Category: View Point

District 72 Update – March 14, 2017

By Represe3ntative Dean Fisher
Week 9 of the session continued with debating House bills on the floor. This work is, at times fast paced, as non-controversial bills are brought up and voted on in a matter of minutes. Other times, it is slow and tedious, as we work through many amendments that are each debated at length.
On Thursday, we debated House File 2252, which dealt with changes to our voting laws requested by the Secretary of State’s office. These changes were primarily of a technical nature, updating the Voter ID law we passed last year, based on the experience with that new law. We debated that bill and its fifteen amendments for nearly five hours as the minority party members attempted to roll back these important changes we made to the voting laws in 2017.
Notable Bills:
Senate File 481 – This bill is the “Sanctuary Cities” bill, which helps to ensure that Iowa communities remain safe. This bill specifies that local law enforcement will follow existing law and cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests or their city or county will be held accountable by the withholding of state funds.
Iowa has always been a welcoming state and House Republicans recognize that immigrants make a valuable contributions to our state. House Republicans also recognize that the rule of law needs to be upheld. Ensuring that citizens are safe in our communities is one of the most basic responsibilities of government. Cities or counties that designate themselves as a “sanctuary” and ignore the rule of law, put their citizens at risk by providing potentially violent criminals with a safe haven.
Law Enforcement in most Iowa cities and counties continue to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and this bill will have no effect on those that continue to do so. This bill was previously passed by the Senate and was voted on by the Public Safety Committee that I sit on this past Tuesday. It passed on an 11-10 vote after being amended to address some law enforcement concerns. It will now go to the floor of the House for a vote. I supported this important legislation in committee and will support it on the floor. When it passes the House, it will go back to the Senate for them to accept the amendment.
House File 2467 – School Meal Debt – This bill creates rules and procedures around student meal debt in schools. This issue is a rising problem that often results in the school child being singled out for the parent’s failings to pay for school meals. The provisions in this bill prevent the school from singling the child out for non-payment, while also increasing the school’s ability to deal with the parents for non-payment. This bill passed the House 96-0 and now goes to the Senate.
House File 2369 – Bond Referendum Elections – This bill requires that any bond referendums by a county, township, school, city, community college, or local board or commission take place on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. In other words, on the same date of a general election, if it’s an election year. This will help increase turnout for these bond referendums. Exceptions are made for bonds needed as a result of a disaster. This bill passed the House, 52-43, and now goes to the Senate.
Budget: This week the House Appropriations Committee heard a presentation from the Pew Charitable Trusts on ways that states like Iowa can manage uncertainty in revenue forecasting. The presenters discussed several ideas that other states have implemented to improve revenue forecasting. The suggestions centered on two main ideas. The first involves maintaining a revenue “cushion” by spending below the forecast. The second is by reducing the forecasts based on various averaging techniques to minimize variations. It is likely that legislation will follow these suggestions.
The Revenue Estimating Conference met on Friday, March 9th to set their estimate for Fiscal Year 2019. Once this estimate is determined, the House Republicans will begin developing our budget targets and the individual budget bills that are passed at the end of session.
As always, please feel free to contact me at or 641-750-3594.

ViewPoint: Iowa State Association of Counties urges Legislature to reject elimination of the backfill

By Lucas Beenken, Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) Public Policy Specialist and Rachel Bennett, Member Relations Manager
Local governments would be forced to raise property taxes or cut services if the Iowa Legislature adopts SF 2081 to defund the backfill (commercial and industrial property tax replacement claims). Currently, the state reimburses local governments for the loss of revenue resulting from the reduction of taxable value of commercial and industrial property approved by the legislature in 2013. SF 2081 would phase out those reimbursements over three years, leaving counties with a $29 million loss of revenue per year. Because fiscal year 2019 budgets are currently being finalized, counties may have to make drastic cuts to services if the state reimbursement is reduced.
“It’s unfortunate the legislature is considering starting the phase-out of the backfill after most counties and cities have published their final budgets for FY 2019. County officials I’ve talked to don’t understand why the legislature would knowingly take an action that could put either the county budget or services in a precarious position. Our members would urge the legislature to follow the leadership of Governor Reynolds, fund the backfill for FY 2019, and then work with local officials to put a plan in place that meets both the state’s budgetary constraints in future years and local governments’ obligations to meet the service needs of their citizens” stated Bill Peterson, Executive Director of the Iowa State Association of Counties.
Contrary to the argument that backfill dollars are padding local government budgets; the data shows the reimbursement is simply making these budgets whole. The taxable valuation of commercial and industrial property is down 5.2% from the value before the legislatively imposed rollback implemented in 2013. In fact, the current taxable valuations are near the assessment year 2009 levels. This is in addition to the loss of taxable value for multi-residential, telecommunications, and railroad property that also received tax relief but was not reimbursed to local governments. The backfill is essential to make sure that counties can provide the services citizens depend on without raising property taxes.
“All counties, large and small, strive to provide services their taxpayers rely on while doing their best to keep property taxes reasonable,” said ISAC President and Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, “but that would be very difficult if the state fails to reimburse counties for the lost revenue due to the property tax reduction for commercial and industrial property.”
The Iowa State Association of Counties urges the Iowa Legislature to reject SF 2081, keep the promise to make county budgets whole, and ensure property taxpayers aren’t burdened with a larger bill or reduced services because of the elimination of the backfill.

ViewPoint: President’s budget threatens rural programs

By Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs
America stands to suffer as a result of President Trump’s 2019 budget, released on Feb. 12.
The president has proposed again to eliminate or shrink many programs that serve rural America, including those supporting rural businesses, cooperatives, and housing.
Trump is also calling for an investment of $50 billion in rural infrastructure, but this could put the onus on states already struggling with the economic fallout of depressed commodity prices.
In addition, the budget slashes working lands conservation programs by proposing the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program. The program gives farmers and ranchers opportunities to do such things as plant cover crops or improve pasture land. Eliminating it would do serious damage to our farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to preserve water quality and build soil health while also maintaining productive operations.
On a positive note, the president’s budget includes proposals that would bring greater fairness to farming communities. For example, the budget targets commodity, conservation, and crop insurance assistance to producers with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or less. A similar proposal would limit the number of people who can register as a farm manager and thereby receive payments.
For too long, the largest farms have had access to more support than small and mid-sized farms. This competitive advantage for large farms has contributed to farm consolidation and shrinking rural communities. These proposals would bring long-awaited fairness to our agricultural communities.
Mostly, however, Trump’s budget proposal would drain support for rural America. We fear these actions represent a lack of understanding of rural America’s struggles.
We urge President Trump and our national lawmakers to cease these actions that undercut rural Americans and rural communities.

ViewPoint: Parents have the loudest voices

By Beth Strike, Central Rivers Area Education Agency
In my role with Central Rivers Area Education Agency, I get a front row seat to the hard work our local teachers and administrators are doing every day. Our local schools are stretching every dollar in their budgets to make sure that our children get the highest quality education possible in a society that demands more and more of them. The school leaders I know are working tirelessly to advocate for reasonable increases in school funding from the state by sharing the impact of what’s happening to our classrooms without it. But too often, their voices aren’t loud enough to be heard by those in decision-making roles.
Hoping for strength in numbers, earlier this month over 150 superintendents from across Iowa joined together with Area Education Agency staff to meet with legislators at the Iowa State Capitol. The group had a handful of key priorities, among them asking for adequate increases in state funding, additional support for the growing mental health challenges that many students now face, and addressing the gap in funding for school districts with large geographic territories who incur additional costs in busing. I witnessed many productive and respectful conversations between the legislators who made time to attend and the school and AEA leaders who participated. Still, the question lingers…will it be enough?
In reality, legislators expect school leaders to advocate for students. We got into this business because we care deeply about every one of our state’s students and we want to preserve Iowa’s tradition of providing a high quality education for everyone who lives here. Do you know what has a much bigger impact? When a parent picks up the phone and advocates on behalf of their local school. That’s an attention getter.
A group called Parents for Great Iowa Schools spent time this past month making the rounds to many communities to share information on current state legislation affecting Iowa’s public schools, and engage parents, community and business leaders in advocacy. As a non-partisan group, their mission is to ensure that district stakeholders have the facts and can make informed decisions when it comes to voicing an opinion. Learning more about this important group is one way to get connected and make your voice heard in support of education. Another way is to simply pick up the phone and call your local school superintendent. Ask him or her what you can do to advocate for K-12 education. Why? Because without parents, our voices just aren’t loud enough.
Beth Strike is the Director of Creative Services/Communications with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA). She can be reached at 319-273-8222. Central Rivers AEA serves over 62,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

District 72 Update – February 21, 2018

By Representative Dean Fisher
Week 6 of the session was “Funnel Week”, where all policy bills must be passed by their respective committees in order to stay eligible for consideration this session. I’ve had success in managing all three of the bills I discussed in my last newsletter through committee, so they are now eligible for floor debate (changes to the Sex Offender Registry, hunting dog collar removal, and excessive speeding).
This week, Governor Reynolds released her plan to reform Iowa’s outdated and complex tax code. This plan reduces the number of tax brackets, reduces tax rates, raises the standard deduction, and includes triggers to ensure that revenue is not impacted too dramatically. This plan will leave Iowan’s with more money in their pockets and spur economic growth. The House will work off of the Governor’s plan as we gather more input.
Other bills of note:
House File 2105 – Revocation of Power of Attorney in a Dependent Adult Abuse Case – this bill would require the authorities to revoke a Power Of Attorney (POA) when the holder of the POA is charged in a Dependent Adult Abuse (DAA) case. Currently, persons charged with DAA can continue managing a dependent adult’s funds even though they have been charged with this crime. The crime of financial DAA seems to be rising sharply and our nursing homes are being denied payment as a result. I filed this bill on behalf of nursing home administrators in my district that are concerned that the abuse could continue even though charges have been filed.
House File 2364 – Health Benefit Plans – This bill would allow a state wide agricultural organization, such as the Farm Bureau, to create their own health benefit plan for its members in a manner that avoids the so called “Affordable Care Act” (ACA) requirements. Many farmers and other citizens that do not have an employer are experiencing horrifically high health insurance costs due to the dysfunctionality of Obamacare. I have some constituents that pay in excess of $31,000 per year for health insurance, not including the deductible. This bill would give the Farm Bureau or any other organization that meets the criteria the opportunity to create a pool and offer members their own health benefit plans. I was honored to be able to vote for this bill in the Commerce committee.
House Study Bill 602 – Future Ready Iowa Plan – this bill intends to help Iowa workers increase their skills by more closely connecting our K-12 schools with community colleges and apprentice programs. I was honored to vote for this bill and advance it out of the Commerce committee this week, but it will require more work before it comes to the floor for debate.
Senate File 455 – K-12 Transportation and State Aid Inequity – This bill deals with inequities that exist within our K-12 school funding that severely impacts our rural schools. Currently our schools have widely varying transportation costs.
In my district, the costs range from $181 per student for Marshalltown school district to $747 per student for the East Marshall school district. Statewide it ranges from under $100 to nearly a $1,000 per student.
This bill appropriates $11 million in funding that is used to bring the maximum transportation cost down to $432 per student. The funding will be spread to the most needy districts first on a per student basis. This will ensure that more of the Supplemental State Aid funds go into the classroom instead of towards transportation costs.
East Marshall will receive over $174,000 as a result of this funding, North Tama over $25,000, West Marshall over $42,000, Gladbrook-Reinbeck over $6,000, and GMG nearly $4,000. All other schools in my legislative district are already below the $432 maximum threshold.
Due to uncertainty with revenue this is presently a one-time adjustment. We hope to continue this if revenue allows.
As always, please feel free to contact me at or 641-750-3594.


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