Thursday, January 12
The 2017 legislative session is underway. Monday morning, January 9, we began with the swearing in ceremony. House Leadership remains unchanged from last session, Rep. Upmeyer continues as Speaker and Rep. Hagenow continues as House Majority Leader. Tuesday, in a joint session with the Senate we heard Governor Branstad's final Condition of the State address outlining his priorities for the state.
State Rep. Dean Fisher
He began his address by calling for "Smaller and Smarter Government" and continued focus on education for the jobs of today and tomorrow. One fact the governor offered was that there are nearly 500 different health care plans across all levels of Iowa government. Clearly there are opportunities for more efficiency as we move forward with reforms.
On Wednesday in another joint session we heard Supreme Court Chief Justice Cady deliver the Condition of the Judiciary address. One of the highlights of this address was the progress the judiciary has made in reducing juvenile incarceration by nearly 50 percent since 2009 through the use of juvenile courts and drug courts that focus on remedial actions instead of incarceration.
My committee assignments this year are: Vice Chair of Natural Resources which deals with the recreational aspects of our environment such as hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation; Appropriations which deals with the overall state budget; Education Budget Subcommittee which deals with the education budget other than K-12 funding, such as the Regents schools, community colleges, private colleges, school for the blind, etc.; Commerce which deals with banking, credit unions, insurance, and other business related legislation; and Public Safety which deals with law enforcement issues, illegal drugs, and related issues.
One of the first items we are addressing is the revenue shortfall occurring in the current fiscal year budget, Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17).
When that budget was passed during the 2016 session the revenue estimate made in March by the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) was $7.35 billion. At the most recent REC in December FY17 revenue was downgraded to $7.21 billion, this number being part actual revenue for the first half of the year and estimated revenue for the last half.
Once all the other adjustments are made, we are expecting a manageable shortfall of $117 million.
The House Republicans remain committed to our budget principles, the first of which is "We will spend less than the state collects". Therefore we are working on a $117 million de-appropriation for the current fiscal year.
Even though this represents only 1.6% of the overall budget, the fact that it all occurs in the last half of the year, and that the governor has asked that K-12 education and Medicaid be excluded from the cuts (representing roughly three fourths of the budget), makes these decisions very difficult. House Republicans are up to this task however. We are still working through the details, and we hope to have a bill ready for the second week of the session. We will not be making mindless across the board cuts, as we are looking at the budget items and prioritizing them based on the priorities of Iowans.
There are many other priorities that we are working on of course. Funding for our K-12 schools, financial flexibility for our schools, Second Amendment issues and much more are in the works.
This year my legislative clerk is my wife, Vicki. I'm delighted to have her by my side in the chamber. Vicki has many years of experience as a church secretary and working in the insurance industry, she will be a great asset to me and district 72 as my clerk.
As always, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 641-750-3594.