Category Archives: View Point

District 72 Update – January 27, 2016

By Rep. Dean Fisher

The Budget
Over the next few weeks and months there will be lots of discussion on the budget, and no doubt lots of media coverage. I feel it is important to make sure my constituents understand the issues fully, instead of just being fed the sound bites that often dominate the media coverage.
One area of concern is protecting our cash reserves and economic emergency fund from being appropriated for ongoing expenses. These funds contain $718 million, three-fourths of that is for managing cash flow, and one-fourth of that is for when cash is needed immediately for emergencies, such as natural disasters or economic emergencies. It is tempting for some legislators to want to look to these funds when revenue is not growing as fast as they would like. However, tapping into these funds creates serious trouble in the following years. First, those reserve funds are not a source of revenue, they are “savings.” Because state law requires the reserve fund to be replenished, a scenario where the amount taken one year results in the need to double that amount the next. Please rest assured that I will not support these kinds of budgetary shenanigans.
Safe At Home Act
The Safe At Home act that I sponsored last year has been implemented and participants were able to register for the program as of January 1st. Safe At Home creates an address confidentiality program within the Secretary of State office for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, human trafficking and child sexual abuse crimes. To date, 14 participants have signed up, and we expect that number to continue to climb. I have filed a bill to revise the Safe At Home Act that seeks to restrict when a court can order the program participant to disclose their physical address. It also specifies that persons in other states who are participants in address confidentiality programs will receive the same protections in Iowa courts. This is in response to an actual case where an ex-husband used the court to obtain the victim’s new address in another state she had fled to and resumed harassing her in that state.
I would love to have you come down to the Capitol any Monday through Thursday to visit, discuss your concerns with me, and take a tour of this beautiful building. It is one of Iowa’s treasures. We can even arrange a tour for you up to the capitol cupola on top of the dome!
As always, please feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.

ViewPoint: Gearing Up for the Big Fight

By Traci Bruckner, Center for Rural Affairs

Crop insurance is an important and necessary component of an effective farm safety net. However, it is a very complex program that will work more effectively with much-needed, commonsense reforms.
Under current law, we are subsidizing crop insurance at an average rate of 62% on every acre without limit regardless of farm size or wealth. We have an issue with that. Our tax dollars – the public trust – subsidize the largest operators no matter how big they get.
To be certain, crop insurance is a valuable and necessary tool for farmers. Fundamentally, we believe in government helping family-scale farmers manage risk. But, we think there ought to be a limit.
One federal study points to a single farming corporation that insured crops across eight counties and raked in $1.3 million in taxpayer subsidies in just one year. In turn, the largest and wealthiest farms use their premium subsidies to bid land away from smaller farmers and beginning farmers.
We are working to develop policy reforms that cap subsidies, create opportunity for beginners and diversified farmers, and link meaningful stewardship practices to enrollment in the program. The nation’s largest farms must carry their fair share of the cost of doing business, like any other economic sector.
This will be a tough fight. We don’t expect to win easily. But for over 42 years we’ve been fighting for family farmers and ranchers. We’re not backing down when it comes to crop insurance reform.

View Point – Fueling Our Kids and the Future: School Lunch, December 16, 2015

By Sandra Renner, sandrar@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs, Farm to School Project Specialist

In the past three decades, much has changed in our food system and society. Schools aren’t purchasing as many fresh foods, yet they have more nutrition requirements to fill. Schools got away from purchasing locally. The number of local farms to purchase edible food from has become scarce.
Recently, my kids invited me to eat lunch at school. Their school lunch menus show what items are locally sourced. Granted, I get to be a farm to school geek for a living, but to me that also meant an average parent would know that locally grown, fresh food was prepared in their school’s kitchen.
Each month seasonal foods are taste-tested in the classroom. Recipes and shopping tips also come home. Considering cuts to food science and ag classes in many schools, or not learning these basic skills at home… some parents simply do not know how to prepare fresh produce. Farm to School gives us a chance to change this.
When I ate school lunch, I saw a tray of nutritionally dense food. It made me feel good that the school is feeding the kids to perform well.
As a kid growing up in rural America, I could not imagine a world that agriculture and food prep skills weren’t a part of. But, today I see how quickly we are losing these skills. Farm to School is a tool for us to use to provide self-sufficiency and a better health legacy to our future keepers of the food system.

ViewPoint: Start Planning for a More Beautiful Iowa in 2016

By Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director, Keep Iowa Beautiful

Many people will wait to plan their 2016 resolutions until after the New Year starts. Rather than waiting – let’s use this month to start laying out the plans for how you can help improve your home, neighborhood, community and Iowa.
Consider tackling small projects that are relatively easy to achieve thereby enabling you to be successful and fuel the fire to do more. It becomes too easy to put off any resolution, however, one to help improve your area can pay back large dividends on your investment.
Your success on these projects makes you feel good about doing the project and making a difference, but also, provides an outstanding example to others (younger and older). Additionally, it builds a sense of pride– not just for you, but, for all those that benefit from or see the results of your efforts.
Samples of the types of projects you might consider are:

-Planting a tree or shrub on your property
-Planting flowers in an area that needs improvement
-Fixing a fence that is in disrepair
-Painting the garage, out building, fence or house
-Volunteering on a local improvement committee
-Helping improve a public park or facility by painting or planting
-Working with the school on a school garden
-Helping your teachers explore new opportunities like Teachers Going Green (KIB Website)
-Working to clean up and / or fix public property
-Improving the entryway to your community
-Helping to support recycling efforts
-Picking up litter on the streets, parks, parking areas and trails
-Assisting in a community service project with youth from the school

Those are just a few examples of how each of us can plan for the New Year and make a resolution to help improve our communities and the State of Iowa. Each small project makes a difference and helps. In many ways and without your knowing, it can influence people’s lives and encourage them to make their “gift back” to the area.
My resolution is to increase my level of volunteering to projects that improve Iowa. I have a history of community service but there is more to do and frankly it gives me sense of pride and accomplishment.
Your Keep Iowa Beautiful resolution (along with the actual follow through) is one way to give back or in today’s vernacular – “pay forward.” Not a bad gift for the season.
Maybe it will become habit-forming!

View Point: Three New Laws Help Vets in Need

By State Senator Steve Sodders

Veterans Day is Wednesday, November 11- a time to honor those who have served our country and made great sacrifices in their military duty.
At the Statehouse, we’re always looking for ways to thank our veterans. Some have major needs because of their service, and it’s our responsibility to help. This year, we:
1. Ensured a full property tax exemption through the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Credit to veterans with a permanent disability that makes it impossible to work.
A full property tax exemption already applies to those who suffered a 100 percent disability because of their service, and to surviving spouses of those killed in the line of duty.
Veterans should apply to their local assessor to receive an exemption. For more information, contact your local assessor by going to www.iowa-assessors.org/htdocs/Assessors_of_Iowa, or your county veterans’ office by going to www.va.iowa.gov/counties.
2. Added service-disabled veterans to those who qualify for a Targeted Small Business, which is eligible for low-interest loans and grants, as well as consideration when that state seeks bids for goods and services.
The Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals certifies businesses owned, operated and actively managed by service-disabled veterans as Targeted Small Businesses. The business must also be for-profit, located in Iowa and have a gross income of less than $4 million.
Those applying for certification must provide proof of a service-connected disability. Learn more or begin the certification process at https://dia.iowa.gov/tsb/.
3. Established a stable source of revenue for the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. Rather than relying on profits from the sale of designated Iowa Lottery games, each year $2.5 million in lottery revenue will be transferred to the trust fund. That’s the average Lottery proceeds received from the games in previous years.
The Veterans Trust Fund has seen increased applications for help from veterans in serious need of help with vision, hearing or dental care, durable medical equipment, emergency home repairs or transitional housing, and unemployment or underemployment assistance due to service-related causes.
Learn more or apply for assistance at https://va.iowa.gov/benefits.