Iowa House of Representatives

STATEHOUSE NEWS — October 18, 2007



Last week, former Governors Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack presented their report on the three health care public hearings that took place during September. The public hearings were held in connection with the Legislative Commission on Affordable Health Care Plans for Small Businesses and Families. Both Governors recommended that the Commission should focus on providing health care coverage for all Iowans. In addition, the Governors stated that money can be saved, and the health of Iowans can be improved, if there is a focus on controlling chronic conditions and improving wellness and prevention programs.

The Affordable Health Care Commission will incorporate the report of the Governors into their final recommendations to the Legislature. The commissioners have two final meetings to determine their recommendations before the 2008 Legislative session begins.



In order to gather as much input as possible from the public, the Freedom of Information Interim Committee is inviting interested members of the public to access the General Assembly’s website and express their opinions, concerns or questions regarding Iowa’s open records and open meetings laws.

The committee is charged with reviewing and recommending changes to Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws, and the State Archives and Records Act.

Anyone interested in posting his or her comments can do so by visiting the General Assembly website at http://www.legis.state.ia.us. Under the heading “Popular Links,” click on Open Meetings/Public Records Laws – Submit comments. All submissions will be reviewed by the Legislative Services Agency prior to posting on the website. All information disclosed in posting becomes public information.


The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) held their quarterly meeting last week and increased their revenue estimate for the current fiscal year, FY 2008, from 4.2% to 5.1%. This means the state is estimated to experience an increase in revenues of $288.6 million over FY 2007. This increase in the revenue estimate will boost the projected FY 2008 ending balance from approximately $81.5 million to $91 million, prior to any adjustments being made to the FY 2008 budget during the 2008 Legislative session.

    FY 2009 Increase at 2.6%

The REC also made their first estimate on the next fiscal year, FY 2009. The REC is estimating that FY 2009 revenues will increase by another 2.6% above the new FY 2008 revenue estimate. This means the state is projected to have net general fund receipts of $6.091 billion, which is $156.2 million more than is estimated to be raised in FY 2008. The REC will meet again in December to review both the FY 2008 and FY 2009 revenue estimates. The December estimate for FY 2009 is the figure that the Governor and Legislature must use when crafting the FY 2009 budget during the 2008 session.



State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald has announced that $100 million in funds is available to help new and expanding small businesses grow and succeed through the improved Small Business Linked Investments for Tomorrow (LIFT) program. Low interest loans are now available through the program. During the 2006 session, the Legislature passed House File 2661 that revamped the program.

A small business works through their local financial institution and completes the normal lending process. The lender will then complete an online application and submit it through the LIFT website in order to receive the low interest funds. The Small Business LIFT program is designed to inject capital into small businesses owned and operated by Iowa residents, with half the funds going to businesses owned by women, minority persons and persons with disabilities.

The entire list of qualifications a small business must meet in order to apply for the loan is available online at www.iowalift.com.



The interim committee to discuss mandatory child care registration met on Wednesday, October 10. Presenters included in-home providers, the Department of Human Services (DHS), Empowerment, Iowa State University Extension, and parents.

Many of the presenters agree that some type of mandatory registration is needed, but that it may not be enough. Concerns were raised that providers who are currently registered are not being inspected on a regular basis or even at all. Iowa State University presenters said that out of 2,000 registered providers they oversee in the Midwest, only 13 agreed to in-home visits and only 2 of those were in Iowa. Of the providers in the room, only about half have ever received an inspection.



The newly formed Office of Energy Independence (OEI) will host four meetings across the state to gather input from the public for the Iowa Energy Independence Plan. The purpose of the Energy Independence Plan is to outline strategies for Iowa to achieve energy independence by year 2025.

Each meeting will be from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The schedule for the energy meetings are:

Thursday, October 18: State Historical Building Auditorium, Des Moines

Monday, October 22: North Ridge Pavilion (2250 Holiday Road), Coralville

Thursday, October 25: Iowa Western Community College, Looft Hall Auditorium, Council Bluffs

Monday, October 29: Iowa Central Community College, Career Education Building, Rooms 108-110, Fort Dodge



This week marks the first year that Iowa will observe an Iowa Disability History Week. By resolution, the Legislature established the third week in October as “Disability History Week.”

Here are a few key facts about Iowans with disabilities:

• There are almost 400,000 persons with disabilities living in Iowa, according to the 2000 United States Census, which makes persons with disabilities Iowa’s largest minority group.

• Americans with disabilities face a 44 percent unemployment rate; and public attitudes continue to stigmatize people with disabilities as being less capable than those without disabilities.

• Learning about the history, values, and beliefs of one’s society has been recognized as one of 12 key components to effective youth leadership development (Woyach and Cox, 1997), which is a great reason for students statewide to be more aware of this information.

For more information on what your school can do, visit the AEA website at: http://www.iowaaea.org/vnews/display.v/ART/2007/10/03/47026da37cb8a.



The Legislative State Prison System Planning Study Committee held their second interim meeting on October 10th at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. The committee is charged with reviewing the recommendations and proposals from the in-depth study the Department of Corrections is conducting on the state’s prison system.

The Committee heard from John Baldwin, Director of the Department of Corrections, who announced that the department is now implementing a system-wide prisoner classification process. This risk classification process may indicate a major re-distribution of offenders among facilities to commensurate with the risks they pose. The risk classification process is the key first step in determining an accepted and efficient bed utilization plan. The risk classification process is expected to be completed in March.

The Iowa Correctional Institute for Women at Mitchellville is the only women’s prison in the state. The current prison has a design capacity of 465 offenders but currently houses 627 offenders.



The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a deer depredation program for landowners who receive over $1,000 in damages to their crops. This includes agricultural crops (such as corn, soybeans, hay and oats, and tree farms and other forestlands under a timber management program) and high-value horticultural crops (such as Christmas trees, fruit or vegetable crops, and nursery stock).

To participate, a producer is to contact a DNR deer biologist to arrange for an onsite visit to inspect the damage. After the inspection, the producer and DNR biologist are to work together on a plan to reduce/control the damage. The plan will most likely cover numerous years, with annual reviews to be completed. For additional information on the program, go to www.iowadnr.com.



Iowa’s seventeen gaming facilities contributed $303 million in fiscal year 2007 to Iowa programs, charities, infrastructure and tourism and entertainment industries. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission announced that revenues from all gaming facilities saw an increase of 14.9 percent for fiscal year 2007 over fiscal year 2006. Fiscal year 2007 closed with gaming revenues of $1.32 billion, up from $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2006.

More information regarding the programs and projects funded through gaming revenues can be found at www.iowagaming.org.



The Iowa Division of Insurance (IID) has taken the unusual step of urging those who bought insurance polices from agent Jack L. Straw to examine those polices. IID summarily revoked Straw’s insurance license on Friday, September 28, for several violations of insurance law. Currently of Cedar Rapids, Jack L. Straw’s company is Benefit Services Corporation with offices in Waterloo and Clear Lake. Known addresses of Jack Straw’s clients are in and around Dunkerton, Mason City, Clear Lake, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

Call Insurance Division

Any Iowan who has a question or concern about their dealings with agent Jack Straw or his company are urged to call the Division toll-free at 1-877-955-1212.



The Iowa Department of Revenue has set the interest rate for late taxes or tax refunds at 10% (0.8% per month) for calendar year 2008, the same as 2007. State law requires the department to adjust the rate each year.

The adjustment is based on the average prime rate charged by banks on short-term business loans between October of 2006 and September of 2007. The average prime rate was constant in 11 of the 12 months during this period, so no change in the rate is necessary.



On September 25, the newly appointed board for statewide licensing of electricians held their first meeting. Chad Campion of Cedar Rapids was elected chair and Barb Mentzer of Carlisle was elected vice chair of the board. House File 897, passed during the 2007 Legislation session, establishes a statewide licensing program for electricians and electrical contractors. The State Fire Marshal’s office is charged with the responsibility of administering the program.

The new law requiring state licensing of electricians takes effect January 1, 2008. Enforcement of the provisions of the law will begin once the administrative rules have been adopted by the board, the licensing program has been established, and electrical contractors and electricians have the opportunity to apply for and obtain their statewide licenses.

Information about statewide licensing of electricians can be found on the Department of Public Safety’s website. Persons having questions may also call 515-725-6145 or send questions by email to elecinfo@dps.state.is.us. Requests for automatic updates on the program as it develops can also be sent to this email address.



Seven Iowa counties including Wapello, Polk, Linn, Scott and the Sioux City Tri-County area – Woodbury, Cherokee and Ida, are the recipients of a federal grant that will assist in either the creation or expansion of family drug courts. Family drug courts emphasize treatment for parents that are addicted to drugs, so that they have a better chance of keeping their families together. Each area will receive $500,000 each year for a five-year period, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

The name of the program receiving the grant is Parents and Children Together (PACT): A Family Drug Court Initiative. While it’s the judges that lead these family drug courts, the Judicial Branch works with the Iowa Department of Human Services, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Office of Drug Control Policy to make the program work. The program ensures that the children have immediate access to the appropriate services necessary to build stronger family units while the parents are in the drug court and that the parents continue to receive support and monitoring after the treatment is completed.



The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) announced that Appanoose County, Davenport, Decorah, Charles City, Council Bluffs, Perry and Valley Junction of West Des Moines will be Iowa’s next Great Places.

The announcement followed a four day tour of all seven finalist locations by the Iowa Great Places Citizen Advisory Board. The board scored each project and made their recommendation to the department. This brings the total number of Iowa Great Places to 16 that also include Adams County, Clinton, Coon Rapids, Dubuque, Fairfield, Guttenberg, Jackson County, Mason City and Sioux City.



Fifteen percent of REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) dollars are awarded as grants to city parks for the acquisition, establishment and maintenance of natural parks, preserves, and open spaces. For fiscal year 2008, 57 applications, totally $5.1 million in requests, were submitted. Because the Legislature provided a 40% increase to bring REAP to $15.5 million this year, a total of $2.3 million is available for city park grants.

25 grants were approved by the Natural Resource Commission during their October monthly meeting. This is an increase from 19 grants last fiscal year. If REAP is fully funded at $20 million, an additional nine city projects would have received grant funding of almost $700,000.



For fiscal year 2008, 34 applications, totally about $6 million in requests, were submitted for county conservation board REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) grants. A total of almost $1.3 million is available, a 40% increase from last fiscal year because the Legislature increased REAP to $15.5 million.

Six grants were approved by the Natural Resource Commission during their October monthly meeting. If REAP is fully funded at $20 million, an additional two county projects would have received grant funding of almost $400,000. In order for a county to be eligible for the per-population allocations and competitive grants, it must be dedicating, for county conservation purposes, property tax revenue at least equal to 22¢ per $1,000 of the assessed value of taxable property in the county.