Statehouse News, March 31

Last weekend many of us gathered with our families to celebrate Easter. As we gather with our loved ones we should not forget that our faith brings us together on this special Sunday.

During my visit at my daughters I was able to see some of my granddaughter’s schoolwork. I was surprised to see words such as, “Prophesy” and “Projectile,” on a fourth grade spelling list. I believe this illustrates that many schools are surpassing expectations and have advanced the curriculum well beyond that of the “good ole days.”

The House Majority is proposing diverting $28 million in state sales taxes charged on water usage each year. In my opinion, water quality improvement efforts must be locally administered and farmer led, recognizing that every area of the state and every watershed is unique in its topography, soil type, people, farming practices, etc. We should structure our solution to leverage all federal and private dollars possible.  I feel our cleanup efforts are going to require a much larger financial effort and should be funded by a dedicated funding source.  Water quality improvement must be a joint effort and must be a long-term project.

The House approved a bill to encourage new investment and create new jobs from the byproducts generated when making biofuels. Industrial facilities in Iowa producing food and fuel products from corn and soybeans also produce byproducts that can then be processed into plastics, paints, textiles and pharmaceuticals. Currently, this leftover biomass is being underutilized.  With this bill, new jobs and economic growth are possible for Iowa communities.

Despite continued problems and delays, the Governor’s plan to privatize Medicaid will begin on April 1, 2016.  The federal government has delayed the proposal two separate times because the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) was not sufficiently prepared.  I recently learned that in the Dubuque area providers did not sign up with any of the private companies.  This problem will cause people on Medicaid to travel as far as Iowa City for treatment.   Many of these people are our elderly and most vulnerable citizens who do not have the means or ability to travel.

According to a new report, Iowa is one of the nation’s leaders in employing people with disabilities.  I think it is important for us to recognize these businesses. We should appreciate businesses that are employing the handicapped and giving them employment opportunities.

We have 10 working days of the regular session remaining and completing the budget before we adjourn will occupy much of the remaining days.  After April 19, we will no longer have clerical staff or be paid, which is a great incentive for the Legislature to conclude its business. Before we conclude, there are 10 budget bills that need to be acted on so the budget may be completed. I think it’ll be difficult for the various subcommittees to arrive at agreements in the short time that remains unless we have Senate and House leadership negotiations that reach agreement.

Iowa currently has nearly $800 million dollars in savings and rainy day funds.  This amount is about 10 percent of the budget.  Financially, Iowa is the envy of many other states.  Contrary to some political hype, Iowa does have a balanced budget and by law Iowa may only budget and spend less than anticipated revenue.

As I recover from my recent surgery, I will be back at the Capitol on a limited basis.  I will continue checking emails and phone calls.  My clerk will be working in the House everyday while we’re still in session and can assist you with any issues related to state government or any questions you may have about bills coming up for debate.  While it may take a bit longer than usual, I will respond to you as quickly as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you and I will be glad to meet with you. You may email me at Curt.Hanson@legis.iowa.gov or call me at 641-919-2314.

If you would like to visit the Capitol, I would be glad to meet with you between committee meetings or at a scheduled time.  Please send a note to my clerk and she will assist you in arranging a meeting.

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