By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Columbia) has spent a great deal of time the past several weeks, reaching out to fellow legislators for support of his “Common Sense and Accountability” agenda. This includes:
I. Government Reform
-Reorganize state government where divisions, bureaus and agencies of similar functionality fall under the same umbrella
-Create a “Public Official Academy” to train education, county, municipal, and regional elected officials on the codes applicable to their public service, their authorities, their fiduciary and statutory responsibilities
II. Education Reform
-Opt out of No Child Left Behind
-Eliminate the funding of non-existent students
-Streamline the bureaucracy so that monies allocated to education are actually spent on student instruction
-Mandate the publishing of full, accurate, and complete academic data to the citizens of Iowa that has been independently audited
III. Personal Responsibility and Human Dignity Reform
-Require work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits
-Require a G.E.D. (or the acquisition of a G.E.D.) as a condition of receiving welfare benefits
-Require drug testing as a condition of receiving welfare benefits. The first failed drug test results in probation and scheduled testing. The second failed test results in mandated treatment. The third failed test results in suspension from benefits until it can be demonstrated the recipient is clean.
-Require the use of state-issued photo identification to activate and utilize food stamp cards in Iowa
-Require the State of Iowa to comply with Federal Law in providing welfare benefits to legal citizens only.
“It's looking good,” Heartsill said of his prospects for support in the House of Representatives. “I'm encouraged by it.”
He said the idea is gaining momentum with his fellow legislators, whom he is reaching one at a time.
Beyond that, House Republicans intend to work to make Iowa a competitive environment to attract business and industry to the state. One way in which they hope to do that is by improving infrastructure, which is something Republicans and Democrats agree upon. Differences arise among the legislators when the topic of funding any of these projects comes to the surface.
Heartsill said his party is glad to have held the line on all state spending, but remain eager to find more ways to improve government efficiency. There is still growth in state spending that is disproportionate to reflect what is going on elsewhere in the state. He hopes to find ways to eliminate the duplication of bureaucracies in state government – multiple agencies performing essentially the same duties – and other government waste.
If successful in finding these overall savings, Heartsill believes the money used for these unnecessary functions can be funneled into infrastructure improvements. Proponents of a gas tax increase remain in the Legislature, though Heartsill is not one of them.
As reported, Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Corydon) intends to introduce a bill that will change the funding formula for the distribution of Road Use Tax money. The change would provide a larger share of the money to counties.
Heartsill agrees with Sinclair's idea, but he has been told by colleagues that anything that would alter the current funding formula, TIME 21, will not pass the House. TIME 21 funding distributes road use money at 60 percent to the state and 20 percent each to cities and counties.
With 2014 an election year, Heartsill said the session could be either full of political grandstanding and pushes for major reforms, or a more quiet session in which no one wants to make waves. Either way, Heartsill said there are areas in which both parties can find common ground.
The Legislature is likely to try to do more to protect children from sexual predators, including online. Discussion is also expected to address human trafficking. With Interstates 35 and 80 intersecting in Iowa, the state is cognizant for the potential of that and drug trafficking as well.
Heartsill has reached out to two separate Democrats on two items of interest to him. He is working to try to shorten the length of the legislative session by 10 days. In his opinion, with less time, leadership may utilize the time they have more efficiently. Heartsill is also working with a member of the other party on payday loan reform. These loans often attract Iowans who are already struggling.
Both parties are also interested in strengthening eminent domain laws. Heartsill's concern is that, even with strong support in the House and Senate, the leadership in the Senate may not allow the bill to proceed.
“If Sen. Hogg and Sen. Gronstal don't want to do anything with it, it just sits there,” Heartsill said.
The issue of Supplemental State Aid, formerly Allowable Growth, for school districts, is open to negotiation. Heartsill said he is unsure of what percentage House Republicans will support for the 2015-16 school year.
Heartsill also wants to remind business owners of the business tax credit, and encourages them to register with the county assessor's office by Jan. 15.