Vander Linden Capitol Update – March 30, 2017

The Capitol was buzzing with activity this week as the second funnel came to an end. Bills had to be voted out of a committee by the end of this week in order to see floor action, so House Republicans prioritized legislation that put Iowans first. Below you will find some helpful information concerning some issues the legislature is addressing you may have.

Local School Budgeting Flexibility

House Republicans are committed to providing flexibility to locally elected school boards by loosening funding restrictions and allowing for more local decision making. Several school districts have a significant amount of funds sitting in accounts that go unused because they are limited to specific purposes.

No school district is the same, and they each face their own unique challenges and opportunities. We should loosen funding strings and allow schools to spend some of these funds in the way that meets students’ needs and fits their individual districts best.

HF564 loosens restrictions regarding This bill makes changes to a number of funds, including Professional Development funding, At-risk and Dropout funding, Preschool funding, PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) funding, and Talented and Gifted (TAG) funding, by adding additional allowable expenses that are meant to help the funding further the goals of the program.

HF 565 creates a new “Flexibility Fund.” School district funds have narrow parameters that prohibit certain funding streams from being utilized fully. As a result, school districts accumulate unused funds that grow year after year. There are currently over 74 identified sources of funding that school districts statewide have leftover funds in to the tune of over $146 million in FY 2015 (a $17.5 million increase over FY 2014). Much of this funding cannot be touched or used.

HF 565 collects some of this funding and creates additional spending authority for districts to use those funds in a broader fashion, but still in the direction of the original source of the funding.

House Passes Eminent Domain Bill on the Floor

The House passed HF 603 this week on 93-0 vote.

This bill centered on the issue of eminent domain and focuses on three different areas.

The first area impacts the ability of aboveground merchant lines to use eminent domain and limits the definition of public use, purpose, or improvement and it applies to companies under the jurisdiction of the Iowa Utilities Board. This division takes place upon enactment and applies to projects or condemnation proceedings commenced on or after the effective date.

The second area addresses the taking of land for the creation of a lake. In a county with a population between 9,250 and 9,300 in the 2010 census, an acquiring agency shall not have the authority to condemn private property for the creation of a lake unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has performed an engineering review of the project and approved all required permits and authorization for the completion of the project. If 25% of the aggrieved landowners petition the condemning agency, the agency must pay for a certified hydrologist to review and analyze the proposed development. If 25% of the affected landowners petition the condemning agency, the agency must pay for a licensed professional engineer to determine the number of acers necessary for a surface drinking water source. Both of these petitions must be filed within 90 days of the application. Additionally, 80% of landowners must agree to voluntarily sell their property before eminent domain can be used. The division takes place upon enactment and applies to projects or condemnation proceedings pending or commenced on or after the effective date.

The third area determines how much a person shall be paid if the land their business or farm operation is located on is taken through eminent domain. A methodology is established for determining the amount of the payment based on specified costs incurred by the person in acquiring or leasing comparable real property. This division takes place upon enactment and applies to projects or condemnation proceedings pending or commenced on or after the effective date.

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