Policy Perspectives
January 24, 2014

Welcome back to the Professional Developers of Iowa's public policy publication - Policy Perspectives. This legislative newsletter comes out every two weeks during the legislative session, but you don't have to wait for two weeks to check on the status of bills of interest.  Our Bill Tracker is updated daily - bookmark this link to keep up with daily action on PDI's bills of interest.

The Second Regular Session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly began on January 13, 2014.  One of the first orders of business is always to pass rules governing the timetable for the session.  In SCR 101, the Legislature took action to speed up the session (normally set for 100 days, ending April 22), by moving all timetables up by two weeks.  The funnel deadlines this year - the dates by which legislation needs to pass key milestones in order to remain alive - will be February 21st and March 14th.  Whether this rule change actually ends up shortening the session by two weeks remains to be seen.


One of the major reasons for the shorter timetable this year is the looming election in November, where Iowa will see its first open U.S. Senate seat in many years, in addition to now two open Congressional races.  A number of legislators are involved in one way or another in those races and keeping them in the Statehouse when they could be campaigning really helps no one. 


Another major reason for the attempt at the shortened session is the fact that last year's Legislature passed more major legislation in a single year than most people in the policy arena can ever remember passing.  Major property tax reform.  Education Reform.  Mental Health Redesign and Health care reform.  All while working in a bipartisan fashion and building the largest budget surplus in state history.  Many agree that trying to fatten that resume up even more in an election year is just going to backfire on last year's accomplishments.


The second day of the session always brings the first major step in the Iowa budget process - the release of the Governor's budget proposal.  Governor Branstad joined a joint session of the Legislature to deliver his Condition of the State speech along with his budget proposal.  You can learn more about the proposal by looking at the Department of Management's summary HERE or the Legislative Service Agency's summary HERE.  Generally, the Governor's budget includes the following:

  • The Governor is recommending General Fund appropriations of $7,000.9 million, an increase of $508.7 million (7.8%) compared to the Governor's revised net FY 2014 budget.
  • Over $330 million of the increase goes to implement two bills - the Commercial Property Tax Relief bill and the Education Reform package.
  • Of the $7 Billion General Fund Budget, $3.88 Billion (or 55%) would go to Education.
  • The Governor's budget includes total General Fund revenues of $7,719.1 million.
  • The Governor's FY 2015 recommendation leaves an estimated General Fund surplus of $723.2 million. 
  • The Connect Every Iowan Initiative includes tax incentives to encourage broadband expansion
  • Home Base Iowa to recruit veterans to Iowa and matching them with available jobs
  • Freezing resident undergraduate tuition at Regent institutions in 2014-15, just as in 2013-14
  • The Governor has introduced antibullying legislation he will pursue this session.
  • The Governor is not recommending a supplemental appropriations bill for the current fiscal year.
As I said, the Governor's budget is the first major step in the budget process.  Legislators in both chambers will now take these recommendations and start assembling their own budgets.  They will start by setting an overall number and then designating "budget targets," the amount that each appropriations subcommittee will be allowed to allocate.  There has been some talk about establishing joint targets this year - budget targets that are agreed to by both legislative chambers.  However, this is difficult to accomplish, even when one party controls both chambers (which is not currently the case).

Economic Development Highlights in the Governor's Budget

  • $2 Million to Department of Transportation (DOT) for Rail Assistance
  • $1 Million for Great Places Infrastructure Grants
  • $5 Million for Community Attraction and Tourism
  • $2.5 Million to DOT for Recreational Trails
  • $16.9 Million for High Quality Jobs Program (Level Funding)
  • $15.5 Million to IEDA for Administation (Level Funding)
  • $175,000 for Council of Governments (COG) Assistance
  • $1 Million for Apprenticeships
  • $2 Million for STEM Scholarships
  • $9.18 Million for IWD Field Office (Level Funding)
  • $1.4 Million to IWD for Broadband - Digital Literacy
  • $1 Million for Homebase Iowa

Join PDI for Grow Iowa Day at the Capitol!

11AM to 2PM on Wednesday, February 5

First Floor Rotunda of the Capitol

A Collection of Other  
Economic Development News 

Tax Increment Financing

"There will be a TIF Bill this session," House Ways and Means Chairman Tom Sands said at the first Ways & Means Committee meeting of the session.  We do not yet know what will be in it, but most likely some combination of a ban on the use of TIF for public buildings, a limitation on TIF debt that goes above and beyond the constitutional debt limit, and maybe some other pieces. 


PDI members should be sure to reach out to their legislators in the days ahead and talk to them about the TIF projects that have been vital to your area.  When we see a bill and can assess what changes it proposes, it will be easier at that point to go back to legislators to talk to them about the legislation.


Enterprise Zones

In the next few days, we should see an Enterprise Zone bill introduced by the IEDA.  The program is set to expire at the end of June, and action is needed to be able to extend the program.  The IEDA engaged PDI through the last year in trying to put together a proposal that keeps the major elements of the program that PDI supports while still fixing some of the administrative nightmares the IEDA deals with in trying to keep tabs on 1,400+ zones.  The IEDA produced a summary of the proposal that you can view HERE.


In a nutshell, the PDI members involved in the helping the IEDA arrive at this proposal believe the IEDA did a good job of coming up with an Enterprise Zone bill that represents a middle ground between all the parties involved.  PDI brought several changes to the table that the IEDA has been gracious about accepting.  At the end of the day, while there are still a couple of things we would push even farther, we are satisfied that the IEDA proposal strikes a good balance between value to the users of the program, manageability by the IEDA, and something we think we can get the Legislature to pass.  Please take some time to look over the proposal yourself and weigh in if you have thoughts about improving it even further.


Connect Iowa

During his Condition of the State address, the Governor talked about his goal to extend broadband access across Iowa.  Days later, he introduced comprehensive legislation (HSB 515) to do just that.  Please take a moment to look over the legislation and weigh in with your legislators with your thoughts.  They will want to hear your feedback as they move this bill through the process.


Apprenticeship bill

Another goal the Governor outlined in his Condition of the State deals with expanding apprenticeships.  This bill (SSB 3052) was just introduced and will undoubtedly be looked at closely, as it makes some major changes to the 260F program.  The IEDA has prepared a document that summarizes the proposal that is available HERE.


Brownfield and Grayfield Redevelopment

The IEDA has introduced legislation (SSB 3050) to make several enhancements to the Brownfield and Grayfield Redevelopment Tax Credit program, including adding eligibility for public buildings.  You can view a summary of this proposal HERE.  

Your Legislative Team
Craig Patterson - craig@ialobby.com
Amy Campbell - amy@ialobby.com

Legislative Committee Co-Chairs:
Wayne Pantini - wpantini@unioncountyiowa.com
Steve Dust - dust@cedarvalleyalliance.com
Brent Willett - bwillett@northiowacorridor.com

Legislative Resources
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