After three years of working on water quality legislation (only one for me), the Iowa House passed a bipartisan bill that establishes a dedicated, long-term funding source for water quality projects across the state. This bill provides $282 million in new funding over the next 12 years to make improvements in water treatment infrastructure and continue the implementation of the research-based Nutrient Reduction Strategy. This bill focuses efforts on both urban and rural improvements. This is not the end of the discussion however. We are committed to continue working on water quality issues and look for opportunities to keep Iowa’s lakes, rivers, and streams clean.

During weeks three and four, committees and subcommittees have quickly gotten to work in the Iowa House and we are hearing from Department officials and other about priorities and the impacts of legislation that passed in the previous session.

Our House Commerce Committee met with Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Omen and he provided an update on Iowa’s individual health insurance market.

In Local Government, we have a variety of bills, I have been on subcommittees for bills dealing with fireworks violations, EMS transportation reimbursement, flood mitigation funds, to name a few.

I have been assigned to a handful of bills in Ways and Means, dealing with issues from small city housing tax credits to money transfer service fees.

Our Administration and Regulation Appropriations Subcommittee met with the Director of the Department of Commerce, Banking, Professional Licensing, and Credit Unions, the Director of Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Division, the Director of the Department of Revenue, and Mary Mossiman, Auditor of the State of Iowa. Each of these presentations was very informative and helps me understand their departments and their budgets. By slowing down Iowa tax refunds, the Department of Revenue was able to save over $40,000,000 in fraud detection and erroneous returns. So, please be patient, again this year, as state tax refunds will be a little slower, but certainly worth the wait.

The talk this week was mostly about the de-appropriations and K-12 school funding. House Republicans continue to make K-12 education a top priority and Iowa ranks fourth nationally in increase spending on K-12 education since 2011.

This year, House Republicans recently announced our comprehensive school finance package that focuses on funding, flexibility, and infrastructure. Here are four points to our package:

1. Increase to Supplemental State Aid (SSA) – Proposing $32 million in new funding

2. Creation of a Transportation Fund – Proposing and appropriation of $10,000,000 in FY2019 to help rural Iowa face challenges of high transportation costs and free up General Fund dollars to spend on other priorities.

3. School Infrastructure – working to extend SAVE, which provides for facility upgrades and property tax relief for our school districts. In FY2018, this was over $900 per student.

4. Additional Flexibility -We plan to follow on the heels of our work last year to break down the barriers on school funding silos by providing additional flexibility for existing school funds. This would return more decision making to locally-elected school boards.

After meeting with my district superintendents out of session, and again a couple of days ago, I think this education finance package addresses a lot of the concerns we discussed.

In between meetings, we had a lot of visitors at the capitol the last two weeks. My daughter, Mary, was in town for an overnight and had a couple hours to visit the capitol. Occupational Therapy students from Allen College and Community College students from NIACC and NICC were here to discuss their plans for the future. This is Iowa was an event at the fairgrounds featuring tourism around the state. There were people from Mitchell County and Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood. Please contact me if you will be in Des Moines, I always enjoy having visitors at the capitol.

As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns. My email is jane.bloomingdale@legis.iowa.gov.

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