A roundup of state government and Capitol news items of interest from Monday, Nov. 4, 2019:
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM GROUP: Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday announced the members of her FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform.
Members include the committee leader, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg; Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections; former Fort Dodge state Rep. Helen Miller, chairwoman of the Iowa Board of Parole; Steve Bayens, Iowa Department of Public Safety commissioner; Judy Bradshaw, director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy; State Public Defender Jeff Wright; Bruce Vander Sanden, director of the Department of Corrections’ 6th Judicial District; and Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.
Also, the Rev. Alfonso Perez of the Commission of Latino Affairs; John Koufos, national director of Re-entry Initiatives, Right on Crime; Janelle Melohn, director of the Iowa attorney general’s Crime Victims Assistance Division; Marshall County Attorney Jennifer Miller; Ankeny Police Chief Darius Potts; and Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane.
FOCUS stands for Fueling Ongoing Collaboration and Uncovering Solutions.
“Iowans believe in the power of redemption and second chances, and it’s why we are focused on reducing recidivism and eliminating barriers to successful re-entry,” Reynolds said.
The group, which recently was announced by the governor at the seventh annual Iowa Summit on Justice & Disparities, is slated to hold its first meeting Thursday.
It will begin formulating recommendations on reducing recidivism through successful offender re-entry that will form the foundation of a package of legislative proposals by the governor aimed at advancing her “second chance” initiative.
“I look forward to working with the FOCUS Committee to find concrete solutions to improve our criminal justice system,” Gregg said. “I believe we will be able to develop recommendations to make real progress on the challenging and complex issues we face.”
IOWA ECONOMIC INDICATORS UP SLIGHTLY: Officials with the state Department of Revenue say the Iowa Leading Indicators Index increased to 107.0 in September from a revised 106.9 the previous month with half of the eight components contributing positively.
Those areas with positive numbers included the Iowa stock market index, the agricultural futures profits index and the national yield spread.
Meanwhile, the new orders index, diesel fuel consumption, average manufacturing hours and average weekly unemployment claims (inverted) were the components that contributed negatively to the index, according to state officials.
With a slight increase in September, revenue agency officials say Iowa’s nonfarm employment index has had 23 consecutive months of positive growth.
However, the negative annualized six-month index value and other factors suggest the “broad-based signals of weakness in the Iowa economy continue,” with employment growth expected to weaken over the next three to six months, according to the department.
STATE REVENUES GROW: State tax collections grew by 12.1 percent last month, aided by sharply higher sales and use tax receipts, according to the Legislative Services Agency.
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The state treasury took in $72 million more in state taxes in October compared with the previous year, an increase that boosted year-to-date receipts above $2.71 billion — a 5.5 percent rise.
Agency officials say tax changes enacted by the Iowa Legislature and governor that took effect Jan. 1 will continue to affect fiscal 2020 numbers, with state income tax receipts up 1.8 percent compared with the same four-month period last fiscal year. Sales and use tax collections have risen by 9.8 percent after state income tax withholding tables were adjusted downward and sales taxes were expanded to capture more online transactions. State revenue estimates project tax collections for the entire fiscal year will increase by 1.5 percent to $7.851 billion by next June 30.
STATE INCOME TAX WITHHOLDING UPDATE: Officials with the Iowa Department of Revenue say they are issuing updated income tax withholding tables for 2020 to continue to align Iowa withholding with recent changes in state tax laws.
For individuals, this means employers will be reducing the amount of Iowa tax withheld from employees’ paychecks, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, increasing take-home wages for individuals.
Before 2019, withholding tables had remained unchanged since 2006.
Changes to the withholding tables are intended to align the amount of income tax employers remit to the state with individual income tax cuts included in Senate File 2417 — an extensive state tax reform bill signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds in spring 2018.
Over the next two years, the revenue agency will continue to adjust withholding tables as needed to reflect the phasing in of Iowa tax changes. Employers can find the new Iowa 2020 withholding formulas and tables online. Revenue department officials say they have updated the online Withholding Calculator to help individuals calculate their 2020 withholding amounts.
DERELICT BUILDING GRANTS: A new round of state funding for the 2020 Derelict Building Grant Program has opened for applications through Feb. 20, according to officials in the state Department of Natural Resources.
The grant program was instituted by state legislation to help rural communities with populations of 5,000 or less deconstruct or renovate abandoned commercial and public structures.
The program emphasizes reuse and recycling of building items, helps improve street appearance and commercial development, and alleviates the environmental concern these buildings can pose.
Financial assistance includes asbestos removal, building deconstruction and renovation, and other environmental services.
Derelict Building Grant Program funding is awarded annually on a competitive basis.
For more information and to obtain an application on the Derelict Building Grant Program, contact Scott Flagg at (515) 725-8318 or Scott.Flagg@dnr.iowa.gov.
MOBILE HISTORY TOUR: Officials in charge of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s “History of the Move” mobile museum say it has completed a three-year tour of Iowa’s 99 counties.
More than 64,000 people toured the 300-square-foot “Iowa History 101” exhibition inside the bright blue, custom-built Winnebago and learned about Iowa’s past through artifacts from the State Historical Society of Iowa’s permanent collection.
“This was an ambitious project, and we are grateful to our community hosts and generous sponsors who helped make it happen,” said State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer.
More than 11,400 students from 63 Iowa schools and school districts visited the exhibition contained in a 38-foot Winnebago vehicle, which also made stops at libraries, local museums, community festivals, county fairs and other places where Iowans gather.