Overview / Major Events
Senator Schneider and Representative Grassley release joint budget targets
With the final signal that the work of the 2017 Session of the Iowa General Assembly is nearing a close, the respective Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees released joint budget targets for the general fund on Wednesday. While this does NOT mean that every line item in those budgets is agreed to between the Chambers, it does mean the overall spending level for the upcoming fiscal year has been set and that goes a long way towards getting eventual final agreement.
The targets call for a total of $7.245 billion in general fund spending in FY18 (which begins on July 1, 2017), which is a slight reduction in spending from the current FY17 budget of $7.26 billion. With these targets, it appears the ONLY area of state spending that will increase significantly is for K-12 education (with a $40 million increase), while most other areas will see flat budgets or some spending reductions in the coming fiscal year.
Governor Branstad getting ready for his work as US Ambassador to China
Governor Branstad spent most of this week in Washington DC engaged in a series of meetings and briefings that both prepare him for an upcoming confirmation hearing in the US Senate and for his eventual role as US Ambassador to China. He spent significant time at the State Department learning more about his upcoming role and what he can expect when he arrives at the US Embassy in China.
In addition, he ventured to Capitol Hill to meet with key Senators who will help manage his confirmation process through that body (likely the week when the Senate returns from its Easter recess).
Hair testing legislation heading to Governor Branstad
The House and Senate both approved an amended version of SF 32, a bill to allow private sector employers to use hair testing as an approved method of employee drug testing. Current law restricts drug testing to blood, urine, and saliva. While these are good tests for drug and alcohol use over the last 24-48 hours, they cannot provide a longer-term profile of drug use.
Hair testing, on the other hand, can look backward up to three months regarding drug use—which is particularly helpful in the pre-employment screening process. With that in mind, the House amended (and the Senate accepted) a revision to the bill that would limit the use of hair testing to pre-employment testing, only.
Fewer restrictions on guns / More restrictions on abortions
This week the Senate acted on legislation that significantly increases Iowans’ gun rights (previously approved by the House) and the House acted on legislation that places additional restrictions on abortions (previously approved by the Senate) and in both cases the bills were amended and needed to bounce back to their respective Chambers.
HF 571, gun rights (on House calendar with proposed Senate amendment)
SF 471, abortion restrictions (on Senate calendar with proposed House amendment)
Efforts on Behalf of Community Bankers of Iowa