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District 72 Update

May 1, 2019
By State Rep. Dean Fisher - R-Montour , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Newsletter for Thursday, April 25, 2019

By the time you read this we may well not only be done with week 15, but done for the entire session. We are working hard to finish by Saturday, April 27. This was an intense weekof debate with more to come after I submit this newsletter. We completed several more appropriations bills and reconsidered appropriation bills that we had sent to the Senate and were returned with amendments.

The House and Senate have agreed on a total Fiscal Year 2020 budget amount of $7.463 billion, a very modest 0.2% increase over the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. Compared to the Revenue Estimate, the Fiscal Year 2020 budget spends only 97.39% of ongoing revenue. One of my long term goals has been to reduce spending as a percentage of the ongoing revenue estimate, and we continue to progress along that path, slowly but surely. This joint budget agreement fills all reserve accounts, and leaves an ending balance of nearly $300 million assuming the actual revenue comes in on the revenue estimate.

Article Photos

State Rep. Dean Fisher
R-Montour

I concur with House Appropriations Chair Pat Grassley's statement; "This budget plan ensures that we can fund key priorities like community colleges, career training programs, rural hospitals, nursing homes, public safety, and initiatives to support rural Iowa. These are all important programs that Iowans value and support. House Republicans will continue to take a conservative approach to the state budget that ensures we fund our priorities"

On Monday the House passed Senate File 617 - Sports Gambling, on a 67-31 bipartisan vote. I voted no on this bill as I announced I would in an earlier email. I don't sense that the majority of Iowans want this form of gambling, as it portends to taint our sporting events, adds to gambling addictions, and will not likely produce much revenue for the state.

It will no doubt produce considerable revenue for out of state purveyors of these wagers. Highlighting my concerns, Senate File 632 was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and sent over to the House, appropriating $300,000 from the Sports Wagering Receipts Fund created in the Sports Gambling bill to fund the Department of Public Health's Iowa Gambling Treatment Program. It's always good to be proactive. The bill passed the House Thursday afternoon on a 98-0 vote.

On Tuesday we passed Senate File 86 - Logan's Law, on a 98-0 vote. This bill requires the DNR to include an organ donor symbol on hunting and fishing licenses, similar to what is allowed on a driver's license.

This bill was named in honor of Logan Luft, a 15 year old victim of an ATV accident that took his life. Logan had indicated on his driver's license that he wanted to be an organ donor, five persons received donations from Logan and many others benefited from donated tissue. Logan's parents testified before the Natural Resources Committee when we debated and passed this bill, and they were present when the bill passed on the floor of the House.

We also passed House File 772 - Empower Rural Iowa Act, on a 97-0 vote. This bill provides funding of $2.2 million in Fiscal Year 2020 and $4 million in Fiscal Year 2021 for a Broadband Grant program to improve internet service in underserved rural areas. The bill also provides additional funding for the Workforce Housing Tax Incentive Program. The bill increases the fund from $20 million to $25 million in tax credits to the builders. Additionally, the funds for Fiscal Year 2020 will be targeted solely to smaller communities in order to clear a nearly $25 million backlog of applications. Smaller communities are defined as communities that are in one of the 88 lowest population counties.

Wednesday we debated Senate File 634, the Property Tax Transparency bill. Debate began at roughly 11:00 PM due to delays caused by the Democrats generating amendments, none of which were accepted. Debate finally ended just before 3:00 AM Thursday morning with a party line vote of 53-46, making for a short night with an 8:30 AM gavel in time to start Thursday's business.

This bill is similar to the property tax bill that I wrote about in an earlier email, but with changes to the process garnered from many discussions with stakeholders. The bill created a process that starts with a city or county receiving the new assessments. Based on these new values, all city and county levies are adjusted up or down to represent a rate that would bring in the same amount of tax revenue in dollars as the prior year. This is the "effective rate." The local government can then decide if more or less revenue is needed to meet the city or county needs.

Next, the city or county needs to publish a notice and have a hearing on what the levies will be. The hearing will then take place and a resolution on the new levies will be passed. If the proposed levies bring in tax revenue that constitutes an increase of two percent or less, then the city or county must pass that resolution by a majority vote. If the proposed levies bring in tax revenue that constitute an increase of more than two percent then they must pass that resolution by a 2/3 majority.

After the resolution on the new levies has passed, the local government needs to publish notice of the resulting budget they intend to pass and have a hearing on that budget. They can then pass a resolution for their budget as they do in current law. All information from the notices needs to be published on all local government websites and social media presences. Because of the additional time needed for the new process the date to certify budgets is moved from March 15 to March 31.

During debate, Democrats desperately tried to insist this bill was somehow an attack on the Iowa Professional Employment Retirement System, IPERS. It is a bizarre stretch of logic to assert that somehow asserting transparency and accountability processes on property tax increases constitutes an attack on IPERS. The House Republicans accepted none of this bizarre logic and the IPERS board confirmed this position on Thursday afternoon, stating that this bill does not affect IPERS or 411 pensions as Democrats have claimed.

 
 

 

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