Bouncing bills and budget targets

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE DAN A. HUSEMAN

R-District 3, Aurelia

We are nearing the end of the session, so most of the “big” issues have been decided. However, there are still bills out there that are moving back and forth between the House and Senate. For example, if the House passes a bill and sends it to the Senate, they can reject it, change it, or pass it as is and send it to the Governor.  If they change it, the bill comes back to the House for consideration. Then the House has several options on how to proceed.  We call these “bouncing bills”, and this is what we spent most of our time on this week. Obviously, we have seen this legislation before so it is a matter of getting things fine tuned and perfected. Good committee work produces the best legislation.

We have finally received joint budget targets which means the House and Senate marjority parties have agreed to an overall spending figure. This will help speed up the process, and budget chairs are working hard to make the numbers work as best they can. There will be cuts and they will be painful. The final days of this session will be very tense.

The overall revenue number is complicated by the pace of income tax refunds being paid by the state. Due to increased efforts to stop fraudulent income tax returns filed via identity theft, the state has implemented additional checks and safeguards. This has resulted in Iowans having to wait longer for their refunds.  It also has made it difficult to determine the state’s revenue position.

The Legislative Services Agency’s revenue report for March says state revenue has grown 5.9% through the first nine months of the fiscal year. This spike in growth is primarily due to one thing – income tax refunds. Due to the enhanced fraud prevention efforts, the amount of refunds paid out by the state was 59.6% lower this March than what it was in March 2016. This makes comparing overall revenue numbers between last year and this year virtually impossible.

The Department of Education is looking for nominations for 2018’s Iowa Teacher of the Year award. The award provides an opportunity to recognize an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges, and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; who is a dedicated professional who helps nurture hidden talents and abilities; who is a creative, caring individual; who takes teaching beyond textbooks and blackboards; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education. 

Established in 1958, the annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.  The Teacher of the Year serves as an ambassador to education and as a liaison to primary and secondary schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

Nominations can come from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members and associations. Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website: https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/award-exchange-programs/iowa-teacher-y.... They are due April 28. The 2018 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall.

On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release announcing that the emerald ash borer (EAB) can now be linked to 45 counties in Iowa as Fayette and Madison counties are the most recent to be added to that growing list. EAB is a destructive wood-boring beetle that attacks and kills all ash tree species. This exotic pest was first discovered in Iowa in 2010. In Fayette County, the insect was discovered in a city-owned ash tree in Oelwein. For Madison County, the finding took place in a rural area south of Winterset.  Insect specimens taken from these sites were confirmed as EAB by a federal identifier. 

The Iowa EAB Team provides EAB diagnostic assistance to landowners and includes officials from IDALS, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the USDA Forest Service. Anyone who suspects an infested ash tree in a county not known to have EAB is urged to contact the Iowa EAB Team. The adult beetle is metallic green in color and measures approximately one-half inch long and can be noticed during the summer months. The larvae burrow through the inner layer of bark, eating away at the vascular tissue, which supplies nutrients to the tree. Starved trees usually die within two to four years.  EAB-infested ash trees display canopy dieback beginning at the top of the tree and progressing downwards, S-shaped feeding galleries under dead or splitting bark, D-shaped exit holes, water sprouts (along the trunk and main branches), and increased bark damage by woodpeckers.

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880.  You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, IA, 50319.  My home address is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, IA 51005. If you have email, please contact me at dan.huseman@legis.state. ia.us.