Iowa General Assembly Cost of Sponsored Legislation

by Jennifer L. Crull

The session of the 84th Legislative Assembly has come to a close, and now is the time we start to analyze the fiscal aspects of this session. This month we are reviewing the data of the Iowa Bill Tally for both the House and the Senate. This year the data paints a different picture, as Iowa has tried to move to a two-year budgeting cycle. Plus, as we head into the election cycle this fall it is important to know where your elected officials stand concerning your tax dollars.

Public Interest Institute (PII) brings this information to you to make you aware of bills that are proposed in the Iowa Legislature. It is important to have a clear understanding of the issues being discussed in Des Moines and the impact they will have on taxpayers if they are signed into law. While the majority of the bills proposed were not signed into law, they do give you, the taxpayer, an idea of what is being looked at by our Representatives and Senators.

Iowa Bill Tally takes a look at the bills that have an impact on the General fund that are introduced during the legislative session but die in the process. The purpose of Iowa Bill Tally is for you to be able to review the legislation that your Senator or Representative sponsored that has a fiscal impact on the General Fund of Iowa. By looking at this value you can conclude if your elected official is a “big spender” or “cautious with your tax dollars.” We assign the fiscal amount from the Fiscal Notes on the Iowa Legislative Website at The Fiscal Notes are compiled from the Legislative Services Agency.

We prefer looking at bills from individual sponsors, but this year, as in the past several years, the bills that have fiscal impacts are coming from committees instead of individual sponsors. So in order to allow you, the taxpayer, to see the legislation that is being introduced with fiscal impact, we are reporting the bills from committees. The Senate is more transparent in that the Senate Committees vote on the sponsorship of the bill. The House, on the other hand, does not vote; therefore the bill is assigned to all members of the committees.

Iowa Bill Tally includes six bills from the Senate that were introduced. PII takes the information from the Senate Journals from the committee meetings to assign the bills. If a member is absent or voted “NO” at the committee meeting, the cost of the legislation is not assigned to him or her; only members voting “YES” have the cost of the legislation assigned to them. This is down dramatically from last year in which we had 20 bills included in Iowa Bill Tally, but in 2010 we only had eight. This change will be something to monitor as we continue this two-year budgeting cycle.

The House had ten bills introduced that had a fiscal impact associated with them. Unlike the Senate, the House Committees do not vote on legislation when it is assigned to a committee. As a result, we have assigned the bills to all the members of the committee to which a bill was assigned. The House Journal reports that the Committee had the first reading and placed the bill on the calendar without a recorded vote.

Iowa Bill Tally is not an exact system, but it is a way to convey to you, the voters, what is being proposed in Des Moines and the impact these bills could have on the budget if passed. Ideally, we would prefer to assign the bills to individual Legislators, but this is not possible. We hope that you will use this information to have a discussion with your State Senator and State Representative about what was proposed last session. This information makes you a more informed voter, and more importantly, a more informed taxpayer. Take the time to check out Iowa Bill Tally on the Website. The more questions you ask, the more transparent the Legislators will want to make the government, since they will know that the public is watching and asking questions.

Total Cost of Legislation Sponsored by Members of Iowa Senate - 2012

Total Cost of Legislation Sponsored by Members of Iowa House of Representatives - 2012

IOWA TRANSPARENCY NEWSLETTER is a monthly newsletter reporting on government transparency in our state.

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