The good news from the week: some progress has been made toward a compromise on the state budget and property tax, education and mental health reform. The bad news: it’s not nearly enough to ensure we finish even next week. The House and the Senate have traded proposals for an overall spending number but as of this update no agreement has been reached.
Once the overall spending number is decided it will be divided among the conference committees putting together individual budgets like education and health & human services. The conference committees will go through each budget line by line to find consensus on spending levels. The Governor’s office will likely participate in these negotiations, as well. The Legislative Services Agency will then begin drafting conference committee reports that will be put to votes in both the House and the Senate.
While the overall budget deal is relatively close, you can see the steps that must be completed before adjournment once it is reached. Conference committees are not scheduled to meet again until Monday. It will be very difficult to finish next week.
On to the update…
In This Issue
1. House Votes to Limit Access to Birth Control & Preventative Care
2. Education Reform Bill Heads to Conference Committee
3. Iowa Continues Leadership in Renewable Energy
4. Capitol Visits
House Votes to Limit Access to Birth Control & Preventative Care
House Republicans, on a party-line vote, used the Health & Human Services budget to limit access to birth control for tens of thousands of Iowans. Most Iowans I talk to believe the debate over access to family planning services was settled long ago. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the national debate over whether birth control is a legitimate health care decision came to Iowa.
The amendment also goes far beyond contraception. It would limit thousands of Iowans’ access to breast cancer screenings and immunizations. Preventative care would be shortchanged causing overall state health care costs to increase as Iowans are forced to seek health care in emergency rooms across the state.
Differences between the Senate and House versions of the Health & Human Services budget, SF 2336, will be negotiated in conference committee next week.
Education Reform Bill Heads to Conference Committee
This week the House amended its education reform bill in response to changes made in the Senate. Here are some of the items that remain in the House version of the bill:
Helping districts move toward individualized learning;
Alternative teacher licensure;
Arbitrary 3rd grade retention for literacy deficiency;
Core curriculum additions for fine arts, applied arts, humanities and world languages; and
Value-added changes to student achievement measures.
The House also removed provisions from its original proposal and the Senate’s proposal including:
Allowing non-public charter schools;
Expanding the Department of Education’s ability to exempt districts from standards; and
Tobacco-free school requirement.
The multiple versions of education reform are now in a conference committee attempting to find a compromise.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Co-Creators Camp for Transforming Education at Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids. I really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with over 80 parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers and community advocates pushing for transformational change in our schools. I left the event more energized than ever to push for transformational change that reflects the values and skills prioritized in today’s world.
The individualized learning (competency-based assessment) language I pushed for in the House and Senate looks to be included in the final legislation. Making sure it remains in the final version of the bill will remain my focus. I am also working to remove provisions that cement our current system designed for skills and values needed 100 years ago but are no longer relevant in today’s economy.
Iowa Continues Leadership in Renewable Energy
Iowa continues to be a world leader in the production of renewable energy, ranking 1st in ethanol, 2nd in wind energy, and 4th in biodiesel production.
The American Wind Energy Association announced Iowa maintained its number 2 ranking nationally producing 4,322 megawatts of energy, enough to power over 2 million homes for one year. The wind energy industry supports around 6,000 jobs in Iowa with parts of wind turbines manufactured at facilities in Newton, Ft. Madison, West Branch, and Cedar Rapids.
According to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa’s biofuel industry added $11.5 billion to Iowa’s economy, generated $2.3 billion in new household income and created or supported over 70,000 Iowa jobs.
Iowa has a goal that 25 percent of all petroleum used in the formulation of gasoline be replaced with biofuels by the year 2020. Based on a formula to determine pure biofuels sales in Iowa, the Department of Revenue reported that 9.7 percent of 2011 Iowa retail motor fuel sales were biofuels. This included 1.2 billion gallons of E10, 10.7 million gallons of E85, and 227.2 million gallons of biodiesel.
Doug Neumann with the Cedar Rapids Area Economic Alliance visited the Capitol this week as the House and Senate debated changes to the tax increment financing (TIF) law. I also spoke with a number of folks from Dubuque including John Gronen, City Manager Mike Van Milligan, Teri Goodman, and Rick Dickinson at the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation. They were interested in TIF reform, allocation of historic tax credits and water management.
Have a great weekend!