March 9, 2017
Monday of this week (March 6) Agriculture Committee held a public hearing to hear pros and cons of a bill that would change the structure of the governance of the Des Moines waterworks from the current board structure to that of a regional water system. I like the idea of a regional system because the Des Moines waterworks supplies much of the suburban area around Des Moines as well as a large area north and west of the city through the Xenia rural water system, but that really isn’t my decision. There was a lot of discussion on both sides of the issue with the most noise coming from those opposed. I am not sure where this is going, but it is crafted tightly so it will not affect any other water associations in the state.
Wednesday was County Day at the Capitol. The House was debating a list of non-controversial bills when we had to break for a block of committee meetings. On my way back to the House after Natural Resources I was able to spend some time visiting with Poweshiek County Auditor, Missy Eilander and Supervisor, Diana Dawley about issues effecting counties. The lobby area was so noisy we used the law library for a meeting place.
Tuesday we debated the omnibus gun bill (Second Amendment.) The bill finally passed with some bipartisan support. The things this bill does; it allows a parent to teach their children handgun safety, it changes the permit to require a training class once rather than every five years, and annual permits are changed to a five year permit. Government cannot confiscate weapons in times of emergency which allows people to protect themselves and their families. It keeps personal information of weapons permit holders confidential. It allows Iowans to defend themselves in the event of danger and removes the duty to retreat (stand your ground.) It also includes civil immunity to protect Iowans from costly litigation. It contains a preemption clause that states that no city, county, or township has the authority to limit possession of firearms (with a permit.)
One bill that barely survived the funnel was HSB 163, which would repeal the five cent deposit that has been in effect for four decades. It would include enhanced recycling efforts and would charge a penny per beverage container until a cumulative total of 60 million dollars is collected into the ground water protection and solid waste fund. It would also access a .015% litter control community enhancement excise fee on beverage fee on containers and would be deposited in the “Keep Iowa Beautiful” fund. I think it would be much simpler to just raise the original deposit fee and give recyclers more money to keep them in business. Many of us can remember what the Iowa country side looked like before we had the bottle and can law.
Next week the revenue estimating committee will be meeting and we will be able to seriously start looking at budgets. Things do not look particularly good. The previous predictions had estimated as much as 213 million dollars of new revenue. Things are not looking good at this time. Early revenue comparisons show only a growth of about 8 million dollars. I remember the first budget I helped work on, and thinking it was very tight. Each year it has gotten just a little bit worse until we had to de-appropriate spending at the beginning of this session. We are in the tightest budget squeeze that the state has been in during the last six years. We will have to be very serious and judicious in fulfilling the budget needs of the state budget funds.