Capitol Review 1-22-17

Smaller, Smarter Government Bills Introduced in the House

Smaller Smarter Government is catching on all over the capitol.  Our weekly bible study even addressed smaller and smarter government.  This week, members of the House Republican caucus began introducing legislation aimed at making government smaller and smarter.  Here are some highlights:

House File 1
Establishes an ongoing review of all state programs to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.  This bill would also require reauthorization of all government programs every 5 years to make certain that programs are still needed and serving their intended purpose.

House File 3
Limits the government’s ability to enact burdensome occupational licensing barriers that make it harder for Iowans to work in certain jobs and careers.

House File 20
Protects Iowa’s students from sexual exploitation by a school employee.

House File 28
Requires high schools to teach financial literacy courses to better prepare Iowa’s students following graduation.  These types of classes will promote important skills and concepts for adult life like money management, college planning, savings and investments, credit and debt, and insurance coverage.

House Joint Resolution 1
Protects the privacy and liberty of Iowans by extending Fourth Amendment protections to Iowans’ electronic communications and data.

Iowa School Report Card Updated with New Features
The Department of Education this week released a new Iowa School Report Card and details on new features. 

A web-based system that evaluates and rates public schools based on their performance on a required set of measures, the Iowa School Report Card was developed as a requirement of HF 215 in 2013, the Education Reform Bill.  The goal is to provide transparency through meaningful information available to parents, the community, and the state on the performance of individual schools. 

Available at, the Report Card assigns schools one of six ratings: Exceptional, High-Performing, Commendable, Acceptable, Needs Improvement, and Priority. Schools are grouped by comparable grade configurations (elementary, middle and high schools).

The ratings are based on each school’s performance over a two-year span on the following educational measures:

·Proficiency: The percentage of students scoring proficient or better on state reading and mathematics assessments.

·College and Career-Ready Growth: The percentage of students who are making the year-to-year growth necessary to be ready for college and career training by the end of high school.

·Annual Expected Growth: The percentage of students making a year of academic growth in a year’s time on state reading and mathematics assessments.

·Closing Achievement Gap:  A measure that reflects a statewide goal of narrowing the gap in achievement for students with disabilities, students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and English Language Learners.

·College and Career Readiness: The percentage of students who score at or above a level of performance on reading and mathematics assessments that predicts a higher probability of postsecondary success. (Middle/high schools only.)

·Graduation Rate: The percentage of ninth-grade students who finished high school within five years. (High schools only)

·Attendance: The average daily attendance of students, which is the total number of days students were enrolled and present divided by the total number of possible attendance days.

·Staff Retention: The percentage of teachers, school administrators and other licensed staff members who remained employed in a school over consecutive school years.

Capitol Review 1-13-17

Smarter, Smaller Government

Governor Terry E. Branstad gave his final Condition of the State Address on Tuesday.  His theme was “Smarter, Smaller Government.”  Sound familiar?  That phrase has been the foundation of my campaign since the beginning!  I gladly share the phrase with the Governor and hope that the phrase is something all House and Senate members can adopt this session. 

This year I will head the Education Committee as its Chair.  I am also on Appropriations, Environmental Protections, and Education Budget Committees.

Please feel free to contact me at any time this session via email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

I am looking forward to a great session!

Resolving the FY17 Budget

Due to a sluggish agricultural economy faced with commodity prices below the cost of production, which is having a ripple effect in other industries, Iowa’s revenue growth is slowing. 

When the Legislature adjourned last year, the budget was balanced.  However an updated revenue projection has created a manageable budget shortfall of around $117 million.  This will require reductions to the current state budget.

House Republicans believe that a thoughtful approach to this shortfall is necessary.  That means:

  • Keeping our promise to K-12 education:  Since taking the majority in 2011, House Republicans have made education a priority by providing schools with funding that they can depend on.  House Republicans are working to hold K-12 education harmless from any budget reductions.
  • No across-the-board cut:  Schools, public safety, and human services were decimated as a result of Chet Culver’s 10% across-the-board cut in 2009.  We don’t need a repeat of this.  House Republicans are working to make targeted, thoughtful reductions with minimal impact on services.
  • Finding efficiencies and duplication:  House Republicans will work to identify programs that are no longer necessary or serve the same purpose other programs in different departments.

At a time when the state is experiencing revenue growth, now isn’t the time to tap the Economic Emergency or Cash Reserve funds to balance the budget.  State revenue continues to grow, but it’s at a slower pace than originally projected.

House Republicans are committed to funding the priorities of Iowans in a thoughtful and responsible way.

2017 Priorities

Budget Leadership

House Republicans will continue to abide by our budget principles which have done the state well:

  1. We will spend less than the state collects
  2. We will not use one-time funds to pay for ongoing needs
  3. We will not intentionally underfund state programs to balance the budget
  4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers

Flexibility for Schools

House Republicans are committed to providing flexibility to locally elected school boards by loosening funding restrictions and allow more local decision making.  Several school districts have thousands of dollars sitting in funds unused because they are limited to specific purposes.

Every school district in the state faces its own unique struggles.  Schools in Hudson and Waterloo aren’t the same.  We should loosen funding strings and allow schools to spend money in the way that fits their individual districts best.

Among the most far reaching efforts the Legislature can pursue is changing Iowa’s collective bargaining laws to allow superintendents and school boards more flexibility to deal with locally unique budget challenges as they arise.

An Environment for Growth

House Republicans are always looking for ways to leave more money in the pockets of Iowa’s hardworking taxpayers.

Even with tight revenues, House Republicans believe there’s never a bad time to review Iowa’s complex tax code.  House Republicans will look for ways to make Iowa’s tax code simpler, fairer, and more competitive as the session gets underway.

Smaller, Smarter Government Explained

As Ronald Reagan said in his farewell address to the nation, “I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts."

President Reagan was right.  We’re seeing the federal government expand at an unsustainable rate, and we’re starting to see our liberties contract at the hands of an intrusive, overbearing government.

I’ve had many people ask me lately, “What will you do to make our government smaller and smarter?”  In my view, the situation looks like this: 

The big-government mess:

  • A massive federal takeover of health care that is quickly becoming less of a real “law” and more of a lawless hierarchy of privilege where those with connections, money, and power get exemptions and the rest of us get stuck.
  • Loss of full-time jobs due to Obamacare’s employer mandate, leading to increasing levels of part-time employment and unemployment.
  • Futile attempts to “stimulate” the economy by spending massive amounts of money borrowed from our grandchildren.
  • Complex, unpredictable laws creating an environment hostile to business, leading to even higher unemployment and underemployment rates.
  • Trying to regulate our children’s education with top-down, one-size-fits-all approaches like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core.”
  • A runaway, out-of-control EPA working to make sure President Obama’s promise of “skyrocketing energy prices” becomes reality.
  • Overloading people and businesses with taxes that cost Iowans jobs every day.
  • An overarching mentality that if there is a problem, government must be the solution.

Smaller, smarter government means:

  • Dismantling Obamacare immediately by any means possible and replacing it with free-market reforms.
  • Unleashing American energy production, allowing an “all of the above” energy strategy.
  • Responsible, honest, and transparent budgeting and spending.
  • Making sure our laws apply equally to all, with no special “exemptions” or “waivers” for favored groups, unions, or elected officials.
  • Reducing the size, scope, and control of government wherever possible.
  • Ending the concept of “too big to fail” and getting the government out of the business of picking winners and losers.
  • Returning control of education to states and local school districts.
  • Saving Iowans’ jobs by reducing the tax and regulatory burden on individuals and businesses.
  • Protecting citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights to defend themselves and their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Recognizing that government exists to protect our rights, especially the right to life, from its beginning at conception to its end at natural death.

October Newsletter

Obamacare Causing Real Emergency Situation in Minnesota

It’s no secret: the health insurance individual market for ACA-compliant plans is in bad shape, but our neighbors to the north have described Minnesota’s market as a “real emergency situation” with premiums increasing between 50-67%.  Minnesota Commerce Commissioner echoed Iowa consumer concerns, stating these rates are unfair and unstable, and something needs to be done.

The giant premium increase-drivers are also not new: rising costs of prescription drugs, federal subsidies expiring causing a five percent nation-wide increase and the small individual market containing small numbers of sick people driving up the costs for everyone.  Minnesota is also dealing with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s decision to pull out of the market altogether.  This loss caused the other providers to raise their rates and threaten to pull out.  Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner hopes this doesn’t happen in Iowa.  No companies have made any promises to stay in 2018.

Minnesota’s premium increases, while astronomical, are unfortunately not among the highest in the country; in fact, they fall into the “average” category for these types of plans.  Iowa’s increases are as high as 42%. 

Uncertainty in Markets and the Federal Government – Revenue Estimate lowered

The Revenue Estimating Conference held its October meeting last Thursday to discuss the condition of state revenue in FY 2017 and to revise their preliminary forecast for FY 2018.  During the discussion of the condition of Iowa’s economy and state revenue, one word kept coming up - “uncertainty.”

All three members of the panel - DOM director David Roederer, LSA Fiscal Services director Holly Lyons, and Clear Lake businessman David Underwood - discussed how uncertainty in the markets, in government, and with consumers, was making it more difficult to forecast the direction of tax revenue in the state. 

Strong employment figures and signs of wage growth give signs of economic improvement in the future.  But the state’s ag economy is suffering from a variety of factors.  Prices for corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs are all down significantly since the REC last met.  The drop in commodity prices contributed to the continued slowdown in the state’s manufacturing sector, which is heavily focused on the ag sector.  Also, the continuation of the “profits recession” has cut into the amount of income Iowans have earned from their investments.

These factors combined to give Underwood some “guarded optimism” about future revenue growth.  This may be taken as a good sign, since the Clear Lake businessman had been pessimistic about future revenue performance in the past few meetings of the REC.

FY 2017

After application of the revenue adjustments enacted during the 2016 legislative session, the adjusted March REC revenue estimate for FY 2017 was $7.3800 billion.  The REC lowered their estimate to $7.3081 billion, which is a reduction of $71.9 million. 

FY 2018

The meeting revised the preliminary estimate for the upcoming fiscal year 2018.  The REC’s initial estimate in March projected revenue to grow to $7.6591 billion.  Thursday’s meeting lowered the revenue figure to $7.6073 billion, a reduction of $51.8 million.


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Cedar Falls, IA 50613



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