This is most likely the last week of the current legislative session. The state budget has passed, and awaits the Governor’s approval or veto. This is also the time of year when a few major policy bills are finalized. That has been the case this week.
On Monday the House passed Senate File 489, which is the fireworks bill. If the legislation is signed by the Governor, Iowans will be allowed to use consumer-grade fireworks, such as Roman candles and bottle rockets. People would be allowed to use fireworks between June 1 and July 8, and again between December 10 and January 3.
City councils and county Supervisors would have the authority to ban or restrict the use of fireworks, but they could not stop the sale of them. In polling data, it appears the general public supports making fireworks legal. Previously, I opposed this legislation but when the opt out language was added, I supported the bill. The Governor has indicated he will sign the legislation.
A bill to ban most abortions in Iowa after 20 weeks of pregnancy passed the Senate on Tuesday and is headed for the Governor’s desk. The bill also calls for a three day waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion. An abortion would be allowed after 20 weeks if a doctor determines the life or health of the mother is at risk. The bill passed the House several weeks ago, and I supported it at that time.
Both of the budget bills I am responsible for have passed the House and Senate, and are headed for the Governor’s desk. Neither bill uses general fund dollars. The Department of Transportation budget passed the House on a unanimous vote, while the infrastructure bill went through on a party line vote.
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, the Iowa House passed House File 631 on a 92-6 vote. The bill changes how hunting/fur-harvesting/fishing license fees and wildlife habitat fees are established by striking current Code provisions that explicitly set them to specific monetary amounts and with authority for the Natural Resource Commission to establish the fee amounts through the administrative rules process with a year-long layover/delay for General Assembly nullification, amendment, or acceptance.
This lay-over/automatic delay provides for an opportunity for the General Assembly to accept the proposed fee increases, amend them, or nullify them. So oversight and accountability for the fee increase still lies with the intent of the Legislature.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has indicated that it would seek a 17% license fee increase through the administrative rule process this summer to be effective 12-15-2017 that would generate an estimated $3.85-million increase in revenues for the 2018 hunting, fishing and fur-harvesting season with $2.75-million of increase fees being paid by resident Iowans, and $1.1-million being paid by nonresident hunters and fishers.
The fees established by the process created by House File 631 are to be periodically evaluated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) not less than every three years to ensure fees paid are sufficient to meet the needs of natural resource management and maintain public access.
By December 15th of each year after 12/15/2018, the DNR shall file a written report to the NRC, and the General Assembly concerning the evaluation and any recommendation on whether fee prices need to be changed to increase Fish and Game revenues.
Any such fee increase recommended by the evaluation and subsequently proposed by the NRC shall not take effect until the following December 15 or later to give the General Assembly an opportunity to nullify, amend, or leave as is the fee changes proposed by administrative rule process. Additionally, such fee increases shall not exceed 5% in any calendar year.
The bill further authorizes DNR and the NRC to offer multi-year licenses, and non-resident five day hunting licenses. The measure also caps the amount of habitat fee revenue that can be used to purchase land by the state for public hunting purposes at current levels in an effort to ensure that future increases in these fees will be used to support habitat development on existing state lands and upgrades in state fishery infrastructure.
Since this session is almost over, this will be the final newsletter for the year. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your Representative in Des Moines, and I look forward to seeing many of you this summer.
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 is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at email@example.com.