NW Iowa legislators report
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;.
One Day of Session at Taxpayer's Expense
We worked one day this past week, (Thursday, May 12) 8 days since the last time any business was completed in the Senate. We did the Education budget bill and the Department of Health and Human Service budget bill. These two bills passed along party lines. Democrats in support and Republicans against!
Both of these bills were acts of futility as both bills lacked two year budgets and Governor Branstad has made it crystal clear that he would veto all budget bills that do not have two year budgets.
20 Week Abortion Ban Twist
The Senate Democrats and their Majority Leader, Senator Mike Gronstal, have no interest in running the 20 week ban on abortion. Rather, they created a bill called "The Certificate of Need Bill." The bill simply states that new abortion clinics would be required to get a certificate that shows a need that an abortion clinic is necessary in a specific community. This bill pushes the decision to a non-elected board on whether abortion clinics can be opened. This bill allowed the Democrats to dodge the vote on whether abortion after 20 weeks should be banned. Again, politics at play! It simply shows the Democrats have no concerns about this issue.
End of Session
As we gaveled out Thursday night, it was noted that there are no plans for debate next week and it may be several weeks before we come back to session. Senate Majority Leader Gronstal made it clear that this stalemate may last until mid-June and could shut down Iowa government if no agreement is made by June 30th.
The real hold up is the amount that both sides want to spend on the new budget. Republicans have drawn the line that only $5.99 billion - the amount spent in the 2009 budget. The Democrats want $150 million more than this amount.
So, the drama continues to play out. Iowa has never had a government shutdown, I am hoping that this will not be the case; but I also believe Iowa government must have more fiscal restraint. The Republican plan is a start!
A report from Representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars will be available next week.
State Representative Dwayne Alons of Hull:
Current Status of the Appropriations Bills
Here we are in the second week following the scheduled end of session. Not much progress has been made toward finalizing the budget for FY 2012, nor coming to agreement between Governor Branstad and the Senate Democrats over passing a two year budget. The House leadership with the governor has made a good faith attempt to move toward the Senate's total size of the budget by adding about $100 million to the overall spending for 2012. That should have been more than 50% toward settling the difference with the Senate on a $6.1 billion budget proposal, which was $147 million until this week. The Senate unfortunately raised the overall spending number by an additional $170 million making their proposal $6.27 billion, which is more spending than last year and places the budget over the 99% spending limit.
The following information is quite detailed but shows how the budgeting process was not extended by the House. These are all of the budget bills that still need agreement to make it to the governor's desk to complete the 2011 legislative session.
* Administration and Regulation Appropriations - HF 646 - appropriates just over $50 million to the Department of Revenue, Department of Administrative Services, Department of Inspections and Appeals and the statewide elected officers. Status: approved by the House on April 4, approved by the Senate with amendment on April 20, awaiting debate for a second time in House
* Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations - SF 509 - appropriates $32 million from the general fund and $77 million in other funds to Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Status: approved by the Senate on March 21, approved by the House with amendment on April 7, awaiting debate for a second time in the Senate
* Economic Development Appropriations - SF 517 - appropriates nearly $37 million to the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Status: approved by the Senate on April 12, approved by the House with amendment on April 20, awaiting debate for a second time in the Senate
* Education Appropriations - HF 645 - appropriates nearly $800 million to community colleges, private colleges, Regents, teacher salaries and the Department of Education. Status: approved by the House on April 5, amended and passed on May 12 in the Senate and sent back to the House
* Federal Block Grant Appropriations - SF 508 - appropriates $6.3 billion in federal funds to several state agencies. Status: approved by the Senate on March 21, the House added the FY 2013 appropriations and approved the bill on March 31, awaiting debate for a second time in Senate
* Health and Human Services Appropriations - HF 649 - appropriates nearly $1.5 billion to the Department on Aging (IDA), Departments of Public Health (DPH), Human Services (DHS), and Veterans Affairs (IVA), and the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH). Almost the entire increase of nearly $600 million is due to replacing one-time funds in the FY 2011 budget. Status: approved by the House on April 7, amended in the Senate on May 12.
* Judicial Branch (Courts) Appropriations - SF 511 - appropriates $156.4 million in FY 2012 and $159.6 million in FY 2013 to the operations of the judicial branch. Status: originally approved by the Senate on March 23, approved by the House with amendment on April 5, approved by the Senate for a second time on April 20, in the House for a second time awaiting debate
* Justice System Appropriations - SF 510 - appropriates over $500 million in funding for the state's justice system including prisons, state patrol, community-based corrections, Attorney General, public defender and indigent defense. Status: approved by the Senate on March 23, approved by the House with amendment on April 11, awaiting debate for the second time in the Senate
* Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund Appropriations - HF 648 - appropriates over $200 million in funding from Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) for vertical infrastructure projects, the Environment First Fund and other infrastructure-related projects. Status: approved by the House on April 4, approved by the Senate with amendment on May 2, in House awaiting debate
* Standing Appropriations - SF 533 - authorizes the funding for several standing appropriations including over $2.5 billion for K-12 school and $145 million for the property tax credits. Status: approved by the Senate on May 3, amended by the House Appropriations Committee and awaiting debate
* Transportation Appropriations - HF 689 - appropriates $346 million in FY 2012 and $350 million in FY 2013 to the DOT for road construction and maintenance. Status: original version of the bill vetoed by the Governor, HF 689 is on the House calendar awaiting debate
All of these bills cannot move forward until there is agreement on the total size of the "budget pie." House Republicans will insist on approving a budget that spends no more than the state takes in, is sustainable and funds Iowans' priorities while giving the taxpayers a seat at the table.
Property Tax Reform in the Senate
The property tax reform legislation did pass out of the House on Tuesday, so it is now in the Senate. The results of that will be hard to predict right now because the Senate's proposal is so different from what moved out of the House. I believe it will end up in the negotiations with the budget for the completion of the session.
Division 1 of HF 691 gives direct property tax relief to all classes of property because the state picks up the 12.5% of regular foundation aid in the allowable growth factor that normally falls on the property taxpayer. That does not fulfill the desire of the governor to lower the assessed value of commercial/industrial property for tax purposes to 60%, but it does give dollar for dollar tax relief over a 7-year period of implementation to all classes of property. I am hopeful that this portion can be agreed upon.
The remainder of the bill is an attempt to address the increase in property taxes that will occur if nothing changes with the current formula. Because of the productivity of ag land going up over several years with higher commodity prices, residential property will experience tax increases because the roll-back that did dip below 50% will actually become a "roll-up" to possibly as high as 60% of assessed value. The limitation to 2% growth instead of 4%, currently, actually softens the increases that will occur, if nothing happens. The state also plans to assist in the commercial/industrial levy reductions for local governments with $50 million in funding for FY 2014 and increasing that to $250 million in FY 2018 and beyond.
Hopefully, with a more competitive commercial/industrial property tax climate, Iowa will experience business expansion and be able to attract more business and industry into the state. That growth factor will be hard to estimate before it happens, but typically when the taxes are lowered, history shows that we get more of that activity.
There will be an annual review of the effects of the bill should it pass, so there will be opportunities to make adjustments as time goes along. Again, the final outcome may be very different from the House bill, but we must work for reform now because doing nothing will allow property taxes to be raised by over $1.3 billion in the next 5 years.
ObamaCare - Can it be Stopped?
In the recent hearing at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Neal K. Katyal, the Acting Solicitor General, made several shocking statements in defense of ObamaCare's outrageous intrusion into private citizens' affairs. Those admissions will doubtless play a major role in the court's decision at this level and, eventually, at the United States Supreme Court.
The first oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) were given at the federal appeals level. Matt Staver, representing Liberty Counsel, was up against Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice (DOJ) and their virtually unlimited resources.
In arguments that this so-called health insurance "reform" law redistributes wealth among private parties to achieve an alleged humanitarian ideal at an unacceptable cost and is not authorized by the Constitution, the DOJ's response was, "The federal government can mandate anything it wants!" The Acting Solicitor General, also, acknowledged that the law was unlike any other law in American history. He also admitted that he believed Congress COULD force individuals to buy certain kinds of food, for instance, wheat! By the government's own admission, if ObamaCare is upheld Congress would no longer have any limitations on its regulatory power. Today it is health insurance, but tomorrow it could be food, transportation, housing, or whatever! Truly astonishing and CHILLING!
This would be socialism for America, at its worst, with Big Government as the CEO of every business and the dictator of all private choices. Hopefully the courts will be able to uphold the Constitution on this massive legislation because our divided government at the federal level does not seem to be able to move in that direction.
Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson:
THE ANDERSON REPORT
The Senate gaveled in on Thursday of this week to consider two appropriations bills and a handful of bills returned from the House. It doesn't appear that the decision makers are any closer to a consensus as we complete the 18th week of the 2011 General Assembly. I know this has become a reoccurring theme in my newsletter, but it is our reality.
It is uncertain when the session will end. However, I can tell you this, the Senate will be in session next week to consider the Democrat's "certificate of need" bill which is their attempt at addressing late-term abortion. I am deeply disappointed that Senate Democrats are playing political games with the vitally important late-term abortion ban. The Senate Republicans, with two Democrats, submitted a withdraw petition to bring the late-term abortion ban to the floor. The Senate Democrats killed the bi-partisan legislation. The so called "certificate of need" legislation could potentially open our state up to becoming a nationwide haven for late-term abortions.
We have long said this debate is not just about keeping one abortionist out of Council Bluffs - it is about protecting the innocent lives of unborn Iowans in every community.
I believe it is wrong for majority party to continue to obstruct a vote and stand in the way of meaningful Senate debate on this issue and we will continue to demand an up or down vote on a late-term abortion ban this session.
If the majority party opts to listen to the citizens of Iowa and allows a vote on a late-term abortion ban, it will pass the Senate with strong bi-partisan support.
Governor Branstad this week received notification that President Obama has authorized a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for six counties impacted by severe storms, tornadoes, and straight-line winds that occurred on April 9th and 10th, 2011.
The declaration by the President will provide federal funding to Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Pocahontas, and Sac counties under the Public Assistance Program. Public Assistance program funds are available to public entities and select nonprofit agencies to rebuild damaged infrastructure that may include roads, bridges, culverts, and other public facilities, and to cover costs of emergency work and debris removal during the storms.
(Reports are posted as submitted to KLEM Radio)
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