Supplemental State Aid at top of working list

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE GARY WORTHAN

District 11, R-Storm Lake Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

A shortened week two of the 2018 session is nearly completed.  The Legislature was not in session on Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady gave the Condition of the Judiciary address the day after Governor Reynolds presented the Condition of the State.  Chief Justice Cady’s remarks very clearly outlined the successes the court has seen over the last several years and the challenges it faces as we move forward.

Over the last several years the court has been able to eliminate over 60 positions, primarily due to the full implementation of the Electronic Document Management System.  EDMS makes it possible to apportion the work load in county clerk of court offices across the state through the electronic transfer of documents.  EDMS has also made our county attorney’s offices more efficient by eliminating the need for office staff to make constant trips to the county courthouse.

Statewide, our court system is holding open 17  judge positions and over 60 juvenile court officer positions in an effort to meet their budget constraints. As Medicaid and other entitlements demand a larger and larger portion of the state’s revenue, I see the resulting shortfall in other areas having a serious effect on the ability of the courts and other departments to fulfill their responsibilities.

Major General Timothy Orr addressed a joint session of the Legislature last Thursday with the State of the National Guard and Air Guard.  The pace of operations remains at a very high level.  Pilots of remotely operated vehicles (drones) are conducting operations around the world 24/7, from a base in Des Moines.  One of my fellow legislators recently assumed command of an Air Guard military intelligence unit based here in Des Moines. This unit and the 185th Air Refueling Wing based in Sioux City are in constant operation in support of military operations all across the globe. Units from across the country come to Camp Dodge in Johnston for specialized and advanced training. This makes Camp Dodge the third busiest Guard facility in the country, providing 485,000 training days to the Guard, Reserve and the active duty Army.

Education issues will be at the head of the list as we get into the heart of the session.  Setting Supplemental State Aid to local school districts will be set within the next three weeks. This allows your local district to plan their budgets for the ’18-19 school years.  Since 2011, Iowa has increased funding to our K-12 system by $735 million, bringing our total spending to $3.2 billion.  This is 45% of the state’s total budget.  Iowa currently ranks fourth in the nation in increased spending for the K-12 system.

Also on the agenda will be an extension of the penny sales tax for school infrastructure.  Current law sunsets the tax in 2029, which limits its utility in bonding for large projects.  The Education Committee and the Ways and Means Committee are currently researching modifications that will improve public input and transparency in allocating the funds generated by the tax.    

Please join me at my upcoming forums:

Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake

March 17 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake