2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Iowa Lawmakers send $952 million education budget to governor

Critics say the House should have negotiated better deal

Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun
Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun
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DES MOINES — As legislators slow-marched their way toward adjournment, the House approved agreements Wednesday to changes senators made in a host of bills, including the $952 million education budget for fiscal 2020.

The budget, which includes funds for 11,837 full-time equivalent positions in the departments of Education and Blind, College Student Aid Commission and Board of Regents, represents a $40 million increase from the current year.

Although the budget came that came back from the Senate was a compromise — $1.3 million less — “the House successfully negotiated with the Senate to fund important measures,” according to Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Kerr, R-Morning Sun.

That included funding for the All-Iowa Opportunity Scholarships, Rural Primary Loan Program, Health Care Loan Repayment Program and Iowa Tuition Grants.

However, Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, wished Kerr had fought harder for the House position on the budget.

“Compromise is only good when both entities win,” Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, said. “Where’s the win?”

The budget wasn’t what representatives — of both political parties — fought for, but it “represents a huge investment by the state of Iowa,” Kerr said before the House voted 54-46 to send it to the governor.

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Representatives from regent university communities called for more funding for the institutions. The House had approved $580 million — $13.5 million more than now. But the Senate lowered it to $576 million.

Lawmakers need to think of support for the regent universities as a long-term investment, argued Rep. Dave Williams, D-Cedar Falls. Majority Republicans seem to find a way to maintain or increase support for private education, he said. but regent university funding fell $100 million short of what he wanted.

“We have a responsibility to fund these universities and we don’t do a very good job of that,” Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, said.

The House also:

• Approved 54-46 Senate File 203 to prohibit the Natural Resource Commission from stocking privately owned ponds or lakes with fish. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources had a program until 2015 to stock private ponds. It stocked about 600 ponds per year, and charged about $25 per pond, said Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, said. Since then, private industry, like a hatchery in his district, has filled that void.

Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, said stocking private ponds, like one owned by his family, was a taxpayer service.

An amendment struck a section that would have allowed nonfamily members to fish on privately owned ponds without a fishing license. That would have cost the Iowa DNR nearly $800,000 a year, according to the Legislative Services Agency, and the potential loss of $616,000 in federal funds for the Fish and Game Trust Fund.

Because of the amendment, the bill returns to the Senate.

• Approved 89-11 and sent to the Senate House File 742 to require that someone convicted of a Class C or D felony for agricultural theft or vandalism of crop, livestock or honeybees be assessed a surcharge of $500. Revenue would go to the Judicial Branch. It’s similar to legislation the House passed last year, but died in the Senate.

• Sent Senate File 592, which deals with services that may be performed by a physician assistants, back to the Senate with an amendment allow optometrists to administer injections for the medical treatment of the eye.

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The amendment was similar to House File 310, which was approved earlier in the session but died in the Senate. Although it was ruled not germane, Republicans suspended the rules to attach it to SF 592.

• Voted 69-31 to approve Senate File 629, which would allow the Iowa Department of Transportation to issue $175 annual permits authorizing vehicles of excessive size and weight transporting raw forestry products. The change has been sought by northeast Iowa lumber interests that ship products domestically and internationally.

Similar exemptions are made for raw milk and garbage trucks, Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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