Bill proposal would alleviate rural schools transporting costs

CAPITOL LETTERS 

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE GARY WORTHAN

District 11, R-Storm Lake

Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

This is the first funnel week of the 2018 session. Funnel weeks were created to establish order in the legislative process.  There was a deadline in late January for legislators to request individually authored bills. This first funnel requires that a bill has been approved in a policy committee in either chamber in order to remain alive for the session.  The next funnel occurs in about three weeks and will require a bill to have been approved by one chamber and moved through committee in the other in order to remain alive.  Exceptions to the funnels include appropriations bills, ways and means bills and what are termed as committee chair bills.

In order to meet the funnel deadline, this week has been consumed by sub-committee and committee meetings. All budget committee meetings and floor debate were suspended in order for the policy committees to have ample time to move the bills on their agendas. Over the last couple of weeks I have floor managed two bills through Transportation Committee, a bill in the Labor Committee and four bills in the Public Safety Committee. I will remain responsible for the management of these bills through floor debate and approval.

One of the more interesting bills that I am managing has been dubbed the “critical infrastructure bill.”  Several municipal utilities approached the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) with the concern that their facilities and networks were not adequately defined and protected under current law. HSEM researched current code and determined that while there was some protection under various current laws, there were parts of our current infrastructure that were not defined or protected. The internet and the command and control of various systems through the internet were glaringly absent anywhere in current code in regard to protection from vandalism, sabotage or terrorism. House Study Bill 603 defines “critical infrastructure” to include the electrical grid, sewer and water systems, telecommunications and broadband, fuel and oil distribution, storage and delivery systems, and transportation systems including air, highway, rail and mass transit along with all physical, electronic or computer systems used to command and control any of the above. HSB603, in addition to defining critical infrastructure, provides for charging a Class B felony with a penalty of $85,000 to $100,000 fine and or 25 years in prison for a serious attack.

K-12 funding is yet to be resolved. While the numbers are close between the House and the Senate, the process has been the hold up. The House had started on a step-by-step process to determine Supplemental State Aid (SSA), transportation funding and equity funding. The Senate preferred an all in one approach. As a result, the House Appropriations Committee approved an SSA bill and a bill combining transportation funding and equity funding and sent it back to the Senate.

Transportation funding will be extremely important to the rural districts all across the state, including House District 11. Transporting students is a general fund expense, just like classroom costs. A district at the high end of transport costs at $970 per student has $870 per student less to spend in the classroom than the low end school at whose transportation costs are $100 per student. The bill that passed the Appropriation Committee today will dedicate $11.2 million to buy down the transportation costs of the high end districts. The result will be that no school district in the state will spend more than $432 on transportation costs. This bill will mean that Sioux Central will have $157,000 more to spend in its classrooms next year, Schaller-Crestland nearly $59,000 more, East Sac County over $79,000 more, and Alta-Aurelia nearly $60,000 more. Hopefully this is just the first step in removing the inequities of transportation funding across the state.    
 

Please join me at my upcoming forum on March 17 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake.