Week 12 of the legislative session is wrapped up. I have used a lot of space in this column to communicate with you about two of the signature issues of the 2013 General Assembly, Medicaid expansion and education reform. I'll make one more comment about education, and then move on to a few of the lesser issues that have been dealt with this year.
This morning (Thursday) we had the final vote on the Senate version of the education reform bill. Senator Brad Zaun had introduced an amendment that simply required the Department of Education to provide a 5 year assessment of their work, a report card if you will, and to report that to the Legislature. Again, that was ruled "non-germane" by the Senate President; if it's ruled non-germane a recorded vote will not be taken on the amendment. That protected the majority party members from actually having to record their vote in opposition to accountability. This simply affirms the sad reality that many believe that more money, rather than accountability, is the key to education reform. The House and Senate versions of education reform are very different, and now will go to a conference committee for resolution.
The Senate passed a bill, on a party line vote, that requires the DAS (Department of Administrative Services) to convene a task force and propose a plan and an implementation timeline to require all capitol complex cafeterias and all buildings in which the executive branch agency has an office to conform to the most current dietary guidelines of the American Heart Association or USDA. This strikes me as "feel good legislation" that spends state resources for promoting good eating habits that should be left to individuals. This now goes to the House where it probably will be dead on arrival.
Another piece of "feel good legislation" was a bill dealing with the amount of methane generated in landfills by excess food waste. It is estimated that 15% of landfill volume is food waste. The bill requires the Iowa Waste Reduction Center to cooperate with the DNR to promote the recovery of excess food items. The bill defines what an excess food item is and requires the DNR to promote the reductions of waste food. The DNR shall submit a report that identifies barriers to the recovery of the items and requires the consultation with interested persons. The DNR shall submit a report to the GA by January 1, 2015. Many believe that the bill is not needed because restaurants and other food establishments are already reducing food wastes to help the bottom line based on the high cost of food and the need to control costs. This also passed on a party line vote and moves to the House.
The Senate continues to work on the various components of the appropriations process. Senate Democrats continue the push for an overall appropriations package that adds up to an 11% increase in state spending for fiscal year 2014, while Senate Republicans remain focused on fiscal restraint. The battle continues.
We still have a lot of work to do on tax reform. The House has passed their version of income tax reform, and the Senate Republicans are working on that as well. Also, work continues on property tax reform in committee. More information about that will be in later newsletters.
Please feel free to contact me on those things that matter to you, or take the time to come up to the Capitol for a visit. You are always welcome to participate in the process.
Senator Ken Rozenboom