Capitol Update May 30

2013 Session Ends

The First Session of the 85th General Assembly ended on May 23th. Below is a list of the significant legislation passed that will have an effect on the constituents of House District 96. I think the session was a very productive one.

Property Tax Reform

Iowa has the third highest commercial property taxes in the nation and the 16th highest residential property taxes in the nation. Iowans were very clear that want property tax reform and relief this year at the statehouse.

The Legislature passed tax relief and reform that includes property tax relief for all classifications of property. It is reform that taxpayers can count on relief from year to year. It will limit assessment growth from 4 percent to 3 percent on ag and residential taxpayers. The reform includes a 10 percent rollback on taxable value for commercial and industrial property. The legislation will be worth approximately $560 million in property tax relief once fully implemented.

For the first time in a decade the Homestead Tax Credit is fully funded. The House led the way for the passage of a tax credit helping beginning farmers succeed. Finally, we invested resources in jobs and economic development initiatives aimed at getting Iowans back to work and improving Iowa’s economy.

Common Sense Budget

Three years ago, Iowa faced a $900 million budget shortfall. As the 2013 session ends, Iowa is spending less than it collects for the third consecutive year, our budget reserves remain full and the ending balance is projected to be $600 million. This is a significant departure from how government operated in the past when legislators and governors spent more than the state collected.

The Legislature stuck to the core budgeting principles of not spending more money than the state takes in. We did not use one-time money to pay for on-going expenses and did not intentionally underfund entitlement programs to balance the state’s budget.

The bipartisan budgets passed this session:
• Result in 3 percent growth over fiscal year 2013 which is less than the 3.5 percent projected revenue growth.
• Spend merely 88 percent of what the state is allowed to spend.
• Fully-fund property tax credits for the first time since 2002.
• Fund the regents’ universities to a level where student tuition is frozen for the 2013-2014 school year.

The House Majority led the way on debt reduction by using a portion of the ending balance. The Debt Reduction bill:
• Pays off $114 million in state debt years earlier than required.
• Fulfills a promise made by previous legislatures to the Judicial Retirement System and the Peace Officer’s Retirement System by making a $110.2 million payment to bring both pension funds to the obligated 80 percent threshold.
• Makes an investment of $34.1 million to one-time infrastructure projects at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.
• Invests $20 million into water quality initiatives through the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

Education Reform

The Governor was committed to improving the quality and rigor of the education our children are receiving. Students must possess the skills necessary to succeed in college or in the workforce.

The Legislature passed education reform that offers flexibility for school districts, innovation for teachers, accountability for parents and protection for taxpayers. The reform brings new approaches and measureable results to the system. The legislation includes choices for parents and strengthens the role of the parent, not the government. It also adds modern evaluation and accountability measures to ensure Iowa students are receiving first-rate instruction.

Lake Delhi

I sponsored House File 541 which makes changes to allow for the reconstruction of the Delhi dam. This bill outlines that a dam overtopped by unprecedented flooding can allow such a facility to use the flood easement that applied to the dam before disaster. The former normal pool elevation can not be exceeded by the reconstructed spillway elevation and the flood easement or ownership are required to the top of the spillway elevation. This will eliminate one of the final arguments the DNR had before issuing their set of permits. At this time we are still waiting for the permits to be issued. I hope that before the summer is over Lake Delhi will have all the permits and construction will have begun.

Private Landowner Liability Protection

House File 605 seeks to restore a recent Court decision regarding private landowner liability protection for those who allow public access to their property. The bill abrogates the recent holding of the Iowa Supreme Court in the ‘Sallee vs. Stewart” decision and reasserts the intent of the law be construed liberally and broadly in favor of private holders of land to accomplish public recreational use of private lands. The measure broadens the definition of what land and water areas are included in limitation of liability and provides that such land does not have to be open to general public to be subject to these protections and further broadens the definition of what activities constitutes ‘recreational purpose’ by specifying additional activities including educational and agricultural tours.

This ends the newsletters for this session. During the summer I will send out a couple of letters as issues arise. I will be attending parades and other events in the district. If you see me, stop and say hi. If you have any concerns or questions that you would like me to address, please send me an email or give me a call. I enjoy hearing from you. Have a great summer.

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