By Dean Fisher
Week three of the legislature was marked with our first debate and passage of a bill this session, the “Water Quality” bill, Senate File 512. This bill was passed by the House in 2016 and by the Senate in 2017, but held over in the House last year due to considerable debate over differences in approaches to the funding. This bipartisan bill commits $282 million in funding over the next 12 years to improve water quality through continued implementation of research-based conservation practices and water treatment infrastructure improvements. This bill redirects the sales tax on tap water from the general fund to the Iowa Finance Authority for urban water quality programs. It also provides funding for the ISU Nutrient Research Center, the Dept. of Natural Resources water quality measurements, and for Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for in-field and edge-of-field nutrient reduction programs.
This week, the House Commerce committee that I sit on met with Iowa Insurance Commissioner, Doug Ommen, regarding Iowa’s health insurance market. Commissioner Ommen highlighted the fact that prior to the Affordable Care Act, Iowa’s insurance market was stable, reasonably priced, and had multiple carriers for Iowans to choose from. House Republicans will continue to look for ways to work around obstacles the Affordable Care Act has created for the people of Iowa.
The House state Government Committee met and received an update from Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) officials. While IPERS is considered one of the best run pension systems in the nation, it is concerning that it is only funded at 81.4% of where it should be. Fortunately, recent gains in the stock market since President Trump took office have boosted the IPERS fund significantly. From June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2017 IPERS grew by $2.44 billion, roughly $203 million per month. In the previous two years the IPERS fund only grew by $290 million, $12.1 million per month average.
On Thursday a subcommittee met on House Joint Resolution 13, which proposes an amendment to the Iowa Constitution guaranteeing our right to keep and bear arms. Iowa is one of a handful of states that do not yet have a constitutional provision for these rights. The text of the proposed amendment is: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes the fundamental right of the people to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for all legitimate purposes. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” The bill passed the subcommittee 2-1 and now goes to the full Judiciary committee for action.
I always enjoy seeing my constituents down here at the capitol. I would encourage you all to spend a day here to take a guided tour of this beautiful building and spend some time observing committees and subcommittees at work or the legislature in debate. If you visit, be sure to let me know so we can connect.