Capitol Update Week Ten

House Approves Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Expansion

This week the Iowa House passed House File 599, expanding the amount and scope of beginning farmer tax credit programs by a bipartisan vote.  The measure increases the existing ag asset transfer tax credit rates of 5% for cash leases or land and livestock facilities and 15% for commodity share leases to 7% for cash and 17% for commodity share leases with an additional 1% bonus for ag asset transfer leases involving a qualified beginning farmer who is also a veteran (8% cash, 18% commodity lease for first year of agreement returning to 7% and 17% in second and subsequent year contracts.  HF 599 further creates a new “custom farming tax credit” available to land owners who hire a beginning farmer to custom farm at least portion of the landowner farmland in the amount of 7% for the value of the custom work performed by the beginning farmers with an additional 1% (for a total of 8%) for the first year if the beginning farmer is also a veteran of the military services.  The objective of this new tax credit is to encourage existing farmland operators who may be exiting from farming or land owners to begin a business relationship with a beginning farmer.

HF 599 also proposes to double the amount of tax credits that are available for beginning farmer tax credit programs from the current $6-million per year to $12-milion per year with:

(1) $8-million initially being available for the existing “ag asset transfer tax credit” and

(2) the other $4-million being available for the new “custom farming tax credit”;

(3) additionally, the bill provides that IADA may by Board resolution action reallocate unused money from either category to the other if doing so would allow more tax credits to be paid out.

The last aspect of the bill streamlines administrative handling of the tax credit program by moving to a common maximum threshold of net worth calculated annually and adjusted for inflation of agricultural input of $691,172 for calendar year 2013.  Currently there are two maximum net-worth values, $691,172 for beginning farmer loan program and $366,324 for agricultural asset transfer tax credits.  By using a common amount, this should reduce confusion among beginning farmers on whether they qualify for a program.

The measure also creates a cap of no more than $50,000 that may be cumulative claimed by a taxpayer for all beginning farmer tax credit program and directs IADA to pay beginning farmer tax credits first-come, first served until the cap is reached.  HF 599 repeals a 27-year old Agricultural Loan Assistance Program created in the mid-1980’s to assist low net-worth farmers ($200,000 or less) who at that time were struggling to get bank and Farm Credit financing for operating expenses at affordable low interest rates.

Department to Create Traffic Camera Regulations

This week, the Iowa Department of Transportation announced it will soon begin the formal process of adopting rules to govern implementation and placement of traffic enforcement cameras, both fixed and mobile, on the Primary Highway System. These regulations will also govern any municipal extension of that system. Iowa interstates are part of the Primary Highway System and are included in these new rules. The new regulations will include rules on both speed and red-light cameras.

Last year, the Department implemented guidelines to ensure statewide consistency in the use of traffic camera systems on the Primary Highway System. The adoption of these guidelines as rules will provide local governmental agencies with a process for documenting a critical traffic safety issue at a specific location and implementing the appropriate traffic safety solution(s). The Department anticipates the rule process will be completed by the end of the year. The department is granted the authority to adopt rules under Iowa Code section 307.12.

Protecting the Privacy of Iowans

This week the Iowa House overwhelmingly passed legislation designed to protect the privacy of all Iowans. House File 535 makes the names, addresses and other identifiable information of weapons permit holders private and prevents the release of this information to the general public. House File 535 passed with a vote of 95-3. Additionally, this legislation increased the penalty for those conducting illegal straw purchases of weapons.

Under current law, permits to acquire a weapon and permits to conceal and carry a weapon are issued by the Sheriff in each county. Each Sheriff has discretion to determine how permit holders information is published. Some counties have lists available online for anyone to search through, while other counties only release names if they are requested. Either way, permit holders cannot expect to keep their names out of the public view. Several newspapers around the state publish the names of permit holders on a regular basis. Iowans have expressed concerns that publishing these names allow anyone to know who does and who doesn’t have a weapon, this puts everyone at risk. When a newspaper in New York published an interactive map with names and addresses of permit holders in the area, several homes on the list were burglarized and weapons were taken from the homes.

House File 535 prohibits permit holders names from being released to the general public; however the bill does allows law enforcement to have access for investigative purposes. Sheriff’s offices and the Department of Public Safety can release statistical information on the number of permits issued and those rejected, but no personal information may be shared. Personal information not requested by law enforcement may only be released through a court order or with the permission of the individual. Allowing law enforcement access to this information helps keep investigations moving while still ensuring the data is kept private.

Additionally, this bill strengthens punishment for those who conduct a straw purchase. A straw purchase is conducted when a person who can legally possess a firearm, purchases one for someone who cannot legally possess a firearm or when someone who cannot legally possess a firearm lies to another about their status in order to obtain a weapon. Under federal law this is illegal and under state law lying on the purchase form is a criminal offense, however, neither federal law or state law are doing enough to stop these straw purchases. Under this legislation, persons involved in a straw purchase can be charged with a class “D” felony, which has a potential fine between $750 and $7,500 and up to 5 years in prison.

Protecting the privacy of permit holders also protects the privacy of those who choose not to have a firearm. Increasing the penalties on Straw Purchases will provide peace officers in Iowa the tools they need to crack down on these illegal purchases and keep firearms in the hands of law abiding Iowans.

Recap of Week Ten

It was a busy at the Capitol this week with lots of debate. The House passed the dam reconstruction bill on Monday. It passed 71-27 with bipartisan support. The bill resolves one of the final differences the Trustees have with the DNR to get the Lake Delhi dam rebuilt. It now moves on to the Senate for their consideration.

A colleague and close friend Rep. Dave Heaton of Mt. Pleasant was honored with the Herbert Hoover Uncommon Public Service Award on Wednesday. Rep. Heaton did not know he was receiving the award until it was presented to him on the House floor. Two members of the Iowa legislature are honored with the award each year. The award is very well deserved. Rep. Heaton has worked tirelessly for years on health and human resources. He was the main proponent of the mental health redesign this year.

On Wednesday the House passed the first three of 11 budget appropriation bills. The three were education, transportation, and administration. Education and administration passed the House on a party-line vote and transportation passed unanimously.

Firefighters were here from across the State on Thursday. I got to visit with firefighter Al Esch from Epworth. He is the Vice President of the Iowa Firefighters Association.

I will be at the Iowa Cattlemen Forum on Friday at the Jones County Extension office in Monticello. The forum runs 10-12:30 and I plan to be there for the first half of the forum.

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.iowa.gov or by phone at (515) 281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

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