Happenings in Des Moines

Week 10 was marked by debate on bills sent over from the Senate. The Tax Coupling bill, House File 2433, was debated and passed in the House and Senate on Tuesday and now goes to the governor for his signature.

Meskwaki Jurisdiction Bill

On Tuesday the House debated Senate File 2022, a bill to transfer jurisdiction for minor crimes from the state of Iowa to the Federal government on the Meskwaki Settlement. This transfer only applies to crimes that carry less than $1,000 in fines or one year in jail that are committed by Native Americans on the Meskwaki Settlement grounds. This bill, in conjunction with the necessary federal legislation changes Senator Grassley is preparing, will align the jurisdiction arrangement on the Meskwaki Settlement with the arrangement on hundreds of other tribal lands. Members of the tribal leadership along with 60 students from the Meskwaki High School watched the debate and vote from the House gallery. The bill passed 96-0. It now goes to the governor for signature.

Budget

On Wednesday the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met and delivered new estimates. The Fiscal Year 2016 estimate did not change and remains at $7.0456 billion, roughly $134 million below the estimate we based the 2016 budget on. This deficit means we will take the difference out of our Ending Balance, or savings from previous years. This will leave our Ending Balance at $75.2 million, barely 1 percent of our budget. In my view, this level of Ending Balance is too low. For the current and past year our actual revenue has been below the estimate by 2-3 percent, forcing us to dip into the Ending Balance to meet the budget. I will be fighting to find efficiencies and areas of duplication within the budget in order to ensure we can meet our commitments.

For Fiscal Year 2017 which begins this coming July 1 the REC increased the revenue estimate up slightly to $7.357 billion, up roughly $30 million over Decembers estimate. With the Ending Balance and the 99 percent expenditure limitation factored in, we now have a spending limit of $7.351 billion. This means we have $176.7 million more for the budget than we did last year. The House Republican budget targets are lower than this expenditure limitation, therefor the House will not require any cuts to existing programs as a result of this new revenue estimate.

Other Bills of Note

House File 2265 is a bill I filed that makes improvements to the Safe At Home program, clarifying the limitations of the court in disclosing a participants address and directing the Iowa courts to respect the Safe At Home programs of other states. This bill passed the Senate 49-0, it now goes to the governor for signature.

House File 2357 is a bill I floor managed that directs the Department of Natural Resources to set Commercial and non-Commercial turtle harvesting seasons and commercial bag limits. Historically turtles have not had a season, the only game animal in Iowa without it. In recent years strong Asian demand for turtle meat has caused the commercial harvest of turtles in Iowa to increase eight fold, from roughly 30,000 pounds a year to 238,000 pounds. Setting seasons and bag limits will help protect this natural resource. The bill passed the House 96-1 and the Senate 47-2. It now goes to the governor for consideration.

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State Rep. Dean Fisher can be reached at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.