But Vetoes Very Little Spending On May 29, the Governor completed taking action on all of the remaining budget bills. Despite tough talk regarding the ramped up spending , the Governor signed almost the entire budget in full.
Of a $5.86 billion budget for FY 08, Culver vetoed $160,000 in spending and $1.2 million of the potential $6.5 billion budget in FY 09. After the vetoes, overall spending grew by $580 million (11 percent) above Fiscal Year 07 and is likely to grow by another $650 million (12 percent) next year.
In addition, the Governor vetoed $120,000 in spending from the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF) and Primary Road Fund (PRF) and $200,000 in spending from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF).
Ironically, the largest amount of spending vetoed came in FY 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Governor vetoed an extension of the Community Attractions and Tourism (CAT) fund, which was approved in order to allow the Earthpark rain forest project to get up to $36 million in state funds. The breakdown of the funding vetoed is as follows:
FY 11 -- $12 million for CAT ($7 million General Fund, $5 million RIIF)
FY 12 -- $12 million for CAT ($7 million General Fund, $5 million RIIF)
FY 13 -- $12 million for CAT ($7 million General Fund, $5 million RIIF)
The General Fund spending vetoed in FY 08 was $150,000 for the Plasma Arc project in Cedar Rapids and $10,000 for extracorporeal support at the Department of Public Health. For FY 09, the Governor vetoed $1 million for the World Food Prize and $160,000 for the Real Estate Education Program at UNI.
The RIIF funding vetoed for FY 08 was $120,000 for decorative planters in the East Village and $80,000 to restore the Kimball organ in Clermont. The Governor also vetoed $500,000 that was to go to the regional sports authority in FY 09, $750,000 for the Volga River State Recreation Area project and $500,000 for the Levi Carter Lake project, for a total of $1.75 million in FY 09.
In response to the Governor’s disappointing use of his veto pen, House Minority Leader Rants said “The Democrats’ budget has been a runaway freight train from the very beginning. Governor Culver had an opportunity to reign in the bloated and out-of-control budget the House and Senate Democrats passed and instead he just nibbled around the edges.”
Fiscal Committee Meets, Hears that Cigarette Tax Will Not Reach the REC Estimate On June 14, the first meeting of the 2007 interim for the Fiscal Committee was held at the Capitol.
The first topic of discussion was the status of General Fund revenue. Jeff Robinson of Fiscal Services said that revenue should be within plus or minus $25 million of the REC estimate. This is a huge change from the previous three fiscal years when revenue exceeded the estimate by $200 million per year.
The big news was the admission that cigarette tax revenue will not meet the REC estimate. It will likely be $3 million less than what the tax increase was supposed to generate. Whether this is because fewer people are smoking or buying their cigarettes out-of-state (or both) is unknown at this point.
While $3 million doesn’t seem to be a very big number, that was over three months’ time. Over the course of a fiscal year, that would translate to cigarette tax revenue falling short by $12 million. Since the money is appropriated to the Health Care Trust Fund (HCTF) and spent (primarily on Medicaid), if revenue came up $12 million short, either $12 million in spending for Medicaid would have to be cut or other money would have to be transferred in to cover the $122.6 million of HCTF spending.
The next topic was a discussion of the General Fund balance sheet. One thing that impacted the FY 07 balance sheet is the $71 million in supplemental appropriations. If the usual $20 million or so in supplemental appropriations had been approved, that would mean another $50 million in the ending balance, which would go to repay the Senior Living Trust Fund (SLTF).
For FY 08, the ending balance is projected to be $81.5 million. This is $50 million less than what will be needed to fund the property tax credits at this year’s level. It will also impact the SLTF, which under current projections will be completely drained by FY 09 if current spending levels are maintained.
One piece of good news is that the cost of the salary package negotiated by the Governor and the unions is going to be $13 million less than projected. This was primarily due to older workers taking retirement (and being replaced by lower paid younger workers) and lower health insurance premiums.
The last major topic was the proposed lease purchase of the Mercy Capitol hospital. Mollie Anderson of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) made the case for spending $8 million for a lease purchase agreement with Mercy. She made the case that this should be done because it is a good deal for the state and Mercy is motivated to sell. Also, DAS believes that buying Mercy Capitol will reduce the cost of the new state office building, which is estimated to cost $77 million. (Please refer to a related story in the State Government section of this newsletter.) After the meeting concluded, several members of the committee and staff took a tour of Mercy Capitol.
General Fund Revenue Above the REC Estimate On June 1, Fiscal Services released the General Fund revenue numbers for the first eleven months of FY 07. After being below the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) estimate at the end of April, actual revenue rebounded and exceeded the latest estimate set by the REC.
Through May, year-to-date receipts grew by $355 million, or 6.8 percent compared to actual FY 06. This is above the April 6 REC estimate of $338 million, or 5.9 percent above FY 06. All major sources of General Fund revenue were up compared to FY 06 but sales and use tax receipts continue to lag.
Personal income tax was up $212 million (8 percent), corporate income tax was up $89.5 million (31 percent), other taxes were up $14.8 million (5.2 percent) and other receipts were up $17.2 million (5.5 percent). However, sales and use taxes were up a mere $21.7 million, or 1.2 percent over FY 06.
Fiscal Services states that the two reasons for the strong growth in personal income tax is the lowering of the withholding tables (thereby increasing payments with tax returns) and capital gains due to the strong growth in the stock market. Sales and use tax receipts were up compared to April but are still behind the estimate of 1.3 percent above last year. Corporate profits continue to be strong and that has caused corporate income tax revenue to beat the estimate of a 26.4 percent increase by a substantial margin.
Thanks to the strong growth in May, it is now likely that the 5.9 percent increase projected by the REC will be exceeded by actual revenue. This is what the majority party is counting on in order to make their FY 09 budget work. However, it is unlikely that the estimate will be exceeded by a significant amount.
Year-to-date cigarette tax revenue increased by 136 percent compared to May, 2006. Since the tax was increased by 277 percent, even with a 20 percent reduction in sales the growth (the estimate used by Fiscal Services), the revenue should have been almost twice what actually was brought in. Unless the tax brings in $24 million in the month of June, the cigarette tax will not meet the estimate of $122.2 million set by the REC after the tax was increased.
(Contact: Lon Anderson, 1-5184)
Governor Vetoes State Interagency Missouri River Authority Rewrite On May 29, Governor Culver vetoed a measure that had garnered unanimous support by both chambers. Senate File 543 would have amended existing provisions in the Code that create the state interagency Missouri River Authority by providing that each agency representative would serve as vice chairperson of the authority on a rotating basis, instead of current law, which requires the director of the Department of Natural Resources to serve as chairperson in the absence of the Governor or Governor’s designee. Current law provides that the Governor, or Governor’s designee serves as chairperson and that the other representative state agencies are: (1) the Secretary of Agriculture or designee; (2) the chairperson of the Utilities Board or designee; (3) the director of the Department of Natural Resources; (4) the director of the Department of Transportation; and (5) the director of the Department of Economic Development or designee. The bill proposed new language that allows the authority to withdraw from any interstate association of government representatives formed to seek consensus solutions to issue impacting the Missouri River basin. The bill would have changed current Code to be less specific about the entity that is representing an interstate association of governmental entities interested in Missouri River basin issues. In vetoing the measure, the Governor cited his concern that the measure would undermine the Governor’s effectiveness in managing the vital natural resources of the Missouri River. Despite that fact that the Governor’s designee would remain as the chairperson, the Governor expressed unhappiness that the co-chair position would rotate between agencies. He also expressed opposition to the notion that the state’s representatives should express unanimity
(Contact: Lew Olson, 1-3096)
Tax-Free Internet May Be a Thing of the Past with Democrat-led Congress No person pays a tax to go to the public library. But come November 1, Americans may find themselves paying a tax for accessing the digital library as a national moratorium on taxation of Internet access expires. Whether Congress decides to extend the moratorium is an issue that sparks intense feelings across political lines. The decision has the potential to determine how the world wide web will be used and what type of commerce will take place on the Internet.
The expiring ban prohibits state and local governments from implementing a tax on Internet access. The manner in which a person gets the Internet does not matter whether it is a dial-up modem or via their Blackberry.
The national moratorium was envisioned to provide an incentive for expanding access to the Internet via broadband service. Whether this has been effective is a matter of some debate, as a study by the University of Tennessee found no correlation between expanded broadband penetration and the lack of tax on access.
As the current moratorium enters its final days, the fight is over the whether the moratorium is extended and the breadth of its coverage. A bipartisan group in Congress and the Internet provider community are pushing to make the moratorium permanent.
They face fierce opposition from state and local governments who view the moratorium as a fence preventing them from accessing a new source of revenue. This opposition is being led by the National Governors’ Association, which fears making such a moratorium permanent will lead other industries to seek similar tax treatment in the future.
No one is sure what will happen. Both chambers have numerous bills offered that extend the moratorium in some manner. Will Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid allow them to be debated?
(Contact: Brad Trow, 1-3471)
Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board Announces 25 New Awards
Assistance Will Increase Access to E-85 and Biodiesel in Iowa
Last month, the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board (RFIB) announced 25 awards totaling $541,600, assisting 20 Iowa retailers to install pumps for E-85 ethanol and biodiesel fuel, terminals installing biodiesel blending equipment and tank wagons for farm delivery having dedicated compartments for E-85 and biodiesel.
“Today, Iowa takes another step toward becoming energy independent,” said IDED Director Mike Tramontina. “These awards will expand access to renewable fuels for consumers, promote Iowa’s renewable energy economy and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.”
Over a three-year period, $13 million in financial incentives will be allocated by the RFIB to expand consumer access to renewable fuels. Since July of 2006, more than $2.2 million has been awarded. Owners or operators of retail motor fuel sites or biodiesel terminals submit applications for the awards to the Iowa Department of Economic Development. The RFIB will meet to consider applications again on August 21, 2007.
The 25 projects approved at the RFIB meeting (May. 24th) are as follows:
New Regent Admission Standards Approved A 2005 Republican initiative is bearing fruit. This week the Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) blessed the Board of Regents’ new admission standards.
In the 2005 session, Republicans passed legislation asking the Board of Regents to review their 50-year old admission standard, which said that any Iowa high school graduate in the top half of the class is automatically accepted.
This old standard ignored differences in school districts’ grading systems. More importantly it acted as a disincentive for juniors and seniors to take hard courses.
The 2008-2009 undergraduate applicants will be subject to the new standard with balances four factors. The new Regents Admission Index (RAI) is as follows:
RAI = (2 × ACT composite score) + (1 × high school rank expressed as a percentile) + (20 × high school grade point average) + (5 × number of high school courses completed in the core subject areas)
An applicant with a total score of 245 or more gains admission.
The universities continue their policy of a case-by-case review of those students not meeting the 245 cut score. Admission for nontraditional students, such as those returning to school after a 10-year absence, will be reviewed differently.
The board will review the new standard and its impact in 2009 and every two years thereafter.
Preschool Rules and Grant Application Move Forward Preschool for four-year olds took important steps forward this month. The State Board of Education adopted emergency rules and sent the same rules out for public comment under a Notice of Intended Action.
The Department of Education also released the grant application for the $15 million available starting July 1, 2007. Key dates include:
July 2, 2007
Application due to the Department of Education. Your school district can access an application by clicking on http://www.iowa.gov/educate/content/view/940/1103/
July 10, 2007
ICN public hearing on administrative rules. Your school district can access the proposed rules on the above mention link.
All applicants notified of awards
Governor’s Summit for those districts awarded first year funding
No later than October 1
Districts begin preschool program
Criteria for Awarding Grants
As you may recall, the legislation gave the Department of Education maximum flexibility to make the program fit all circumstances. Gratefully, the administrative rules and the corresponding grant application provide valuable details and guidance.
For example, the district operated preschool or the private preschool operating under a 28E agreement with the district must meet a staff to child ratio of 1 staff member to every 10 children. The maximum class size is 20 children.
As expected, the eligible 4 year olds must get at least 10 hours of instruction per week from a certified, licensed educator. The preschool must be nationally accredited or meet Head Start or Iowa Quality Preschool standards.
The preschool program is required to involve families through at least one home visit, one family night and at least two family teacher conference per year.
The department gives preschool programs important leeway saying that applicants have one year to meet the standards.
The administrative rules do a good job of repeating what happens when applications exceed the $15 million available. The new law says, for example, that priority goes to applications serving low income students.
The rules are silent, however, on the criteria or point system used in the application.
The application itself says that only two criteria are scored.
1. 56 points - Collaboration: Community Partners and Relationships
The budget, site and classroom specifications, and letters of support are not scored.
In order to give providers an accurate expectation and input on the process, the rules should reflect the scoring system.
(Contact: Ann McCarthy, 1-3015)
EPC Okays Rule to Loan Funds to Deep Bedding Livestock Facilities On Tuesday, June 5, the EPC approved a noticed rule that proposed to allow loan financing to supplement federal grant funding for deep bedding building when open feedlot facilities are replaced. The proposed rule would make such projects eligible for Livestock Water Quality Facilities program monies that are part of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program. This program provides fixed loans at three percent or less interest to eligible operators, and the program has issued almost $3 million since its inception in 2005 to help farmers manage manure and protect Iowa’s waterways. A public hearing on this proposal was held on June 14, but public comment will still be accepted until midnight on June 21, 2007. Any comments on the program should be sent to: Patti Cale Finnegan, DNR Water Quality Bureau, 401 SW 7th Street, Suite M, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Comments may also be faxed via 515-725-0348 or emailed to: email@example.com. A copy of the proposal can be found at: http://www.iowadnr.com/water/srf/rules.html
DNR Open for Requests for Voluntary Watershed Cleanups DNR recently announced that it is initiating a new waterway cleanup program called CLEAR (Community Leaders Enhancing Area Rivers) program. The program will offer up to 18 $1,000 mini-grants to eligible applicants. The cleanup program will include volunteer trash removal, natural resource education, and responsible waste management (collected garbage from the waterways must be properly disposed and recycled when possible). Cleanup organizers should plan on making these efforts self-sufficient in subsequent years. The CLEAR program evolved from the DNR’s annual river cleanup event called Project AWARE, which features a weeklong canoe trip and watershed cleanup and which has involved hundreds of Iowans. The first round of CLEAR grant recipients will be announced on September 21, 2007 and can receive funding a week later. Grant awardees must utilize the funds within one year. Information on this program, including grant applications, can be found at www.iowater.net. The deadline for the first round of 2007 grants is September 7, 2007, and applications must be post-marked by that date. During the 2006 cleanup season, DNR awarded funds to 17 Iowa communities. Completed applications should be mailed to: Brandon Harlan; Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Wallace State Office Building; 502 East Ninth Street; Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
(Contact: Lew Olson, 1-3096)
Gambling Treatment Funds Tiff Continues Ongoing issues over funding provided by the Department of Public Health’s Gambling Treatment Program (GTP) to at least two service providers flared up at the first 2007 interim meeting of the Government Oversight Committee, held on Monday, May 14, and Tuesday, May 15.
On May 14, Lisa Pierce, director of the Central Iowa Gambling Treatment Program (CIGTP), said that the department, in the past and under the current FY 2006-2011 contract, has based payment to providers on the “units of service” provided (often an hourly charge). She said, however, that for FY 2008, the department wants to switch to a system of provider payment based on the actual costs incurred to provide the service. Pierce claimed that under the new system, the department would pay CIGTP a maximum of $540,000, representing a 37% cut in contractual payments to the agency, which coordinates and provides services in nine central Iowa counties. She asserted that the altered payment system will lead to fewer problem gamblers being treated and essentially places DPH in breach of its contract with the CITGP. Pierce pointed to the re-allocation of $525,000 of Gambling Treatment Program carry-over funds in HF 909, the FY 2008 Health and Human Services budget bill, as a prime cause of for the department’s problem honoring its contractual commitments. Mark VanderLinden, coordinator of the GTP, said that while the program can receive up to $6 million from gambling revenues, nearly $1.7 million of this amount goes to substance abuse-related programs within the DPH Addictive Disorders program, leaving $4.3 million for gambling treatment services. In HF 909, all but $12,000 of $537,000 program funds carried forward were reallocated to the Department of Corrections for adult drug court programs, and to the Department of Human Rights for the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency grant program and for energy assistance (however, the re-allocations were subsequently item vetoed by the Governor). VanderLinden said the GTP is trying to amend its contracts with other service areas in order to free up funds for those areas experiencing funding shortfalls. During committee discussion, it was noted that programs like the CIGTP and the Eastern Iowa Center for Problem Gambling, based in Davenport and also serving nine counties, are gambling-specific, don’t provide substance abuse and other diverse services, and therefore can’t tap into other addictive disorder funding streams, as other providers can. All parties were asked to work together to come up with a better funding formula, and VanderLinden will appear before the committee at the June meeting for continued discussion of these issues.
Department of Administrative Services officials working to implement the I/3 (Integrated Information for Iowa) data system updated the committee on the project. The budget and finance data warehouses are operational and have already received or are scheduled for upgrades; however, the Human Resources/Payroll part of the project was deferred in September of 2005, due to concerns over the stability and functionality of the system and in order to give the vendor, CGI, time to improve the software. Calvin McKelvogue from DAS said the state will have to make a decision on whether to implement the Human Resources/Payroll component or make a change in direction by June, 2008. “You can delay a payment to a vendor, but you as legislators will hear about it if a state employee doesn’t get their paycheck,” he said. McKelvogue added that the Department of Human Services has entered its service contracts into the I/3 system, and the Department of Education is monitoring the DHS initiative and may follow suit.
Glen Dickinson, director of the Computer Services Division of LSA, discussed recent and future projects the division is working on. One of these is the replacement of the aging legacy systems used to produce bills and amendments (20 years old), the Code of Iowa, and the Iowa Administrative Code, in orderto improve the delivery and access to information by legislators, staff and the public.
On May 15, Jennifer Acton, LSA, and John Benson, Iowa E911 program manager with the Iowa Homeland Security and Management Division, provided the regular quarterly update on Sixty-Five Cent E911 Wireless Surcharge revenues and their disposition. From January through March of this year, $3.6 million in revenue was generated from the surcharge, with the largest amounts expended on reimbursement for automated location information costs for local carriers ($1.2 million) and for the Public Safety Answering Points System (PSAPS). During the three months, the 124 PSAPs (generally, county communications centers) around the state received nearly 178,000 wireless calls; Benson noted there has been a consistent 50-50 split in calls from land lines and wireless calls, but said that may change in the future since many younger adults are not bothering having land lines installed in their residences. Under SF 575, the FY 2008 Justice Systems budget bill, nearly $500,000 of the program’s carryover funds are earmarked for Phase 2 projects at each PSAP, with a report required from each PSAP on how they spent their $4,000 allocation. In response to a comment from a committee member about an effort this past session to raid $500,000 from the surcharge fund for development of a 211 system (the dialing code for free access to social service agency information and referrals), Benson said that such a raid would result in the loss of federal grants.
Finally, Jeananne Schild, interim superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School (IBSSS) at Vinton said the school will only have 15 full time students enrolled next fall (down from a high of 37 in recent years), but she expects the number to stabilize at 15-25 students each year. Schild said these students have multiple disabilities, with blindness usually a secondary or tertiary disability, which often makes the IBSSS resemble more a long term health care facility. One-hundred-fifty to 200 of the other 460 blind students in Iowa are also considered severely and profoundly disabled, but receive services and attend school in their local communities, she noted, and some in this group are undoubtedly eligible for Medicaid. However, in terms of being able to access federal Medicaid dollars, she said the Department of Human Services has shown little interest in licensing/certifying the school for such a purpose. The school’s mission, Schild said, is changing to a focus on statewide service to the 460 other blind students in Iowa – “taking our services to the kids, and not waiting for them to come to Vinton.” Another new focus is bringing students who need the school’s services for “specific purposes and specific time periods and then sending them home”. She said that school is down to using one building, plus a gymnasium to provide services, and leases other structures to at least recoup utility and maintenance costs. Schild said the school, which currently has about 60 staff (some part-time), has shifted resources to outreach efforts since the Coordinating Council for Service to Blind and Visually Impaired Children determined that while there are sufficient dollars in the system, those funds are not always going to the right places to support blind and visually impaired students. In response to a question from Rep. Whitead about re-locating the school to one of the three Regents universities to save administrative costs, she told the committee that a number of stakeholders are concerned about the age mix between K-12 and college students. As part of the outreach effort, she said the focus will be less on on-site staff and more on “itinerant vision teachers”, locally-grown personnel who are mostly employed by local area education agencies. However, Schild said the plan is to have the entire statewide service effort coordinated by IBSSS, and have all personnel hired by the school because of the institution’s experience and continual changes in the location of blind students around the state. Schild will appear before the committee again, along with DHS and Regents officials.
The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for June 18 and 19, when CIETC chairman Dave Reed and representatives of the Attorney General’s office and the State Ombudsman’s office will appear to discuss issues ranging from the black hole the agency has become for taxpayers due to mounting legal expenses to the compliance of 28E entities with publication requirements.
(Contact: Bruce Brandt, 1-3440)
Diverging Reports on Health Care in Iowa Federal Health Care Quality Measures go down for Iowa
On Monday (June 11), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released it 2006 National Healthcare Quality Report State Snapshots. This initial presentation of quality data shows that health care quality went down from the previous reporting cycle. Previously, healthcare quality performance in the state had been rated as strong by the agency. The 2006 report has Iowa’s performance as average.
Wisconsin was rated to have the highest performance of quality with a score of 65.76. Minnesota came in second with a score of 62.77. Iowa’s score was 58.79, just barely above the 75th percentile.
AHRQ also reported where each state had the best care and which areas needed the most improvement. The survey showed that Iowa hospitals did very well in ensuring that pneumonia patients received the directed treatment and got their flu vaccination prior to discharge. Iowa also ranks high for the number of nursing home patients that spend most of their time out of bed or a chair and for preventing dramatic weight loss by residents. The state also received high marks for the low number of HIV deaths.
Home health care is the area where the state has the most to improve. Iowa was severely deficient in the number of Medicare patients receiving in-home care and still having issues with urinary incontinence, shortness of breath, the need for assisted transfers in and out of bed and mobility issues.
The issues with home healthcare quality certainly merits discussion among state policy-makers. With the growing number of Iowa seniors and the push to make home health care more accessible across the state, problems with quality must be addressed in order to assure seniors and their families of good care.
Iowa Gets Straight "A’s" In Health Care
Private Health Foundation Gives Iowa Good Marks in “Health System Performance”
(Des Moines) In a report issued by the New York-based Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that studies health care issues, Iowa received straight “A’s” across the board on its scorecard. Iowa was the only state in the country to receive straight A’s in each of the 5 categories – Access, Quality, Avoidable Costs, Equity and Healthy Lives.
“Iowans should take pride in knowing that our state offers some of the best health care in the country,” said Governor Chet Culver. “After this past session, I am proud of the fact that we are going to continue to expand access to health care – especially when it comes to insuring Iowa’s kids. I believe Iowa could become the first state in the country to insure every child, and I will continue to work hard to make that happen.”
The report comes as a legislative commission on affordable health care prepares to meet for the first time on June 20.
The report, titled “Aiming Higher: Results from a State Scorecard on Health Care Performance,” highlighted the fact that better access to health care is associated with better quality. According to the report, “Across states, better access to care and higher rates of insurance are closely associated with better quality. States with the lowest rates of uninsured residents tend to score highest on measures of preventive and chronic disease care, as well as other quality indicators. Four of the five leading states in the access dimension—Massachusetts, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Maine—also rank among the top five states in terms of quality. Moreover, states with low quality rankings tend to have high rates of uninsured. This cross-state pattern points to the importance of affordable access as a first step to ensure that patients obtain essential care and receive care that is well coordinated and patient-centered.”
A link to the report can be found at The Commonwealth Fund web site (Contact: Brad Trow, 1-3471)
Studies: Death Penalty Deters Crime Anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum in the past few years, with a moratorium in Illinois, court disputes over lethal injection in more than a half-dozen states and progress toward outright abolishment in New Jersey. Statewide polling consistently shows support for the death penalty in Iowa at around 60%.
The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations — pointing out flaws in the justice system — has weighed against capital punishment. The moral opposition is loud, too, echoed in Europe and the rest of the industrialized world, where all but a few countries banned executions years ago.
What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.
The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.
So far, the studies have had little impact on public policy. New Jersey's commission on the death penalty this year dismissed the body of knowledge on deterrence as "inconclusive."
But the ferocious argument in academic circles could eventually spread to a wider audience, as it has in the past.
"Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."
A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. "The results are robust, they don't really go away," he said. "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them?"
Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory — if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).
To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.
Among the conclusions:
Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14.)
The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over the four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.
Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.
In 2005, there were 16,692 cases of murder and non-negligent manslaughter nationally. There were 60 executions.
The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, the University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled "Is capital punishment morally required?"
"If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple," he told The Associated Press. "Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty." Sunstein said that moral questions aside, the data needs more study.
Critics of the findings have been vociferous.
Some claim that the pro-deterrent studies made profound mistakes in their methodology, so their results are untrustworthy. Another critic argues that the studies wrongly count all homicides, rather than just those homicides where a conviction could bring the death penalty. And several argue that there are simply too few executions each year in the United States to make a judgment.
"We just don't have enough data to say anything," said Justin Wolfers, an economist at the Wharton School of Business who last year co-authored a sweeping critique of several studies, and said they were "flimsy" and appeared in "second-tier journals".
"This isn't left vs. right. This is a nerdy statistician saying it's too hard to tell," Wolfers said. "Within the advocacy community and legal scholars who are not as statistically adept, they will tell you it's still an open question. Among the small number of economists at leading universities whose bread and butter is statistical analysis, the argument is finished."
Several authors of the pro-deterrent reports said they welcome criticism in the interests of science, but said their work is being attacked by opponents of capital punishment for their findings, not their flaws.
"Instead of people sitting down and saying 'let's see what the data shows’, it's people sitting down and saying 'let's show this is wrong,'" said Paul Rubin, an economist and co-author of an Emory University study. "Some scientists are out seeking the truth, and some of them have a position they would like to defend."
The latest arguments replay a 1970s debate that had an impact far beyond academic circles.
Then, economist Isaac Ehrlich had also concluded that executions deterred future crimes. His 1975 report was the subject of mainstream news articles and public debate, and was cited in papers before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for a reversal of the court's 1972 suspension of executions. (The court, in 1976, reinstated the death penalty.)
Ultimately, a panel was set up by the National Academy of Sciences which decided that Ehrlich's conclusions were flawed. But the new pro-deterrent studies haven't gotten that kind of scrutiny.
At least not yet. The academic debate, and the larger national argument about the death penalty itself — with questions about racial and economic disparities in its implementation — shows no signs of fading away.
Steven Shavell, a professor of law and economics at Harvard Law School and co-editor-in-chief of the American Law and Economics Review, said in an e-mail exchange that his journal intends to publish several articles on the statistical studies on deterrence in an upcoming issue.
Source: Associated Press (Contact: Kristin Kunert, 1-3026)
Congress Approves Child Labor Protection Act On June 12, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R.2637, the Child Labor Protection Act of 2007, by a voice vote.
H.R. 2637 amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase civil penalties for violations of: (1) child labor requirements and prohibitions; and (2) minimum wage and maximum hours requirements.
The bill implements the administration's proposal to increase the civil money penalties that may be imposed for child labor violations that result in the death of or serious injury to children, particularly where the violation is repeated or willful. Currently, the maximum civil money penalty that the Department of Labor can levy against an employer that causes the death of or seriously injures a child is $11,000. This bill raises the maximum penalty to $50,000 with the possibility of a penalty of up to $100,000 in cases where the employer's violation is repeated or willful. The civil penalty for any repeated or willful violation of specified minimum wage or maximum hours requirements of such Act is increased from $1,000 to $1,100.
Additionally, the Child Labor Protection Act of 2007 defines "serious injury" as permanent: (1) loss or substantial impairment of one of the senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, tactile sensation); (2) loss or substantial impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty, including the loss of all or part of an arm, leg, foot, hand or other body part; or (3) paralysis or substantial impairment that causes loss of movement or mobility of an arm, leg, foot, hand or other body part.
After House passage, H.R. 2637 was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
In a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on June 13, 2007, Paul DeCamp, administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, said:
"The House should be commended for its bipartisan effort in advancing this important measure, which strengthens our ability to enforce the nation's child labor laws. We look forward to the same action in the Senate. The bill that was passed today marks another step forward in the administration's overall strategy for modernizing the child labor laws to bring them in line with the 21st century workplace and to provide today's teenagers with safe employment opportunities.”
(Contact: Mary Earnhardt, 1-3298)
Your City Events Made Easy Here’s an easy way to check out what’s going on in the cities you represent. The Iowa League of Cities offers a link to city web sites. Most cities post a community calendar to help you stay in touch.
Click here to connect:
Grant Opportunities Abound Another rich resource on the League’s web site is their list of federal, state and private grant opportunities. If your city is applying for a grant, offer to write a letter of support or send a congratulations letter when you hear that your city got a grant.
http://www.iowaleague.org/Resources/Grants.aspx (Contact: Ann McCarthy, 1-3015)
Oskaloosa Man Convicted of Deer Hunting Violations in Van Buren County
A Van Buren County jury has convicted an Oskaloosa resident of deer hunting violations.
Clint Jason O’Day, 35, was convicted of one count of unlawfully hunting deer over bait, and unlawful possession of a handgun while archery hunting for deer. Both counts carry a $50 fine plus court costs. In addition, the potential forfeiture of hunting equipment seized at the time of arrest is pending a future court hearing.
The charges stem from an incident on Oct. 1, 2006, the opening day of Iowa’s archery deer season, where Iowa Conservation Officers Chris Flynn, Les Nieland, Ken Kenyon, and Van Buren County Reserve Deputy Matt Dietzman encountered O’Day hunting over a large quantity of bait.
Testimony given by Iowa conservation officers during the trial stated that they found O’Day set up in a ground blind within shooting distance of a large quantity of shelled corn and apples that had been placed to attract deer.
During the investigation, officers discovered a loaded .40 caliber handgun hidden in O’Day’s gear. Iowa deer hunting regulations prohibit the possession of a handgun while archery hunting for deer.
Ames Woman Injured in Personal Water Craft Incident on Clear Lake
An Ames woman escaped serious injury after being thrown from a personal water craft Sunday afternoon (June 10) on Clear Lake.
Amanda Bertelsen, 20, suffered injuries to her upper body and left leg after fall off a personal water craft near the Oakwood area. She was a passenger on the vessel being operated by Sharon Moody-Hendricks, 21 of Ames.
Bertelsen fell off the watercraft as it was making a turn and hit a wave shortly after 2 p.m. on Sunday. Both she and Moody-Hendricks were wearing life jackets at the time of the incident, which likely saved Bertelsen’s life. She was found face down in the water, but began breathing again after being flipped over.
Bertelsen was taken to North Iowa Mercy Medical Center in Mason City by a Mason City Fire Department ambulance.
DNR Law Enforcement Officer Randy Schnoebelen said there were a number of factors that kept the incident from being a tragedy.
“This is a good reminder of how quickly the unexpected can happen on the water and the need to be prepared. It’s too late to put a life jacket on once something like this has happened. Both passengers had life jackets on and that ultimately saved Bertelsen’s life,” said Schnoebelen.
Schnoebelen also credits the quick response from other boaters on the scene.
“A number of people, including a paramedic and physician, came to the aid after the incident happened. The quick response by others is also critical in an emergency like this,” said Schnoebelen.
Source: www.iowadnr.com (Contact: Kristin Kunert, 1-3026)
New Corrections Chief: Iowa Must Upgrade Prison Facilities, Cost to Approach $200 Million Towards the end of session, Governor Culver named John Baldwin to replace Gary Maynard as the new director of the Department of Corrections. Baldwin has been deputy director of DOC for 24 years.
Baldwin, a Fort Dodge native, is responsible for about 8,900 prisoners and 30,000 offenders in community corrections programs. His state agency employs about 4,100 employees and operates on a budget of about $370 million. He recently conducted an interview and he gave his thoughts on what needs to happen in the area of corrections and public safety. Here are some of the highlights:
He said he'll try to help the state's political leaders find common ground to address problems such as a growing population of women behind bars, a large number of mentally ill convicts, and antiquated prison facilities. Baldwin said one of his priorities will be to emphasize fundamental skills for correctional employees to ensure safety and to help inmates succeed once they are freed from prison. All prison wardens and community corrections directors have been asked to list their top five training needs.
Baldwin said he agrees that Fort Madison's antiquated maximum-security prison must be replaced, and that programs for female inmates should be consolidated at the Mitchellville prison, which will require additional construction there. He also wants to build more community corrections facilities because almost 400 inmates are on waiting lists in prisons to enter community corrections residential centers.
"We want to focus on where our community corrections waiting lists are longest, and that is clearly in Des Moines, Waterloo, Sioux City and in the Ottumwa region," he said. "If we concentrate on those two prisons - at Fort Madison and Mitchellville - and on the community corrections side, we would go a long way towards solving some of those overcrowding issues."
The total cost for these construction projects would be about $200 million, he said.
Down the road, perhaps over the next 10 or 15 years, the state must also consider the future of the Anamosa State Penitentiary, which requires an estimated $90 million for modernization work, Baldwin said. But he believes any decision about Anamosa doesn't have to be made immediately.
Iowa has almost 800 women in prison, and they are being sent to prison at a faster pace than men.
Baldwin said he hopes to help address the issue by developing a gender-specific system for classifying inmates to update a system developed in the early 1980s. He also wants the state to focus on treatment for women that deals with substance abuse and family issues.
Almost 3,000 convicts in Iowa's prisons have been diagnosed as mentally ill. Baldwin said the issue can be addressed only with a broad approach that includes cooperation from the Iowa Department of Human Services, the University of Iowa, groups such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and others.
While the Governor has made his share of mistakes with his appointees, the appointment of Baldwin as DOC director was not one of them. Baldwin is a competent official who will work well with the Republicans in the Legislature as well as the majority party and the Governor.
(Contact: Lon Anderson, 1-5184)
State to Purchase Mercy Capitol Building DAS has provided the Legislature with information (as required by law) regarding the potential purchase of the Mercy Capitol Building. The purchase of the Mercy Capitol Building is something that has been discussed for some time now, but as the state takes additional steps regarding the purchase additional information is required to be provided to the Legislature.
The move would provide about 180,000 square feet for state offices at a cost of $6.0 million. The state is also estimating that $2.0 million is needed for the total renovation of the 10-acre property’s six buildings. DAS estimates that the purchase will save taxpayer money by reducing lease payments the state pays for offices at other locations and the cafeteria facility and wellness facility could be utilized in Mercy building rather than installing one in the new office building. DAS estimates the reduction in space needs could result in $8.5 million in savings to the new building plus $900,000 per year in lease costs savings.
The state doesn't expect to gain possession of the hospital until late 2009 but by moving forward now the state is able to lock in the $6.0 million price. The sale is contingent upon its West Des Moines replacement being open and operational.
The next steps for the project include finalization of an option to buy agreement with Mercy Hospital, constructing a return on investment analysis for acquisition and meeting with the Treasurer’s Office to determine financing feasibility.
In addition to this project, earlier this year the Legislature approved the acquisition of property west of the hospital complex for a parking ramp on the new proposed state office building.
Capitol Projects Committee Meets DAS provided the Capitol Projects Committee of the Legislative Council on June 13 with an update regarding projects currently going on in the Capitol Complex. The Capitol Complex is undergoing the most active period of growth in decades. The State Capitol has been the heart of the complex since 1983 and there has been $90 million spent on interior and exterior improvements, including the restoration of the east steps which are expected to be by December 2007.
The West Capitol Terrace has been one of the most prominent changes to the Capitol in the last few years. Over the last few years, $4.3 million was appropriated to remove the parking lot and restore the original green space. The first phase of the West Capitol Terrace was recently finished in time in order to the finish line for the Hy-Vee Triathlon. In addition, the state has proposed spending approximately $1.0 million on a fountain to be placed in the middle of the plaza area. The project is currently seeking private donations but does hope to receive an appropriation from the state.
Included in the renovations of the West Capitol Terrace is the purchase of three buildings located at the bottom of the West Capitol Terrace hill. The state recently purchased one of the properties, and will trade one of the buildings for a piece of land north of the Iowa Motor Truck Association office. The state is currently in negations with the owners of the piece of property closest to the street.
In addition to the information provided about the West Capitol Terrace and the Mercy Capitol building purchase, DAS also provided updates regarding the public safety building, the new state office building, the IUB/OCA Building, the Fleet Building, the visitors center or visioning center at the historical building, and other potential improvements on the Capitol Complex.
The Capitol Projects Committee will meet several more times to receive updates prior to the start of session.
(Contact: Kelly Ryan, 2-5290)
Floater Operation on Bridges As you may recall, during the 2007 session the Legislature passed provisions in HF 793 that would legalize over-weight chemical spreaders (floaters) under certain conditions. Some of those conditions included owners getting a permit for the vehicle, the machines not exceeding a certain weight, the machines having to be purchased by a certain date, and not operating floaters on bridges.
After the legislation passed the impact of not allowing the operation of these vehicles over bridges was realized. As a result, Rep. Huser and Rep. Struyk had a meeting with the DOT, Governor’s office, and the counties regarding the issue. As a result of that meeting the following has been sent out:
From: Skluzacek, Ruth [DOT]
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2007 5:07 PM
To: 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; Sander, Drue [Outside]
Cc: Andre, Shirley [DOT]; Lorenzen, David [DOT]
Subject: Self-Propelled Implements of Husbandry Permits
The purpose of this communication is to provide guidance to members of the industry on how the Iowa Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers (MVE) will be enforcing the new law relating to self-propelled implements of husbandry which are used to apply plant food materials, agricultural limestone and/or agricultural chemicals and which, as newly manufactured, weigh between 20,001 and 25,000 pounds on an axle. This guidance relates specifically to the ability of these vehicles to cross bridges.
If a MVE officer stops one of these vehicles which has crossed a legal-limit bridge (one that is not embargoed), and if the vehicle has a permit as required under the new law, only a warning will be issued as long as the vehicle does not exceed the 25,000 pound limit on an axle. We will continue the issuance of warnings, and not citations, for crossing legal-limit bridges through June 30, 2008, to provide the industry time to adjust to the new law. Operators of these vehicles are not legally permitted to cross any embargoed bridge and doing so will put them at risk of getting a citation.
To be in compliance with the law, we will accept applications for permits that we have received, or are postmarked, by June 30, 2007. To operate these vehicles legally under this new law, the permit must be carried in the vehicle at all times it is being operated. The attached permit application form may be printed, downloaded from the website www.iamvd.com\omcs, or obtained by calling the Permit Center (515-237-3264). The completed application may be faxed to 515-237-3257; mailed to Post Office Box 10382, Des Moines, IA; or delivered to the Permit Center. The Permit Center is located at 100 Euclid Avenue, Des Moines, IA, until June 22. Beginning June 25, the Permit Center will be located at 6310 SE Convenience Boulevard, Ankeny, IA (I-35 Corporate Woods Drive exit 89).
2008-2012 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program Approved TheFY 2008-2012 Transportation Improvement Program was approved by the Iowa Transportation Commission at its June 12, meeting. At last months’ commissions meeting, when the program was presented to the commission, the following information was provided:
Several factors impacted development of the highway section, including:
Project costs, which increased steadily over the past few years. The increase in road construction costs has significantly reduced the buying power of highway funds.
A declining or flattening of the rate of growth in both federal and state funds.
Highway system needs and demands that are growing due to its age and condition, travel and freight levels, and economic development interest.
The combination of these factors prevented the commission from adding any new major capacity and economic development projects to the FY 2008-2012 highway section. However, all projects previously included in the FY 2007-2011 highway section were advanced into the new program.
Additionally, the Commission recognizes that insufficient funds are being invested in the maintenance and preservation of the existing highway system.
As approved, the highway section continues to focus investments on implementation of the following goals and objectives established by the current and previous commissions.
Develop the six, four-lane, priority corridors.
Maintain and preserve the existing highway system and its operational and safety features.
Develop capacity and economic development projects.
Complete the Des Moines to Burlington corridor in southeast Iowa in 2008. This will result in completion of all four-lane, priority corridor projects designated as such by the commission in 1996.
I-330 in central Iowa, Iowa Highway 5 between Des Moines and Knoxville, U.S. 151 from Cedar Rapids to Dubuque, and the Avenue of the Saints corridor are all completed.
The Iowa Highway 60 corridor in northwest Iowa will be completed this year.
Invest an average of $310 million annually in the maintenance and preservation of our existing highway system and its operational and safety features.
Invest an average of $170 million annually in interstate improvements, including approximately $90 million for highway capacity projects, $50 million for pavement preservation projects, $20 million for interstate bridges, and $10 million for other projects. Major work is scheduled in Council Bluffs, Sioux City and Iowa City during the FY 2008-2012 program.
Invest an average of $90 million annually in non-interstate, statewide pavement preservation projects.
Invest an average of $35 million annually in statewide bridge preservation and replacement projects.
Invest an average of $15 million annually in statewide safety improvements.
Finish previously programmed projects that result in the completion of a needed highway improvement or a useful segment of a larger project, and maximize use of special federal appropriations.
The FY 2008-2012 program is available on the DOT website at www.dot.state.ia.gov. For questions about specific projects please feel free to contact me.
Motor Vehicle Center and Renewal Center Set to Open The offices of the Iowa Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division, including the driver's license station that serves Polk County, currently located at Park Fair Mall, are moving and the new locations will open for the first time on Tuesday, June 26.
Effective Friday, June 22, the DOT's offices at Park Fair Mall will permanently close. The new full-service driver's license station will open at 6310 S.E. Convenience Boulevard in Ankeny (I-35 Corporate Woods Drive exit 89) at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 26. This station will provide a full range of testing for those individuals needing to take written and/or drive tests, including a larger lot that will better accommodate drive tests for truck drivers and motorcyclists. The station will also serve customers who need to renew their licenses, those who have misplaced their licenses and those reinstating after a suspension or revocation.
As an added customer service, a new satellite “renewal only” driver's license station will be opening at in Des Moines on Tuesday, June 26 at 8 a.m. This station will serve customers who have their licenses or identification cards (ID) with them and need to renew that license or ID.
The Iowa DOT's new facility was designed to be environmentally responsible in keeping with the stewardship role of the agency. The building and grounds incorporate a number of “green” features that help accomplish this goal, including:
Storm water management: The seven-acre site utilizes several storm water management practices, all aimed to improve water quality and slow down the rate of the water prior to leaving the site. The two main systems are pervious concrete and bio-retention areas. The pervious concrete is a porous concrete that allows storm water to flow through the concrete into a gravel sub-base and ultimately into a series of pipes that lead off site to a regional detention area. The water is filtered during the process, trapping harmful contaminants in the concrete and rock, sending clean water to the detention area. The bio-retention areas work by allowing the storm water to drain into a basin that is constructed of a special soil mix that works as a natural filter. Once the water has passed through this soil mix, it will travel through a gravel layer and into a series of pipes that, again, lead off site to the regional detention area. The retention areas are planted with a specially designed plant mix that can handle the extreme wet and dry conditions they will encounter, and help retain the harmful contaminants prior to leaving the site.
Landscape plantings and turf: The site has been planted with low-maintenance trees, shrubs and groundcover, many of which are native to central Iowa. The turf areas have been planted with several varieties of material from a native prairie seed mix to two different types of low-maintenance grasses – buffalo grass and fescue. This grass requires less frequent mowing. The overall landscape design helps highlight Iowa's native plantings and contains maintenance costs.
Snow and ice control: An automated snow and ice melting system has been embedded into the sidewalks that will be used by customers and disabled DOT employees. The system will keep the walkways clear of ice and snow, without the use of potentially harmful chemicals.
Windows: There are no windows on the east and west walls of the building. This design was selected to reduce the need for air conditioning. Exposure to the powerful rays of the summer sun can add significantly to the cost of cooling the interior. All the windows on the north and south sides of the building are "low-E" glass, one of the most energy efficient types of window glass available.
Heating/Cooling: Rather than a conventional furnace and air conditioning system, climate control for the building is provided by a geothermal, ground source heat-pump system. The roof of the building is also white, rather than black, which reflects the sun and makes the facility easier to cool.
Lights: Lighting in the open office areas and private offices is motion-controlled and will shut off if no one is present. The building lighting control is programmed to "sweep" the lighting circuits to off during unoccupied times. Lighting in the perimeter offices is equipped with daylighting controls that dim the lighting automatically during periods of bright sunlight.
Cabinets: The cabinets in the two break rooms are constructed of Dakota Burl, which is a unique composite material manufactured from sunflower seed hulls. This product does not release harmful toxins (outgassing), reduces material into the landfills and provides an attractive cabinet for storage.
Floor coverings: The interior floor coverings are made of materials that do not emit harmful toxins. The carpet tiles were chosen to be easily replaced when one is worn or badly soiled.
(Contact: Kelly Ryan, 2-5290)
Veterans Commission Receive Update on Cemetery At the Veterans Commission’s May 17 committee meeting, Steve Young, the Veterans Cemetery director, provided an update regarding the current status of the project and future needs.
Currently the state is in the final steps of receiving approval by the USDVA regarding the cemetery’s plans. Construction is expected to begin in late July and the cemetery is set to open around Memorial Day of 2008.
One of the areas that was discussed during that meeting was the cemetery’s website and fundraising efforts. Recently, the following announcements were made: