Under the Golden Dome, Too – October 25

Upmeyer UTGD

It’s hard to believe we have already experienced our first snow of the season. This fall has seemed to fly by, and with November right around the corner, winter will be arriving sooner than some of us would like to acknowledge!

While the legislative session won’t actually convene until January, legislators assigned to various interim committees have been meeting at the Capitol in preparation for the 2014 legislative session.

One such group, the State Government Efficiency Review Committee, met earlier this month to examine the findings of a report published by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA), regarding the amount of money state agencies have spent on membership dues paid to different organizations.

It appears the findings of the report merit further discussion about the best use of taxpayer dollars in relation to these membership dues.  The report shows that the state has spent over $2 million in organizational dues in each of the past three budget years.  While the total amount dropped in Fiscal Year 2012, there was a 7.5 percent increase in the amount spent on dues in Fiscal Year 2013.  The LSA report shows the Department of Education spent the most of any state agency in Fiscal Year 2013, totaling $493,101- a 28% increase over Fiscal Year 2011.

The report raises questions about which groups state agencies choose to belong to as well.  Currently, four different state agencies- the Department of Administrative Services, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Natural Resources, and Iowa Workforce Development- are dues-paying members of 27 different Chambers of Commerce, including the Prairie Du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce in Wisconsin.  The findings also show that numerous state agencies belong to individual professional groups, and sometimes multiple agencies pay dues to the same organization.  For example, Iowa Prison Industries, the Iowa Board of Regents, and the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS), are all dues-paying members of the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants.

As stewards of the taxpayer dollars, we must ask ourselves what kind of value these memberships add for Iowans.  Since many of these dues are not paid for by general fund dollars, are they receiving the amount of oversight and scrutiny taxpayers expect?  The payments for these memberships should not be made on autopilot.  These types of questions need to be asked and addressed.  It is our duty as elected officials to thoroughly review all state government spending and ask ourselves if it is a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars.  As we prepare for the upcoming session, these are the types of issues we will continue to investigate with the intention of providing more accountability and transparency for you, the taxpayer.

On a different note, earlier this month, students across the country celebrated National 4-H week.  As a past 4-H member and leader, I’ve enjoyed learning about the various projects 4-H groups have been working on and appreciate the contribution the students have made to our local communities.  Thank you to all of the students and faculty that continue to make 4-H a thriving, successful, and productive organization!

We also recently observed fire prevention week and I want to thank all of the firefighters and volunteers who spent time in our schools educating our students about fire safety.  Your selfless commitment to protect the residents of our communities is sincerely appreciated.

As always, I appreciate hearing from you.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and feedback at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618.  Please enjoy a safe harvest season!

Upmeyer Sig