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Perspective regarding various policy-related matters impacting the telecommunications industry from the Iowa Communications Alliance Lobbying Team.

 

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Capitol Report Week 12

Posted By Christine Mounts, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Capitol Report Week 12

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Capitol Report Week 7

Posted By Christine Mounts, Friday, March 3, 2017
Capitol Report Week 7

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Capitol Report Week 5

Posted By Christine Mounts, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Capitol Report Week 5

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Capitol Report Week 3

Posted By Christine Mounts, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Capitol Report Week 3

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Capitol Report Week 2

Posted By Christine Mounts, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Capitol Report Week 2

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Capitol Report Week 1

Posted By Christine Mounts, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Capitol Report Week 1 2017

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Eleventh Week of Session

Posted By Christine Mounts, Monday, March 28, 2016

Just Do It  With less 25 days left before the scheduled “end of session,” legislators are making good progress on what needs to get done before they can go home for the year.  If the legislature completes its work on or around April 19, it will be the first time in several years they will have ended the session “on time.”  All are cautiously optimistic, that will happen. 

Numbers Are In   Setting the stage for adjournment, was last week’s announcement of the March revenue estimates by the Revenue Estimating Conference.  By law, the REC must meet in March to deliver the most recent revenue projections, which legislators use to set the budget targets and make spending decisions.  At its meeting, the REC reported that, based on its review of current economic indicators, it expects the state revenues to continue grow slowly but steadily.  The REC did not revise its FY16 estimates but did project a slight increase for FY17, about $30 million over FY16.   An even greater increase was projected for FY18, $301 million over FY17.  The total amount the legislature could spend in FY17 is $7.35 billion.

Just Do It 2   With the updated REC estimates in hand, the Appropriations chairs can now develop their joint budget targets.  Once the budget targets are set, the budget subcommittees can meet and begin the difficult and tedious task of making decisions on the individual line items for each area of the state’s budget.  Successful completion of each step in this process brings us closer to the end of session.

A Big One Done  Last week, the House and Senate agreed on the amount of increased funding that should go to support Iowa’s K-12 public schools in the 2016/2017 school year.  The deal that was struck did not match the percentage increases proposed by the House (2%), or the Senate (4%), or the Governor (2.45%).   The amount finally settled on was 2.25% - which, after some adjustments, will result in an additional $138 million in state funding for Iowa’s schools.  The school funding bills, SF 174 and SF 175, had lingered in conference committee since the end of January, leaving schools in limbo not knowing what to expect as they prepare next year’s budgets.  Within hours of striking the agreement, the bills passed the Senate with bi-partisan support, followed by a party line vote in the House.

Good for Iowa Businesses   On Monday, Governor Branstad signed HF 2433, the Tax Coupling and Manufacturing Consumables bill, into law.  HF 2433 generally conforms Iowa’s tax laws with recent changes made to the federal Internal Revenue Code.  But it’s temporary and only applies to the 2015 tax year.  The bill conforms Iowa law with the federal law that allows “Section 179 expensing” but it does not couple with the federal “bonus depreciation” provisions.  The bill also codifies the sales and use tax exemptions for supplies used in manufacturing

Change is Never Easy  This Friday is the day the state’s Medicaid program shifts from being a state-run health care system to a system managed by three private health insurance companies.  Legislative attempts to further delay or stop implementation of the managed care system have failed to get the support needed to pass both chambers.  While those bills have failed, expect legislation to pass that provides legislative oversight of the transition to Medicaid managed care.

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Week 8 of Session

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 7, 2016

Second Hurdle Ahead   Next Friday, March 11, is the next funnel deadline.  To stay alive, Senate bills need to be reported out of House committees and House bills need to be reported out of Senate Committees.  Appropriations bills, tax bills and leadership bills are all exempt from the funnel.  While bills that don’t survive the second funnel are technically “dead,” for the session, like alien body snatchers, they can find new life by getting attached to bills that are still alive.

 

It’s All in the Numbers   The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) will meet on March 16 to discuss the state's financial condition.  The REC meets three times a year, in October, December, and March.  The REC is tasked with providing revenue estimates for the upcoming fiscal year.  In developing the budget for the next fiscal year, Iowa law requires the Governor and legislature to use the December REC revenue estimate.  However, the estimate the REC comes up with in March can change that.  If the March revenue estimate is less than the December estimate, the Governor and legislature are required to use the new, lower estimate. If the March revenue estimate is higher or the same as the December estimate, the Governor and legislature are bound by the lower December estimate.  Regardless of what the REC projects next week, the downturn in the ag economy and impact of a strong dollar on foreign exports will make getting to a final budget a real challenge this session

As If It Wasn’t Hard Enough   Complicating the budget discussions is a decision by the legislature to “couple” (or not) with the federal tax law changes made by Congress in 2015.  Perhaps the most significant of the federal changes is the extension of Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code.  By coupling with Section 179, farmers and small business owners would be allowed to expense up to $500,000 of purchased assets, such as equipment, all at once, instead of over several years.  Iowa has coupled with Section 179 every year since 2010.  Doing so this year would reduce the state’s ending balance by about $97.6 million, which is causing angst for legislators with other “spending” priorities.  In January, the House passed a bill, HF 2092, to couple the Iowa’s tax law with the federal law for one year.  Because the Senate has yet to act, the Department of Revenue extended the filing deadline for farmers, originally March 1, to April 30.   

Getting Around Town   On Thursday, the House unanimously passed HF 2414, a bill that would regulate Uber and other app-based ride-for-hire companies.  Rep. Dawn Pettengill introduced the legislation that would require transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and their drivers to have minimum levels of insurance coverage - $50,000 for one passenger, $100,000 for two or more passengers.  If a driver receives a fare, the required insurance coverage would be $1 million.  Prior to its passage, HF 2414 was amended to require criminal background checks of drivers by their TNC.  Similar legislation has not been introduced in the Senate, however the Senate Transportation Committee recently held a meeting to consider what other states are doing to regulate companies like Uber.

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Week 7 of Session

Posted By Christine Mounts, Monday, February 29, 2016

Last week you received a first funnel report from the Iowa Communications Alliance staff.  That list, while important to your co-workers and boards, probably did not make for very interesting conversation with your family and friends.  The following list may give you a little more “small talk” material.  Enjoy.

Bills Still Alive

One’s Enough   HF 2148 would require only one license plate to be displayed on motor vehicles, on the rear.  

Father Knows Best   HF 2281 would allow parents to decide at what age their children can handle handguns.  (The current minimum age is 14.)

 

No Deer Traps   HF 2403 would clarify what deer baiting is and would prohibit hunting in a baited area.

 

Medical Marijuana   HF 2384 would allow a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition (intractable epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and terminal cancer) to receive a recommendation from a doctor for the medical use of Cannabidiol. The bill also would allow two manufacturers to be licensed in Iowa to manufacture and dispense Cannabidiol.

 

Kid Credit Cards   HF 2401 would make it a class D felony for a person to apply for a credit card in a minor’s name, without parents’ consent.

 

Turtle Harvesting   HF 2357 would allow the Natural Resource Commission to establish seasons and daily catch limits for harvesting turtles.

 

More Than Sparklers   SF 2113 would legalize the sale and use of consumer fireworks, like firecrackers and roman candles, in Iowa.

 

Teen Tans   SF 232 would prohibit indoor tanning for people under the age of 18.

 

On Your Left   SF 2224 would require a motorist passing a bicyclist travelling in the same direction on a roadway to pass on the left and to not return to the right side until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle.

Peeping Tom   SF 2185 would make it criminal trespass to intentionally view, film or photograph a person through a window or other opening in a building without a legitimate purpose, and if the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has not consented.

Bills That Died

Not So Fast   HF 2125, HF 2126 and HF 2248 would have increased the speed limit on the interstate highways to 75 MPH and two lane roads to 60 and 65 mph.

Revenge Porn   HF 2130 would have expanded the definition of harassment to include posting on-line or distributing intimate images or videos of a person without the person’s consent.  

Don’t Play Drunk   HF 2023 would have repealed Iowa’s public intoxication law that, among other things, makes it illegal to simulate intoxication. 

Senior Pass   HF 2056 would have automatically exempted people 73 years old and older from jury duty, if they notify the court they want to opt out.

No Apologies   SF 2081 would have prohibited Iowa’s three state universities from cooperating with Stanford University until Stanford officials publicly apologized for the “unsporting behavior” of the school’s marching band during the January 1 Rose Bowl football game.

Fur Ball Guarantee   SF 2177 would have required people selling cats and dogs to furnish the buyer with a 21-day written warranty at the time of sale, covering illness, disease, or a congenital or hereditary condition.

Back to the 60’s   SF 2016 would have increased the legal smoking age to 21, up from the current 18. 

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Fifth Week of Session

Posted By Christine Mounts, Monday, February 15, 2016

Fasten Your Seatbelt    Friday is the first “funnel” deadline.  House bills must pass at least one House committee and Senate bills must pass one Senate committee to remain eligible for consideration this year.  With the deadline fast approaching, dozens of bills are being pushed though committees on both sides to keep them “alive.”

Don’t Smoke the Rope   Last Tuesday, the House Agriculture Committee heard from two Kentucky farmers about the economic potential for industrial hemp production in Iowa.  Industrial hemp is a hemp plant that does not contain measurable amounts of the chemical intoxicant (THC) found in illegal marijuana.  The speakers told legislators that prior to the mid-1900’s, industrial hemp was widely grown in the United States and used in the production of rope for our nation’s war efforts.  It was outlawed when other rope-making materials became available and because it was increasingly being used to conceal the growth of illegal marijuana in the same fields.  Congress removed industrial hemp from the Schedule I Controlled Substances Act in the 2014 Federal Farm Bill - states can now decide whether to legalize its production again.  Iowa, with its rich soil and good weather conditions, has a unique opportunity to be a leader in this growing industry, legislators were told. 

First Volley, More to Come   On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill (SF 2125), 29-19, that would terminate the contracts the state has signed with the three managed care companies to administer the Medicaid managed care program.  House leadership has indicated the bill is dead on arrival in that chamber.  Last year, Governor Branstad proposed privatizing management of the state’s Medicaid program, beginning January 1, 2016.  In December, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) determined the state was not ready to make the transition on January 1 and delayed implementation by 60 days, to March 1.  Governor Branstad released a statement on Wednesday ahead of the Senate’s vote stating once again that the Medicaid managed care program will improve quality and access for Medicaid patients.  

Sad But True  Two bills are moving in the Senate to address the increasing problem of human trafficking in Iowa.   One bill (SF 2082) would establish an office with the Department of Public Safety to oversee and coordinate efforts to combat human trafficking; and the other (SF 2095) would provide training for teachers to recognize and report incidents of human trafficking.  Identical bills (HF 2192, HF 2234) have been introduced in the House.  Homeless and runaway youth are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking.  In a recent hearing at the Capitol, legislators were told that 52% of the 3800 Iowa homeless and youth runaway last year were approached for commercial sex within the first couple of days of being on the streets.  Of those who participated, 75% eventually became trafficked by a pimp.  Expect this issue to get more attention this session.

Need More Time   This past week, the Iowa Utilities Board deliberated for four days on a request by Dakota Access LLC, a Texas-based company, to construct a crude oil pipeline through 18 counties in Iowa.  The IUB did not reach a decision – the board set a date to continue the deliberations in February.  Dakota Access filed an application early last year requesting a permit to construct the pipeline and permission to use eminent domain, if needed.  The proposed pipeline would originate in North Dakota and terminate in Illinois, crossing 346 miles of Iowa farmland from northwest to southeast corners of the state.  State regulators in North Dakota, Illinois and South Dakota have all approved construction of the pipeline.  Iowa is the last state to decide.  

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