We are nearing the half-way mark of the legislative calendar. Next Friday is the first funnel, or the deadline for bills to be reported out of committees. This is a self-imposed deadline forcing ourselves to keep the process moving so we can finish the session up in a timely way. In a few days floor debate will begin in earnest, and we can probably expect some long days and evenings.
State Budget Targets
The Senate Democrats have released their 2014 budget targets on Wednesday. Their proposal spends $6.89 billion, a whopping 11 percent increase from 2013. We expect revenue of approximately $6.54 billion, or almost $300 million less than they want to spend. It's disappointing that some have not learned from the same budgeting mistakes the legislature and Gov. Culver made three years ago. I will continue to support the budget principles that all Iowans use for their personal finances, meaning that we will not spend more money than we bring in. Another budget consideration that I believe is very important is that the state fully funds the commitments they have made to local governments. In the past the state has failed to keep the promises made to counties and cities.
Meanwhile the House Republicans have proposed a budget that is balanced and sustainable. Their version of the 2014 budget protects priority services in the areas of education, health and human services and public safety. They have set their spending target at $6.41 billion, or 98 percent of on-going revenue. Obviously there is a huge gap between the two proposals, and it's my expectation that we will end up closer to the House version than the Senate version because fiscal conservatives simply will not go down the road of overspending again.
A Commitment to Government Transparency
Senate Republicans took a step toward greater government accountability this week by filing legislation making the lawmaking process more transparent to Iowans. The first bill requires a statement of Constitutional authority on all legislation filed by the General Assembly, while a complementary bill charges legislators with providing a statement of legislative intent in bills creating or expanding a program. By filing this legislation, we remind all legislators of their duty to serve Iowans as the fiscal watchdog over the state budget and to reign in over-reaching government.
The Bill of Rights of the Iowa Constitution states "all political power is inherent in the people." The current burdensome regulations, lack of tax relief, and reckless spending indicate many legislators have forgotten this important tenant of representative government. Requiring statements of Constitutional authority returns power to the people of Iowa by holding legislators accountable to the document from which they derive their representative power.
Greater accountability to Iowans will also occur when legislators are charged with providing statements of legislative intent in bills creating or expanding programs. Currently, if the language of a statue is unclear the courts are left to guess the intended consequences and goals of the legislation, often leading to far-reaching assumptions. Providing clear parameters and outlines for new or expanding programs sheds light on the lawmaking process, provides efficiencies, and enables a more representative government for Iowans.
Iowa Drought Preparations
Clean water is a precious commodity throughout the world and Iowa is fortunate to have an ample supply in most years. Iowans recognize the vital role that water plays in growing the economy and feeding the world. That is why the 2012 drought was particularly hard to stomach, as it affected everything from business and agriculture to municipal water supplies. Droughts have adverse effects on our state, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources work diligently each year to provide accurate precipitation predictions.
Last year statewide precipitation was about nine inches below normal and the state experienced one of the worst droughts in half a century. The DNR is predicting that in 2013 Iowa will have another situation during which demand for water exceeds supply. It is important for Iowa to be appropriately prepared for a natural disaster of this sort.
Although never previously used, the Iowa DNR has in place a water permit system to assure water rights in times of drought. The permits are tied to land ownership and are needed if an excess of 25,000 gallons of water a day is extracted from streams and aquifers. The DNR takes into consideration the effect on the natural flow and the river's established average minimum flow. During drought, priority permits may be obtained for rural and municipal water systems, livestock producers, traditional crop producers, producers of power generation and commercial and industrial facilities.
Decisions about water allocation and control take place at the local level. DNR scientists have worked to make resources available for municipalities and are at the ready to consult and provide input. Iowa Code states that all waters are considered public waters and a public wealth of Iowa citizens. Waste and unreasonable methods of water use are prevented by the DNR. Protecting Iowa water and ensuring its availability is of vital importance and widely embraced.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have regarding issues or legislation.
Sen. Ken Rozenboom (641) 295-6551