News from Des Moines
We began debating the appropriations bills this week, passing the Education Appropriations and the Administration and Regulations Appropriations on the House floor Monday. The Administration and Regulations Appropriation includes the funding for state functions such as the governor’s office, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer and the Department of Inspections and Appeals. The biggest point of debate for this bill was the increase of $700,000 for the Secretary of State’s office to cover the cost of implementing the Election Integrity bill which included the Voter ID requirement.
Monday I was able to bring House File 633 to the Floor for debate, a bill that I had filed at the start of the session. This bill removes the 2019 sunset date for the Operational Sharing program, a program that provides additional funding for school districts that opt to share personnel between two districts, or a school district and another government entity such as a city or county. This program is a huge help for our smaller, rural schools in Iowa. Schools can receive funding for up to the equivalent of 21 additional students by sharing these personnel. Several schools in my legislative district have already made use of this option by sharing principal’s and other personnel.
On Tuesday we debated and passed House File 631 which gives the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the opportunity to set their own fees for sporting licenses. In the past the fees for hunting, fishing, and other licenses have been set by rule which are difficult to change. This bill gives the DNR the authority to update the fees as needed, with legislative oversight to prevent any excessive fee hikes.
We also debated and passed Senate File 489, the Fireworks legalization bill, which passed 52-40. The bill takes effect immediately so that it will be legal to sell and use consumer fireworks this Independence day. The use of fireworks is restricted to two periods in the year, June 1 through July 8, and Dec. 10 through Jan. 3. They are also restricted to use between the hours of 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. of those days except on July 4 or the weekend before and after until 11 p.m., and on Dec. 31 until 12:30 a.m. of the following day. Sales will be allowed in permanent structures from June 1 to July 8 and Dec. 10 through Jan. 3, and in temporary structures from June 13 to July 8. Persons under 18 will not be allowed to purchase fireworks. The bill now goes to the governor. The bill also allows local government to limit the use of fireworks, but not the sale.
On Wednesday we passed the Health and Human Services Appropriations bill, House File 653. This is one of the largest appropriations at $1.766 billion, which includes $1.286 billion in Medicaid funding. This bill is $96 million less than the HHS bill passed in 2017, reflecting the difficulty in our revenue. This bill includes the language and appropriations that defunds abortion providers by swapping federal money and rules with Iowa money and rules. This is essentially Senate File 2 passed earlier this year in the Senate. It was more appropriately part of the appropriations bill than a stand-alone bill.
As of Thursday we have passed all of the appropriations bills except for the Standing Appropriations bill which makes changes to the appropriations that carry over year to year unless they are changed. We will be back in session Friday to deal with that bill and a few others. We also amended and passed Senate File 512, the Water Quality Funding bill. The amended version creates a funding stream for water quality that promotes cooperation amongst the stakeholders in a watershed area or other logical grouping. That amended bill goes back to the Senate.
State Rep. Dean Fisher can be reached at 641-750-3594 or via email at email@example.com