Republicans who control the legislature took a breather this week on creating more havoc. They have big plans in the next two weeks. The first legislative funnel is on March 5. Most bills must be approved by at least one committee to remain viable for the session by this date. There are lots of subcommittee and committee meetings scheduled over the next two weeks. Hold on to your hat!
The decision by the University of Iowa to cut tuition scholarships for 2,500 Iowa students is being met with extreme disappointment by students and parents that were counting on these resources to cover college expenses. The decision was precipitated by the Republican legislature and Governor Branstad’s decision to cut $8 million from the UI with just five months left in the fiscal year. This is a huge cut that is compounded by inadequate funding over the past seven years. The rubber has finally hit the road. The universities have two major sources of income: state appropriations and tuition. The legislature has done a dismal job of funding higher education.
The fastest growing part of state government is tax credit spending and commercial/industrial property tax cuts. Combined, it equals approximately $700 million in general fund spending in FY17. This spending has crowded out all priorities. One on the most expensive and richest tax credits is the research activities credit. Approved in the mid-1980s, it is the most generous research tax credit in the country. The chart below shows where the money is going. There was an impromptu debate in the senate yesterday over frustration with these cuts. Here is a link to some of my comments. Here is a link to a print story on the debate. And another one.
There is a bill being advocated by the Farm Bureau (they deny this) and agricultural interests to reorganize the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) into a regional water utility. The bill, when approved, would end the current DMWW lawsuit against three rural county drainage districts for nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River. This is a power grab like none I have witnessed in my time in the legislature. Here is a link to a story about the bill.
The Iowa House Republicans pulled the plug on moving a comprehensive medical cannabis bill this year. Rep. Clel Baudler’s could not even get his weak bill out of his committee. Republican House Speaker Upmeyer said they would approve status quo legislation to extend the sunset for liability protection for the handful of patients that have intractable epilepsy. Here is a link to their comments. This is the fourth year in a row that House Republicans can’t find the votes in their caucus to help suffering Iowans. Sad.
The Republican agenda still to come: reinstate the death penalty, guns for everyone, more restriction on women’s health care choices, political correctness test for university hires, drain money from public schools with private vouchers, no new money for higher education, and I could go on and on.
THIS WEEK’S VISITORS
Barbara Gamb, Lutheran Social Services
Ken Gamb, Lutheran Social Services
Bob Oppliger, Bicyclists of Iowa City
Rick Walton, Bicyclists of Iowa City
Dr. Cara Hamann, Associate, University of Iowa College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology
Craig Mosher, Professor, Luther College
Danielle Waddle, St. Ambrose University
Ed Cranston, Refugees Alliance of Central Iowa
Emmalyn Brown, volunteer, Rape Victims Advocacy Group
Jacqueline Berlien, Refugees Alliance of Central Iowa
Joni Howland, Director of Social Work Program, Mount Mercy University
Kathryn Ferring, Student, St. Ambrose University
Kathy Keasler, Refugees Alliance of Central Iowa
Madi Musson, Secretary, Iowa Art Therapy Association
Martha Harrouff, Dietitian, Iowa Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
Nancy Porter, Johnson County League of Women Voters
Paul Ostrem, Lutheran Social Services
Ro Foege, American Association of Retired Persons
Shana Kaska, volunteer, Rape Victims Advocacy Group
Sharon Ginty, Pharmacist, Mercy Hospital
Susan Junis, Rape Victims Advocacy Group
Virginia Dunbar, American Association of Retired Persons
Ed Dunbar, American Association of Retired Persons
Sorry if I missed you.
PROTECT IOWA PETS
In past sessions, Democrats have targeted animal abusers without any success. Last year, the Senate passed Senate File 2289, which would have elevated the crime to a class D or C felony, if it had not failed in a Republican-controlled House. The bill was specifically aimed at punishing the abuse of domesticated pets excluding livestock. There is a similar bill this year; it is Senate File 313.
Pet abuse continues to be a prevalent issue in Iowa. We learned this week that Iowans cannot even bring their pets to the groomers without fear of them being battered. An incident occurred in Iowa City involving a groomer and his clients. You can read the full Press-Citizens article for all the details.