Last week marked the second self-imposed legislative “funnel” deadline. Any non-appropriation or non-taxation bill that did not make it out of a second full committee would be dead for the session. The funnels are designed to winnow the General Assembly’s workload by removing issues that fail to generate consensus. As with the first legislative funnel, there were survivors and casualties – triumphs and disappointments.
Here are just of few of the highlights:
• Regulate government and private use of drones (HF2289/SF2157)
• Legalize sale, purchase, possession, use of fireworks (SF2294/HSB672)
• Exempt military retirement pay from state income taxes (SF303)
• Prohibit access by minor to e-cigarettes (HF2109)
• Tougher protections against elder abuse (SF2117/HF2106)
• Increase penalty for kidnapping minors (SF2201/HF2253)
• Broaden civil commitment for sexual predators (SF2211)
• Allow ATV operation on secondary roads (HF2395/SF2287) Bowman
• Freeze resident tuition at state universities
• Require schools to report radon testing/mitigation plans (SF366)
• Establish statewide emergency warning task force (SF2137)
• Allow golf cart operation on streets in unincorporated areas (HF236)
• Revamp crimes for contagious/infectious disease transmissions (SF2086)
• Toughen criminal penalties for human trafficking (SF2311)
• Establish screening for dyslexia (SF2070)
• Establish state regulations for traffic enforcement cameras (HF2202)
• Toughen prohibition for texting while driving to a primary traffic offense (SF2289)
• Raise minimum wage (SF2260)
• Ban dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs via video teleconferencing (HF2175)
• Legalize possession of firearms sound suppressors (HF384)
• Restore felons’ voting rights (SF2203)
• Boost penalty for murdering a peace officer (HF2114)
• Expand strip searches at county jails/city holding facilities (HF2174)
• Establish alternative services formerly provided by Iowa Juvenile Home (SF2322)
• Change gun permit requirements for military members (HF2143)
• Maintain local school board control over Common Core curriculum (HF2439)
• Verify income, assets, and identity of Medicaid recipients to prevent fraud (HF2275)
• Authorize state licensure of sleep technologists (HSB574)
• Authorize silver alerts for missing seniors (SF2189)
• Extend time for sexually abused minors to bring civil/criminal actions (SF2109)
Also in recent news, House Republicans and Senate Democrats reached agreement on an overall general fund budget target of $6.9718 billion. This number represents 99.84% of on-going state revenue and just 91.14% of the allowed amount under the state’s expenditure limitation law.
As a reminder, this budget will mark the fourth consecutive year the state will spend less than it collects. This is a stark contrast to the four years proceeding this period, 2007 through 2010, when the General Assembly spent more than the state collected in each of those years.
As part of the effort to fulfill previously made obligations, this budget follows through on commitments to offer more than $300 million in tax relief to Iowans. This plan fully funds the property tax credits, including the homestead, elderly and disabled, military and ag land tax credits. It also fully funds the commercial property tax credit which was passed last year as part of the largest tax cut in Iowa history. Of course there will also be money directed to the Taxpayer Trust Fund which is a direct payment back to Iowa taxpayers on their income tax form. You could say that the fastest growing part of the budget is tax relief.
In other news, last week I was heartened to take part in Governor Branstad’s proclamation making March known as Colon Cancer Awareness Month in Iowa. While this may be an uncomfortable subject for many, it is my hope that someone over 50 years of age, reading this column, will make an appointment with their family physician to set up a screening.
The good news is that 90% of colorectal cancer is treatable if detected early. Six out of 10 deaths could be prevented if adults 50 years or older were tested regularly. Sadly, 31% of Iowans in that age range have never been tested. If you are one of them, please do yourself and your loved ones a favor, by scheduling a screening now.
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It is truly an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature.
Until next time, God bless!