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Capitol Digest 2-13-12

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Feb. 13, 2012:

EAT YOUR VEGGIES: The Iowa Department on Aging is encouraging grandparents to help their grandchildren adopt healthy eating habits that can stay with them throughout their lives. Agency Director Donna Harvey says the connection between a grandparent and a grandchild is a valuable one. “Grandparents invest in their grandchildren, often taking care of them while parents work and giving them emotional and financial support,” she said. In Iowa, more than 13,400 grandchildren under age 18 are being cared for by a grandparent. By eating healthier themselves, grandparents can set an example for their grandchildren, Harvey said.

FLOOD AND STORM MONEY: The Executive Council of Iowa approved additional dollars for three weather-related disasters Tuesday. The council approved allocations of:

$6.6 million for the disaster declaration for the Missouri River flooding for the period between May 25 and Aug. 1, 2011. That brings the total allocation to $9.6 million $90,389 for the disaster declaration covering the severe storms between July 9 and July 14, 2011, in Dickinson, Clay, Story, Marshall Tama and Benton counties. That brings the total allocation to $1.06 million. $128,812 for the disaster declaration covering the severe storms between July 27 and July 29, 2011 in Dubuque and Jackson counties. That brings the total allocation to $819,935.

TWO-YEAR ALLOWABLE GROWTH: The Iowa House passed House File 2245 which requires that the Legislature set the allowable growth for school districts on a two-year-cycle. The vote was 56-39 and fell along party lines.

Republicans in the House pushed the measure so it lines up with Gov. Terry Branstad’s two-year budget cycle. They said the move helps give school districts time to plan. But Democrats said the legislation limits the options of school districts.

“What this bill does is it forces the assumption of zero percent allowable growth,” said Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids. “Zero percent doesn’t mean status quo, it means cuts for a lot of districts.”

Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, said the practical effect of a zero percent growth for education means many districts will try to raise property taxes to make up the difference.

“This bill does not set allowable growth at zero percent,” countered Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Des Moines, chairman of the appropriations committee. He said lawmakers can make assumptions, but the fact is the bill sets a process in place.

Quote of the Day: “Nothing says I love you like a property tax debate.” – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tom Sands, R-Wapello, floor manager of commercial property tax reform bill HSB 519 that is scheduled for debate on Valentine’s Day

–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau

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