The Iowa Senate convened Saturday morning June 13, at 9:00 a.m. and debated bills all day and into Sunday morning. We finally adjourned a little after 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, after a short break Sunday morning. Of course the budget bills were the final pieces of legislation. Because of our responsible budgeting in the past, our reserve funds are full and we expect a surplus at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
We ended up with basically a status quo budget for next year, very similar to the budget numbers for fiscal 2020 that ends this June 30. Our total comes to $7,778.5 million. We currently have $784 million in the Rainy Day Funds. Though it is nearly impossible to predict revenue for the coming fiscal year, we have done our best to pass a responsible budget that hopefully will result in a surplus at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2021. Though our overall budget is status quo, we did appropriate nearly $100 million in new revenue for prek-12 education. Our estimated surplus is $311.5 million. I have said all along that it is better to have a modest surplus that to have a deficit and have to cut budgets next year.
I had been working on a compromise on the felon voting amendment. HJR 14. You may recall that the House had passed a constitutional amendment to allow felons who had completed their sentences to register to vote. I had prepared an amendment to the proposed constitutional amendment requiring ex-felons to pay any restitution owed to a natural person before they could vote. I believe most Senators agreed with this approach. However, while we were discussing the issue, the Governor announced that she was going to issue an executive order allowing ex-felons to vote. We then decided not to pass the constitutional amendment since her executive order covered the issue. Though as I write this we have not seen the language, I believe it will be very broad.
We updated the voter ID law to make it consistent with the court ruling dealing with the 2017 voter ID law. It requires voters to provide information on an absentee voter application form to show that they really are the person they claim to be. If information is missing, the auditor contacts the voter to get the missing information, or to get information that will verify the identity of the applicant. If a person is voting in 2 or more states, it is very difficult to catch them. Ideally we would have a national data base where we could insure that people are only voting once.
HF 737, to increase penalties for those abusing companion animals, was another bill that we passed in the Senate, accepting a House amendment. The bill does not apply to livestock.
Earlier last week, the legislature passed a bill banning chokeholds by law enforcement, unless required to save their lives. The bill also prohibits hiring law enforcement officers who have been fired for misconduct. It allows the Attorney General to investigate complaints. Other provisions require de-escalation and anti-bias training
As always please feel free to contact me with your ideas or concerns.