By Representative Dean Fisher

This week the House Republicans released their plan for the fiscal year 2018 budget adjustment that ensures our spending aligns with the actual revenue coming in as House Study Bill 648. These adjustments total roughly $34 million in reduced spending. If the current revenue estimates for the remainder of this fiscal year ending June 30 hold, the state will end the year with an $8.1 million ending balance under this plan.

The House de-appropriation is considerably less than what the Senate recently proposed, which was $59 million. One of the most significant differences was the House plan reduces our community colleges by only $500,000 instead of the Senate plan of a $5.44 million reduction. Our community colleges are on the forefront of training workers for the mid-range skill level job market that is in high demand, so minimizing the impact to our community colleges is an important goal for the House. Other significant differences are that the House plan has a much lower impact on the Judicial Branch funding, the Board of Regents, and the Department of Human Services.

There are, of course, many bills moving forward in our subcommittees and committees. This Thursday I chaired several subcommittees on bills I’m managing in anticipation of meeting the funnel deadline next week:

House File 2150 – This bill raises the penalty for killing a person while speeding 25 miles per hour or more over the speed limit to involuntary manslaughter. Currently, speeding alone is not sufficient to meet the court imposed standard of “reckless” in order to justify the manslaughter charge. I filed this bill at the request of the Sheriffs and Deputies Association.

House File 2218 – This bill makes it a simple misdemeanor to remove a tracking collar from a dog. Hound hunters frequently use GPS collars to keep track of their hounds when hunting raccoons at night, for example. They can pinpoint the exact location of their animals on their smart phones, thanks to these collars. Several incidents have occurred where persons have removed these tracking collars. In one incident, the collar was removed by an ice fisherman and tossed down his fishing hole. Fortunately, the tracking collar still functioned under water for a short while, allowing the collar to be found and the person removing it, charged. The legal issues surrounding removing the collar under current law are sufficiently vague to warrant making this specific action a crime. I filed this bill at the request of area hunters.

House File 214 – Changes to the Sex Offender Registry (SOR) – This bill, started in 2017, seeks to make needed corrections to the SOR. Under the current law a Sex Offender (SO) that is living in a “Half Way House” type of arrangement as part of their sentence, would not have to register in the SOR because the law implies they are still incarcerated even though they may be out in the community working or at school, etc. This bill would require them to register on the SOR while in a facility that allows them to be out in the public part of the day. Also, under current law a sex offender living with another person, but not married to them, who has children in the home, would not be guilty of child endangerment, but the parent of the children the sex offender was living with could be charged with child endangerment. This bill corrects that by making both persons liable for child endangerment in those situations. An amendment that I’ve filed to this bill would also make changes to the Sex Offender Registry Modification process and requirements. Modification is when a convicted sex offender asks to be removed from his requirement to register on the Sex Offender Registry. Currently, a person on the Sex Offender Registry must register for either 10 years or life, depending on the severity of the crime. Under current law, they can request a modification after two years for Tier I offenders, or after five years for Tier II or Tier III offenders. The changes would increase these waiting periods to 10 years for Tier I offenders and 25 years for Tier III offenders, and Tier II offenders would never be able to request modification. These requirements would align Iowa with the federal Sex Offender Registry requirements as well. This bill and the amendment are at the request of the Department of Public Safety.

This Thursday I had the pleasure of visiting with a group of pastors from Marshall County who came to the capitol to encourage their area legislators and pray for us. Among them were Pastors Kerry Jech, Dave Martin, Jim Bonser, Jim Hartman, Dennis Quinn, and Alan Mullikin.

As always, please feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.