Opinion

Decisions made as session draws to a close

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

On Thursday, June 10, the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate made history by introducing a bill in both chambers, moving it through subcommittee and committee, then to the floor of both chambers, and passing it unanimously and sending it to the governor for signature. This bill, named "Justice Reform" by us but misnamed "Police Misconduct Reform" by newspapers was historic for several reasons and was much needed.

I support police 100% and understand they have a tough job and they do their best in almost all circumstances. It is the rare circumstance where they step outside the bounds of what is right. The bill that was passed on June 10 is supportive of the 99.9% of our police officers while at the same time recognizes that in every population, we have bad actors.

I also support the protests that have occurred in the aftermath of horrific actions in Minneapolis. Peaceful protests are within the purview of our Constitution and the way good change is made in this country. I do not support the riots that a few bad actors have forced onto the peaceful many. Those riots have been costly in lives, property, and good grace and risk drowning out the message of the peaceful many. That is a tragic and sad thing. The riots are led by people who prefer anarchy over peace and prosperity.

The bill that was passed out of both the House and the Senate and the Governor will sign on June 12 included the following points:

• Allows the Attorney General to investigate when someone is killed by a police officer, and prosecute if a criminal act has been committed.

• Prohibits the use of a chokehold, except in very limited circumstances where death or serious injury is likely.

• Prevents law enforcement officers who have been fired for serious misconduct from future employment as a law enforcement officer in Iowa.

• Requires law enforcement to go through new annual training to prevent racial profiling, reduce bias, and employ de-escalation techniques.

This bill is pro-police and is supported by Iowa law enforcement. It does nothing to harm good, honest police officers who are doing their jobs to keep Iowans safe. This legislation is intended to hold bad actors accountable.

While this bill does not solve the issue of discrimination or racism, it is certainly good first step forward. House Republicans are committed to making continued progress to reduce racial disparities and injustices. Iowa has always been a leader in civil rights and this legislation continues to advance that cause.

The budget

In the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of state legislatures are facing revenue declines of up to 33 percent thus forcing them to enact budgets with significant spending reductions when compared to the previous fiscal year.

In Iowa, it is a different story as conservative budgeting principles have left the state in a much stronger fiscal position than many other states. On Wednesday, House Republicans moved forward with a Fiscal Year 2021 budget that maintains the current year's funding level for virtually all budget line items while also ensuring that the promises made to local schools before the pandemic are being kept.

House File 2643 is the bill containing all General Fund appropriations, and it spends $7.796 billion in the fiscal year starting on July 1. The bill maintains the Fiscal Year 2020 funding levels for the vast majority of line items in state government. Additionally, the state would provide additional funding to the HAWK-I program to meet the changed federal matching fund levels due to Obamacare. Funding for Medicaid would be set at $1.466 billion for the year. That amount is slightly above the current projected in the program by the state’s Medicaid Forecasting Group.

Education remains a priority under the House Republican budget proposal. The budget ensures that the state has the funds necessary to provide schools with the 2.3% increase in supplementary state aid that the Legislature promised when it passed that amount in early March. House File 2643 continues that commitment by providing the Iowa School for the Deaf and the Braille and Sight Saving School a similar increase in their funding levels.

Passage of the House Republican budget plan would also leave the state on solid financial ground in Fiscal Year 2021. Both the Cash Reserve Fund and the Economic Emergency Fund would continue to be filled to the statutorily-required level of 10 percent of the General Fund budget, in addition to the state continuing to have a healthy ending balance in the General Fund.