House bills dying in Senate
This week was busy here in Des Moines as the House debated and passed numerous bipartisan bills. I am happy to say that we got a lot of work done here this week.
With the economy being one of our top priorities here this session, the House passed several pieces of pro job legislation. However, many of these bills have died or are being held up in the Senate. Two very important bills, that have passed the House, have died in the Senate. House File 2042 requires all administrative rules created by state agencies must be accompanied by a ‘Jobs Impact Statement.’ Administrative rules are the regulations drawn up by government bureaucrats to implement laws approved by the Legislature. House File 2103 is another important bill that has not received proper consideration by the Senate. HF 2103 makes it easier for new employers to do business in Iowa by reducing the length of time they pay an ‘introductory rate’ for unemployment taxes. This introductory rate is not based on the employer’s history and often forces them to subsidize existing employers. New employers will spend less time paying a tax rate mandated by the state, and more time paying a tax rate they have earned. Another important bill also died in the Senate, House File 2104. This bill allows employers to recover faster from the last few years of economic sluggishness and get back to a lower tax rate, freeing up money to hire more employees or invest in their business.
However, there are still some bills that have a chance to become law. Awaiting Senate action is House File 2085 which relates to employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and provides an incentive for a business owner to sell all or a portion of a company to an Iowa-based ESOP. This would result in the employees of a company having ownership interest in their business and would also keep jobs in Iowa communities. It is my hope that the Senate take this bill up as soon as possible to improve our economy here in Iowa. We will continue to push the Senate to vote on all these good job bills.
In other news last week the Iowa Supreme Court issued its ruling on Governor Branstad’s use of the line item veto in regards to the closure of Iowa Workforce Development field offices. At issue was the Governor’s item-veto of three portions of the Economic Development Appropriation Bill. Two of those provisions related to Workforce Development Field Offices and the other was related to a restriction of funds in administering a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) Program. The Supreme Court ruled against the governor on the two questions involving the Field Offices (affirming the lower court’s ruling) and against the governor in the question of the NCRC program (reversing the lower court’s ruling).
The Supreme Court found that both of the field office-related paragraphs were conditions of the appropriation, and thus unable to be vetoed without vetoing the appropriation as well. The Supreme Court found that the ‘definitions’ section of the bill, which provided for a definition of field office was inextricably linked to the appropriation, and thus could not be separated. In a nutshell, the appropriation was specifically tied to a policy. If the governor wanted to veto either the appropriation or the policy, he would be forced to veto both.
Lastly, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the lower court’s ruling that favored the governor’s position, the portion dealing with the NCRC program. SF 517 had a section that stated that IWD could not spend any moneys appropriated to it for purposes of the NCRC program. The lower court thought this restriction was overly broad, and thus, able to be item-vetoed. The Supreme Court reversed this and stated it was not overly broad and could be vetoed.
The Governor’s office filed an injunction with the Supreme Court to put a stay on its ruling, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the motion. When the judgment is entered by the lower court (this usually takes around 21 days), then it’s as if those vetoed sections of the bill never became law. Members from the House, Senate, and representatives of the governor’s office continue to talk about the process to re-authorize funding for the affected areas. There is nothing in the Supreme Court decision that requires the closed Field Offices to reopen.