Back in Session
The 2014 Legislative Session is underway with the first week under our belts. I am looking forward to serving our district and getting things done to help Iowa prosper. The Governor's Condition of the State address and the Chief Justice's Condition of the Judiciary is behind us and we are busy with filing bills and working them through committees. The leadership in both chambers have accelerated the schedule for this session, hoping to finish in 93 days instead of the usual 100 days. Therefore we have a very limited timeframe for submitting bills and working them through our committees. It will be a very busy first few weeks.
With an accelerated schedule, the legislature will need to focus very tightly on the budget. Last session we ran over our 110 day schedule by 3 weeks in order to iron out differences with the Senate over the budget. In the House we are continuing our commitment to effectively managing our state budget by following our four core principles: Do not spend more money than the state takes in; Do not use one time money for on-going expenses; Do not intentionally underfund entitlement programs to balance the states' budget; return unused tax dollars to Iowa's taxpayers.
The governor proposed $7.001 billion and the REC projection is $6.983 billion. The House Republicans will work through this difference and once again pass a budget that complies with our four core budgeting principles for Fiscal Year 2015.
Iowa Juvenile Home
On Wednesday, January 15, the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo was closed. The last child had been moved out the day before. Two employees remain to make sure the bills are paid and the facility is maintained. I am upset with how the state handled the closure. The staff at the IJH was told that their last day would be Thursday, January 16, so they had made plans to say their goodbyes and take that last look around the campus before packing up and leaving. Instead, the Department of Human Services and Department of Administrative Services came in unannounced on Wednesday morning and directed the employees to pack up and leave in an hour with state troopers watching over them. This was an unnecessary and humiliating action that greatly insulted the fine, hardworking staff of the IJH. The staff had worked wonders for decades helping Iowa's troubled teenagers turn their lives around; the staff deserved a much more respectful end to their careers.
I will continue to work on the IJH issue. There are a number of efforts underway, I will be working with the leadership in both chambers and the governor's office to do what is best for the city of Toledo and the surrounding economy.
I will continue to push my Insurance Restitution bill that allows the courts to order convicted persons to repay the full amount they are responsible for instead of only the uninsured portion. This is a common sense measure that should not only make sure our justice system is fair, but also help keep our insurance rates down. 36 states already have such a provision, including every state surrounding Iowa. The bill was delayed last year in judiciary in order to work out some details; I will file a new bill.
I am working on two bills to deal with persons that commit sex offences, particularly against children. These two bills are a direct response to a case last year in Tama County of a child sex abuser convicted in Minnesota in 1989 who was ultimately convicted of Child Stealing in Tama for trying to entice children into his home.
Under current Iowa law a person that commits a sex offense may be required to register for either 10 years or life depending on the severity of the crime, and a person convicted of similar crimes in another state that moves to Iowa is required to register in Iowa as long as they are still required to register in the state they were convicted in. The problem is that these persons can move to Iowa after they have "timed out" and never register here, we would never know they were a convicted child sex abuser living in our midst. My bill will require these persons that have "timed out" of their original sentence to register when they first move into Iowa and require any such convicted person to register whenever they change address for life, including those convicted in Iowa.
The second sex offender bill makes it a crime to harass a child by continuing to contact the child against the parents' consent, including giving the child gifts, inviting the child to their home, and other seemingly innocuous activities that a child sex abuser might use to entice a child and gain their confidence. This bill requires a parent to simply fill out a form at the local law enforcement office giving the name of the child and parents and the name of the person being restricted. Law enforcement will then inform the harasser and penalties will apply if the harassment does not stop. The bill applies a tougher penalty on a harasser that has prior convictions than it does on a harasser that does not have prior convictions.
The first bill that I filed this year, HF 2012 is a simple bill that changes the minimum age that a child can handle a handgun under adult supervision from age 14 to age 12. This bill has bipartisan support in both chambers. This request came from a constituent in Traer that coaches a Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF) handgun competition team. The SSSF has promoted competitive shooting sports for 12 to 20 year olds in rifle and shotgun for many years now, and is expanding into handgun competition. These SSSF teams are a great way to teach our youth the safe and responsible handling of firearms, teach them life lessons that emphasizes positive character traits and citizenship values, and introduces them to a sport they can compete in for a lifetime. If anyone wants to start a team in other parts of the district, please feel free to contact me and I'll help get you connected with the SSSF and the team in Traer.
I have many other bills in the works; I will keep you informed as I get them filed.
My Clerk for 2014
In the 2013 session Tyler Heeren clerked for me and did a fantastic job. Tyler is now in law school at Drake and his studies prevent him from clerking again this year. My clerk this year is a friend from New Hope Christian Church, Diane Lake. Diane is a very organized and hardworking lady, I can tell in my first week that she will be a big help to me.
I would encourage you all to come down to the capitol for a visit. If you do, ask for a tour of the capitol dome, Diane will be ready to take you all the way up to the cupola. And of course you will want to take the tour of the rest of the capitol with the regular tour guides.
As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. My contact information is given below.