In the Legislature
On Wednesday, March 15, Iowans recognized Canada Day at the Capitol. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs for the Canadian Parliament visited the Iowa House and Senate, along with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. Mr. Leslie spoke about the importance of strong US-Canada relations and growing trade between Iowa and Canada, adding that the trade is growing, fair, and supports innovation.
We also passed several bills on the floor this week. Here's our week:
State Senator Jeff Edler
On Monday, we debated and passed HF 203, HF 303, HF 372, SF 332, SF 333, SF 403, SF 451, SF 452, SF 472, and SF 479.
SF 403 was my second bill to run on the floor. This bill amends current law regarding theft of video rental property and adds equipment rental. It expands the law to cover theft of rental property, but does not change the underlying law or elements of the crime. This bill passed the Senate unanimously.
HF 203 allows the primary road funds to be allocated to secondary and municipal road systems in exchange for retaining all or a portion of federal aid road funds that would otherwise be allocated to counties and cities. This bill helps increase the efficiency of the planning and construction of city and county roads by eliminating federal requirements that are attached when federal money is used. This change could save our cities and counties 15-20 percent on road and bridge projects, thus allowing them to complete more projects. The counties and cities still receive the same total amount of money, just state dollars instead of federal dollars. This bill does not mandate or require the swap of money. It allows the commission to do the swap if they believe it is beneficial. The bill passed 26-21.
On Tuesday, we passed SF 250, SF 404, SF 411, SF 441, SF 442, SF 447, and SF 471.
SF 447 protects our state's livestock producers. This bill is providing an affirmative defense and a cap on compensatory damages for animal feeding operations provided the operation complies with applicable federal or state statutes or regulations, uses existing reasonable management practices, and the owner is not a habitual environmental violator. This bill passed the Senate 31-18.
SF 471 (originally SF 53), the 20-week abortion bill, passed on the Senate floor with bipartisan support, 32-17. The bill removes the ban of abortions after the second trimester and replaces it with a ban of 20 weeks. There is an exception for up to 24 weeks when, in the best clinical judgment of the physician, the human pregnancy has a fetal anomaly incompatible with life.
We passed SF 405, SF 415, SF 439, SF 445, and SF 483 on Wednesday.
SF 483, a bill to require a primary runoff election, passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. This bill requires a runoff election to be held in the event of an inconclusive primary election. This will allow for the people to have a say in the voting process, rather than just the people in a room at a convention.
On Thursday, we debated and passed SJR 9, SF 458, SF 465, SF 467, and SF 484.
SJR 9, A Constitutional Amendment
Anticipated state revenue growth failed to meet expectations, once again, we learned this week. The Revenue Estimating Conference, which forecasts state revenues for budgeting purposes, announced an anticipated shortfall of $138 million in the current year budget. This news comes after the legislature made more than $118 million in cuts in January to the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
Senate Republicans have stressed the importance of reining in the unprecedented levels of spending in recent years as the state budget eclipsed the $7 billion mark. One of the first five bills we introduced in January was a provision that would add the 99 percent expenditure limitation to the state constitution. Though state law does require the legislature to spend no more than 99 percent of anticipated revenues for the next fiscal year, this amendment to the Iowa Constitution would help ensure the state meets its financial obligations.
HF 517 -Firearms
The bill, House File 517, is making changes to firearms laws in Iowa. This is a big bill and will take some time to go through while we have these discussions. It took the first steps in the Senate process this week.
The bill has thirteen different divisions. A few of them involve:
Removing the state prohibition on short-barreled rifles and shot guns
Allowing private investigators and security officers who are licensed and have a permit to carry to carry on school property while engaged in performance of their duties
Making it a serious misdemeanor to carry a dangerous weapon while under the influence
Updating permit to carry language
Requiring firearms safety training when a new permit to carry is issued
Strikes the minimum age for a person to possess a handgun while under the supervision of a parent or guardian
Prohibiting the governor and political subdivisions from revoking firearms rights in a state of emergency
Allowing a person to use reasonable force if they have a reasonable belief the force is necessary to avoid injury or death to themselves or others. There is no duty to retreat
Allowing a person riding a snowmobile or ATV to carry a pistol or revolver without a retention holster
Constitutional rights have always been one of my key campaign areas. As a result of the omnibus gun bill, many perceived issues with current gun law will be addressed. I am proud to be a part of bringing this bill out of the Judiciary committee and to a floor vote in the Senate. This bill passed committee Thursday with a 10-2-1 vote.
REC, Tax Credits, and Growth
The Revenue Estimating Conference this week indicated revenues for this fiscal year and next fiscal year are reduced significantly from their prior expectations. This news highlights the importance of Senate Republican's goal of implementing policies that will spur economic growth. Growth in the economy increases state revenues because more people are working, spending, and paying taxes.
Iowa's tax code is extraordinarily complicated. It contains nine different tax brackets, approximately 40 different tax credit programs and one of the highest tax rates in the Midwest. It is a barrier to growth. It limits the ability of job creators to grow and expand career opportunities for Iowans. A symptom of that uncompetitive tax code is the proliferation of tax credits to ease the burden on some businesses. However, businesses that are not as fortunate to have a special tax credit are left to pay the bill for those tax credits provided to other businesses.
We are committed to lowering the tax rates in Iowa, reducing the mess of tax credits, and expanding the tax base. Less social engineering in the tax code allows for more efficient allocation of capital. A simpler, fairer tax code creates an environment that encourages growth without the state picking winners and losers in an uncompetitive tax climate.