Overview / Major Events
The 2017 Session of the 87th Iowa General Assembly opened for business at 10 am on Monday, January 9 and commenced with the re-election of Representative Linda Upmeyer as Speaker of the House and the election of Jack Whitver as the new President of the Iowa Senate.
It also marked new the introduction of new leaders in both caucuses of the Iowa Senate as Democrats elected Senator Rob Hogg as the Senate Minority Leader and Republicans elected Senator Bill Dix as the new Senate Majority Leader.
For the first time since 1997, Iowa Republicans have control of the House, Senate, and the Governor’s office (and they only had total control for two years, 97-98). Democrats last had total control of the Capitol in 2007 (and had it for four years, 07-10).
Excerpts from Opening Speeches
House Speaker Upmeyer: “…I am confident we arrive here with common goals. Yes, will have our differences. Sometimes those differences will be profound, more often they will be minor and easily resolved. Through all of it, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are here in an effort to move our state forward.”
Senate Majority Leader Dix: “Senate Republicans have a vision of economic prosperity for the people of Iowa, a vision of a vibrant agricultural presence in our rural communities, a vision of fiscal responsibility in the Iowa Senate, and growing our state and making it attractive for investment and new career opportunities.”
Senate Minority Leader Hogg: “…I ask all Iowans…to join together with a renewed sense of citizenship, to sit at our table of democracy, to participate, to speak up, and to serve…by addressing the real problems facing our state and our country in this century.”
House Minority Leader Smith: “I like the scripture in Isaiah that says, ‘He gives power to those who have no might’. As the minority party in this chamber, the might that we bring to this body in this time and place is our voices, our ideas, and our commitment to a better Iowa.”
Governor Branstad’s Condition of the State Address
Governor Branstad, on Tuesday, delivered his final Condition of the State address, as he prepares to assume his duties as US Ambassador to China. On a personal note, as a former campaign manager and Chief of Staff for the Governor and a member of his extended “family” it was a particularly bittersweet moment for me to watch him enter the House Chamber, deliver the address, and then depart the floor one final time. (Yes, men do cry.)
Giving credit to the Centers’ Morning Read (a daily online Iowa politics newsletter that I highly recommend), here are the lines likely to get the most attention and why:
Excerpt 1: "With that prudence in mind, I present my proposed adjustments to the current fiscal year budget to you today. These adjustments are required by law. My proposal does not include across-the-board cuts, does not reduce funding for K through 12 education, does not reduce property tax credits and does not include furloughs for state employees."
Why this will get attention: The governor and the Legislature must close a $100 million budget gap with only a half of a fiscal year to do it. It won't be easy, nor will it be without pain for some. But, by indicating that he doesn't want to make cuts to K-12 education, the governor is starting the session off avoiding a fight with Democrats. He also holds local government harmless in regards to the property tax backfill.
Excerpt 2: "[The budget] prioritizes education, health care, economic development and public safety. And it redirects family planning money to organizations that focus on providing health care for women and eliminates taxpayer funding for organizations that perform abortions."
Why this will get attention: For years, House and Senate Republicans have worked for this type of measure. Now, the governor featured it in his Condition of the State.
Excerpt 3: "Unfortunately, the cost of these benefits has grown dramatically because of our antiquated collective bargaining system that has led to over 500 healthcare plans, many of which are inefficient and way too costly for public employees and Iowa taxpayers. Under our present system, a few adverse health outcomes will destroy the budget of a city, county or school district."
Why this will get attention: It's no secret that Republicans want to do some type of collective bargaining reform. This is a clear marker being laid by the governor. It appears that Republicans will be framing this as a pocketbook issue for Iowa taxpayers.
Excerpt 4: "I believe our discussions [regarding water quality] should begin with the House-passed bill [HF 2451] from last session. I hope we can work together to perfect and improve the legislation that will provide a long-term, dedicated and growing source of revenue for water quality improvements."
Why this will get attention: Both parties agree that coming up with a water quality plan is critically important. Agreeing on the solution is more challenging. It's clear the governor likes the House's bipartisan bill as a good place to start.
De-appropriations Negotiations Ongoing
As mentioned in the Governor’s remarks, the December revenue estimate shows revenue growth has slowed such that the current FY17 budget is likely to be out of balance (as defined by Iowa law) by around $100 million at the end of the fiscal year. As such, the Governor has outlined a series of proposed budget reductions to bring things back into balance. The largest suggested cuts are:
With K-12 spending off the table and “across the board” cuts also not being considered, the bulk of these cuts will fall on the remainder of state government (and as the cuts must be absorbed in the remaining six months of the fiscal year, their impact is doubled).
While there was speculation the Governor’s office and legislative leaders would negotiate a “done deal” by the time the General Assembly convened, this has turned out not to be the case and some intense negotiations are occurring even at the time of the writing of this newsletter.
That said, expect resolution of this issue at some point next week, as every week of delay increases the impact of the ultimate spending cut for the impacted agencies and programs.
Efforts on Behalf of Community Bankers of Iowa: