counties would no longer levy for mental health services.


The House Republican proposal also recognizes that the state of Iowa currently does not have a coordinated system of mental health services for children. To address this, the proposal begins the process of developing a system of mental health services for Iowa’s children. The proposal calls for the creation of multiple levels of care that Iowa’s Psychiatric Medical Institutes for Children (PMIC’s) would be allowed to provide. This step would allow the state to bring home children and young adults who have been sent to other states for treatment and services not currently available in Iowa.

Please provide feedback on this proposal. It appears to be moving away from local control for mental health services that seems to be working in northwest Iowa.
Redistricting

The redistricting maps are out. Changes for House District 4 move the lines back to within the borders of Sioux County for the first plan. Lyon County and Boyden would no longer be in House District 4, but the southern row of townships that include Granville, Alton, Orange City, Ireton, Maurice, and Hawarden would now be included. This plan will be reviewed by the public and comments will be received in public hearings during the next 2 weeks. The redistricting commission will conduct public hearings: Monday in Council Bluffs, Tuesday in Bettendorf, Wednesday in Cedar Rapids and April 7 in Des Moines.

The commission will submit its report to the legislature, which must vote on the plan “expeditiously,” according to state law. However, lawmakers must wait at least three days before voting.

If the plan is not accepted by the legislature — in 1981 it took the third plan while in 1991, lawmakers accepted the first plan and in 2001 approved the second map — LSA will prepare a second plan. Neither the first nor second plan can be amended. If a third plan is needed, it can be amended.

If the legislature has not approved a plan by Sept. 15 or if a plan is challenged in court and ruled invalid, the Iowa Supreme Court will establish a plan before Dec. 31, 2011.

For information about the redistricting process or how to participate in the public hearings, visit www.legis.iowa.gov. Look for the Iowa Redistricting tab.

Legislative Forums
April 1, Boyden, Public Library, 10:30 a.m.

April 1, George Pizza Ranch, 12:00 noon

April 8, Inwood, Market Place Grille, 12:00 noon

April 15, Hull Pizza Ranch, 12:00 noon

Represenative Dan Huseman, Aurelia:

This legislative session is scheduled to end around the first of May. Last year at this time, we were adjourned. How did that happen? Well, last year the Governor and the Majority Party in each chamber were in the “get out of Dodge fast” mode. It was an election year and the budget situation was dire. Polling data showed that Republicans were poised to win the Governor’s race and take the majority in the House. Democrats were being blamed for running the states’ finances into the ground with four years of unsustainable spending. So, the idea was to leave town before anything else bad happened. The majority party took a bunch of one-time money, such as federal stimulus dollars and money from several different funds, plugged a few holes, and went home. They really didn’t solve the main problem of run-a-way over spending.

This year is different. The new Governor has insisted on passing a two-year budget in order to do long range planning, and the new majority in the House has vowed not to spend more than we take in. This takes time and discipline. We have to get things back under control now. The revenue picture in Iowa looks better compared to a year ago, and there is always the temptation to spend any “surplus” money. We are not going to do that this year. The majority party leaders in the Senate have indicated they are willing to spend every penny they can get their hands on. So, there will be intense negotiations, and these take time. We will, in the end, pass a balanced budget without using one-time funding. It will take longer than last year, but I want to get it right. The people of Iowa deserve nothing less.

Budget bills are beginning to move on the House floor, and the first two passed late in the week. The Federal Block Grant bill is flow-through money from Uncle Sam and over half of it goes towards human services. Other users of this money include the Board of Regents, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Defense. This $6.3 billion is more than the state’s general fund budget. It is a lot of money, and every state receives funding. Imagine how many dollars flow through states like New York and California. It is no wonder there is so much fraud and waste.

The other appropriations bill to clear the House is the Department of Transportation’s operations measure. The legislation spends around $350 million for DOT operations and maintenance. This is not concrete and re-rod. This money goes for such things as equipment, salaries, salt, garages and fuel. I was the floor manager for this bill and it passed fairly easily, but not without controversy. Nobody asked me about the numbers, but Democrats were upset that we did a 2-year budget. I’m not really sure why. Oh, they gave their reasons, but they did not really add up. I’m sure we will hear the same complaints on every budget bill.

As Iowans discuss the possibility of additional power generation being constructed in the state, a new national report shows the impact on state economies when power projects are not built.

The United States Chamber of Commerce last week released “Progress Denied: A Study on the Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects”. Their study found that over the past decade, 351 different energy-related projects had been stopped by issues related to receiving permitting approval by state and federal regulators.

For Iowa, the Chamber identified four different projects proposed for construction in Iowa that did not occur due to regulatory road blocks. The best known of these would be the proposed Alliant power generation facility that was slated to be constructed outside of Marshalltown. This project, which was proposed to replace an existing coal-fired fire plant in the area, was shelved in 2009 when state regulators continued to impose new requirements on the company in order to proceed.

One of the other uncompleted projects was LS Power’s proposal for a 750 megawatt generation facility outside of Waterloo. This project was proposed in 2007, but immediately ran into regulatory barriers imposed at the state and local level. In 2009, LS Power announced its intention to abandon the project. The other power projects identified in the report were the Big River Resources Ethanol plant proposed for Grinnell and the Green River Express transmission lines that were to move electrical power from South Dakota to Chicago.

Constructing these four projects would have brought 19,300 jobs to Iowa and an investment of $10.2 billion dollars. The annual economic output of just these four projects would have been $1.1 billion, with $200 million of that going out in salaries and benefits to the 5,400 permanent jobs that would have been created if they had been able to be built.

On a national level, the study found that the construction of the 351 proposed projects would have generated $1.1 trillion in economic activity and 1.9 million construction jobs. Once in operation, 791,000 Americans would have been needed to keep the facilities operating.

The report clearly shows that meeting the power needs of American businesses and consumers has tremendous impact on the economy. As federal policy moves to limit the options for power generation, meeting these needs has the potential to be a major driver in the economic recovery of Iowa and the nation.

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. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



 

Search KLEM

Banner

Banner

Stock Market

1 DOW 16,805.41
+127.51 (0.76%)    
2 S&P 1,964.58
+13.76 (0.71%)    
3 NASDAQ 4,483.71
+30.92 (0.69%)    

Copyright 2010, Powell Broadcasting, Website developed by iCast Interactive