The Behn Report

Sen Jerry Behn, (R) Boone

February 2, 2018

The pace has really started to pick up at the capitol as legislation works through subcommittees and committee. We had a number of groups visiting the statehouse to learn about the legislative process, ask questions on various bills and issues, and to get a tour of our beautiful state capitol building.

There are several bills moving through the Senate process that may be of interest to you.

Senate Study Bill 3084 in the State Government Committee will increase the amount of alcohol that can be imported to Iowa by an individual. This common-sense reform enhances consumer choice and ends the current prohibition on purchasing and bringing into the state small quantities of alcohol for personal and private use.

Another bill, SSB 3048, allows the use of blue and white lights on snow plows to prevent car accidents. The program was originally a study planned to sunset next year. After results of the study showed the lights were effective in preventing crashes, it is believed the tactic should be implemented statewide.

A popular bill has resurfaced at the capitol – the ban of traffic cameras. While the bill that passed last year regulated the cameras, this bill, SSB 3025, would ban them completely.

An education bill, SSB 3002, gives the board of directors of a school district the authority to determine ride times of a student’s bus route. This legislation allows for a more efficient means of creating bus routes by letting districts work with parents in deciding what is appropriate for students in their district. It also extends the school bus ride time from 60 minutes to 75 minutes and can help our local school districts save money.

One bill moving through the legislative process will be very important and relevant to a number of Iowans. The bill, SF 2054, restricts the ability of consumer reporting agencies to charge a fee to freeze, temporarily unfreeze, or permanently unfreeze a consumer’s credit. Additionally, companies will be required to allow consumers to ask for a freeze by mail, telephone, email, or secure online connection. The ability to take this action for free is an important step in maintaining the safety of consumers and especially important due to the security breaches over the last several years.

As more and more issues move through the legislative process and across our desks, please contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. You are always welcome and encouraged to come visit the Capitol if you are able.

FFA Day on the Hill – A sea of navy blue coats flooded the second floor rotunda Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol. Hundreds upon hundreds of Iowa Future Farmers of America high school students descended upon the Statehouse to discuss the importance of agriculture with their elected representatives.

Iowa’s FFA Day at the capitol never ceases to amaze me because of the large number of students who join fellow members and advisors to travel to Des Moines to speak with legislators. Iowa FFA boasts an impressive number of members, which is in excess of 14,800.

The students did express some concerns during these meetings about the future of the agriculture industry in Iowa and its impact on FFA. Legislators learned more than 16 percent of Iowa high school agriculture education instructors are eligible to retire in 2020. Another message the students delivered Tuesday to legislators was about security. They want to encourage more people to seek career paths that not only teach subjects relating to agriculture, food and natural resources, but also include access to professional career opportunities outside a school environment as well.

It is always refreshing to see students and fellow Iowans talk about something they believe in with so much interest.

Fiscal responsibility with your tax dollars – One of the biggest topics at the statehouse the last few weeks is balancing the state budget. Throughout the year, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) gets together to update legislators on incoming revenue, expenditures and how the bottom line is looking when it comes to our budget. While the economy is growing, it has been growing slower than predicted.

Currently, estimates indicate revenue will fall $35 million below the budget originally passed and we need to adjust the budget accordingly.

The bottom line here is: we simply cannot spend money we do not have.

These choices are not easy ones to make and pose many challenges to the departments, agencies and organizations who receive state funding. The Senate’s bill to reduce state spending adjusts the budget by a little over $50 million. This provides the state some cushion in the event revenues continue to come in lower and prevent us from having to make cuts again later in the year.

While these reductions aren’t easy for anyone, we worked hard to ensure no reductions were made to K-12 education and ensure each taxpayer dollar is used efficiently and effectively.

The promise of tax relief – Over the last several days multiple news articles reported on the response from job creators across the country to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in Washington, DC. The Wall Street Journal noted one company will now build a manufacturing facility in the US instead of Europe. Other companies like Apple and Federal Express will be making massive investments domestically as a result of the reforms passed last year. The Des Moines Register reported Iowans could save up to $147 million in reduced utility costs as a result of this legislation. Scores of companies have announced higher starting wages, increased retirement contributions and $1,000 bonuses to employees. On Wednesday, Anfinson Farm Stores in Cushing, Iowa, provided $1,000 bonuses and gave five percent pay raises to its employees. Stories emerge almost daily about the positive impact tax cuts have had on the economy.

The success of federal tax reform provides valuable context for the upcoming effort by Iowa Senate Republicans to reduce taxes on Iowans. Federal tax reform has rewarded investment, made America more competitive, and raised wages for many Americans. These results are exactly the same types of success we want to see on the state level. With increased investment from American companies, it is imperative that Iowa become as competitive as possible with other states. The market for investment is strong and Iowa needs to compete so those success stories of investment, growth, higher wages, and improved standard of living become a reality to more Iowans.

In the coming weeks we will continue with a pro-growth tax relief package that rewards work, encourages investment, and brings new career opportunities to Iowans.

As always, I want to hear from you. My Senate number is (515) 281-3371 and my home number is (515) 432-7327 or write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319 or at my home address: 1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA 50036 or email me at jerry.behn [at] legis [dot] state [dot] ia [dot] us.

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