To the People of Iowa House District 95
Not much floor action occurred at the capitol this week until Wednesday when everyone had returned to the capitol to continue our work on the budget and this years property tax reform proposals.
House Republican Property Tax Plan Adds Certainty for Taxpayers While Also Cutting Property Taxes
This week the House passed House File 1 (now House File 718). The bill does four major things to provide all Iowa property tax payers with immediate and direct property tax relief.
Division I of the bill provides an immediate statewide property tax reduction of over $200 million dollars. Iowa Code section 257.3 requires each school district to levy (each year) a foundation property tax equal to $5.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation on all taxable property in the school district. Division I reduces that requirement by $1.00 so schools will be required to levy a property tax of $4.40. The state would then pay for that reduction so that the schools do not lose revenue.
Division II of the bill puts a limitation on how much a property tax payer’s bill can increase year over year. The division outlines a property tax increase limitation on a per parcel basis for qualified parcels. This is on the actual amount of property taxes paid (not the assessment). This division’s limitation does not limit taxes levied as a result of a voter-approved levy or a debt service levy.
This division provides that a qualified parcel (gets the growth limitation) is a parcel that is NOT:
- Currently part of a TIF.
- Wind energy conversion property.
- Currently part of an abatement.
Additionally, a parcel that has changed ownership since the last assessment will not get the growth limitation (will get a new base with a new owner). New construction will of course get a new base year at full value and full taxation.
If a parcel is a qualified parcel, for property taxes due and payable in fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2024—if the amount of property taxes due exceed 103% (Residential, Agricultural) or 108% (Commercial, Industrial) of the prior year, the amount due will be reduced as described below.
If the threshold is exceeded, the amount of property taxes due and payable to each taxing authority that certified to levy in excess of such amount shall be reduced. If the city only levied the same as the prior year, but the county levied 104% on a residential parcel, only the county would have to reduce the amount due. The amount of the reduction shall be proportionately applied among those certified to levy in excess of the limitation. The reductions shall be made by the county auditor prior to delivery of the tax list and statements.
If there were improvements or renovations (not amounting to new construction) on the parcel during that year, the threshold amount of taxes shall be up to 103% or 108% plus the percentage of the parcel’s taxable value attributable to the improvements.
Division III of the bill rounds out Iowa’s version of Truth in Taxation and works to get more information in the hands of property tax payers. With this information they will be more informed about how assessments and levies are working together in their area. This division also provides that if all of the information from all taxing jurisdictions is available in a timely manner—everything should be on one notice for the taxpayer.
Finally, Division IV of the bill simply states that all special elections by any political subdivision for bonds or other debt must be on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each year. Additionally, it provides that the commissioner of elections will send notice of a bond election to eligible voters 10 to 20 days before the election. The notice must contain the full text of the public measure to be voted on.
Regardless of the eventual fate of HF 718 in the Senate, it is obvious that House Republicans have chosen the side of the property taxpayers and not the property tax collectors. Prioritizing certainty and sustainability for property taxpayers over ballooning assessments will continue to be a driving force in the House.
Budget Discussions in Full Swing After House Republicans Release Spending Proposals
Last week House Republicans released their General Fund spending plans for Fiscal Year 2024. These plans can be found on the budget subcommittee webpages under “Committee Documents,” and they show how the majority party plans to spend the 8.5 billion budget that will start on July 1.
This move has helped kickstart budget discussions under the golden dome. Meetings between the House, Senate, and the Executive Branch have been taking place all week as momentum is building towards reaching an spending plan agreement.
Some highlights from the proposed budget include:
- $25 million increase in funding for Iowa Nursing Homes.
- $7 million increase for mental health care providers.
- $3 million increase for substance abuse treatment.
- $1 million increase for psychiatric ICU care units.
- Maintained our commitment to the Home Community Based Services providers by continuing the rate increase plan started last year.
- $10 million new funding for workforce grants given to students in one of Iowa’s high-demand job areas like nursing, STEM professions, and educators.
- $2.8 million for new funding to provide 10 new professors at the University of Iowa College of Nursing and increase enrollment capacity by 30%.
- $2.8 million in new funding for STEM & Advanced Ag initiatives at Iowa State University.
- $1.5 million in new funding for UNI Teacher Education initiatives.
- $7.2 million increase for Community Colleges.
- $14.6 million increase for the Department of Corrections to attract and maintain correctional officers.
- $4.3 million in new funding for legal representation for low-income Iowans.
- $500,000 increase toward Habitat for Humanity’s affordable housing program.
- $750,000 increase to help protect Iowa’s animal agriculture industry from foreign animal disease.
Summary of New Firearms Bill
Last week, the House passed House File 654, a bill that made changes to firearms laws in Iowa. Once again, Democrats used fearmongering as opposed to facts to try and stop Iowans second amendment rights. However, the bill passed with overwhelming support (62-37) and is in the Senate awaiting further action.
HF 654 has nine divisions, some are technical changes designed to ensure the code is uniform, others are substantive to allow law abiding Iowans the freedom to carry their firearms. A short break down of the nine divisions can be found below:
Division I allows loaded firearms in locked vehicles on most publicly owned property.
- If a firearm is left in a vehicle on pubic property the vehicle must be locked and the firearm must be stored out of sight. Firearms are not allowed on National Guard property. Public property includes state, county, city, and other municipality property.
Division II strikes a DHHS rule that prohibits foster parents from having loaded firearms in their vehicle.
- Under current DHHS rules, a foster parent can carry a firearm but if the firearm is in their vehicle it must be unloaded and locked. Foster parents who choose to carry a firearm were being forced to unload and reload their firearms every time they went in and out of their vehicle. This change simply allows these parents to carry their firearm in a vehicle just like they do when they are out in public.
Division III allows loaded firearms to be in a vehicle on school property while dropping off or picking up a student.
- Federal law already allows a person, with a permit to carry, to have a loaded firearm on school property. Iowa law currently requires a firearm to be unloaded and locked without approval from the school. HF 654 simply allows a person, who has a permit to carry, who is dropping off or picking up someone from school to have their firearm in their vehicle. If the person needs to enter the school they must leave their firearm, out of sight in the locked vehicle.
Division IV allows loaded firearms to be in a vehicle parked at regents universities or community colleges.
- Division IV is similar to division I and allows people to leave a firearm, out of sight, in their locked vehicle when they are on regents university property or a community college campus. This does not allow a person to carry their firearm outside of the vehicle unless it is for an authorized purpose, such as a trap team, security, or other approved reason.
Division V prohibits insurance companies from refusing to insure a school that allows firearms in their buildings.
- Iowa law allows schools to decide who can carry a firearm in the building. Some schools are authorizing teachers and others to have firearms for building security. Even though these individuals have extensive training and are following the law, some insurance companies are considering denying the school coverage for taking steps to protect the students. This division prohibits an insurance company from denying coverage due to legal firearms being in the building.
Division VI clarifies a person can have a loaded firearm in their car while driving.
- Previous law changes made the code confusing. This division clarifies that a loaded firearm can be in a vehicle while it is being driven.
Division VII allows a person to have a loaded firearm on their snowmobile or ATV.
- This change allows loaded firearms on ATV’s or snowmobiles. Iowans are still prohibited from shooting from either vehicle unless the hunter is non-ambulatory.
Division VIII strikes a rule prohibiting firearms at casinos. Casinos will determine their own firearm policy.
- Current rule has a blanket prohibition on firearms in casinos. This division returns that choice to the casino to develop their own firearms policy.
Division IX makes several changes to code section 724 regarding who can possess and who can carry firearms
- There have been significant changes made to firearms laws in the past few years and some of those changes were not consistently applied throughout the code This division addresses those issues.
House Child Care Bills Await Senate Action
Recently, the Iowa House passed House File 707 unanimously to increase child care provider rates by $10.8 million and expand eligibility of the Child Care Assistance Program. This bill also importantly requires parents to work 32 hours, instead of the previous 28 hours, per week to qualify for CCA. This bill awaits a subcommittee assignment in Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Iowa House has also passed House File 668 to provide the residential rollback (instead of commercial) to child care centers and facilities for property tax purposes, which will provide $8.8 million in reduced property taxes for child care facilities statewide. This bill awaits a subcommittee in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Lastly, House File 319 removes the barrier to child care worker employment of requiring a physical prior to starting employment. This bill awaits Senate floor action.
Over the last two years, House Republicans have prioritized expanding access and lowering the cost of child care throughout the state. Below is an expansive list of the bills signed by the Governor during the last general assembly.
- Child Care Off-Ramp (HF302) – established a state funded off-ramp program from Child Care Assistance that will gradually increase cost-sharing from families as they increase their income.
- Child Care Ratios (HF2198) – opens additional child care slots by establishing new minimum child-to-staff ratios in child care centers of 1:7 for children aged 2 and 1:10 for children aged 3.
- Child Care Tax Credit (SF619) – doubled the income eligibility for Iowans receiving the child dependent and development tax credit.
- CCA rates (HF891) provided a $13.4 million increase by moving all CCA providers below 50% of the market rate survey up to that level.
- Child care homes (HF260) – Allows individuals providing child care in their homes to remain nonregistered with DHS if they increase from 5 or fewer children to a 6th child that is school-aged.
- Additional workforce (HF2198) – allows child care center employees who are 16 years of age or older to work without additional supervision.
- Employer incentives (HF2564) – tax credit to assist businesses with expanding child care options for their employees.
- HF2127 incentivizes child care providers to accept more Child Care Assistance (CCA) families by allowing parents to pay the difference between CCA rates and rates charged to private pay families.
- HF 2252 – allows a parent with a permanent disability to access CCA so the other parent can pursue employment.
- SF 2385 – allows chiropractors, podiatrists, and optometrists to perform physicals for children in child care and personnel that work in child care facilities.
Milk Freedom Moo-ves to the Governor’s Desk
Soon Iowa could join 20 other states in the legal sales “raw milk” if Senate File 315 is signed into law. Raw milk is produced from dairy animals and has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is the method of extending the shelf life of milk by heating the milk for a controlled amount of time. Individuals who seek out raw milk for their consumption value the freedom to decide about what they value in their milk.
Currently, state law prohibits the sale of raw milk in any capacity. SF 315 allows consumers the freedom to make an informed decision for their needs and purchase raw milk from raw milk producers instead of being forced to leave the state or to break the law. If signed into law, producers will be allowed to have up to 10 dairy producing cows, goats, and sheep for the production and sale of raw milk and raw milk products.
These raw milk dairy producers will be required to test monthly the coliform bacteria levels and have an annual examination of the producing animals by a licensed veterinarian. Records of both the monthly testing and the annual examination are required to be maintained and available to the Department of Health and Human Services, local health boards, and consumers. If a licensed physician suspects an individual became ill as a direct result of raw milk, HHS or a local board of health may demand the test records of the dairy from the previous 3 years.
While SF 315 provides increased freedom to consumers, it still does not allow raw milk to be used in commercial or homebased food products to prevent someone from unknowingly consuming raw milk. An individual cannot purchase raw milk or a raw milk product without ordering it directly from the raw milk producers.
Restoring more individual freedom in the choices offered to consumers is ‘udderly’ important to House Republicans, who have championed this legislation and other pieces of legislation to provide more freedom to creators, producers, and consumers.
CAT Grants Awarded
This month the Enhance Iowa Board awarded 18 Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grants – two of which went to projects in SE Iowa.
These Awarded CAT Grants Include:
- City of Cascade was awarded $460,000 toward a library expansion project.
- City of Janesville was awarded $125,000 toward a library renovation project.
- City of Cedar Rapids was awarded $800,000 toward an environmental revitalization and trail development project.
- Capitol Theater Foundation of Burlington, IA was awarded $300,000 toward renovating the historic Capitol theater.
- City of Dallas Center was awarded $250,000 toward the construction of an aquatic center.
- Iowa Arboretum & Gardens in Madrid was awarded $260,000 toward an all-inclusive playground area, elevated walkways and trails.
- Oelwein Event Corp in Oelwein was awarded $700,000 toward a renovation of a historic 1919 building into an event center.
- City of Jesup was awarded $77,000 toward the construction of a splash pad.
- City of New Hampton was awarded $100,000 toward a trail project that will connect existing multi-use paths on the eastern and western sides of the community.
- City of Lake View was awarded $240,000 toward the construction of a community center.
- City of Burlington was awarded $200,000 to construct an accessible and inclusive large-scale playground.
- City of Carlisle was awarded $70,000 toward the construction of a trail head to the trail extension between Easter Lake in Des Moines.
- City of Prairie City was awarded $200,000 toward a library renovation project.
- City of Marengo was awarded $220,000 toward the construction of an aquatic center.
- Buchanan County Conservation Board was awarded $375,000 toward a project to construct a new campground and trail.
- City of Story City was awarded $460,000 toward a library expansion project.
- Ames Historical Society was awarded $400,000 toward an expansion of the Ames History Museum.
- African American Heritage Foundation in Cedar Rapids was awarded $500,000 toward renovations to the African American Museum of Iowa.
Rep. Taylor Collins
Iowa House District 95
by Thomas Sowell