The Rozenboom Report by Senator Ken Rozenboom – February 8, 2019

Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40)

Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40)

by Ken Rozenboom

Education funding is always a big topic of discussion during the first weeks of each legislative session. This week we started the process for setting an education budget for the next fiscal year. Senate File 172, which sets supplemental state aid (SSA) and Senate File 171, which is the transportation/per pupil equity bill, includes a total of an $89.3 million increase for K-12 schools.

What does it mean to provide a good education for our children? If your answer is money, then Iowa schools have it in abundance. In the next fiscal year taxpayers will invest a total of $7.1 billion of federal, state, and local spending into K-12 education in Iowa. That is nearly $14,600 per student per year. Another way to look at it is to say that we spend approximately $300,000 per classroom per year. Our budget continues to emphasize our priority of education, while also demonstrating our dedication to budget sustainability and fiscal responsibility.

Another part of the conversation we have been having on PK – 12 education funding is the extension SAVE tax (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education). Senate File 74 extends the one-cent sales tax for school infrastructure to 2049, making it a 20-year extension from the original end date of 2029. The SAVE tax extension has been a big topic for the last few years here at the Capitol, with the House passing a version of the SAVE extension last year. This year’s Senate version places tighter restrictions on how the SAVE dollars can be spent, so it’s my hope that the House will pass the Senate bill so we can put this matter to rest. I’m confident the governor will sign this legislation.

Another important piece of legislation that has been introduced into the Iowa House and Senate is a bill that would change how judges are selected in Iowa. The change is minor, but its importance is not. I have always been somewhat reluctant to support changes to our current system, but a number of recent Iowa Supreme Court decisions have clearly undermined the work of the elected legislative and executive branches of government. “Of the people, by the people and for the people” has been replaced with judicial fiat in many cases.

Judges in Iowa are selected by the governor, but the governor is allowed by the constitution to select only a person from a list of names sent to her by a judicial nominating commission. No matter how many people apply to become a judge, and no matter how many of them are highly qualified, the governor can only consider a person who appears on the list sent by the special commission.

So who serves on the commission? Right now, the statewide commission, which picks nominees for the Iowa Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, has 17 members. Eight are appointed by the governor. The other eight are elected by members of one special-interest group: Iowa lawyers. The 17th spot is reserved for the most senior justice on the Iowa Supreme Court who is not the chief judge. The proposed bill would take the eight commissioners currently selected by the legal profession and let elected representatives in the state legislature pick them instead.

Here’s why I believe we need to take a close look at a change: No other state board or commission allows one small group of people (in this case, lawyers) to pick the nominees for important boards and commissions. A good example is the Environmental Protection Commission. If the governor could only select EPC Commissioners from a slate of names submitted by Iowa livestock producers, there would rightfully be an uproar. Iowans would say that’s not fair…livestock producers should not be the only ones to choose EPC members. But that’s just what the current judicial nomination process does. It allows a small group of unelected people to determine the slate of nominees from which the governor must choose. I will continue to watch how this plan evolves through the legislative process before I make a final decision on the bill.

There are many other bills moving through the process at the subcommittee and committee levels. Next week we will probably begin floor debate and voting on bills coming out of committee. Please continue to let me know your views on issues important to you. I will be at legislative forums in Albia tomorrow at 8:30 and in Centerville at 10:00.

Posted by on Feb 9 2019. Filed under Local News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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