Since this was the week after the first funnel, most of our time was spent on the House floor debating and passing bills. These bills will now go to the Senate for consideration. House bills must now pass out of a Senate committee before the next funnel in order to stay alive. Some will not make the funnel, but most will because they are basically non-controversial. There is a handful of bills that are garnering the most attention, and I want to touch on several of them this week. But first I need to mention the state budget.
According to the monthly revenue memo from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, the previous revenue prediction for FY 2018 showed overall growth of about $213 million. However, current revenue numbers show growth of only $8 million. Obviously, it is unlikely current estimates will be met. The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet next week to give the Legislature a new estimate. If that estimate is lower than the December number, the March figure is what we must use as we put the budget together. Also, the Governor will have to submit a new budget, and the FY 2017 budget will also be affected.
We have already cut about $130 million from this current budget year, so it will be very difficult to carve any more out of it. The biggest problem will be in FY 2018. We will have several options available as to how to deal with this potential problem, and I will share those options with you as soon as we get the actual numbers next week.
As this is being written, the House is debating a bill which deals with election integrity. This is not a photo-ID bill, as some people in the minority party are claiming. A large majority of Iowans have the opinion that a government-issued ID should be presented in order to vote.
House File 516 requires all voters to present a government-issued identification at their polling location. Acceptable forms of ID include an Iowa Driver’s License, an Iowa non-operator ID, a United States passport, a veteran or military ID or a voter identification card issued by the Secretary of State. The last ID mentioned will be provided free of charge to the voter. Iowa has a record of pretty clean elections, and this piece of legislation strengthens our election laws, while at the same time ensures that all eligible voters will be able to cast a ballot. I supported the bill, which passed on a party-line vote.
Earlier in this week, the House debated and passed a bill dealing with firearms. The bill, as originally presented, contained several sections which caused many lawmakers some angst, so they were removed. I had some concerns with the legislation at first, but after some changes were made, and each remaining section was explained, my comfort level with the bill rose, and I supported it. We have heard that this legislation will make Iowa like the old “Wild, Wild West.” This is simply not the case.
The House is scheduled to vote on a bill that deals with the minimum wage. It does nothing to lower or raise the State’s minimum wage, but simply states that a county or city cannot establish a minimum wage or other employment benefits that differs from the state or federal government. The main goal of the bill is to keep the minimum wage uniform in Iowa.
One last bill scheduled to be debated later in the week deals with workers compensation. This is a complicated bill, and seems to be going through changes every day. The original bill, as drafted, seemed to be unfair to workers who suffer legitimate injuries. Some of the problem areas are being removed, but there are still several sections of the bill that need to be changed. Since I don’t know what the final product will look like, I am a little hesitant to comment on it until it passes.
Finally, on Wednesday, the House Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees met jointly to hear a presentation regarding tax credits. Currently, the total value of these credits is $427 million per year. I am a member of the Appropriations Committee, and we felt it was time to take a serious look at tax credits. I have seen the list and it appears to me that the Legislature needs to have a discussion as to whether all of these credits are needed and warranted. Taking away some of these credits is not a quick-fix to our budget difficulties, but rather a long-term issue that needs to be dealt with.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319. My home address is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.