The 2013 session was adjourned on Thursday, May 23. We accomplished a great deal this year. And of course there were a few disappointments, but very few.
I am greatly encouraged by the quality of folks that we have in the Iowa House of Representatives, I am especially proud of being part of the 2013 freshman class.
State Rep. Dean Fisher
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, taxpayers won the day on the budget. When the dust had settled our spending was below the ongoing revenue of roughly $6.5 billion, a little over 3% increase over last years spending, meeting our House Republican goal. The compromises we made with the Senate on spending were good ones that will help Iowans.
Property Tax Reform -
The final compromise on Property Tax Reform was a big step in the right direction, a great capstone on the session as our last bill that was passed. This bill included: A 10 percent property tax rollback for commercial and industrial property that is back filled by the state so that local governments aren't negatively impacted; a tax credit for commercial and industrial property on the first $145,000 of value that will reduce to residential property levels over three years (60% of assessed value); growth in taxable value of residential and agricultural property will be reduced to 3% from the current 4%, a huge reduction when considered over many years; apartments, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, will reduce to 60% of assessed value instead of the current 100%.
Tax overpayments will be refunded to income taxpayers via an income tax credit whenever the Iowa Taxpayers' Trust Fund is over $30 million, roughly $30 to $60 per income taxpayer; the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit will increase from 7% to 15% for lower income earners.
All in all this was a good compromise that I believe will help Iowa grow its business base and reduce the tax burden on all Iowans. It took many years to achieve this historic reform, and I am proud to have been able to support it.
One of the signature pieces of legislation in this session was the Education Reform bill that was signed by the governor on June 3. This bill included provisions to implement a career ladder for teachers, increase beginning teacher pay from $28,000 to $33,500, and many other provisions to increase accountability in our public schools. Also included were provisions to help our private schools and homeschool students.
Private schools are given the option of obtaining accreditation from agencies other than the Iowa Department of Education. Homeschool families are given the ability to teach under "private instruction" meaning they don't have to submit burdensome paperwork to the local school district; the option of allowing a homeschool parent to teach a subject to up to four unrelated children which allows families to share subject matter experts; and home school parents will be able to teach their children drivers education. These changes for Homeschool families are being billed as a "new era of freedom". Iowa has come a long way from the environment of a few years ago when home school families had to hide from the law or even move out of state in order to enjoy the freedom of homeschooling. Of all the bills passed in this session, I am the most proud of the freedom that the 85th General Assembly returned to Homeschool families.
Sticking to Principles
I've written a lot in this newsletter about how I'm sticking to the principles I hold personally and that I believe my constituents want me to stick to. As I've written earlier, one of those principles is standing up for the lives of unborn children. When the House first passed the Health and Human Services Appropriation bill we had inserted language that would have restricted taxpayers' dollars from being paid to any organization that provides abortions on demand.
Nothing in this bill would have prevented an abortion, but it would have kept taxpayer dollars from funding organizations that engage in a practice that many Iowans find heinous. As was expected, this bill was rejected by the Senate and sent into a conference committee for resolution.
It came out of conference committee with the abortion provider restriction stripped out of it, allowing taxpayer dollars to continue to fund abortion providers. Therefore, I had no choice but to stick to my principles and vote against this bill. There were many good things in the Health and Human Services Appropriations bill, but they did not outweigh the unnecessary demand to fund abortion providers.
Medicaid Expansion vs. Healthy Iowa Plan
There was much discussion throughout the session over the need to replace the current Iowa Care plan for low income Iowans. The Democrats favored taking the Medicaid Expansion that would cover those up to 138% of the poverty level (150,000 Iowans) as promoted by president Obama's "Affordable Care Act". Governor Branstad and the Republicans favored the Healthy Iowa plan that would be funded partially with Federal Medicaid dollars and Iowa funding sources that would cover up to 100% of the poverty level (90,000 Iowans). The Healthy Iowa plan would allow patients to use hospitals across Iowa and would have included co-pays and incentives to engage in healthy behavior.
The Health and Human Services bill that came out of the conference committee included a compromise on this issue, accepting the federal money but requiring the Healthy Iowa plan for how the system is to operate. This compromise covers up to 100% of the poverty level, leaving those over that level to participate in the Affordable Care Acts' insurance exchange. This was a reasonable compromise that allows Iowa to control its health care plan while still taking advantage of the federal funding that we all pay into.
This has been a tremendous experience, and I am forever grateful to all my supporters and constituents. It's an honor to serve as your representative. Not only will I be spending time over the break working on various ideas for legislation,
I will also begin campaigning for the next election in 2014. As always, I look forward to hearing from you, and I look forward to seeing you around the district.