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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

On the Hill with Klein, Week 1

By Jarad Klein

January 12-16, 2015

The 2015 legislature is officially off and going.  We gaveled in Monday morning and started off with the swearing-in ceremony.  The ceremony is a special occasion, especially for new members.  Many people have family and friends in town for their first swearing in, so we allow extra time for those activities.  Monday was also the day seat selection was made; however, unlike years past for me, my seat was designated weeks earlier.  At the end of last session and again this year my caucus elected me as an Assistant Majority Leader.  One of the roles of Assistant Leader is to “manage” one of the four seating areas in the House Chambers, and as a result we need to have our seats picked before the other members can choose theirs.  Your seat didn’t go far; in fact, I only moved one seat closer to the Speaker’s Well.  I will highlight other roles as Assistant Leader in future articles.
On Tuesday the Governor gave his Condition of the State Address and gave us his budget.  Governor Branstad released his proposed budgets for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 as part of his condition of the State message on Tuesday morning.  While the budget did not play a prominent role in the Condition of the State message, Branstad’s recommendations dominated the conversations under the Golden Dome afterward.
The Governor (not the Iowa House) is proposing to spend $7.3410 billion in FY 2016, an increase of $346.7 million over FY 2015 or 4.95 percent.  Branstad’s FY 2016 proposal spends more money than the Revenue Estimating Conference’s December ongoing revenue estimate of $7.1946 billion. The gap between ongoing revenue and the Governor’s budget is approximately $146.4 million.
For fiscal year 2017, the Governor is proposing a General Fund budget of $7.5252 billion.  This would be an increase of $184.2 million or 2.50 percent.
While the Governor has his own ideas, in the House we are committed to our long-standing principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget:
1.      We will spend less than the state collects;
2.      We will not use one-time money to fund ongoing needs;
3.      We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
4.      We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.
As is usually the case, the subject getting the most discussion was the Governor recommendation for state funding to local schools.  Governor Branstad is proposing to increase Supplemental State Aid by $50 million and to provide the second installment of $50 million for the teacher leadership component of the 2013 Education reform law.  AEA funding would once again be reduced by $15 million.  This increase of $84.8 million will raise State school aid funding to $3.0086 billion.  Implementation of this figure for FY 2016 would mean schools had received an additional $537.1 million from the General Fund since FY 2011, a 21.74 percent increase over five years.  For FY 2017, the Governor is recommending an additional $141.5 million for school aid, including the final allocation of $50 million for implementation of the 2013 Education Reform law.
Governor Branstad also proposed giving Iowa’s three state universities a 1.75 percent increase ($8.768 million) in their general aid funding to maintain the tuition freeze for in-state students getting their bachelor degrees. In recent weeks, the Board of Regents revised their position by stating that this funding is necessary for them to extend the freeze for a third year.  For community colleges, the Governor is proposing to increase community college general aid funding by 1.75 percent or $3.522 million.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Mark S. Cady, of the Iowa Supreme Court, delivered the State of the Judiciary. Each year the Chief Justice is required to deliver this speech to the general assembly. In the address, the Chief Justice may express what he believes is important for Senators and Representatives to know about the Court system.
Chief Justice Cady used his State of the Judiciary to highlight the goals and successes of the judicial branch. Those goals include: protecting Iowan’s children, providing full-time access to justice;  operating an efficient and full services court system; providing faster and less costly resolutions of legal disputes; remaining open and transparent; and, providing fair and impartial justice for all.
We started committee meetings on Thursday.  My committee assignments didn’t change much; I am no longer on the Labor Committee.  I added Natural Resources Committee to my docket along with my longer positions on Agriculture, Environmental Protection, and Public Safety.  I have already started to get bills assigned to floor manage, and put in my own draft requests.  I will expound more on my sponsored legislation in future articles; there just isn’t enough column space to explain everything in enough detail to do justice.
Friday was the Governor’s inauguration and inaugural activities.  The official inauguration was in the morning at Vets Auditorium, and required the General Assembly to open convention outside the Capital.   We hosted an open house at the Capital in the afternoon for the people who attend the inaugural activities, including music and signing from many talented Iowans.  Friday night was the Inaugural Ball, which this year my wife, Rachel, was able to attend thanks to grandparents’ availability this time.  Friday was a great day to celebrate Iowa and all the wonderful people in our state.  The inauguration is not about the Governor, it’s really about all of Iowa.
In future articles I will delve more into education, mental health, transportation infrastructure, and other issues which deserve articles unto themselves.  If you need to reach me don’t hesitate to call or text me on my cell at 515-689-5430.  My e-mail address is jarad.klein@legis.iowa.gov, when you e-mail please include your name and address so I know if you are a constituent.  As you can imagine I get a lot of spam and mail from people all over the country, but the people of House District 78 always come first.