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2016 Iowa Legislative preview from State Senator Steve Sodders & State Rep. Dean Fisher

January 15, 2016
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

The 2016 Iowa Legislative session opened Monday, Jan. 12.

Both State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) and State Representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) responded to a News-Herald request for their views on the session just underway.

Both said in their replies the state budget was at the top of their list for priorities for the session. Each offers views on the handling of the $7 billion cost of Iowa operations.

Article Photos

State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) - State Representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin)

Sodders represents Tama, Marshall and a portion of Black Hawk counties in the Iowa Senate where he serves as President Pro Tempore. He is serving his second four-year term in the Senate.

Fisher represents Tama, and portions of Marshall and Black Hawk counties in the Iowa House. He is serving his second two-year term.

Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center)

Q. What do you see as the top priorities in this session?

A. My focus will be maintaining our commitments to Iowa families. By investing strategically in education and job training, we can improve the Iowa economy and help more Iowa families join the middle class. The Legislature can increase the economic security for Iowa families by:

Standing up for workers and investing in skills training and job creation.

Creating more educational opportunities from preschool through college.

Choosing compromise over gridlock.

Supporting Main Street over Wall Street when investing Iowa's resources

Q. What is your No. 1, 2 and 3 (or more) initiatives or focus going to be?

A. Balancing the state budget in a fiscally responsible way. Because of our efforts, Iowa currently has a budget surplus of more than $260 million. We also have more than $700 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.

2. Investing in training to help Iowans fill openings for skilled workers at local businesses.

3. Boosting student achievement and teacher quality in our K-12 schools through investments in early reading initiatives and quality teaching.

4. Making sure the most vulnerable Iowans have access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Q. Please feel free to reply with any other issues or matters you feel are relevant to the upcoming months.

A. I want to encourage the residents of Marshall, Tama and southern Black Hawk counties to stay in touch with me during the 2016 legislative session. If you have ideas or concerns you'd like to share, call me at the Statehouse (515-281-3371). You can also e-mail me at

At, you can sign up for my newsletter, connect with me on social media, find out about my upcoming forums and see my latest photos.

Representative Dean Fisher (R?Garwin)

Q. What do you see as the top priority (ies) in this session?

A. It is always difficult to select just a few priorities in the legislature's agenda. There are many very serious issues we deal with and they are all important, but there are always a few that are the most visible and most debated. Among the most pressing issues will be the budget, water quality initiatives, and monitoring the shift towards Managed Care Organizations for Medicaid recipients.

Q. What is your No. 1, 2 and 3 (or more) initiatives or focus going to be?

A. The state general fund budget is certainly going to be the number one issue we work on. For the fiscal year 2015 which ended this past June 30 we spent nearly $7 billion against a Dec. 2013 revenue estimate of $7 billion.

Unfortunately as a result of the sagging agriculture economy the actual revenue that came in was $6.767 billion, leaving us $227 million short. That money had to come out of our Ending Balance that is left over from previous years, or what I will call savings.

In our current fiscal year 2016 that started July 1 we appropriated roughly $7.17 billion against a March 2014 revenue estimate of $7.18 billion. At the December 2015 revenue estimating conference our revenue is now looking like it will actually be roughly $7.05 billion, falling $120 million short.

Again, we will need to take that shortfall out of our savings. The bird flu that hit our state last year is one of the reasons for that shortfall, but certainly there are other factors.

The revenue estimate for fiscal year 2017 is currently at $7.33 billion, a $150 million increase over the fiscal year 2016 spending. Unfortunately there are existing spending commitments made in past sessions that exceed the $150 million in new money. Among these are funding for the 2013 session Teacher Leadership Compensation program, backfill for the 2013 property tax reform program, and increases in Medicaid costs. Anticipated increased funding for K-12 Supplemental State Aid and other programs add to the potential deficit even more. Therefore cuts will need to be made in other programs to fit all this in so that we meet our budgeting principle of not spending more on ongoing expenses than we take in for ongoing revenue.

With revenue consistently coming in under the estimates, it is important that we begin to appropriate less than the revenue estimate to guard against these shortfalls. I will be advocating for spending well below the revenue estimate in this coming session.

Defunding abortion providers will also be a personal focus of mine. Over the past six months we've seen many horrific video's demonstrating the macabre dealings in fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood nationwide. The heinous practice of abortion must end, and the practice of using tax payer funds to support those that provide abortions is the first step. We can and should continue to provide vital women's health services, but this can be done without supporting abortion providers.

The pro-choice advocates will claim that no public funds are used for abortion procedures at these clinics. However, when acceptable family planning activities are conducted under the same roof as abortions, which is common in Planned Parenthood facilities, then the public funds that used to pay the rent on the building or pay the electric bill are directly paying some portion of the cost of running an abortion mill. This must stop and I will be working hard in this session to make it stop.

Q. Please feel free to reply with any other issues or matters you feel are relevant to the upcoming months.

A. In the 2015 session the House passed an Omnibus Firearms bill three times and sent it over to the Senate. Unfortunately the Senate refused to pass these common sense reforms that had been agreed to prior the start of session with key committee chairs. We hope to get this passed in 2016.



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