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Session may draw to a close this week

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 11:37 a.m. CDT

Lawmakers headed into overtime last week with a list of issues to tackle. 

Some progress was made on the state budget as the parties narrowed their differences and the final pieces of the budget were sent to bi-partisan conference committees to work out agreements. While the state budget is the only item required to be settled before adjourning for the year, there are a host of other issues under consideration right now. Among them are the Governor’s education reform package, property tax reform, and Medicaid expansion.

Most legislators will come back to the Capitol on Wednesday morning.  However, those of us who serve on budget conference committees worked Monday and Tuesday.   Hopefully, this will put us in a position to wrap up the session later this week when our colleagues get back to the Capitol.  

There was good news on Monday afternoon as my budget committee became the first to negotiate bi-partisan agreement.

I serve as ranking member on the Administration and Regulations Budget Committee. This budget committee covers many of the administrative and regulatory departments and agencies in the executive branch.  Among them are the Governor’s Office, Secretary of State’s Office, Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Department of Human Rights, Office of Drug Control Policy and others.  Basically, any office or department that doesn’t fit neatly into one of the other budget bills, falls into my subcommittee.

We were able to put our differences aside and finalize the Administration and Regulation budget Monday afternoon. Our final sticking point was funding for the new Public Information Board.  This new board has the potential to serve as a valuable resource for citizens as they interact with their city councils and administrative services.  I believe our agreement provides adequate funding to get this new board off to a good start on July 1.

There was even more good news on Monday. I was invited to attend the bill-signing ceremony in the Governor’s Office for the legislation I helped pass to extend the same credits for hydro-electric power that are currently offered to wind-energy projects.

Because we put this bill on the Governor’s desk and he signed it, the first new hydro-electric project in Iowa in over 100 years will be completed at the Lake Red Rock dam in 2017.  Missouri River Energy Services will invest over $250 million in this project.  During construction up to 700 jobs will be provided by this green-energy effort just up the road from Jasper County.

This project will capture 36.4 megawatts of electricity or enough to power 18,000 Iowa homes. It will be capable of generating 55 megawatts when water is high.  Representatives from Missouri River Energy Services told the Governor at the bill signing that they are studying two other potential hydro-electric projects.

Clearly, this bill is the start of a great hydro-electric future in Iowa.  I’m going to keep working to promote wind, hydro, and solar power.  These credits should be offered to solar projects. I’m going to introduce a bill next session and find colleagues to help get it done.  Our efforts worked this year with hydro, there is no reason we can’t get it done with solar.

I’m very happy to wrap up work on this bill and my budget conference committee early this week.  Now, I can spend the rest of the week pushing for other priorities to benefit Jasper County and Iowa.

The standings bill is often referred to as a ‘Christmas Tree’ bill.   This bill is a vehicle for legislation either passed over or not considered earlier in the session.  Legislators add items to the bill in hopes of getting it passed before adjournment.

Thanks to help from majority party Senators, support for the I-Green Center in Newton is part of the standings bill.   Through the assistance of the State Energy Sector Partnership Grant, I-Green has established itself as a quality program to help improve Iowa’s skilled worker shortage and put Iowans back-to-work.  If we are successful in keeping support for the I-Green Center in the standings bill, the program will move to a new level of success.

Representative Art Staed of Linn County and I have worked very hard this session to establish a public-private partnership for Iowa’s Food Banks.  Again, with the help of several Senators in our party, we were able to get a $2 million dollar appropriation in the standings bill to assist Iowa’s emergency food banks.   

Thirty-eight states provide support for their food banks — Iowa doesn’t, yet.  We must do the right thing and stand with our food banks if we are to truly make Iowa the ‘Healthiest State.’

By the end of the week, it is very possible we will wrap-up work for this session. The standings bill will get much of my attention in the next few days.  In addition to support for the I-Green Center and Iowa’s Food Banks, this bill also includes an effort to move the Iowa Speedway to an even higher level of success.  I’ll work to do what’s best for Jasper County during the final push.

I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime at 641-521-9260 or dan.kelley@legis.iowa.gov.

Visit my website at www.electkelley.com.  ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

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