Priorities for 2013 Legislature
85th General Assembly,
January 14-18, 2013
First off, I want to express how honored and privileged I am to continue serving Washington County and now Keokuk County in the new house district 78. I am looking forward to the next two years and I look forward to hearing from you.
The first week is mostly filled with speeches, introductions, and bill drafting. We also had the important duty of desk selection. We moved one desk space and we are now located on the edge of the row, while our seat is not something you will likely see on television, we do have a better location for our constituents to meet; due to being in the back with a bench and standing area.
Monday we started off by being sworn in, and I was honored to have my father by my side as I took the oath. I did not expect anyone to make the trek to Des Moines this year, so Monday was made a little more special when my father showed up. In addition to taking our oaths, the Speaker, Majority Leader, and Minority leaders all made their opening remarks, setting the tone for session.
Tuesday the governor delivered his Condition of the State address and released his biennial budget. I believe he did an excellent job of outlining a path to real property tax relief and reform. I believe if the other party and chamber are willing, we have a real opportunity to work together and move Iowa forward.
Wednesday we heard from Chief Justice Cady on the Condition of the Judiciary. I appreciate the work the courts are doing in communities throughout our state. We also spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in committee meetings.
My committee assignments for this session have changed up partially, but for the better. I am no longer the vice chair of the labor committee, I have now moved into the vice chair of the Agriculture Committee. I am also the vice chair of the Ag and Natural Resources budget subcommittee. The difference between the two is the Ag committee deals with policy and the budget subcommittee handles the budget for the Department of Ag and Natural Resources and the Department of Natural Resources. In addition to my committee leadership roles, I have the pleasure to continue serving on the Environmental Protection, Public Safety, and Labor committees
As we begin the 85th General Assembly, I will remain focused on ways to make Iowa strong. I am committed to strong budget leadership, rebuilding a strong economy, and strengthening our communities and schools.
Strong Budget Leadership
I will stick to the principles used to get our fiscal house in order:
1. We will not spend more money than the state takes in;
2. We will not use one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses;
3. We will not intentionally underfund programs to balance the state’s budget;
4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.
There are some who see the state’s ending balance as a giant pot of money, and they have already begun devising ways to spend it. I assure you, I am not one of the legislators looking for increased spending. If we were to spend everything we were allowed to under law, the state would need to see 9 percent growth in 2014 revenues just to maintain that level of funding. This is unsustainable and should caution everyone making spending plans.
I also want to address a bit of a misconception; there is no state surplus. This money is an overpayment by the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa and they should get it back. As I hear from people seeing their paychecks decline due to the federal government, I am only reassured at the need to return as much of their money as possible from the State of Iowa.
Iowa has the third highest commercial property taxes in the nation and the 16th highest residential property taxes in the nation. Iowans have been very clear that they want property tax reform and relief this year at the statehouse. I am still committed to property tax relief for all classifications of property. The reform must be meaningful, inclusive and reliable because taxpayers need relief they can count on.
Strong Schools and Communities
We are also concerned about the quality and rigor of the education our children are receiving. As a father of three children under 4years old, I will not give up the battle for educational supremacy in our schools. I am concerned that students are not graduating with the mastery necessary to succeed in college or with the skills needed to enter the work force.
We must be resolved to address our education system. We should be open to new approaches and focused on measurable results. I will work advance reforms that offer accountability, innovation, and choice for parents.
In light of our priorities, I have agreed to co-sponsor a number of bills in the first week. I will sponsor and sign onto many more bills. Listed below is just the start and some of my highest priorities.
House File 1 –Removes the current cap on the Taxpayers’ Trust Fund and allows the entire ending balance to be transferred to the fund. Additionally, it provides for an Iowa Taxpayers’ Trust Fund tax credit, taking the overpayment of taxes and sending it back to Iowans.
House File 2—Provides property tax relief to all classes of property by increasing the state aid portion of the school foundation formula from 87.5 percent to 100 percent over a five-year period.
House Joint Resolution 1 – Constitutionally protects Iowa’s Right to Work law.
House File 3—Gives Iowans an option when paying their income taxes, either the current system or a 4.5 percent flat tax with zero deductions.
House Joint Resolution 2—Constitutional amendment to protect the 99 percent spending limitation, require bonding be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and require the Legislature to approve any tax increase by a 60 percent vote of each house.
I anticipate some of the above pieces of legislation will start being debated in committee next week. Over the next several days we will also continue receiving reports and budget recommendations from various state agencies.
I always welcome news and views from constituents and friends. To contact me in Des Moines you can send mail to the State Capitol in Des Moines, 50319. My email is email@example.com, and the House switchboard is 515-281-3221. You can also call or text me on my cell phone at 515-689-5430.