The first funnel week is behind us, and it has been a very busy week. House bills needed to pass from a House committee by the end of the week in order to remain eligible for debate on the floor. Anything that failed to clear a committee is most likely dead for the session. Exceptions to this rule are Appropriations bills and legislation that deals with either taxes or fees.
We will know early next week what survived and will begin to spend more time on the floor than in committee. House bills must now pass the full House and move on to the Senate for their consideration in order to stay alive. It is a long process, but well worth the time and effort.
As we move into week 7 of the session, we are about 40% finished and have around 60 days left to finish our work. This time of year also means the days are getting longer, spring is getting closer and high school tournaments are beginning. Best wishes to all of our students who participate in a variety of extra-curricular activities.
We had very little caucus time this week so committees could finish their work. At this writing, there is still no agreement between the House and Senate regarding K-12 school funding. The House and Governor are at a higher number than the Senate, and it is my belief that our budget this year can support the higher number. It is time to get those settled.
The Governor has been traveling around the state promoting her plan to increase the state sales tax by a penny and using the proceeds to fund mental health costs and conservation and natural resources program.
She would also like to reduce income taxes. A penny increase in the sales tax would bring in about $540 million dollars per year. 3/8 of that amount would go to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust. The rest of the money would be used to cut income taxes, create a sustainable funding source for our mental health system and reduce the burden on property taxpayers. The Governor calls her plan the “Invest in Iowa Act”.
I like her vision for Iowa, and there are a lot of good ideas in her proposal. One thing I am worried about is that she structures her budget based on an increase in the sales tax. To be honest, at this point in time, I don’t believe there are enough votes to increase the sales tax. Therefore, House Republican Budget Chairs are crafting their budgets as usual, just in case the Governor’s plan does not come to fruition.
I am not saying her idea will fail. I am saying we do not want to get down to the final days of the session, have everything fall apart, and sit here with nothing to pass. There are a lot of good things in the Governor’s plan, and there are several working groups looking at ways to implement different parts of the proposal. I would be very surprised if nothing happens.
After Friday afternoon, we will have a better idea as to what legislation is still alive. I do know now that we will be debating bills dealing with gun rights, abortion, distracted driving, Medicaid, teen drivers, childcare, workforce and housing. We will also have legislation dealing with agriculture, economic development and human services. We will have a busy 60 days!
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home 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.