Under the Golden Dome: Splitting the Difference
Gov. Kim Reynolds invited Republicans to a press conference to announce the creation of a Flood Recovery Advisory Board. She says it will help decide what to do and how to use funds from the federal and state level. The governor is asking legislators to make $15 million available from fiscal year 2019’s ending balance go to the flood mitigation fund. She’s also asking for $10 million in the next fiscal year for the Workforce Housing Tax Credits to accelerate housing improvements in flooded areas.
The Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer says the House stands ready to do what is necessary to support the governor and help rebuild communities. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver also pledges the support of Senate Republicans. Whitver also takes this opportunity to praise his party’s budgeting and blames Democrats in the U.S. Senate for stalling a supplemental appropriations bill.
This federal appropriations bill helps with expenses related to natural disasters for this fiscal year. It started in January in the U.S. House of Representatives with a price tag of $12 billion where it passed that month. As it moved to the U.S. Senate, many amendments were added and it is now at $13.45 billion.
One of those amendments will help funding for Iowa, but Democratic U.S. senators say it doesn’t include enough money for Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery from a devastating hurricane in 2017. During a vote on this amendment to make it filibuster proof, most Democrats voted no, stalling the bill.
Since then the vice president of the United States, Iowa’s U.S. senators and Iowa’s Republican legislators have used that vote as ammunition against Democratic senators coming to Iowa as presidential candidates like Sens. Booker, Gillibrand, and Klobuchar.
Reynolds also urges action from members of congress to move the supplemental appropriations bill forward. Part of the recovery includes repairing levees in western Iowa. Water from the Missouri River is still flowing into communities in Iowa and Nebraska.
As the session comes close to an end, bills are going back and forth between the House and Senate. If a bill passes in one chamber but is amended in the other’s committee or chamber, it has to go back and be approved with those changes.
For example an Administration and Regulation Appropriations bill passed the House last week, but now it is coming before a five-member Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with changes. In this case the Senate wants $3.1 million more. Part of it includes $647,000 for the insurance division for worker’s compensation and insurance fraud investigations. For the Education Appropriations Bill, the Senate is proposing $9.1 million less. For the regents universities, the Senate proposes $3.9 million less than the House.
Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, says midyear budget cuts over the last couple of years have cut the regents by $33.6 million, and neither proposal is adequate. He says these proposals will require the Board of Regents to increase tuition further. Sen. Tim Krayyenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, says he understands that some wish this budget was higher, but this is what is sustainable.
The final numbers are being negotiated between the Senate and House, and the final versions of the bills will come before the chambers soon.
There is another bill in the legislature concerning stun guns, which directly affects public colleges and universities. These are handheld devices that deliver an intense painful electric response. They shock a person when the device is in contact with their body. This is a not a Taser, which shoots barbed electrodes connected to a wire delivering a shock.
This kind of stun gun was legalized in Iowa two years ago for people over the age of 18, but some public universities have banned them. Floor manager for the bill Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, says allowing faculty and students to have these devices will empower them and allow them to defend themselves if they are assaulted.