New legislative session

The new legislative session convenes on Jan. 13, the second Monday of the year, as required by law. In the first week, we have the Governor’s Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Chief Justice’s Condition of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, and the Condition of the Guard address on Thursday, by the head of the Iowa National Guard. This year the Condition of the Judiciary address will be given by the acting Chief Justice, due to the untimely death of Chief Justice Mark Cady. Under our judicial reform bill passed last year, the new permanent Chief Justice will not be selected until the replacement for Justice Cady is selected. You may recall that in selecting a new Supreme Court Justice or a Court of Appeals Judge, a Commission recommends three choices to the Governor and she must pick one of the three. There are currently 12 applicants and the Commission is in the process of interviewing them and choosing the three to recommend to the Governor. 

There have been a few changes in the Senate Committees for this session. One result is that I will now be the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee. I am still the senate chair of the Justice Systems Budget Subcommittee, as I was last year. I expect the Judiciary Committee to be very busy again this session. Judiciary usually passes the most bills of any committee. I expect to floor manage a number of them again this year. 

I expect Governor Reynolds to present her budget recommendations early in the session as she has in past years. That helps us to get an early start in putting together our budget for this coming fiscal year. As chair of the Senate Justice Systems budget subcommittee I, along with my House counterpart, will take the lead in determining how money allocated to our subcommittee by the legislative leadership, will be distributed. Our part of the budget is approximately 10 percent of the state general fund. We fund the court system, the prisons, the highway patrol and other parts of the Department of Public Safety, the attorney general, legal aid and the law enforcement academy and a few smaller agencies. 

I expect that as in recent years, we will pass a responsible budget, not spending right up to the legal limit. If you go back before the 2011 session, it was not uncommon for the legislature to pass an unrealistic budget, and then have to make cuts during the fiscal year. Of course, the most extreme example was the Culver 10 percent across the board cuts late in 2009.

  As always, free to contact me with your ideas or concerns.