With the second funnel rapidly approaching, the Iowa House spent most of the week debating and passing bills on the floor. There was very little time set aside for committee work. That will change this week as we will concentrate on moving Senate files out of House committees.Most of the major pieces of legislation are still alive and slowly working their way to the top of the barrel.
We have one more budget bill to run on the House floor, and that is the massive Human Services appropriations bill. I anticipate action on this bill soon, and then all of the budget bills that are originating in the House will have passed over to the Senate. The House is waiting for the Senate to send over their share of the appropriations bills, but it would appear they may be about two weeks behind us.They sent us the Transportation bill this week, but that's it. It would be nice to adjourn early this year, but in order for that to happen, there will need to be a lot of late nights and a lot of intense negotiations. Eventually, everything will fall into place and we will return to our families, farms and businesses.
As I mentioned, the Senate passed the Department of Transportation appropriations budget on Tuesday and we will debate it in committee on Monday. I will be floor managing this bill, which contains no general fund dollars. The department is funded by the Road Use Tax Fund, and this year, around $350 million will be appropriated for DOT operations. Obviously, this is a lot of money and none of it goes toward concrete or re-rod except funding for the planning division.Equipment and facilities are two big parts of the budget. It takes a lot of equipment to keep things in shape. During the winter months, Iowans expect their roads to be free of ice and snow, and the department does have nice machinery. They also have great employees, and I am happy to manage this bill.
On Thursday, March 1, the Legislative Services Agency released updated revenue figures for FY 2012. For the first 8 months of the fiscal year, revenue has exceeded earlier estimates.The three main revenue "pots" are all showing healthy gains. Personal income tax receipts continue to exceed expectations, largely due to the strong agricultural economy. Sales tax revenue is up, as are corporate income tax receipts. This is good news, as it means people are buying goods, and Iowa corporations are doing well. This is obviously positive news but I am concerned about what may happen now that gasoline prices are on the rise, and everything related to petroleum in going to cost more. For these reasons, House Republicans have been cautious when setting spending targets, because we know from history that financial situations can change in a hurry. Therefore, we will keep our pledge of not spending more than we take in.
On Monday evening, the House convened and held a public hearing in the House Chambers. The subject was education reform. In two-and-a-half hours, lawmakers heard testimony from 44 people, including Governor Branstad. The hearing was not very well attended by the public, but it was orderly and calm when compared to past hearings and there was a wide array of speakers. We heard from teachers, principals, superintendents, lobbyists, parents, youth ministers, school board members, union representatives and students. Most of the participants talked about specific issues, and did not really address education reform in general. A bill will be moving here on the House floor very soon, and when it does, I am sure it will take at least a full day to debate and pass. That's how much passion there is for our children's education.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880.You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.