NW Iowa legislators report
In making every effort to adjourn early, week eleven of the Iowa General Assembly was again filled with floor debate and committee meetings in the House. The second legislative deadline is April 1st when most of the policy committees must be completed with their work. This means the number of bills that will remain eligible for consideration yet this year will be further reduced. Information on all the bills, amendments, and floor action can be found on the Iowa General Assembly web at: www.legis.iowa.gov.
Will Late Term Abortions be Bannned in Iowa?
A bill that prohibits the abortion of an unborn child that has reached the post fertilization age of 20 weeks passed the House State Government Committee on March 23rd and will now come before the full House for consideration. HF 657 establishes that a physician who performs one of these late-term abortions would be charged with a class C felony and the medical facility that allowed the prohibited abortion to be performed could lose its license and eligibility for state funding.
The Nebraska abortionist, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, announced last fall that he would like to move his practice to Iowa by opening a clinic in Council Bluffs. The facility would perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. HF 657 was drafted after Nebraska legislature passed a bill that stopped him from performing late term abortions in that state. In response, Iowa lawmakers are moving a bill that would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks, effectively banning Carhart from practicing in Iowa.
The bill includes an exception to the ban when a physician deems a medical emergency exists and it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother.
One Step Closer to Easing a Development Burden
HF 300, a bill that addresses a problem that many communities and developers are facing with the lack of residential and commercial construction. Currently, Iowa law says that once a piece of property has been platted, it is still taxed as an acreage or unimproved property for three years or until it is permanently improved by construction. Because of the slowdown in construction, many developers and contractors have lots that they cannot improve and are now required to pay property tax on the lots as if they were developed. This situation has forced a number of developers and homebuilders statewide to abandon platted properties once the three years has expired and the property taxes are raised. They simply cannot afford to pay the significantly higher property taxes. This problem has occurred in Plymouth County.
This bill does several things:
"It strikes the 3 year limitation on platted properties and continues to tax the property as undeveloped land until a permanent structure is constructed.
"The new assessment process will apply to all subdivisions plats recorded after January 1, 2004.
"The bill would apply to assessment years beginning January 1, 2011.
HF 300 passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee and is now eligible for consideration of the full House.
House Passes Eminent Domain Bill Protecting Land Owners Rights
On March 22nd, the Iowa House passed HF 603 with an overwhelmingly bipartisan support and was sent to the Senate for their consideration. The bill looks to help solve problems with eminent domain laws and to further protect property rights. The bill addresses some new issues, including the creation of lakes for water use in Iowa and standards for land condemnation when Iowans who are losing their land to condemnation and the acquiring agencies who are attempting to take the land. Some highlights of HF 603 include:
"Property that is listed on the State Register of Historic Places shall not be removed from the register solely for the purpose of condemnation. This protects historic places from being taken unless a joint resolution authorizing the condemnation is approved by at least 2/3 of each house of the general assembly and signed by the governor.
"Prior to creating a lake, the agency must show by clear and convincing evidence that it is for public use and there is no other prudent and feasible alternative for a drinking water source.
"If land is taken to create a lake for water use, the planning and analyses by the acquiring agency will not use of the lake for recreational purposes. This prevents agencies from increasing the water use or taking more land for recreation
"The Department of Natural Resources cannot condemn land for recreational use. This provides extra protection for land owners in the future.
House Passes .08 Blood Alcohol Limit For Boating
On March 22nd, the House passed SF 7 on a vote of 97-7. SF 7 lowers the blood-alcohol content threshold by which boat operators are considered to be above the legal limit for intoxication from .10 to .08 for anyone operating a motorboat or sailboat on a waterway in Iowa. Since the bill was slightly modified in the House, the bill will now go back to the Senate for their consideration of the amended language.
This bill aligns the blood-alcohol content (BAC) level for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) offenses with the vehicle OWI level. This will help reduce vessel accidents, injuries and fatalities caused by alcohol impaired operators. Currently, a person could be legally under the BAC limit on the water (.10), but could be over the limit in a vehicle (.08) leaving the lake or river. The bill also defines operating as, "powered by a motor which is running, and when used in reference to a sailboat, means the sailboat is either powered by a motor which is running, or has sails hoisted and is not propelled by a motor, and is under way."
As we work on various issues, I would love to hear from you. On March 26th, I will be participating in a forum in Sioux City at the Wilbur Aalfs (Main) Library [Gleeson Room] located at 529 Pierce Street, Sioux City beginning at 10:00a.m. I hope to see you there to discuss these and other issues.
State Representative Dwayne Alons of Hull:
Jobs and Savings Bills Stalled in the Senate
The Legislature has completed ten weeks of work, yet Democrats in the Iowa Senate show no signs of compromise on key spending reform and job creating measures approved by Republicans in the Iowa House. Iowans sent a clear message that they want a different course than the one our state has been following the last four years.
Since the session started, Republicans have steadily addressed the government spending and jobs. Iowans did not send Republicans to the Statehouse to increase spending or expand government.
For the last four years, the status quo has been more spending, more programs, and more government. It has become obvious to anyone paying attention that Democrats in the Senate are desperately defending the status quo.
HF 45 – The Taxpayer’s First Act
House Republicans acted swiftly passing the bill in just the 2nd week of the Legislature. HF 45 reduced spending the current fiscal year (FY 2011) by $500 million and established the Tax Relief Fund (TRF). The TRF captures any state revenue that remains after expenditures and after the reserve accounts are full. Essentially, it is money that Iowans overpaid in taxes. Senate Democrats responded by gutting the bill when they eliminated $490 million of the $500 million in spending cuts along with eliminating the TRF.
HF 2 – The Health Care Freedom Act
House File 2 the health care freedom act. Under the bill, Iowans have the right to choose private health care systems or private health care plans. Additionally, do not have to pay any penalty, tax, fee, or fine for declining or failing to participate in any particular health care system or plan.
HF 149 – Right to Work Advertising
Democrat’s spent the last four years attacking Iowa’s Right to Work law. HF 149 reiterates Iowa’s commitment to our Right to Work law by requiring that all the state’s economic development material advertise the fact that Iowa is a Right to Work state.
HF 4 – 20% Income Tax Cut
House File 4 is a 20% across the board state income tax cut. The top rate, which is all income exceeding $45,000, is reduced from 8.98% to 7.18%
HF 525 – Collective Bargaining Reform
A review of Chapter 20 and collective bargaining is long overdue. Chapter 20 is not immune to a thoughtful review. HF 525 is about two things – the scope of negotiations and the arbitration process. The bill relieves unions of the responsibility to cover employees within their collective bargaining units. During debate of the so-called “Fair Share” provisions in 2007, public employee unions bitterly complained about the requirement that they must represent non-union workers. HF 525 makes it clear they no longer have that responsibility. HF 525 also allows arbitrators to find middle ground between management’s offer and the union’s offer. This flexibility will save taxpayers money.
HF 148 – Budget Reform
Originally this bill created a process to sunset and review 20 percent of the budget per year, for five years. This allows for a lengthy review of each program and department and it means the entire budget is reviewed at least once every five years allowing legislators to identify unnecessary programs and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. Republicans comprised and limited the bill to restrictions on the amount the Governor can transfer within the budget without legislative approval and changes regarding how the state estimates revenue for budgeting purposes.
Income Tax Relief for Active Duty Military Personnel
House File 141 - Exempts from the individual income tax all pay received by the taxpayer from the federal government for military service performed while on active duty status in the armed services, the armed forces military reserve, or the National Guard.
The assumption is 7,500 active duty personnel would be impacted by this bill. The fiscal impact in FY 2011 would be $800,000 and then average $10 million per year thereafter.
In the past, Iowa did exempt all individual income taxes for active duty personnel and we join 21 other states that totally or partially eliminate income taxes.
The bill passed the full Ways and Means Committee with a vote of 25-0 and will now move to the House floor.
Property Tax Relief for Rural Exchange Carriers = Investment in Rural Broadband
HSB 215 - Relates to the assessment and taxation of qualifying local telephone company property. This bill provides that the local telephone companies shall be assessed for taxation by a local assessor in the same manner as commercial property.
Currently rural telephone companies are taxed at far higher rate than other commercial entities, and this bill seeks to address this inequity.
In addition, the fiscal impact is estimated to be between $8-$12 million dollars which these local companies could use to reduce rates and trench in more broadband internet access to our rural communities.
Increased broadband connectivity is vital for our rural areas in relation to economic development. In addition, as investments and upgrades are made in telecommunication infrastructure this will help create jobs.
The bill passed the full Ways and Means Committee with a vote of 24-0 and moves to the House Floor.
House Passes .08 for Boating
Senate File 7 lowers the current .10 blood alcohol limit for operating motorboats or sailboats to .08.
This bill aligns the blood alcohol content (BAC) level for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) offenses with the vehicle OWI level. This will help reduce vessel accidents, injuries and fatalities caused by alcohol impaired operators. Currently, a person could be legally under the BAC limit on the water (.10), but could be over the limit in a vehicle (.08) leaving the lake or river.
In addition, an amendment was offered on the floor that defines operating as “is powered by a motor of ten horsepower or more which is running, and when used in reference to a sailboat, means the sailboat is either powered by a motor of ten horsepower or more which is running, or has sails hoisted and is not propelled by a motor.”
The bill passed the House on a vote of 97-0 and goes back to the Senate for acceptance of the amendment.
State Senator Randy Feenstra, Hull:
As your State Senator, I am your voice in Des Moines and encourage your input. Please feel free to contact me at
. If you would like to read my comments on a daily basis, you can go to my web-site at www.newgenerationrepublican.com.
I spent part of last weekend with several farmers in NW Iowa who are struggling with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website notes that there are several impaired streams in NW Iowa. This is accurate; under the Federal EPA standards, rules require that all streams and rivers be drinkable and swimmable. This is virtually impossible. However, our famers are doing everything possible to abide by standards that are changing each month, yet creating river and streams that are cleaner than they have EVER been.
Iowa’s DNR and farmers are struggling to understand the changing rules and regulations that manage manure confinement and runoff. Farmers are spending millions to align with standards that are one day approved and the next unsatisfactory. It seems the EPA has no problem fining a farmer tens of thousands of dollars for a specific violation even when the farmer didn’t realize that they were violating a rule. This is ridiculous! Why can’t government work collaboratively with farmers rather than being bullies?
This is a huge issue in NW Iowa. First, we need the EPA (government) to make clear, concise rules that can be understood by each farmer. Second, there must be a method of how fines should be issued. Fines should not be arbitrary, based on some inspector’s subjectivity or hatred for farmers. A fine should only occur if the farmer refuses to make changes.
Farming is the greatest business asset Iowa has to offer. We have become the food provider for the world, yet it seems the government would rather put them out of business. This really burns me! It isn’t how government should operate. I support our great farmers in NW Iowa and I will stand up for them!
Dove Hunting Season
I have received more e-mails and phone calls on this topic than any other. The passions run very deep on both sides of this issue. It seems Iowans see very different sides of this issue.
Opponents of the bill argue the dove is a symbol of peace and is connected with scripture. These beautiful birds are typically seen in our backyard bird feeders and bird baths. They also coo a wonderful tone.
Supporters of the bill state that Iowa is the only state in the Midwest that doesn’t allow dove hunting. It’s noted that the state loses a lot of hunting revenue from hunters traveling to other states. The bird’s life is about 12 to 15 months and they propagate at a fast rate. It is no different than hunting pheasants.
The bill passed the Senate 30-18, with two Senator’s absent. I voted in support of the new dove hunting season. Please hold the e-mails. I fully understand the disappointment that some of you may have over this vote.
Note: Des Moines Register this past week noted that 73% of Iowan’s oppose internet gambling.
Forums: Friday April 1st, Boyden, 10:30 at the library and at George, noon at the Pizza Ranch.
State Representative Dan Huseman, Aurelia:
Next week is another funnel week, so the list of bills eligible for debate this session will be set. Work continues on the state budget, and floor debate on these bills will begin the first part of April. We have a lot of work to do, and the House and Senate are split on some key issues. Things will get sorted out eventually, but one must always remember that the Governor has the final say. He can sign a bill into law or he can veto it if he sees fit. Also, the Governor in Iowa has line-item veto authority regarding budget bills. If the House, Senate and Governor cannot get things settled by May 1st, we may have to shut the place down and come back this summer. This is what I have heard some Senators say, but I truly hope they are wrong.
Besides what has been going on overseas in the Middle East and Africa regarding revolts and rebellions, Japan is still struggling to rebound from the massive earthquake of two weeks ago. You have seen the pictures of the nuclear energy plant that was damaged there, and I wanted to let you know what is happening here in Iowa with nuclear energy.
In the 2010 legislative session, the House voted 91-7 to direct Mid-American Energy to do a study of the feasibility of building a next-generation nuclear power plant in Iowa. House File 561 is the next step in the process to see if bringing new technology to Iowa is the right approach for meeting the state’s need for electricity over the next 50 years.
House File 561 does not direct Mid-American Energy to build a nuclear power plant. The bill authorizes the Iowa Utilities Board to do an analysis of such a project to determine if it is in the best interest of Iowans today and in the future. The state’s top officials governing our utilities will make the final decision, not the legislature.
Under House File 561, Mid-American Energy would have to submit their proposal to the Utilities Board to determine if the project is feasible. The Board would oversee the cost of the project and how customers would pay for it, if it were to be constructed.
House File 561 requires Mid-American Energy to implement a rate structure that would pay for a plant during the development and construction phase, and also during the life of the plant. This means that the cost to Mid-American ratepayers could be spread out over 50 years. The estimated time to construct and develop a facility is in 10 years.
Mid-American estimates that the potential cost impact to ratepayers over the next ten years would be approximately ten percent increase in rates. While that number is not significant, it may be less than other alternatives.
Because of new federal regulations going into effect, it is virtually impossible to build any new power plants that use coal as a fuel source. Switching Iowa’s power plants to natural gas would cause major increases in the cost Iowans pay to heat their homes, since the state would have to import two times the current amount of gas we are using today.
If a utility were to build a next-generation nuclear plant in Iowa and they had other plants using coal or natural gas, the utility could retire those plants early and thus switch to a non-carbon fuel source for electrical power.
Safety is a concern whenever talking about nuclear power. The technology being talked about by Mid-American Energy represents a major advance in how nuclear power is generated and how the environment if protected.
The technology being considered – small modular reactor system – would be a significant change in how electricity is generated via nuclear power. Also, the safety systems are a major step forward and would address many of the issues currently being faced in Japan.
There are a couple of bills which are almost ready for debate. One has already cleared a House Committee, and was scheduled for floor debate, but was pulled from the debate calendar because there were still too many unanswered questions. A bill relating to the agencies that administer economic development programs was pulled Wednesday and is under further review by the floor manager. This is the new proposal from the Governor that seeks to create a public-private partnership to deal with the state’s economic development goals. I am glad we deferred on the bill. I agree with the new concept, but want it to be done right, and I want to be able to explain it.
The other bill is the mental health re-design being proposed by both the House and Senate. The two chambers are close to agreeing on what needs to be done and how, but are pretty far apart on how to fund it. The House version would have the state pick up the cost of mental health services but keep the control of the system at the local level. The Senate plan is more complicated and would most likely result in a property tax hike. The whole redesign idea has a long way to go, but I like the House plan better.
Finally, the first redistricting maps will be released next Thursday. This will be the second time I have experienced this process, and I know everyone is a little nervous. However, in order to maintain equitable representation for Iowans, this must take place every ten years. More on this topic next week.
(Newsletters are posted as submitted to KLEM News)
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