Category: Opinion

District 72 Update: March 13, 2019

By Representative Dean Fisher
We quickly shifted gears this past week, spending much more time in caucus meetings reviewing bills and then debating them on the floor. We debated and passed over 40 bills this week. Many of the bills are non-controversial, taking but a few minutes to discuss and vote on them. Roughly 90% of the bills we pass are bi-partisan. Occasionally one of these bills unexpectedly turns out to be controversial and debate can go on for hours, usually well into the evening. One such bill was House file 594 – “Limitations Regarding the Withdrawal of Life Support for a Minor”. This bill simply states that a court may not order withdrawal of life support from a child against the parent’s wishes. This bill is in response to the Alfie Evans case in the United Kingdom wherein the courts refused to let Alfie’s parents take their child to another country for treatment, instead forcing life support to be removed against the parent’s wishes. That decision belonged to the parents, not a judge. House Democrats resisted this bill by attempting to amend it with language that would retain the courts ability to interfere. We debated this bill for several hours on Monday night, ultimately passing it with narrow bipartisan support of 58 to 36.
Tuesday we debated and passed Senate File 519, the Ag Trespass Bill. Agriculture is the backbone of Iowa’s economy and as such it encompasses far more economic activity than farming. Agriculture supports our small businesses, manufacturers, financial services, and much more. It is therefore critical that we do all we can to protect our agricultural economy from hostile individuals, organizations, and foreign agents who wish to do it harm. Extremist activists bent on damaging a facility or creating biosecurity damage, or foreign agents wishing to steal intellectual property such as patented seed strains, are among the threats we must guard against. This legislation makes it illegal for a person to gain employment under false premises. The bill now goes to the governor for signature in a ceremony Thursday afternoon.
Wednesday we debated and passed House Joint Resolution 13/Senate Joint Resolution 18, a resolution to amend the Iowa Constitution to add a Right To Keep and Bear Arms. The text of the proposed amendment is simple and easy to understand, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The Sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental, individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” Iowa is one of only six states that do not yet have such a guarantee of our right to keep and bear arms. The bill passed the House 53 to 46 with 1 absent on a strict party line vote. All Republicans vote YES, all Democrats voted NO on protecting our right to keep and bear arms.
Thursday we debated House File 661/Senate File 274, the Campus Free Speech bill. This bill seeks to guarantee freedom of speech on our public university and community college campuses by prohibiting unconstitutional limitations from being arbitrarily imposed by college leadership. This has been an issue nationwide on college campuses, including here in Iowa. When a student enrolls in a publicly funded college they do not give up their freedom of speech. Indeed, the college setting should be a place where the full range of ideas can be heard and debated as part of the learning experience. This bill guarantees that student organizations cannot be denied benefits and access based on that organization’s viewpoints or beliefs. For example, a student led Jewish organization cannot be denied because they require their leaders to be people practicing the Jewish faith. The same applies to all other faith based groups. Democrats arguing against this bill asserted that “diversity” means that persons that have no adherence whatsoever to the basic tenets of the group should be allowed to be leaders in these groups, a bizarre twist on the concept of diversity. It would make no sense to allow leaders of the Chess Club be persons with little knowledge of chess, it would make no sense to allow the leaders of the Photography Club to be persons with little knowledge of photography, and it would make no sense to allow the leaders of a Christian Club to be persons who don’t adhere to that religion’s beliefs and practices. This bill passed the House 52 to 44 and now goes to the governor for consideration.
On Friday, March 8, the Iowa Supreme Court handed down a decision that Iowa’s Medicaid program must pay for Gender Reassignment Surgery. This is a ridiculous reading of Iowa Civil Rights law that will cost Iowa’s taxpayers lots of money. At issue in the case were two men that believe they are women who qualify for Medicaid as low income persons. The court cited the fact that “Gender Identity” is a protected class of citizen under Iowa’s Civil Rights Act, a classification that was added in 2007 when Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and Governors office. Iowa Medicaid law stated explicitly that Gender Reassignment surgery would NOT be covered by Medicaid, the Supreme Court’s decision over rode that law. Gender Reassignment surgery costs roughly $100,000, so the state’s Medicaid system, already strained with ever-increasing costs, is immediately required to spend an additional $200,000 for these two. Surely many more such persons will be demanding these surgeries as well. This will also impact our prisons and other facilities, it will be difficult to house persons that have had their gender physically changed in either a men’s or women’s prison. The House Republicans are reviewing this decision and considering the best way to fight this insane ruling.
As always, I can be reached at and at 641-750-3594.

ViewPoint: Lawmakers: Don’t take away our energy independence

By Katie Rock, Center for Rural Affairs
A group of state lawmakers allied with Iowa’s biggest investor-owned utility to introduce House Study Bill 185. This bill would limit the ability of farms and individuals to produce their own electricity. While other Midwest states are blazing a trail in expanding solar power generation, House Study Bill 185 would set Iowa back as consumers look to cut costs and become energy independent.
Net metering allows customers with energy production systems, like solar panels, to be compensated for the excess energy they provide to their neighbors, often during peak times when demand and rates are highest. The proposal would allow investor-owned utilities to charge homeowners and businesses that have these systems with additional fees, discouraging these projects and making them cost prohibitive.
With net metering, demand increases for solar energy systems—creating jobs for designers, installers, electricians, and equipment suppliers in Iowa’s renewable energy industry. The solar industry provides more than 800 jobs in communities across the state, a number that continues to grow as the price of solar energy drops. An estimated 86 percent of solar jobs in the U.S. are for homes and businesses with only 14 percent in the utility sector. Net metering is critical for these Iowa jobs.
Iowa has always been a leader in renewable energy, but is missing out on an economic opportunity with solar—Minnesota’s solar energy capacity has more than quadrupled in four years, and Illinois’ capacity is growing even faster. To join our neighbors in harnessing the benefits of solar energy, Iowa should reject this regressive legislation.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

Consumer Counselor – March 13, 2019

Buyers’ guide to financing a vehicle
The price of the average car continues to rise. Analysts at Edmunds estimate the average transaction price of a new vehicle now hovers at roughly $36,000. Few people can walk into a car dealership and pay such a price in cash, which means that savvy shoppers need to familiarize themselves with the financing process in order to get their dream rides. In addition to finding the perfect car or truck, buyers must spend time researching the ideal way to pay for it. Car loans are key to the car-buying process. Too often shoppers wait until they’re in the negotiating seat at the dealership before they even know what they can spend, and this can be a mistake. A poor financing deal hurts buyers over the long run and may lead to defaulting on the loan and dealing with the credit fallout that defaulting produces.
Vehicle financing is a step-by-step process that should begin long before consumers even pick out a car.
Examine your spending and saving. Start by looking at your finances and establish a budget. How much cash do you have on hand for a down payment? Also, how much can you comfortably devote to a new car payment and requisite auto insurance? You can use automotive loan calculators to get a rough idea of what a particular car will cost you in terms of monthly payments.
Know your credit standing. Great credit will give you financing leverage. Understand your credit score and which factors may be bringing it down. Resolve any issues well before you apply for financing so a bad score will not hurt you.
Visit lenders. The financing deal offered by the dealership might not be the best price possible. You can get preapproved/prequalified for an auto loan the same way you do for a home mortgage at banks and credit unions. This helps you secure the best interest rate possible. It also provides negotiating power. A preapproval letter puts you in the position as a stronger “cash buyer,” states the financial resource NerdWallet.
Set a firm buying price. Preapprovals and working with a third-party lender gives you a specific amount of money you know you can borrow. Use this as a tool to keep the negotiated price low because you cannot exceed your preapproved amount. It also may be a way to push dealership finance mangers to contact their own captive lenders to try to beat the rate offered by your existing lender.
Work is needed to secure the best price on a new car, and that work begins long before visiting a dealership.

Consumer Counselor – March 6, 2019

What affects credit score?
Credit is defined as a customer obtaining services or products before payment with the trust that payment will be made in the future. Credit affords people purchasing power they would not have if they had to pay for something outright at the time of checkout. In addition, credit enables men and women to finance expensive automobiles, buy homes or furnish those homes, contributing much to the foundation of a strong economy.
A strong credit history and score is vital to personal finance. The steps people take concerning their finances can greatly affect their credit. Identifying the behaviors that may be detrimental and those that are beneficial can help customers reevaluate their habits and improve their creditworthiness in the eyes of lenders.
Payment history. The financial advisement resource Credit Karma says one of the most important factors affecting credit scoring is payment history. Having a long history of making payments on time is essential for a strong credit score. Missed payments and a reputation for paying late can drive ratings down. It can take some time to recover from late payments. Failure to recognize late or missed payments may result in bankruptcy or tax liens, which are a heavy black mark on credit.
Credit utilization rate. Credit utilization refers to the amount of credit you have available, based on credit card limits, compared to the amount of credit you’re actually using by way of the balances on credit cards, advises the credit tracking company Experian. Lenders prefer to see ratios of around 30 percent or less. To calculate credit utilization rate, divide your credit card balance by your credit limit. So if your balance is $600 and your limit is $1000, that’s a utilization rate of 60 percent.
Number of accounts. The number of open accounts you have affects your credit score. Scoring models often look back and consider how many accounts are open and if there are any outstanding balances.
Length of credit history. The length of your credit history is another factor that affects your score, according to Investopedia. Credit scoring takes into account the age of your oldest account, if you’ve used that account recently, as well as the average age of all your accounts, including the newest. Closed accounts can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, but when an account closes, this will affect your credit history average. Credit scoring rubrics will determine just how the ratio of new to old accounts and frequency of use will impact your score.
Credit scores are important. Understanding them further can help you secure your financial future.

District 72 Update: March 6, 2019

By Representative Dean Fisher
As work progresses in committees we have begun to debate a few bills on the floor of the House as well. These are generally non-controversial bills that pass unanimously or with only a few no votes. These bills have included increases in mileage reimbursement for witnesses traveling to testify in court, banning certain pyramid sales schemes, clarifying dependent adult abuse code, Medicaid oversight, and many other topics.
When House Republicans came into the majority in 2011 the state budget was a disaster. The state faced a structural deficit of a billion dollars, was using one time funds for ongoing needs, and the state’s reserve accounts had been raided without plans to refill them. This poor management resulted in across the board cuts of 10% in 2009.
Since House Republicans have been in the majority, we have brought common sense budgeting back to the state. We invest in our state’s priorities when we can, and we manage the budget carefully when revenue estimates don’t come in as anticipated.
This past week, House Republicans released budget targets for the Fiscal Year 20 budget that begins July 1, 2019. This plan spends $7.668 billion, 97.45% of the on-going revenue estimate. This is $9.5 million higher than Governor Reynolds proposal, and .63% higher than the adjusted Fiscal Year 2019 budget, roughly $48 million. This budget leaves our reserve accounts full and an ending balance of $298.6 million. I continue to press for spending as low as 95% of the on-going revenue, this budget makes progress towards that goal.
Our K-12 schools have already gotten “the first bite of the apple” with funding increases of nearly $90 million for Supplemental State Aid, including $19 million for transportation equity. Those appropriation bills were signed into law in a public ceremony by Governor Reynolds on Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda. This budget will also give the Justice systems (courts, prisons, State Patrol) an additional $18 million, and our higher education system will receive an additional $48 million. Investing in our higher education system is critical to our efforts to increase the number of skilled workers entering the workforce.
Work continues on the legislation to reform our judicial nominating process, HSB 110. An amendment was agreed to this week that will let stand the current process of electing eight commission members by the lawyers in our judicial districts, but retain the reforms for the appellate and supreme court commission. I support HSB 110 for the simple reason that our federal and state constitutions both start with three simple words – “We the People”. They don’t start with “We the Lawyers”. HSB 110 brings the selection of our Appellate and Supreme Court nominating commissioners into the hands of elected officials that are accountable to “We the People” instead of a small group of unaccountable lawyers.
House Study Bill 114 is a bill that increases penalties for animal cruelty offenses. This is a much needed improvement to Iowa’s laws. I’ve gotten many emails from constituents in support of this bill. The Judiciary committee has agreed to amend the language from one of my bills, House File 176, to make it illegal to remove a collar from a dog that carries a rabies tag or electronic tracking collar (GPS). Iowa law allows for any dog over 6 months old without a rabies tag to be destroyed. This law closes a loop hole where a person could remove the collar from a dog that carries its rabies tag and then destroy the dog. Also, there have been many incidents in Iowa where persons have removed the tracking collars from hunting dogs that have strayed, defeating the hunter’s ability to quickly retrieve their dog, which is allowed under Iowa law. I’m glad to have been able to get this common sense change attached to this bill.
As always, I can be reached at and at 641-750-3594.


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