<![CDATA[To recieve Dean's Legislative Newsletter please contact him by clicking one of the links at the bottom of this page! - Newsletters]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 05:34:41 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Newsletter for March 20, 2015]]>Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:28:42 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-march-20-2015Newsletter for March 20, 2015

Week 10

This week was marked by more debate.  Of particular note was HF 549, a bill to revise the arbitration process for school district employees.  We debated this bill from roughly 4:30 PM until nearly 10:00 PM, and then took it up again the next morning, debating from 8:30 AM until after noon.  The debate was loaded with rhetoric from the opposition, but in the end the bill passed the House.  I will discuss this bill in more detail in my next newsletter.

Other Bills of Note

HJR - 8 deals with Article V Convention of the States.    The United States Constitution provides a method for the states to come together to address an out-of-control federal government. HJR-8 is Iowa's application to Congress for a convention of states under Article V, joining many other states in this action.  The resolution calls for this convention of states to propose an amendment to impose fiscal constraints on the federal government and limit their power and jurisdiction.  This bill passed the Iowa House 54 to 43.  I voted for the measure.



The Budget

Our current budget year, 2015, is not turning out well.  The budget passed in 2014 of $6.994 billion was based on a $6.998 billion revenue estimate.  Unfortunately the economy is not performing as expected, especially the agriculture sector.  Farmers are expected to lose up to 32% of their income over last year, largely due to corn prices.   Actual revenue for July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 is now expected to be $6.767 billion, $227 million short of our appropriations.  This shortfall will be taken from the “ending balance” that accumulated a few years ago when corn prices were higher.  This reduction of $226 million along with a $120 million reduction that has been returned to the taxpayers as an income tax credit, and reductions resulting from paying off state debts incurred during the Culver administration, leaves the ending balance at $420 million. 

 

This Thursday, March 19, the Revenue Estimating Conference met in the capitol to set their March estimate.  The result was that the estimate was lowered by $19.1 million below the December estimate, compounding budget issues.  We therefore have a revenue estimate of approximately $7.175 billion dollars, roughly $180 million more revenue than last year’s budget.

With the $6.994 billion budget from last year as a starting point, we must account for the following:   nearly $165 million in increased Medicaid costs for the coming year,  an additional $100 million in spending on K-12 education that we have committed to including this year’s 1.25% Supplemental State Aid and the Teacher Leadership Compensation funds committed to in 2013, and $133.7 million in already committed property tax relief. That totals $7.393 billion in needs against estimated revenue of $7.175 billion.  That is $218 million short before we factor in any other needs such as requested increases for the Regents schools, funding a broadband initiative, or increasing hospital and other health care provider rates.  In other words, funding levels for the current year will need to be cut for the coming year in many other programs. 

Please rest assured that the House Republicans will stick to our budget principles that we have relied on these previous four years of sound fiscal management.   We will not spend more than the state collects, we will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs, we will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs, and we will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  ]]>
<![CDATA[Newsletter for March 13, 2015]]>Fri, 13 Mar 2015 13:27:41 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-march-13-2015Newsletter for March 13, 2015

Week 9

This week we began debating bills on the House Floor in earnest.  On Tuesday we debated and passed over 20 bills. 

Thursday was Marshalltown Day at the capitol with the Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce bringing a bus load of chamber members and other community leaders down for the day, all organized by Lynn Olberding, the Chamber Executive Director.  The group met with leadership from both the House and the Senate, with key committee chairs, and with Governor Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds.  Following the meetings the entire legislature along with the chamber group were treated to Taylor’s Maid Rites, always a treat.  These trips are important because they help bring a focus on issues important to Marshalltown and Marshall County to the legislature and the governor.  Along with the chamber members, several Marshalltown High School students also joined the group.

Other Bills of Note

HF 573 - Abortion Prerequisites - This bill requires an an ultrasound is performed and the mother is offered the opportunity to view the ultrasound or listen to the heartbeat.  This is a common sense option that makes critical information available to a pregnant woman before she consents to an abortion.  It is known that 70% or more of the mothers that see this ultrasound image choose to not go through with the abortion.  This practice is known to change hearts and minds, and ultimately save the lives of unborn children.  We debated this bill on Thursday with 37+ amendments put forward, most of which were withdrawn.  We passed the bill 57 to 39.  I voted for the bill.

 

HF 527 (formerly HSB 201)  - This bill is an omnibus firearms bill that will enact a number of changes needed in our firearms laws.  This bill passed the House 75 to 24 on Tuesday; it now goes to the Senate where a companion bill has also been passed out of committee.

HJR - 8 - Article V Convention of the States.    The United States Constitution provides a method for the states to come together to address an out-of-control federal government. I do believe that most of us would agree that our federal government is financially out-of-control.  HJR-8 is Iowa's application to Congress for a convention of states under Article V, joining many other states in this action.  The resolution calls for this convention of states to propose an amendment to impose fiscal constraints on the federal government and limit their power and jurisdiction.  This House Joint Resolution must be passed by both the House and the Senate to become effective, I expect it to come up for debate this coming week.  I am a co-sponsor on this resolution.



The Budget

We will soon begin to transition from policy bills to appropriations work.  The legislature is bound to use the lower of the two estimates that the Revenue Estimating Conference provides in their December and March estimates.  Once the March 19 estimate is received, we can begin to set targets for the various departments.  There is some speculation that the March revenue estimates will be lower, which will increase the pressure on the budget allocations.  We have seen no movement on the Supplemental State Aid issue from the Senate Democrats since the initial conference committee meetings.

Visitors

I had the pleasure of hosting a number of visitors this week.  Among them were Julia and Margaret Babinat from the Tama County Farm Bureau, and Allen and Andrew Burt and other members of the Marshall County Farm Bureau.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. ]]>
<![CDATA[Newsletter for March 6, 2015]]>Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:10:28 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-march-6-2015
Newsletter for March 6, 2015

Week 8

This is the funnel week when all individually filed bills must be through their respective committee.  We will begin debating many of these bills next week on the House Floor.

Friday, February 27 I had the pleasure of touring Mid Iowa Workshops building with CEO Rich Byers.  This facility provides gainful employment for the mentally and physically handicapped. MIW employs 85 handicapped folks and 18 supervisory personnel. MIW has many contracts with manufacturers to perform production jobs ranging from assembling and packaging lights for John Deere, manufacturing baseball caps, assembling packets of appliance manuals, making gasket assemblies, sorting recyclable materials and many other jobs.  Putting these folks to work not only provides useful work for them, but it also brings revenue into the area economy.  MIW is to be commended for their service to the community.

On Monday Secretary of State Paul Pate, members of his staff and I participated in a forum at the Marshalltown Library to discuss the Safe At Home bill with local stakeholders including:  Marshalltown Police Chief Tupper, Deputy Sheriff Steve Hoffman, county recorder Deanne Raymond, representatives of domestic violence services, and area media.  This forum was held to help raise awareness of the program and to gather input and support for the program.  We had a great discussion and gained some valuable insight for future consideration as the program develops.

My Bills

HF 233 - Safe At Home - This bill provides victims of domestic abuse and other crimes with a means to hide their physical address from an abuser.  This bill cleared the House Public Safety committee Thursday with an amendment that improved the bill with regard to property ownership, service of legal process such as subpoenas, and other refinements.  It is now ready for the House Floor. 

HF 278 - This is a bill that lowers the fine for failure to tag a deer or turkey properly from a $100 misdemeanor to a simple $20 fine.  The bill was brought to the Natural Resources committee by a DNR officer.  Occasionally a hunter may forget to tag their animal, lose the tag when dragging their deer to their vehicle, or their pen may not work to mark the date on the tag.  In those cases, a $100 fine seems excessive, a $20 fine is much more in line with the nature of the offense.  I managed this bill through committee this week and will bring it to the House Floor soon.

 

Other Bills of Note

HSB 201 - This bill is an omnibus firearms bill that will enact a number of changes needed in our firearms laws.  Among these are:

Remove permit-to-purchase requirement for handgun from 1 to 5 year, legalize ownership of firearm sound suppressors (still subject to federal law), extend Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit from five to ten years, create a training exemption for military veterans, eliminate the age restriction of 14 or older on handling of a handgun under adult supervision, ensure confidentiality of persons with CCW permits, allow 24/7 verification of CCW permit validity, strengthen and clarify Iowa law against straw purchases of firearms.

Visitors

A group of nursing students from Grand View University in Des Moines met with me on Monday to discuss their legislative agenda to support nursing. Two of these students were from our House District, Abbey Sheer from State Center and Robert Fees from Melbourne.  It’s always a pleasure to chat with these students and show them the House chamber.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. 

 

 

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for February 27, 2015]]>Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:09:39 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-february-27-2015
Newsletter for February 27, 2015

Week 7

This week was marked by a sense of urgency in almost every activity.  March 6 is the “Funnel” date when all individually filed bills must be passed through committee. Legislators were hurrying to manage their bills through the subcommittee and committee to beat the funnel deadline. 

My Bills

HF 233 - Safe At Home - This bill passed through subcommittee last week, and we continue to work through the details of how this program will work.  Amendments are being prepared to account for the serving of legal process such as subpoena’s through the Secretary of State office, and for how property titles will be handled.  I expect to be ready for committee next week to beat the March 6 funnel date.  The Senate version of the bill passed the full committee this week without the amendments, they will be put forward on the Floor of the Senate to conform in both chambers. 

HF 47 - Electrical Contractors - This bill seeks to change the requirements that an electrical contractor must meet regarding supervising an apprentice.  Current law requires the Master of Journeyman electrician to be at the jobsite  at all times when an apprentice is working, but not necessarily within sight of each other.  This restricts the ability of a small scale contractor to leave the jobsite for materials or to handle an emergency call to fix a furnace.  This bill allows for less time on the jobsite as the apprentice experience level increases.  The bill passed committee this week and is ready for the House Floor.

 

Other Bills of Note

HF 351 - Fuel Tax Increase - On Tuesday Feb. 23 both chambers debated the Fuel Tax Increase bills.  The Senate passed SF 257 by 28 to 21 and after debate the House substituted HF 351 with the identical version from the Senate, SF 257 and passed the bill 53 - 46.  I voted no on the final measure. One amendment I supported would have offered a $75 income tax break for a single person, $150 for a couple in order to offset the burden on the taxpayers. With an offsetting tax cut I could have supported the final bill, but the amendment failed.  The bill was signed by the governor on Wednesday and the increase will take effect this Sunday, March 1.  While I am disappointed in the outcome, I do recognize that the increased funds are sorely needed for our roads and bridges.  I simply preferred that  the bill be revenue neutral with a corresponding tax cut in some other tax.  

Supplemental State Aid (SSA) for public schools - The House took up the recently passed Senate bills that attempted to set the SSA at 4% and amended them to 1.25%, mirroring the action we took in the House nearly 5 weeks ago. After sending these amended bills back to the Senate they were rejected, setting in motion a Conference Committee made up of an equal number of members from each chamber and thus each party since we are a split legislature.  This Conference Committee will find a compromise position and send the bills back to each chamber for acceptance or rejection.

Visitors

Dysart Mayor Pam Thiele visited on Tuesday as part of the League of Cities delegation. It’s always good to see my  fellow elected officials down at the capitol.  We were also visited by the folks from the motor-cyling organization ABATE on Wednesday, including constituents Rex Gaskill, Mike Vajgrt, Dave Hemby, and Kim Karns. 

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for February 20, 2015]]>Fri, 20 Feb 2015 14:08:13 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-february-20-2015
Newsletter for February 20, 2015

Week 6

Week six was marked by another tradition in the legislature - the taking of the panoramic photo of the entire chamber.  The resulting photo is a picture roughly four feet long and a foot high which shows the entire House chamber with all of the Representatives, clerks, and pages at their stations.  The camera used was made in 1923 by the Eastman Kodak company.  It’s fascinating to see such an antique device still in use.

One of the pleasant surprises that I’ve had since becoming a legislator is the support that we Christians receive in the legislature.  There is a bi-partisan prayer meeting held weekly and open to legislators and all others at the capitol.  There is a Thursday morning Bible study run by legislators that is open to all.  A group known as the Patriot Pastors meets here once a month to encourage and pray for the legislators.  The Family Leader lobbyists and the ladies from the Concerned Women for America are here daily in the Rotunda to support and encourage us and to help us gain support for pro-family legislation. It is encouraging to have all of this support.

My Bills

HF 233 - Safe At Home update - This bill passed unanimously in the subcommittee on Thursday.  We did note two concerns with the bill that were raised.  The first issue is the impact this program might have on property titles.  Other states have struggled with how to handle this issue; I am working with the Secretary of State’s office to make sure we take advantage of the other states experience here in Iowa.

HF 16 - Divorce From an Abuser - This bill sought to correct an injustice in the divorce law that causes some persons seeking divorce from a spouse that is in prison for domestic violence to pay the abusers attorney, typically $500.  The original wording of the bill could have created a violation of the Rules of Civil Procedure which requires an incarcerated person to be represented in court.  We have identified new wording that will correct that issue.  I expect the bill to move out of subcommittee soon.  This bill is also moving on the Senate side.

Other Bills of Note

HF 351 - Fuel Tax Increase - This bill promises to be one of the more intense bills of this session.  I have gotten many phone calls, letters and emails on both sides of the fuel tax increase.  I do not have an exact count, but I would estimate the “against” exceeds the “for” by a two to one margin.  The bill advanced out of the Transportation and the Ways and Means committees this week.  Next week it becomes eligible to be debated on the House floor.  My position remains the same, I cannot vote for a tax increase.  I fully understand the need for more money for the roads and I believe that the fuel tax is the best way to obtain those funds.  But I cannot increase that tax unless there is a corresponding tax cut in another tax such as income tax or sales tax.  I cannot predict how this bill will fare when brought to the House Floor.

Visitors

On Monday I had the pleasure of hosting Jim Mosher and his daughters Leah and Lauren at the capitol.  It was a pleasure to talk about the current issues with these two bright and well informed young ladies.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for February 13, 2015]]>Fri, 13 Feb 2015 19:36:24 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-february-13-2015

Week 5

We continue with committee work as we run bills through subcommittee and committee, and we have debated a few bills on the floor of the House.  The first bill that we sent to the governor for signature was what is known as the “Tax Coupling Bill”, which couples the state tax code with changes in the federal code.  Included in this bill was a provision that allows small businesses to deduct the cost of equipment they buy as an expense.  This provision will save Iowa small businesses money.  I am glad to be able to enact this change which will strengthen our small town businesses and help create jobs.

My Bills

HF 136 - Protective Order for Minors - This bill is aimed at giving parents and law enforcement a tool to protect children from sexual predators that “groom” children over a period of time to gain their trust for sexual contact.  This is an insidious practice that is difficult to legislate against.  The predators use what are normally considered positive contact with a child, giving them gifts, cell phones, inviting them over for a movie or pizza, and so on in order to gain the trust of the child.  The behavior usually includes increasing levels of physical contact ultimately leading to the sexual offense.  Often times this is done against the parents’ orders to the predator.  In those cases law enforcement does not have an option to stop the unwanted behavior since none of it rises to the level of criminal activity until after the child has been sexually abused.  This is of course much too late, the damage to the child’s emotional wellbeing is done.  

This bill attempts to establish a form of Protective Order wherein a parent can go before a judge and ask for a restraining order against the predator. The judge has the option to write the restraining order to suit the situation, allowing flexibility in the process.   This will not be an easy bill to pass.  The order needs to be issued before a crime is committed, making it difficult to apply a strict standard of conduct, leaving it open to abuse by people trying to use the law for frivolous purposes.  The bill was discussed in subcommittee on Feb. 11 with considerable opposition from groups such as the Iowa Bar Association and the ACLU.  We will use these groups to help perfect the language in the bill.

Other Bills of Note

HF 13 - School Start Date - A bill to modify the school start date requirement has been in committee since early in the session.  This has been a fairly hot topic.  The initial bill was to allow the schools to start anytime they wish in August instead of the current requirement to start the week that includes Sept. 1st.  This week the bill was amended to allow the schools to start after August 23rd, an acceptable alternative in my view because that puts the start date after the Iowa State Fair is over.  The bill as amended passed the House Education Committee and now goes to the floor of the House for debate.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for February 6, 2015]]>Fri, 06 Feb 2015 19:34:27 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-february-6-2015
Week 4

On Thursday the legislature heard the Condition of the Guard speech delivered by Major General Timothy Orr.  General Orr highlighted the Home Base Iowa initiative that was passed by the legislature last year.   This program was designed to attract military veterans to Iowa to live.  Over 1,000 have taken advantage of this program, bringing skilled talent to our state.  General Orr also highlighted the many nationally recognized military awards that our troops have earned.  Iowa has much to be proud of in our Iowa Army National Guard.

My Bills

Safe At Home Act - Domestic violence is a critical issue, it affects the lives of thousands of Iowan.  Constituents have reached out to me on the issue; one young mother’s story has spurred me to draft legislation called the Safe At Home Act.  That young mother was dealing with a bitter custody battle with an abusive ex-husband. Her husband had been convicted of domestic violence, burglary, and drug possession and was then making threats against her over custody of their child.  This mother feared for the safety of her and her child. Because of the court action she was unable to shield her physical home address from her abuser, leaving her in constant fear for her and her child day and night.  Abusers like her ex-husband learn precisely how far they can walk up to the boundaries of the law with threats and intimidation without stepping over the line.  But sometimes they do step over that line, way over, resulting in tragedy.

As a result this young mother moved out of Iowa to a state where she would be protected by the Safe At Home Act. Over thirty other states have this program.  We must implement it here in Iowa too so that moving out of state will never again be the choice an Iowan has to make in order to be safe. 

The Safe at Home Act address confidentiality program provides those threatened with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking an opportunity to stay safe by providing a substitute address at the Secretary of State’s office to use when creating new public records.  Their mail then routes to the Secretary of State’s office and is then forwarded to the new address of the victim. Only the Secretary of State’s office knows the new address.  This address can be used with the courts, schools, and any other government or private entity. The participants will also have the ability to register to vote without their physical address being compromised in the voter registration rolls.

I have been working aggressively with the Secretary of State’s office and other stakeholders on this legislation. I very much appreciate the tremendous support that Secretary of State Pate and his staff have given this legislation.  I have also been working with my fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle and both chambers to gain support as well.  Senator Danielson, chair of the Senate State Government committee, has given his support for this bill.  He will file the bill in the Senate so we can move the bills simultaneously through the committee process. We will be filing these bills the week of February 9th.   My goal with this bill is to give these people back their safety, to make sure they are Safe At Home here in Iowa. 

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for January 29, 2015]]>Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:33:03 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-january-29-2015
Week 3

Committee work on bills is in full swing.  The committees and appropriations subcommittees are not only moving bills, but they are also hearing updates from the various departments and organizations they fund.  For example, on Monday we had a three hour marathon Appropriations meeting where we heard from the board of Regents on funding for the three state universities.  Discussed was the new formula for distributing the funds between the three universities that is based partly on the number of Iowa students they are serving. 

Thursday in the Public Safety meeting we heard from the Criminal Investigation Crime Lab on Synthetic Cannabinoids.  These drugs are complex chemical formulations that are sprayed on plant matter and smoked under the premise that it is synthetic marijuana.  These drugs can be hundreds of times more potent than herbal marijuana and they are extremely dangerous. The producers change the formulas rapidly to avoid the law and sell these drugs legally in gas stations and other shops around the state.

The Budget

Tuesday we debated two bills that increased funding for K-12 schools. The bills set the rate of increase at 1.25% per the governor’s recommendations.  The House is dedicated to not spending more than we take in, since revenue coming into the state  is much lower than anticipated, the percentage increase is lower than some desire.  House Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bills for a 6% increase, nearly $240 million in spending that would have increased spending well beyond our revenue estimate. Both bills passed without amendment.  The bills now go to the Senate. 

My Bills

House File 5 - Principal Sharing bill - Iowa school funding allows for incentives to share positions between school districts.  This bill adds the position of school principal to that list of positions.  This bill passed subcommittee on Thursday.

Let Kids be Kids Act - I will be filing a bill to require schools to include a policy that a child using his fingers, a pencil, or other object to simulate a gun cannot be disciplined unless he is otherwise causing a disturbance. This bill is in response to incidents around the nation where kids have been disciplined severely for “playing cops and robbers”, play where they pretend to have a gun or make gun like noises.  The bill also allows t-shirts, etc. that might show a hunting scene or pro-2nd Amendment messages. 

HF 16 - Divorce from an Abuser - This bill that I spoke about in my January 15 newsletter will prevent a spouse whose spouse is in prison for domestic abuse from having to pay for the abusers attorney in order to obtain a divorce.  A subcommittee hearing was held on Wednesday morning to give the public and lobbyists an opportunity to speak for or against this bill.  The lobbyist from the Bar Association identified some potential issues with the bill based on previous case law and other statutes that might impact it.  This bill will be deferred while we study the suggested changes to improve the bill. 

Visitors

During the week I had the pleasure of welcoming The Student Senate from Marshalltown Community College.  These students were in town for a statewide meeting of the Student Senates from all the community colleges.  I also had the pleasure of meeting with Alicia Lidtke of the Elberon EMS services who was visiting with EMS services members from across the state to lobby for issues affecting them. 

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for January 22, 2015]]>Thu, 22 Jan 2015 21:43:23 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-january-22-2015
Week 2

The formalities that mark the first week have given way to committee meetings. Bills are getting filed and assigned to committees and subcommittees.   We’ve gotten down to business. 

The Budget

The primary budget issue this week is school funding.  The governor proposed a 1.25% increase in Supplemental State Aid in his Condition of the State address, or roughly $35 million.

As you may have heard, the state’s revenue growth has not materialized as anticipated a year ago.  If we use last year’s budget of $6.98 billion as a baseline then we only have an additional $220 million in new revenue.   When combined with the $50 million in new Teacher Leadership Compensation (education reform money), we are committing $100 million in new funding to schools this year.  Nearly half of the new money coming into the state will already be committed to education before any other budget has been settled.  This is a tremendous commitment to education.

My Bills

Electrical Contractors bill - Current law requires that an electrical contractor must supervise an apprentice worker 100% of the time.  If the Master or Journeyman electrician supervising leaves the job site the apprentice must stop working.  This places an unacceptable burden on our small town contractors.  For example, if a contractor and apprentice are wiring a new house, when the contractor gets a service call to repair a furnace on the other side of town, the apprentice must stop working until his boss returns.  This bill will change the law to require that the apprentice receive a minimum of 25% of the time worked under supervision each day, a much more reasonable requirement.

Principal Sharing bill - Currently Iowa school funding allows for incentives for schools to share positions between school districts.  For example, sharing a superintendent will not only reduce the salary burden, but the state also provides additional financial incentives to the sharing school districts for a period of years.  This is a benefit particularly useful for our smaller school districts. This bill adds the position of school principal to that list of positions.  This is in response to a specific request in our district.

I have also signed on as co-sponsor on a number of other bills that my colleagues have filed.  Many of these have been pro Second Amendment bills such as “Stand Your Ground” and a Constitutional Amendment to add the right to keep and bear arms to the Iowa Constitution.  There are other bills in the works that I am collaborating on, I will discuss them as they come up for committee review or debate in the full House.

In the District

Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting for the new Advanced Manufacturing Lab and Health Occupations Lab at Marshalltown Community College.  The manufacturing lab provides for training in machine tool technology and electro-mechanical systems commonly found in manufacturing.  The new Health Occupations labs for nursing and dental students include modern hospital equipment and a simulated ambulance for training Emergency Medical Technicians. These facilities will help MCC fill the “skilled worker gap” that our employers are having difficulty filling.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.  

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<![CDATA[Newsletter for January 16, 2015]]>Sat, 17 Jan 2015 01:24:12 GMThttp://deanfisher.com/newsletters/newsletter-for-january-12-2015
Week 1

Back in Session

The 2015 Legislative Session is well underway. The first week as always is filled with tradition and formality.Monday morning we were sworn in for the 86th General Assembly. We have 17 new members of the House and one seat still open awaiting a special election. That seat was vacated by Rep. Costello who successfully filled the Senate seat formally occupied by Senator Joni Ernst. Later that day we picked out our desks in order of seniority. I remain in seat 28. The House stands at 56 Republicans and 43 Democrats with the one seat yet to be filled.

Tuesday was the governor's Condition of the State address in which he called for the legislature to continue working together for the betterment of Iowa. He outlined several initiatives including continuing to focus on broadband internet access. This is known as the "Connect Every Acre" initiative. The governor also called for renewed focus on combating domestic abuse and bullying.

Wednesday was the Chief Justice's Condition of the Judiciary address. One of the significant achievements noted was moving the Iowa court system to an on-line and completely paperless system. Chief Justice Cady also called for a renewed emphasis on reducing racial disparities in the judicial system.

Thursday marked the first full day of committee work and bills filed earlier in the week were read in and assigned to committees. This year I will again be serving on the Natural Resources committee as vice chair.   I also serve on Appropriations, Public Safety, and the Education Budget Subcommittee. I will also serve on the Environmental Protection committee until the special election for district 23 is done.

The Budget

This year's budget will be difficult because revenue has not materialized as projected.   Our fiscal year 2016 revenue projection is set for $7.2 billion, much lower than previous projections and only $200 million more than the fiscal year 2015 budget of $6.98 billion.   Spending committed to in our 2013 and 2014 sessions alone total up to the $200 million before we add in school aid growth or salary increases for state employees. We will be working to resolve the issues that result from this drop in revenue growth.

My Bills

We began to file bills this week. My first bill will correct an injustice in the judicial system. In a specific case where a husband was in prison for an act of violence against his wife, and the wife is requesting a divorce, current law required the wife to pay $500 so the husband could have an attorney. This was required because the husband refused to sign any paperwork or hire an attorney.   This bill will correct that absurdity by allowing the court to grant a decree of dissolution without a hearing in those situations.

My Clerk for 2015

My Legislative Clerk this year is Collin Brecher from La Porte City. I got to know Collin's grandparents Marvin and Marlene Brecher during my campaign in 2012 and they introduced me to Collin and his family. Collin is a student at the University of Northern Iowa studying political science. His job as my clerk will earn him credits towards his graduation. Collin is an exceptionally enthusiastic, intelligent and hardworking young man; he will serve district 72 well in this capacity. If you can visit us in the capitol, be sure to let me know so Collin can take you on a trip up to the cupola on top of the capitol dome.

As always, feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.

  

Other New From the Capitol 

Internet Access Takes Center Stage In Washington and Des Moines

President Obama unveiled a series of measures this week aimed at making high-speed Internet access cheaper and more widely available. His announcement, made in Cedar Falls, focused chiefly on efforts by cities to build their own Internet networks as competitive alternatives to major web providers.

The president said he'll urge the Federal Communications Commission to help neutralize state laws that effectively protect established Internet providers against municipal networks that want to build and offer services. Federal agencies will also expand grants for both municipal and rural providers.

Wednesday's speech opens a different front in another issue that's before the FCC: net neutrality. The president's communique to the FCC marks his second since November when he asked the agency to apply strong net neutrality rules on Internet providers that would ban them from charging different prices for high-content web traffic from companies like Netflix. The video streaming service also urged the FCC last year to preempt the kinds of state laws that prevent municipal Internet networks from coming online in places like Colorado, for example, where a city must hold a successful referendum before undertaking such a project.

Cedar Falls is one of many cities across the county that have built their own publicly operated network, and a high percentage of the city's households are subscribers. Nine Iowa cities offer similar services.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote last year that the public interest would be served if the FCC moved to "preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband."   The FCC's congressional charter gives it the authority to stimulate broadband deployment, a broadly worded commission that could also be used to authorize its equally controversial net neutrality rules.

Meanwhile, existing Internet providers are pushing back. In August, AT&T warned the FCC that public investments in municipal networks will only diminish private-sector investments that could both expand and enhance web access. And any move from the FCC to neutralize state laws would almost surely meet fierce--and perhaps successful--legal resistance from established providers.

President Obama's visit coincides with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcing a multi-million dollar loan program to help rural carriers build broadband in unserved or underserved areas. It also coincides with Governor Branstad's Connect Every Acre initiative, which he announced during Tuesday's Condition of the State Address. His proposal would provide a 10-year property tax exemption for broadband infrastructure in place on or after July 1, 2014. A $5 million grant program would also help spur broadband access to farms, school and rural communities

State of the Judiciary

  

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Mark S. Cady, of the Iowa Supreme Court, delivered the State of the Judiciary. Each year the Chief Justice is required to deliver this speech to the general assembly. In the address, the Chief Justice may express what he believes is important for Senators and Representatives to know about the Court system.

Chief Justice Cady used his State of the Judiciary to highlight the goals and successes of the judicial branch. Those goals include; protecting Iowan's children, providing full time access to justice; operating an efficient and full services court system; providing faster and less costly resolutions of legal disputes; remaining open and transparent; and, providing fair and impartial justice for all.

The Chief Justice focused on the ways in which courts are working for all Iowans. From specialty courts that focus on families to easier access to court documents through technology. Iowa Courts, now more than ever, are more accessible to all.

Keeping the courts open and accessible has been a major focus for the legislature. With additional funding appropriated in the past several years, Court Houses in Iowa were able to expand their hours and ensure better access to justice, no matter where a person is in the state, through the use of the Electronic Data Management System (EDMS). As of today, over 4 million documents have been uploaded on the EDMS system.

Iowa Courts are continuing to focus on providing justice for all. Justice Cady promised that members of the Judicial Branch will be reviewing specialty courts, sentencing and other procedures in order to ensure all Iowans are treated fairly.

With the conclusion of the State of the Judiciary, members of the Justice Systems Budget Subcommittee will begin meeting to evaluate the funding for the Courts for the 2016 budget. This Subcommittee will work to ensure the Courts receive appropriate funding to continue their work.

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