Capitol Report - Week 13 2021
April 12, 2021
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld
All that Heaven Will Allow. A sure sign the end is getting closer was the progress made this past week on the state budget bills. On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved the first of several bills acted upon. The bill, SF 592, would provide funding to the Department of Transportation from the road use tax fund and primary road fund. SF 592 passed on a voice vote, with no dissents. The same bi-partisan spirit did not carry forward as other budget bills were deliberated.
By the end of the week, seven of the ten major budget bills had made it to the debate calendars in one or both chambers. This happened despite the fact the House has yet to release its budget targets. The Senate released its targets a couple of weeks ago and announced a total target for FY 2022 of $7.999 billion, 2.5% more than the current year’s spending. The Governor’s proposed FY 2022 budget would spend $8.114 billion, a 3.7 percent increase over FY 2021.
Following is the status of each of the major budget bills:
Budget Bill Status
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No Surrender. On Tuesday, the Senate passed its second major tax bill of the session, SF 587, this time voting along party lines, 30-17. The Senate previously passed a bill, SF 576, unanimously, that would eliminate the revenue “triggers” making additional income tax cuts effective in 2023 and repealing the state’s inheritance tax. In addition to eliminating the “triggers,” the new bill, SF 587, would also shift the costs of mental health services from county property taxes to the state and would phase out the “backfill” to local governments, funding cities, counties and schools receive to replace lost commercial property tax dollars. It is still unknown whether the House will take up either bill. Looming over that decision is the cloud created by the federal government’s restriction on use of federal stimulus dollars to cut taxes. Legislative leaders hope to receive guidance soon from the U.S. Treasury Department on how the stimulus dollars impact the state’s ability to cut taxes.
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Darkness on the Edge of Town. Also on Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill, HF 848, to set up a system of grants to broadband providers to expand internet service in the state. The bill does not provide any funding – that will come later – but does specify the minimum download and upload speeds that companies must meet to receive grant funding. For most, it would be 100 megabits per second, up and down. Some grants will go to companies providing slower speeds, up to 20 megabits per second, if they expand service to sparsely populated, unserved areas of the state. Governor Reynolds has asked the legislature to appropriate $450 million over three years to build out Iowa’s broadband infrastructure. The House passed HF 848 unanimously last week. The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk.
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If I Should Fall Behind. On Thursday, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a statement on how it may handle redrawing Iowa’s legislative districts if the U.S. Census Bureau fails to deliver redistricting data to the legislature in time for it to meet its constitutional deadline. The Iowa Constitution requires the legislature to adopt a new reapportionment plan by September 15. If it does not, the task falls on the Supreme Court. The U.S. Census Bureau has said it does not expect to deliver the data until September 30, two weeks after the legislature’s deadline. In its statement, the Supreme Court said if the legislature is unable to meet its deadline, “the supreme court tentatively plans to meet its constitutional responsibility by implementing a process which permits, to the extent possible, the redistricting framework presently set forth in Iowa Code chapter 42 to proceed after September 15.” Chapter 42 sets forth a nonpartisan process that requires the Legislative Services Agency to draw the redistricting maps. Commenting on Iowa Press this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said that while the Supreme Court statement was “vague,” he read it to say that the court agrees that Iowa has “a fair and one of the best redistricting processes in the country, and they think we should use it.”
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Rocky Ground. Also on Thursday, a group called Advocates for Social Justice organized a protest at the Capitol which included a “die-in” on the ground floor. The group that included some Black Lives Matter activists rallied against legislation that would give Iowa law enforcement officers “qualified immunity” in certain lawsuits, similar to the protection they have under federal law, and increase the penalties for criminal mischief and rioting. One protester was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
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Post Script. You knew it had to happen. At some point, all of the titles in the weekly Capitol Report would bear the name of a Bruce Springsteen song. You’ve Got It!