The Segebart Report
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
During the last week of the legislative session, we continued our work towards adjournment for the year. We spent much of our time waiting for bills to come to us from the other chamber, waiting on amendments, and debating some of the last proposals we will discuss this year. Because this is the first year of the 88th General Assembly, bills that didn’t get passed out of the Senate can be taken up next year. Many of us will take these next few months to talk with our colleagues and constituents about how we can improve policies not passed this year and develop new priorities for next year. We adjourned for the year on Saturday, April 27.
This year, Senate Republicans continued our work on a pro-growth agenda for Iowa. Our objective during the legislative session is to continually challenge the status quo and pass legislation that provides an environment for more job opportunities, more flexibility, and more innovation. When I heard from you during the summer and fall, I consistently heard comments on the rapid growth of property taxes, fully funding education, and controlling state spending.
These priorities drove our agenda each day in the Senate. One of the very first things we did this year was appropriate more than $89 million in new spending for K-12 schools and start to address the inequities when it came to the classroom and transportation. This would bring the total taxpayer investment into K-12 education to $7.1 billion annually.
We passed a number of bills to level the playing field in our state, from private solar generation fees to the process for selecting judges by judicial nominating commissions. We moved forward a suite of bills to bring more people into our workforce and ensure those who truly need help and assistance are receiving it. We built on the successes of our adult mental health system to create a children’s mental health system. We voted to give local control and flexibility back to our school boards and local governments and voted to protect our state’s largest industry from those who wish to harm it. Finally, we passed legislation to control the growth of property taxes and improve the transparency and accountability of the property tax process.
It was a productive year at the Capitol and I thank you for the honor of representing you in the Iowa Senate. I look forward to seeing what we can work on next year and hearing your feedback throughout the next several months. That time is crucial to help determine the issues we will discuss next year.
Extending SAVE for Schools
For the last 10 years, school districts across Iowa have utilized proceeds from a one-cent sales tax to fund infrastructure projects. The Statewide Penny for School Infrastructure was established in 2008 by the legislature, and set to expire in 2029. With 10 years left on the original legislation, schools asked the legislature to renew the statewide penny so it would not hinder their budget process and bonding for future infrastructure projects. During the last week, that penny sales tax was extended in the Senate.
Since its inception, schools have used the sales tax proceeds to fund school safety improvements, add new technology for staff and students, and improve the transportation fleet. It also provided for the purchase equipment that previously relied on Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds or new bond issues. This enabled districts to ease the burden on property taxpayers by not utilizing PPEL funds or adding debt service.
Under the bill, funding is distributed based on enrollment, with the same amount available to support each student, no matter where he or she lives. It is community driven as local communities use the funds based on their facility and infrastructure needs. Extending the statewide penny from 2029 to 2051 allows school boards to have more predictability in creating long-term plans and budgets and helps alleviate the property tax burden when unexpected problems arise in buildings. This proposal provides an equitable solution for Iowa schools and helps give them support where they need it most.
Truth in Taxation Passes the House and Senate
Senate File 634 passed the Senate floor on a bipartisan vote of 33-17 during our last week of the session. This bill made several changes to the way property taxes are collected in Iowa. It creates more public input into the local budget process and brings more transparency and accountability in the property tax process with the goal of empowering taxpayers to participate and control the increases of property taxes on their home.
Controlling the growth of property taxes is the main objective of our proposal. Over the last 18 years, property taxes have more than doubled, while incomes for Iowans have only grown 43 percent over that same time. Senate File 634, by inserting a new tax dollar resolution and public hearing into the current budget approval process, places an enhanced spotlight on the local budgeting process and increases public input. This process will allow homeowners clarity into the real cause of property tax increases instead of the currently opaque process of receiving an assessment and months later receiving news of the tax rates placed on that assessment. It will also allow homeowners more time to communicate with their locally elected officials.
Prior to the public hearing, Senate File 634 will require a local government to inform taxpayers of a new “status quo” tax rate. The rate will show homeowners the property tax rate that would give the city or county the same amount of revenue it would have had in the previous year. Exceeding this rate alerts the taxpayer their taxes may be rising.
After the public hearing, local officials will need to approve the information they just discussed. If the tax dollars and rates discussed at the public hearing exceed 2 percent compared to the previous year, the local governing body must approve the amount of increase with a two-thirds vote. The enhanced vote requires lawmakers to reach greater consensus before raising the financial burden property taxes place on homeowners.
Iowans have longed for relief from rising property taxes and this bill finally brings some transparency to the process. With the passage of this bill, Iowans will be able to see why their property taxes are being raised. Furthermore, it will give them the information they need to hold their local governments responsible.
As I think about this last session, I can’t believe how many people I have met in the last seven years on both sides of the aisle. I truly liked them all. We are a bit like a big family at the Capitol. We share the joy of newborns and mourn the loss of loved ones. Are we always one big happy family? No, but we all share the will to make Iowa the best state in the best country. Every day is exciting and unlike any other. Representing you is a daunting task. I try to stay true to myself and to the people who elected me. It is an honor to be your legislator.
State Senator Mark Segebart
Friday, April 12, 2019
There are those who claim Iowa weather is in a state of flux like never before, and the government must do something. It may appear that way to some, but remember, if you can, the 1930s were the hottest decade on record in Iowa. My grandparents often told me as I was growing up how all the corn turned white on the Fourth of July in 1936, and how bad the winter of 1935 was with cold and snow. Many farmers went broke after that hot summer because the crops were ruined in one day, including my grandparents. There was again hot weather and crop failures in 1974 and 1976. The weather in the 1950s went through a similar cycle, with 1958 being the worst winter of those winters. So, to those who claim we are experiencing unusual weather in Iowa, I would say, look back into history. This is normal for Iowa. The winter of 2018 is just repeating a trend that goes way back in history. Finally, with the amount of snow we had this winter in the central United States, flooding in the lower Missouri Valley was likely. It is a part of living in Iowa.
In the Legislature
After last’s week legislative deadline for bills, week thirteen included more floor debate. We remain focused on our budget work while we continue to pass bills out of the Senate.
While we have no agreement yet with the House or the governor on what the budget will look like for the next fiscal year, we continue to move forward with our budget bills. We do this because we believe we have a budget that is responsible and sustainable. The budget priorities this session include reliable and sustainable funding for K-12 education, health care, and public safety, as well as continuing to find ways we can provide tax relief for Iowa taxpayers. Our budget accomplishes these goals while providing the state with some cushion in the event of slower economic growth than predicted.
We have advocated for a conservative, pro-growth agenda during the last few years. Implementing those policies requires a conservative budget and conservative legislation to move our state forward. This year alone we have passed bills to prevent bad actors from maliciously attacking our ag industry, strengthen our Second Amendment rights in Iowa, and improve public accountability over judicial nominating commissions.
We have passed a suite of welfare reforms to bring able-bodied people into the workforce, reduce fraud, ensure benefits are for Iowa resident and US citizens and prevent deadbeat parents from receiving welfare. We also passed a bill to ensure the free speech rights of students at Iowa public universities are protected and legislation to protect Iowa employers and workers.
Some of these bills have been signed into law, some still awaits passage in the House, while others may not be considered until the next session. Senate Republicans will continue to advocate for our agenda throughout these last few weeks. As we continue our work in the Senate, I encourage you to reach out on bills and issues important to you.
Flood relief continues to be a major topic of conversation in the Iowa Legislature. Many parts of southwest Iowa remain under water and a full accounting of the damage may be weeks or months away.
Senate Republicans are in regular contact with the governor to identify potential legislation to expedite recovery efforts and a plan is expected soon. However, the single most important aspect of flood relief is for Democrats in the U.S. Senate to stop opposing flood relief and approve the nearly $1.6 billion in aid requested by Governor Reynolds and approved by the president. These flood relief efforts will be focused not on growing government but getting aid directly to those people in need.
Increasing transparency in prescription medicine
The Iowa Senate unanimously advanced a bill this week aimed at shining the light on costs that help determine drug pricing. Senate File 563 deals with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). PBMs are third-party companies who act as prescription drug middlemen to develop plans for state government employees, commercial health entities, and for employers who self-insure.
Nearly 70 percent of all prescriptions filled are by a PBM. Initially, the goal of the PBMs was to help consumers save money on their prescription medicine as well as share their expertise in complex formulary development.
As the cost of prescription medicine rises, there is momentum in Iowa, other states, and at the federal level to increase the transparency requirements for the PBMs in their operations. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is taking up this issue in the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. This week the Iowa Senate followed suit.
The bill, which passed on a 49-0 vote, will make the rates negotiated more transparent, and shines more light on the entities receiving those rebates. PBMs will now be required to yearly report aggregate dollars received, all administrative fees, and the aggregate dollar amounts of rebates retained by the PBM and not passed through to the health carrier.
Though this bill does not directly impact prescription medicine prices, the transparency can help identify future steps to help rein in these rising costs.
The Segebart Report
Friday, April 5, 2019
I met with the governor this week and asked her about the upcoming departure of UnitedHealthcare from the list of MCOs in Iowa. United had become the largest MCO in Iowa. Their departure will require some clients to change their MCO designation. We just went through a large change after AmeriHealth left last spring. That process seemed to have worked fairly smoothly last year and I am hopeful that we will see the same results in this change. Iowa Total Care MCO is coming this summer to Iowa and they are reported to be more focused on our waiver community and long term support. They have indicated recipients can keep their case worker.
In the Legislature
This was the twelfth week of the 2019 legislative session and budget bills have started moving in both chambers. The first budget bill passed off the floor of the Senate this week. Senate Republicans have proposed a budget for the next fiscal year that is sustainable, responsible, and conservative. It is a budget that supports our pro-growth agenda and also funds the priorities of Iowans, such as health care, education, and public safety. As we get closer to the ending weeks, we will see more budget bills pass through the chamber as we work on a budget agreement with the House and governor.
This week was the second legislative deadline of the year, refining our focus to the main priorities we want to get done this year. These bills are priorities for the Senate, but also have support in the other chamber.
One of the bills we passed off of the Senate floor was Senate File 597. This bill makes changes to tax policy for blood centers across Iowa and expands the sales tax exemption on these locations for items needed to perform testing on donated blood. It passed 47-0.
Another bill the Senate addressed this week was self-driving cars. Senate File 302 authorizes driverless-capable vehicles to operate on public highways both with and without an actual driver in the vehicle. Vehicles will only be allowed if they meet certain criteria and also requires the owner of the car to submit proof of insurance to the Department of Transportation. This bill is necessary to start setting up the framework for these cars in Iowa as this technology continues to advance and more employers start to experiment with how this could help their industries.
On Wednesday the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, addressed senators from the floor of the Iowa Senate. He spoke eloquently about the strong relationship between the United States, Iowa, and Israel. Ambassador Dermer highlighted the shared mission between our two countries of freedom, security, and human rights. He noted it was the first time a sitting Israeli Ambassador has visited Iowa. It was a privilege to hear from a high ranking official from one of America’s closest allies.
Welfare Reforms Continue to Pass the Senate
Taxpayers fund public assistance programs to support those people truly in need. It is incumbent upon policy makers to be vigilant in defending public assistance programs against fraud and waste. Iowans work hard, pay taxes, and live frugally. They expect the public safety net they fund is in place for fellow citizens who actually require assistance. Iowans do not tolerate individuals defrauding them by abusing those programs.
Those principles led the Iowa Senate to pass its fourth major welfare reform policy on Thursday. Senate File 334 requires the Iowa Department of Human Services to implement, or contract with a third party to implement, a real time eligibility verification system for recipients of Medicaid, the Family Investment Program, and food assistance. The bill requires the monitoring of eleven different eligibility requirements, among those criteria are immigration status, residency status, enrollment in other assistance programs, and death records. Real time verification of eligibility ensures oversight over the public assistance programs and provides accountability of those programs to the people funding the programs, Iowa taxpayers.
Several states have implemented similar programs including Colorado and Washington. This initiative is a common sense solution to ensure Iowa’s public assistance programs exist for US citizens, Iowa residents, and people legitimately in need. It is the policy taxpayers expect and the policy they deserve.
Iowa Senate passes E-Verify legislation
The Iowa Senate passed a bill this week to help protect legal workers in Iowa and promote better hiring practices. Senate File 516 would require employers use a web-based system, called E-Verify, to confirm potential employees are eligible to work in the United States. It passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
Under the bill, employers would be required to use the federal E-Verify program to confirm the identity of an employee and imposes penalties for businesses who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Those penalties include temporary to permanent suspension of a business license as well as repayment of economic development money if it is determined an employer hired undocumented employees.
This federal program is available in all 50 states, but is currently voluntary unless the employers hold federal contracts or subcontracts. Then, the businesses with federal contracts are required to utilize the E-Verify system. Under the bill, Iowa Workforce Development is the enforcement agency. The Secretary of State’s office would track Iowa employers and E-Verify registrations through the federal government.
This legislation is responsible and fair. It protects Iowa businesses adhering to the rule of law and prioritizes those who live here legally. It also protects law abiding Iowa workers and employers from being undercut by unscrupulous businesses willing to hire illegal laborers and depress wages.
There is no forum this weekend in Audubon, I will be spending time looking at flood damage. It is an honor to be your senator.
Friday, March 15, 2019
The Segebart Report
Iowa weather, if you don’t like it today, wait till tomorrow. I never would have believed all that snow could disappear so fast. Maybe now the newborn calves can find a place to lie down. This week was filled with floor debate in the Senate. These debates were some of the best I’ve heard during my time in the Senate. Next week will be more of the same. In my hurry last week to get home before the snow storm, I failed to mention that my bottle bill has survived the first funnel and has been reassigned a new number and sent to the Ways and Means Committee for future work. All bills that have tax or fee issues in them are automatically sent to ways and means. Good news is the bottle bill has friends in this Senate committee.
I floor managed a bill this week that allows coyote hunters to legally night hunt using an infrared light source with a night scope. There is no shortage of coyotes in western Iowa. I’d like to thank Senator Schultz for sponsoring the bill. Night hunting coyotes with a spotlight is not legal unless this bill becomes law.
In the Legislature
Week nine in the Iowa Senate included some of the first major debate of this year. Just this week, we passed over 30 bills out of the Senate chamber.
One of the bills the Senate passed this week was Senate File 274, protecting the freedom of speech on college campuses in Iowa. This bill, which passed the Senate 35-11, provides common-sense, proactive protections and safeguards for belief-based student organizations in Iowa. This was an important bill to pass as a number of universities not just in our state but across the country have been stifling free speech and the discussion of differing ideas on their campuses.
We also passed a bill aimed at improving the knowledge of Iowa students on U.S. government and history. Senate File 209 requires school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to offer all students in grades 9-12 opportunities to take the latest available U.S. citizenship and immigration services naturalization civics test. The goal of this bill is to provide high school students with knowledge of our nation’s government and political processes and help increase civic engagement.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 24 percent of U.S. high school students are proficient in civics, and studies by the Annenberg Foundation show a third of U.S. citizens can’t name even one branch of our federal government. The bill passed the Senate 43-3.
The Senate passed Senate File 536 on Wednesday, which took out a restriction in the Iowa code that limited the operation of tele-pharmacies in rural Iowa. Current law set a ten-mile radius restriction for granting a special or limited-use pharmacy license to a proposed tele-pharmacy site. This bill provides more options for rural healthcare services, increases access to pharmacies in our rural communities, and ensures rural Iowans have access to medications and prescriptions they need. It passed the Senate 48-0.
Protecting Iowa’s largest industry
Agriculture is one of the driving forces of Iowa’s economy. When adversity strikes our ag sector, it often takes a toll on our economy. Look no further than four years ago when the avian flu ravaged the poultry industry in Iowa. That outbreak claimed 30 million hens and 1.5 million turkeys, resulting in the loss of 8,444 Iowa jobs and $1.2 billion in economic losses.
Iowa plays a significant role in feeding the world. Therefore, it is vital our farming operations have protections in place to prevent future outbreaks that threaten the world’s food supply as well as the state economy. One of those protections in disease prevention is strict biosecurity procedures. Senate Republicans addressed these strict biosecurity measures this week with the passage of Senate File 519, which creates a criminal trespassing offense.
The bill passed this week in the Iowa Senate and House would enforce criminal penalties for a person who deceptively obtains access to, or employment at, an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public with the intent to cause physical or economic harm to the facility. The bill also provides for conspiracy charges for those who conspire to cause harm to our agricultural production facilities or animals.
This valuable piece of legislation is essential for ag producers in our state. It provides protections for producers against tampering with their livestock and farming operations and the potentially devastating spread of disease.
Bringing balance to the Iowa judicial system
This week, the Iowa Senate passed important reforms to how judges are picked in Iowa. Senate File 237 makes a number of changes to judicial nominating commissions in order to give the people of Iowa more of a voice, increase accountability, and bring balance to commissions across the state.
Currently, the state nominating commission is made up of 16 individuals. Eight are chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, while eight are elected by members of the Iowa Bar. There are serious concerns about a private group having such a large say in our third branch of government with no legislative oversight and with a group of lawyers electing their own to the commissions.
To fix this problem, Senate File 237 proposes the state nomination commission contain eight individuals who will continue to be appointed by the governor, while the remaining eight are appointed by legislative leaders: two by the Senate Majority Leader, two by the Senate Minority Leader, two by the Speaker of the House, and two by the House Minority Leader. The bill does not include Senate confirmation, as we’ve often seen appointees fall victim to the other party’s politics on Senate floor. This way the minority in the legislature always has a say in the process.
When it comes to our district nomination commissions, they will continue to be made up of five people appointed by the governor and five people selected by the Iowa Bar. The bill does take out senior judges as chairs on the commissions and instead allows members to appoint their own chair of the commission. The courts will still get to appoint a member on the commission. Additionally, the bill expands the judicial applicant pool by only requiring a person to live in the district upon their appointment and standardizes the processes for nomination commissions all over the state.
I’d like to reaffirm that with these changes, Iowa will continue to be a merit-based system and it does not move our state towards electing judges or require any kind of Constitutional amendment. We are simply changing how the commissions are put together in order to give Iowans more of a voice and trying to bring more accountability those who select our state’s judges.
A Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Senate Joint Resolution 18 passed the Iowa Senate on Wednesday this week. This legislation is the first step in placing the right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa Constitution. Iowa is one of only 6 states in the country to lack constitutional protections for this fundamental right and this policy will take Iowa off that ignominious list.
The language in this legislation is nearly identical to the Second Amendment in the US Constitution with one important exception. It requires the Iowa Supreme Court to use the strictest evaluation on legal restrictions to the right of Iowans to keep and bear arms. This language is important because, as was illustrated in 2008 when legal challenges came to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, only one vote on the US Supreme Court separated law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right.
Adding this language to the Iowa Constitution provides a layer of constitutional protections at the state level for the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. This legislation also passed the Iowa House on Wednesday. In order for it to be added to the Iowa Constitution, it must be passed in the same manner in the next General Assembly and then passed by a majority of Iowans in a statewide vote.
I have forum this Saturday at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake at 10 am. It an honor to be your senator.
The Segebart Report
Friday, March 8, 2019
We finished up our work in Natural Resources and Human Resources committees by Wednesday afternoon. I then went to Ames to join my son for Ash Wednesday services at Memorial Lutheran Church next to the ISU campus. For me this does more for my mental health than anything else I could do. I should have gone home from there but didn’t, only to wake up to one more snow storm this year. It took three hours to get home. I am looking forward to meeting with the Boy Scouts this weekend in Manning at the Haus Barn weather permitting. I have a forum at 10am Saturday at Cronk’s Café in Denison.
In the Legislature
Week eight in the legislature was the first funnel week of the year. This deadline requires policy bills to be out of their originating chamber’s committee in order to be considered for the rest of this year. Imposing this deadline forces legislators to focus on priority bills and bills with enough support to pass the chamber. The days went by quickly with a majority of our time spent in subcommittees and committees to make final decisions on bills.
One of the bills discussed this week addresses a problem I’m sure many of you have dealt with yourselves. Senate File 389 prohibits a person from staying in the left-hand lane of a road too long knowing someone is trying to pass them. The left lane on a road is intended to be used for passing slower cars and can often lead to slowing down traffic when drivers “camp” there. Incidents where this happens can also lead to road rage as well backup and delays for other drivers.
Another bill that went through committee this week is Senate Study Bill 1227. It creates a criminal offense for a person who either obtains access or employment at an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, intending to cause physical or economic harm.
A person who commits this crime would be guilty of a serious misdemeanor the first time and aggravated misdemeanor any time afterwards. This legislation is important to protect livestock producers from malicious actors seeking to destroy their businesses with false accusations.
Senate Study Bill 1241 went through the State Government Committee. This bill continues the goal of providing fair, safe and secure elections for Iowans. The bill is an extensive review of our election laws with a number of provisions and parts. Some of these include checks and balances for county commissions of elections, provides cost-saving opportunities, and increases transparency by requiring public reports from county and state commissioners. It also addresses uniformity across counties, parties, and nonparty political organizations.
Some may remember earlier this year when it was reported a “bureaucratic oversight” within the Secretary of State’s office last year forced all constitutional amendments passed during the 87th General Assembly to start the approval process all over again. This bill will require the state to publish proposed and approved constitutional amendments on the legislative website providing immediate access to Iowans. This ensures mistakes within the Secretary of State’s office do not unintentionally veto constitutional amendments passed by future legislatures.
These topics are just a few examples of the work done this week by myself and my colleagues. If you have questions or comments about these or any other pieces of legislation, please send me an email or leave a message on the Senate switchboard.
Responsibility in budgeting
Senate Republicans remain committed to ensuring the long-term fiscal responsibility in the State of Iowa. That commitment includes being mindful when it comes to spending taxpayers hard-earned dollars. It is one thing to talk about being prudent when it comes to spending, it is another to double down and put that language in the Iowa Constitution.
Taking the current 99 percent spending limitation law and putting it into the Iowa Constitution will ensure the state continues its commitment to crack down on spending. That crackdown will hinder the legislature from circumventing any laws to balance a budget, which happened in Fiscal Years 2006, 2007, and 2009. It would also prohibit the surplus from being calculated in the expenditure limit. This ensures ongoing expenditures are not budgeted to exceed ongoing revenues. Lastly, the constitutional amendment would limit spending increases each year to no more than 4 percent growth from the previous year’s net revenue estimate.
This is an important first step toward long-term fiscal responsibility. As a proposed amendment to the constitution, it must pass both chambers in the same form during this General Assembly, and again in the following General Assembly before it can go to a vote of the people. Enacting a Constitutional Amendment is difficult, and it should be, but this only demonstrates the importance we put on responsible state budgeting and reining in state spending.
Leveling the Playing Field
Private property is a vital aspect of the success of our state and nation. It provides people with the pride of ownership, they maintain and improve their property for tangible and intangible reasons, and in Iowa thousands of people make their living off the land.
This week the Senate Natural Resources Committee approved Senate Study Bill 1221 in an effort to increase fairness in the sale of private property. It is a narrowly crafted bill focused on ensuring private individuals do not have to compete with another private entity using taxpayer dollars to help it outbid them when property is for sale.
In 1989, a state fund for water quality and drinking water projects was established to provide very low or no interest loans to local governments to improve their infrastructure. In the last several years, one private organization began to utilize that fund to obtain those loans to compete against other private individuals in purchasing land. SSB 1221 is a common-sense approach to ensure fairness in the market for property in this state. One person outbidding another person for a piece of land is reasonable and fair. What is not fair is for one entity to have access to a taxpayer subsidized loan and the other party does not.
The bill does not inhibit any practice currently underway to allow conservation boards, local governments, or the DNR from purchasing land for water quality or conservation. It does bring some balance to land purchases in this state by ensuring one private entity is not using taxpayer dollars to help it acquire land.
It’s an honor to be your senator.
The Segebart Report
Friday, March 1, 2019
It was a busy week with no time to pay attention to the weather. I pushed snow at home on Monday and finally made it back to Des Moines Monday evening. I’m happy to report that the Metabolic Screening Panel for newborns bill I sponsored will come before the Human Resources committee next Monday. The screening panel checks for rare diseases via a blood test that catches problems before they become untreatable. I chaired a subcommittee meeting this week on hunting coyotes after dark with the aid of IR lighting. The bill was moved forward to the full committee next week.
In the Legislature
This was the seventh week of the 2019 legislative session, and a week busy with subcommittee meetings. Next week is the first funnel week of the year, meaning Senate bills need to be out of Senate committees in order to be considered for the rest of the year. This does not apply to bills that are in Appropriations, Ways & Means, or Government Oversight committees.
One big topic of conversations at the Capitol this week was Senate File 348. This bill is from Governor Kim Reynolds and allows for the dispensing of self-administered hormonal contraceptives by a pharmacist without a previous consultation and prescription of a doctor. This means a patient who is 18 years or older can receive a one-year supply of one of three different contraceptives. It also requires pharmacists who dispense it to complete a training program and obtain a completed self-screening risk assessment from each patient before dispensing contraceptives. In the event the assessment raises possible complications the pharmacist can refuse dispensing of the contraceptive and will refer the patient to a physician. If the pharmacist does dispense the supply of contraceptives the patient is eligible for one additional year (two total) before she must visit a physician.
I’ve received many messages about this bill on both sides of the issue. While many are pleased the bill would expand access to birth control, especially in rural areas, there are also concerns about skipping an initial doctor consultation and screenings for other health concerns. As the bill continues to go through discussions in the Senate, please contact me with any comments or concerns on the proposal.
Senate Study Bill 1190 is currently going through the Education Committee. It eliminates regulations such as the requirement school districts use environmentally-friendly cleaning products or requiring notice of a public hearing in a newspaper, and instead allowing online notice. This bill simply removes these mandates for schools, but schools will still retain the authority to continue those practices.
These mandates are only a few of the regulations the bill cuts from the Iowa Code, reducing mandates on our schools, and putting the power back in the hands of those it should be – with our local school boards. Decisions such as these are best made at the local level with local school boards. A previous version of the bill eliminated state requirements for school districts to have librarians and nurses. That section of the bill was amended in committee and districts will continue to be required to have those positions.
Senate Study Bill 1197 started making its way through the Senate Human Resources Committee on Wednesday. This bill builds on the success of last year’s complex needs bill, which created an adult system for people with mental health concerns. SSB 1197 establishes a children’s behavioral health system in the state of Iowa. This bill is a result of an executive order by Governor Reynolds and recommendations from a workgroup on mental health in Iowa. Many people showed up for the subcommittee to discuss what they liked about the bill and additions they thought would be beneficial for the state. I look forward to seeing this bill move forward and am interested to see what it will look like in its final form.
Also this week the Senate considered another priority for Governor Reynolds. Senate Study Bill 1046 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to restore the right to vote for any convicted felon who has completed their sentence. If approved by this General Assembly, it will also need to be approved by the following General Assembly before going to the people of Iowa for a vote.
A Responsible Budget for Iowa
This week, Senate Republicans released budget targets for the next fiscal year. The overall budget of $7,619,300,000 is the same amount of funding allocated for the previous fiscal year, but includes millions of new dollars in spending. This is possible due to one-time expenditures we had last year that are not required this year.
The budget targets proposed implement a sustainable, responsible, and conservative budget that funds our priorities in education, health care, and public safety all while providing millions in additional tax relief for hard-working Iowans.
With the release of these numbers, budget negotiations with the governor and the House of Representatives will continue as all parties work to move Iowa forward. This budget puts dollars in areas that are priorities for Iowans. Senate Republicans remain committed to Iowa taxpayers and the responsibility of spending their hard-earned money wisely, and we are dedicated to putting this money towards policies to grow our state.
Death to the Death Tax
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as once saying, “Nothing is certain in life but death and taxes.” Unfortunately, because of the never-ending thirst for other people’s money by too many politicians over the years, death may be accompanied by another round of taxes.
Iowans spend their whole lives working to provide for their families, enjoy the fruits of their labor and leave something for posterity. During the course of their lives they pay income tax, property tax, sales tax, and perhaps a capital gains tax. The inheritance tax is double taxation on many assets.
In a state with a strong agriculture presence, the death tax can also lead to situations where those who inherit a family farm are forced to sell all or a portion of it to pay the taxes due to the government. The value of the assets is high but the accompanying cash is limited and inadequate to pay the tax. A similar situation may exist for small businesses outside of the agricultural industry. The value of buildings, equipment, and materials can quickly outpace the available resources needed to pay the taxes.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee recently passed Senate File 1 out of committee and made it eligible for consideration by the full Senate. This bill would eliminate the inheritance tax in Iowa. As the bill is currently written the repeal is effective on July 1, 2019 and would apply to any deaths occurring on or after that date. It would finally end the confiscatory practice of double taxation in this state and would eliminate that hardship for some Iowa families.
It is an honor to be your senator. There is a forum this week on Saturday in Audubon at Memorial Hall at 10 a.m.
The Segebart Report
Friday, February 15, 2019
668 Bills have been filed in the Senate and the House. House and Senate Calendars are starting to fill up with bills eligible for floor debate.
Floor debate began this week with approval of rules that have existed in the Senate for many years.
- The Senate rule which governs committees (Rule 39) was unchanged since the Democrats were last in control (86th General Assembly), until Senate Republicans implemented specific policies requiring that subcommittee meetings are public (Rule 39, Subrule 13) and requiring every piece of legislation to have a public subcommittee meeting (Rule 39, Subrule 3)
- Senate Rules have always required committee meetings to be open to the public, and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure (Section 650), which governs Senate procedure, states that all rules governing meetings of committees also apply to subcommittees, thus subcommittee meetings were also open to the public, but that has been clarified in the Senate Resolution 3
- There has never been a “24 hour” requirement in Senate Rules
- There is no intention to change the way the Senate has operated under both Democrat and Republican control, and current and past practices have been clarified
We voted this week on an education funding package to allocate more than $89 million in new spending for K-12 education. These bills are the first to be sent to Governor Reynolds this legislative session.
This package includes new money for schools and additional money to address transportation and per pupil inequities across the state. Our primary goal was finding an amount the state can guarantee our schools to allow them to plan their budgets and their school year, while also taking into account the number of things our budget also has to fund. The sustainable funding increase continues a nine-year trend of growth in new spending for K-12 education. In the last nine years, the legislature has increased K-12 funding by nearly $845 million.
When you look at all the taxpayer money that goes into K-12 education, the annual investment is $7.1 billion or $14,600 per student. Without a doubt, this is a strong investment into the education of students all across the state.
Years from now, Iowa’s students will be the leaders of our state, and their education and success is vital. These bills passed in the Senate affirm our commitment to passing an education budget in a timely manner for Iowa schools, and affirm our commitment to schools as teachers prepare our students to grow and succeed.
It is an honor to be your senator. There is a forum this week in Storm Lake at King’s Pointe at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Segebart Report
Friday, February 8, 2019
Ground hog was wrong, Mother nature is still in charge. February is Heart month. Remember that CPR is always a good response for a person who has no heartbeat. They suggest that you do not need to do the mouth to mouth respirations that were recommend 20 years ago, but a hint to do the compressions in sync with the disco tune Staying Alive made popular by the John Travolta move called Saturday Night Fever of the 1980”s.
This week I ran the bill often called the “Iowa Care Act” both through the subcommittee and 24 hours later through the full committee. It is now eligible for debate on the floor and is funnel proof. It passed both committees unanimously the bill provides for the designation of a lay caregiver relating to an inpatient’s stay at a hospital if the patient so desires. It requires the hospital to notify that care giver when the patient is dismissed from the hospital. The hospital will also discuss the care the patient needs when returning such as medicines, shots, or other therapies. They will also evaluate the abilities of the caregiver to perform the needed care for keeping the patient in their home. As you might imagine this keeps the patient from being institutionalize and saves the state or the family a lot of money.
It is an Honor.
Forum this week at Denison Cronks Café 10 am.
The Segebart Report
Friday, February 1, 2019
Coldddddddddddddddddddd. Twenty below has not happened in the seven years I have served in the Senate. But things were still hot in the Capitol. Subcommittees were meeting every day.
I chaired two subcommittees on Thursday. SF5 would remove the automatic property tax exemption for Forest Reserves. Arguments for and against the bill were made to the committee by 25 different representatives of groups involved with timber sales, soil conservation, and water quality to name a few.
The original bill was passed into code in 1924. I did not sponsor SF5, but was assigned by the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee as the floor manager. The desire of the legislator who sponsored the bill was to help many of our smaller counties in the southern part of Iowa reign in a costly property tax dollars exemption. The southern counties have the lion’s share of Iowa’s natural forest. The county general fund pays for roads, police and fire protection, mental health services, and many other services. Those small counties are also experiencing purchasing of tracts of forested areas by out-of-state buyers whose intent is not contribute to the tax base at all because of this exemption in the code. I believe the job of granting or denying this exemption should fall to the county board of supervisors. I am asking for that amendment before moving the bill along. This will restore local control and end an unfunded mandate that has existed since 1924.
My second subcommittee was SF60. This is a metabolic newborn screening panel bill that would match Iowa’s panel to the federal panel. This screening of newborns is a blood test of newborns during the first 48 hours of life and would test for 25 life threatening conditions that may be present but not normally a problem that require treatment before their symptoms take effect and often become fatal to the child. There are over 5,000 deaths per year caused by these diseases. The tests would be made by the state hygienic lab. Startup costs are quite high and are a concern for several senators, but at this time I am very supportive of the bill. A neighbor of mine and a constituent lost their baby and brought this issue to me. The disease was called spinal muscular atrophy and it is now being recommended to the state screening panel.
It is an honor to be your senator. There is a forum in Audubon Saturday morning at Memorial hall at 10 am.
The Segebart Report
Friday, January 25, 2019
The second week began on Tuesday with Monday being Martin Luther King Day. Subcommittees are beginning to meet on a regular basis. My first subcommittee as a member of Natural Resources Committee was on SF46, a bill to allow landowners to permit people to fish without a license in private ponds with permission from the land owner. This is in ponds only, not in any streams that may run through the private property.
The second subcommittee was about improving the ‘bottle bill,’ SF59, to allow grocers and convenience stores to opt-in or out of redeeming cans back from consumers at their stores, but use redemption centers instead. The redemption centers will be able to receive two cents in handling fees from the bottlers instead of one penny as in the past. The Bottle Bill, the nickel deposit on cans and bottles in Iowa, has been one of the best laws in Iowa history for cleaning up the streets and recycling beverage containers.
I am also working on a subcommittee to remove the Forest Reserve property tax exemption option. This bill would increase the amount of tax dollars to counties for things they use their general funds for, such as conservation, or mental health services, or police or fire protection. Many parts of Iowa have large tracts of forested land being purchased by out of state buyers who request the exemption and pay very little to support community public services.
It is an honor to be your senator. There is a forum this week is at New Hope in Carroll at 10 am.
The Segebart Report
Friday, January 18, 2019
Greetings to you all from the state Capitol
Week one of the 2019 legislative session of the 88th General Assembly of the Iowa State Legislature is underway.
New members were sworn in on Monday. Governor Reynolds gave her Condition of the State address on Tuesday. She called for the Legislature to extend the time Mental Health Regions have to spend down their capital balances and increase the percentage of their operating budgets that may be carried from one year to the next. I am currently drafting a bill to do just that! She said, “I am proud to declare the condition of the State is strong. Our budget is balanced and our cash reserves are full; wages are going up while unemployment is at an all-time low, and we‘ve been recognized as the No. 1 state in the country.”
She continued, “It is time to move past the talking phase” in regards to a Children’s Mental Health system. She also called for the Legislature to appropriate additional money to train nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants in Mental Health.
The forum at Kings Point this Saturday may be canceled by bad weather, so check the media before leaving in a snow storm.
It’s an honor to be your senator.
I serve as the vice chair of the Human Resources Committee, as well as the Natural Resources & Environment and Local Government committees.