News from the Iowa House
I ran my first bill of the year on the House floor this week. The bill is not the most exciting piece of legislation, but still important nonetheless. House File 2101 deals with land surveyor corner certificates. The legislation allows for multiple corners to be recorded on a single land surveyor certificate, rather than filing separate certificates for each corner. In our area this is not a problem, it is already common practice to allow multiple corners on a single land surveyor certificate. The bill clarifies the issue for any county not already allowing the practice, which as far as I could find, was only one county in the entire state. The higher costs were being passed on to customers, and are seen as an unnecessary expense by both the surveyors’ industry and other legislators. The bill passed unanimously on the floor, and moves on to the Senate.
Last week, the Federal Department of Labor announced its intent to re-examine regulations it was putting forth relating to children involved in agriculture, which would have resulted in a significant change to the current process. Current law allows for children to be exempt from certain child labor requirements and children are allowed to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or guardian. However, the regulation would only allow children to work on their parent’s farm. This would mean that a child could not work on a farm that was owned by grandparents, aunts/uncles, or a farm where the parent only shared part of an ownership interest. You can imagine my personal concern about this issue as a farmer and father of a two-year-old son, who loves to “work” with me and my father on our family’s farm. The change of direction comes on the heels of an outcry from the agricultural community, members of Congress, and our own Gov. Branstad and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Bill Northey. Gov. Branstad and Secretary Northey sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, in November of last year in opposition to the proposed regulation. An excerpt from the two-page letter is below:
We believe that these rules are a prime example of Federal overreach. We both appreciate the work ethic and life lessons that we learned working and growing up on our family farm. We know from experience that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors care deeply about the health and safety of children involved in agriculture.
The Iowa House of Representatives also passed House Resolution 107, which I co-sponsored. The resolution opposes the proposed regulations. The Resolution urges President Obama to rescind the proposal and, once passed, copies of the Resolution are sent to the President, Secretary of Labor Solis, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, Congressional leadership, as well as Iowa’s Congressional delegation.
The revised regulations will be re-proposed by the Department of Labor and will be closely monitored by agricultural interests everywhere to ensure that the new rule also does not step on the time-honored tradition of family farming while weighing the interest of child safety.
The final piece I will talk about this week is a wide view of property taxes and our proposal in the House to curb their growth. I will provide more detail in coming weeks.
The 2010 Business Tax index ranked Iowa’s business tax climate 46th out of 50 states. Commercial property in Iowa is taxed at 100 percent of assessed value and is a major drawback to attracting and keeping businesses of all types and sizes.
Over the last 10 years, property taxes collected on a statewide basis for schools, counties and cities have increased over 60 percent, or over $1.7 billion dollars. Those numbers are truly staggering and the Legislature can’t afford to do nothing.
Residential property taxes will naturally increase in the coming years. Over the next 10 years, property taxes paid by homeowners will increase from $2.3 billion in 2012 to $3.9 billion in 2022 – a 73 percent increase.
Property tax reform has been studied and debated for the last 30 years, now is the time to act. We have proposed a comprehensive plan with the following principles:
Rollback commercial property taxes from 100 percent to 60 percent over an eight year period with small businesses seeing the greatest benefits first, followed by large businesses seeing the same benefits by year eight.
Increase the regular school foundation formula from 87.5 percent to 100 percent over an eight-year period. This will help mitigate or prevent any shift to residential and provides homeowners with dollar for dollar property tax relief.
Local budgets would be tied to a Midwest Consumer Price Index, plus net new growth and closely align their spending with the income growth for those who pay for the services.
Provide backfill dollars for local governments that don’t see growth, to help them adjust and allows local governments to exceed their budget by a vote of the people.
It is a bold plan, and one that if enacted would help spur growth, provide property tax relief to all classes of property while allowing local government budgets to continue to grow, albeit at a more sustainable pace.
I always welcome news and views from constituents and friends. To contact me in Des Moines you can send mail to the State Capitol in Des Moines, 50319. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the House switchboard is 515-281-3221.