The House is deep into the budget process now; the appropriation bills for the various departments are working their way through the committees and to the floor.
Visitors this week were: from the Sing Me To Heaven Foundation; Diane McIntosh of La Porte City, Jennifer Mehlert of Traer, Chris and Larry Schwienebart of Runnells, and John McDermott of Davenport.
State Rep. Dean Fisher
Bills of Note
House File 2181 - Lemon Law bill - I am happy to report that my bill to change the vehicle Lemon Law to cover heavier vehicles, particularly larger pickups, has been signed by the governor. It will go into effect for vehicles purchased after July 1, 2014.
House File 2459 - Volunteer EMS, Firefighter, and Reserve Peace Officer Tax Credit Increase - This bill which passed the House Tuesday will increase the income tax credit for these volunteers from $50 to $100. Along with the increase, the bill adds Reserve Peace Officers to this tax credit, and it clarifies that a volunteer firefighter that is also a professional firefighter can receive the credit. Our volunteers not only donate their time but also incur personal expenses to be firefighters; this tax credit is a fitting way for Iowans to show their appreciation for their service to our communities.
Iowa Premium Beef
The opening of the Tama packing plant by Iowa Premium Beef has been much anticipated over the last couple of years. Refurbishment of the facility is well underway, hiring of technical and administrative staff has already begun, and plans are coming together for production to begin this fall. The opening of the plant will bring tremendous economic opportunity to Tama County, and it will bring challenges as well. Among these challenges the South Tama school district will need to be prepared to absorb a significant increase in enrollment in a very short time. Also, housing will need to be provided for the workers. I have been in discussion with the IPB leadership, the school superintendent, and others as we prepare for this opening.
Iowa Juvenile Home
The IJH issue continues to be worked on in the House. The Senate bill that was sent over to the House several weeks ago calls only for a Girls State Training School for juvenile delinquents which would range from 10 to 20 students. The IJH facility has a school suitable for 100 or more students, has 13 buildings including seven cottages, and covers 27 acres. Clearly the facility needs to be utilized for more than this small number of students in order to be viable. The House is looking at other options that would call for an increase in the usage of the facility beyond just the Girls State Training School. One idea that I am developing is to model the Toledo facility after the Cherokee Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, Iowa. Cherokee MHI holds five non-profit mental health provider tenants along with the state functions at the facility. By broadening the scope of the facility we can provide a more stable future for the facility.
Also, the Health and Human Services appropriations bill contains funding for the IJH per the governors' direction. This includes $788,000 for maintenance personnel and expenses in the interim. This provision is a fallback plan to ensure the proper care of the facility in the interim. This language also calls for the Department of Human Services to issue a report by January 1, 2015 on juvenile delinquent girls and make recommendations for legislation.
As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org 641-750-3594