Capitol Update for February 16

Recap of Week 6

We had the honor of hosting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping Wednesday night at the Capitol. I had the pleasure to visit with Wang Lei, Vice Chairman of Beijing Kings Nower Seed S&T Co., LTD. in China. Overall, the night was a great experience and very enjoyable.

On Wednesday we had an incredible presentation in Agriculture Committee from Trent Loos. Mr. Loos is a Midwest farmer that hosts a radio program and writes a blog pertaining to rural America and Agriculture. He touched on several different topics including the importance of nitrates in the human body and the importance of agriculture and technology education. He emphasized how new technology in agriculture has provided for higher yielding crops and more food availability. If interested in learning more about Mr. Loos, you can visit his website at www.loostales.com.

This Saturday, the 18th, there will be a forum at the Maquoketa Valley REC in Anamosa at 9:00 as well as at City Hall in Monticello at 11:00. As always, the forums are open to the public and I encourage anyone to come and share any thoughts or concerns you may have.

Next Saturday, the 25th, I will be meeting with the Dubuque and Delaware County Farm Bureau at Country Junction in Dyersville at 10:00 am.

House Republicans Pass Historic Property Tax Reform and Relief

Tuesday House File 2274, the only property tax proposal that delivers significant tax relief and genuine reform to all classes of Iowa’s property tax payers, passed the Iowa House.  

Iowa currently has the 2nd highest commercial property taxes and the 16th highest residential property taxes in the country.  Additionally, over the last ten years, school property tax collections have increased 60 percent, counties have increased 64 percent, and cities have gone up 74 percent.  Over the same time period, Iowans’ personal income only grew by 46 percent.  

If nothing is done, the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa are staring down the barrel of a $2.5 billion property tax increase over the next 10 years, with the majority of that falling to homeowners. 

Now is the time for real, genuine property tax relief and reform for ALL Iowans.  This bill will put money back in the pockets of Iowa families and job creators.

Property tax reform also affects Iowa’s economy and is an impediment to putting people back to work.  The Republican plan further provides an emphasis on smaller, Main Street, entrepreneur-type employers.  It creates predictability and stability for all employers.

Highlights of the Republican plan include:

ALL Iowans receive tax relief and there is no shifting of burdens to any one class of property

Job creators receive a $602 million property tax cut

Homeowners receive a $417 million property tax cut

Republicans’ proposal offers a total of $1.2 billion in relief for Iowa property taxpayers

The plan proposed by Democrats results in a $2.5 billion property tax increase, with $1.69 billion of that falling on the backs of homeowners.

According to public polling, Iowans favor broad based property tax relief proposal, similar to the Republican plan, by a 2 to 1 margin over a targeted tax credit plan, similar to the Democrat plan.

This will be the fourth property tax reform proposal the House has sent to the Senate for their consideration.

Trees for Kids Grant Application for Spring 2012 Now Online

Trees for Kids and Trees for Teens are tree education and planting programs targeted to Iowa’s elementary and secondary school students. The goal of these programs is to educate students about the value of trees and to encourage tree planting projects at schools and other public areas around the state.

The competitive grants awards range from $1,000 and $5,000 for qualified tree planting projects on publicly owned property.  All trees for the spring grant must be planted by May 31, 2012.

These trees can help cities, counties and schools to increase their urban canopy and increase the urban forest diversity in order to prepare for Emerald Ash Borer and Gypsy Moth.

For more information, visit: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Education/ForTeachers/EducationTrainingPrograms/Trees for KidsTeens.aspx

Utilities Board Set Hearings for Public Input on Electricity Rates

For the first time in years, MidAmerican Energy Company is seeking a rate increase for electricity rates.  The company is expected to file for a rate increase of 3-4 percent in the next few weeks.  This would be the first electric rate increase for MidAmerican customers in 16 years.  In preparation for this request, the Iowa Utilities Board has set up 6 meetings around the state to take input from MidAmerican customers.  The dates and locations are:

February 23, 2012DES MOINES – Utilities Board Building, Hearing Room, 1375 E. Court Avenue
February 28, 2012DAVENPORT – Modern Woodmen Park, Suites 10 & 11, 209 S. Gaines Street
March 1, 2012WATERLOO – Petersen Town Hall, Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial Street
March 6, 2012SIOUX CITY – Briar Cliff University, 3303 Rebecca Street, Stark Student Center, Clare Room
March 8, 2012IOWA CITY – Johnson County Fairgrounds, 4261 Oak Crest Hill Road SE, Montgomery Hall
March 13, 2012COUNCIL BLUFFS – Council Bluffs Public Library, Rooms A & B, 400 Willow Avenue

Mental Health Redesign Bills Start Moving in the Iowa House

After months of public discussion and interim committee meetings, the House Human Resources Committee has begun work on three pieces of the legislation that will redesign Iowa’s mental health and disability services system.

House Study Bill 623 is the product of the DHS/Judicial Branch work group that has been in existence for several years.  In 2011, the group was tasked with addressing a number of issues related to the interaction of law enforcement, the Judicial Branch, and the mental health system.  The group put together a series of recommendations ranging from on-going mental health and disability services training for law enforcement officers, the ability of residential care facilities to determine whether or not to accept people referred to them by the court, and clearing up conflicts within the Code on which mental health professionals may be involved in the commitment process. 

The change that may have the most immediate impact within the bill is a change to all pre-assessment screening for all individuals considered for commitment.  The screening is usually done at a local health care facility, like a hospital or mental health center.  Under current law, this screening is only allowed when the clerk of court office is closed.  This means a person going through the commitment process during work hours may have to go to one of the four mental health institutes before anyone assesses their current condition and service needs.  Allowing the pre-commitment screening at any time will help reduce the number of long trips that sheriff departments must take to the MHI’s or psychiatric units.

House Study Bill 624 is significant in length, but simply does one thing.  The bill strikes references in the Code to “mental retardation” and replaces that term with “intellectual disability”.  There has been a national push by a variety of disability advocate groups to make this term change.

The final bill, which is expected to be released on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, will be the main redesign bill.  It will track many of the recommendations proposed by the Department of Human Services.  These include:

  • Transforming the management structure for mental health services from a county-based system to regions;
  • Changing the basis for determining financial responsibility from the rule of legal settlement to a determination of residency; and
  • Establishing core services that will be available throughout the entire state.

One new element in this bill is the issue of future funding for the system.  Under the language passed in Senate File 209 last year, the current mental health levy is phased out at the end of FY 2013.  The statewide amount generated by the current levy is $125 million.  The House study bill will call for a four year phase out to begin in FY 2014, with the state providing dollar for dollar property tax relief

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Lee Hein

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s