Your Capitol Voice: Ed reform bill negotiations get under way by Bobby Kaufman, State Representative · Op-Ed · March 15, 2013
Thursday marked the final day of the first funnel week when all bills have to pass out of committee or they are no longer eligible for passage this session.
There will be a second funnel the week of April 5 when bills have to pass out of one chamber and the committee of the other chamber in order to remain alive for the session. Appropriations and Ways & Means are the only funnel proof committees. Full House debates should really pick up this week.
I had over a dozen bills (that I authored, co-authored, or managed) that will survive funnel week – most with unanimous or strong bi-partisan support. I have mentioned many of them in previous columns. What follows is a recap of some of my bills as well as an update on other key issues.
Agriculture: Both of my bills targeting beginning farmers passed unanimously. They expand tax incentives to rent or crop share with beginning farmers and create a partnership with the DNR to give beginning farmers “first shot” at DNR land that is used for cash crops.
On Tuesday, we passed House Study Bill 166 by a bipartisan 21-2 vote. The bill widens the current exemption for state inheritance tax upon family farm property from the current exemption accorded to lineal descendants to any person within four degrees of consanguinity or affinity (lineal is first degree, second degree is siblings, third degree is aunt/uncle/nephew/niece: and fourth degree is first cousins/great aunt, great uncle.) This bill provides that “family farm property” includes farm real-estate of 10-acres or more where a farming operation is located and any machinery or equipment used in the farming operation. The bill still has to be approved by the full House, Senate and Governor.
Education Reform: The educational policy ideas of the Governor and House passed weeks ago, but this week the Senate passed their own version. The Senate discussed our bill over the past few weeks, but decided to introduce their own. The bill doesn’t diverge completely from our bill, but there are some significant changes. Now the negotiations and compromise must begin.
Regarding Allowable Growth, the House passed 2 percent and the Senate recommended 4 percent. We now await the compromise process. It is a top priority of mine that at least the Allowable Growth decision be resolved very soon or delay the mandatory budget reporting of Districts. I hear from my superintendents at home that they need to know what dollar amounts they have to work with when doing their contract negotiations. I supported 2 percent along with the education reform and the potential for our local school districts to receive the roughly $310 per pupil funding. This initiative allows Districts to develop a plan that works best for them. I will support the maximum amount of flexibility that still ensures consistent quality. I can support a compromise of 3 percent and willing to look at more IF the educational policy bill appears to stall.
Transportation: I managed several bills out of committee this week. One was a Department of Transportation priority which allows for a flexible online license renewal. This is estimated to save the DOT $4 million dollars and decrease lines at your local offices. The DOT was asked to trim their budget and this was a great start.
Judiciary: This committee has the highest volume of bills. In next week’s column I will do a full review of my half dozen bills I managed from this committee. Many will pass the House in the next two weeks.
I want to thank all of you for your continued communication. I had over 1,100 e-mails in my inbox on the first day of session and have been getting over 400 a week since. This week I should finally be caught up so if you haven’t heard from me yet, you will this week. I feel that it is important for me to read each of your e-mails and personally answer them. Your input is appreciated. I learn so much from this time consuming but crucial task.
Also, thank you for your continued attendance and input at my weekend Listening Posts. In the past three months, I have been to Clarence, Mechanicsville, Lowden, West Branch, Bennett, Wilton, Durant, Muscatine, Iowa City, Coralville, Lake Macbride, and twice to Solon, Tipton, and Stanwood. I still have many more to go.
Capitol Visitors: Mark Henning and Al Kroeger, Wilton; Kirk Trede, Durant: Richard Smith, West Liberty.