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 dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.