Capitol Comments by Rep. Curt Hanson
Week 11, March 28, 2014
Washington County farmers are finding solar energy to be cost effective. I recently joined Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey, and area legislators on a tour of rural Washington County Solar energy installations. I was amazed by the number and the size of the arrays we visited. We toured installations both large and small; the largest was 60Kw in size, with 200 solar panels, powering 10 inverters, mounted on a 400 foot long building. In some cases these installations are powering 80-90 percent of the location’s needs. Cost conscious farmers report that in the peak summer months they are saving over $2,000 per month in electrical costs. Since the payback period is favorable, many are considering installing these panels.
We were also informed that area residents have the availability of placing solar panels they purchase in a “solar park” when they or their landlord do not wish to attach a solar panel(s) to their home or apartment. Residents typically find their monthly electrical bill reduced by up to $3 per panel, per month.
The installations we saw were installed by a number of companies. Several company representatives accompanied us on the tour, one of which was from Libertyville, Iowa. Solar energy systems in the Washington County area are popular because of favorable “net metering services” available to the customers of the Farmers Electric Cooperative, the oldest Rural Electric Cooperative in Iowa. It is the hope of many, the business model of FEC will encourage other RECs and private utility companies in the development of their own competitive pricing opportunities.
In House action this week, we passed the first budget bill of this session. Under the Judicial Branch budget bill, House File 2449, funding for the courts system will increase by close to $7 million for fiscal year 2015. The bill appropriates a total of $174 million which will allow the Judicial Branch to continue to work on their goals and on-going priorities such as electronic data management systems, family treatment courts, and juvenile cases. It is important that we fund the Judicial Branch so justice may be timely rendered. I feel that justice delayed is justice denied. The passage of the first budget bill marks an important point in the legislative session. It means the session is moving toward adjournment.
First time homeowners, often including young families, may benefit from House File 2452, which has been passed in the House. Owning a home is a dream for many Iowans who work hard every day who try to save up for a down payment. A bill we approved this week will help make that goal a bit easier. Iowans will be able to set up a special savings account at their local bank or credit union to save for their first home. A portion of the money saved (up to $3,000 for individuals or $6,000 for couples) can then be deducted from state income taxes. The account can be open for up to 10 years. The idea is to help young Iowans and families start saving early for their first home. This is a simple way we can make things a bit easier and help families achieve home ownership.
Wednesday, students from the Van Buren FFA chapter of Ms. Gardner and the Harmony FFA Chapter of Mr. Peck visited the Capitol. Also visiting the Capitol on Wednesday was Mr. Hadley’s Pekin High School government class. It is always a pleasure to meet and speak with these wonderful young men and women. FFA chapters all over Iowa enroll over 14,000 students. Often, state of the art agriculture classes combine agriculture and science in their course work. Tomorrow’s farmers will need a firm base in both the agriculture and business fields to succeed in this very competitive world market.
Of interest to those working for the preservation of historical buildings in our communities, the House passed Senate File 2453, a bill dealing with tax credits for historic preservation. The property must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, historic property in an area eligible to be designated a local historic district, a local landmark, or a barn constructed prior to 1937. Second, the property must meet the physical criteria for rehabilitation established by the department of cultural affairs.
This winter’s record cold temperatures and skyrocketing propane costs have led to record numbers of Iowans who are behind on paying their heating bills this year. The $46 million still owed is nearly 40 percent higher than last year. As volatile propane prices are expected to continue many people may seek ways to minimize their future propane use.
Iowa’s best burger contest has now been narrowed to the “top 10” burgers in Iowa. I was pleased to learn that the Keosauqua’s First Street Grille has again been listed among the top 10 burgers in Iowa; congratulations!
A Des Moines Register report this week found Iowa had one of the highest rates of personal income growth in the nation last year. The Iowa average per capita personal income last year was $45,114. This ranks Iowa 22nd in the nation. It should be noted that because we are a hard-working people the above number may reflect a person’s income from more than one job.
State Rep. Curt Hanson, represents Iowa House District 82, which includes most of Jefferson County and Davis and Van Buren counties, in the state Legislature. Contact Hanson anytime by email at email@example.com or by phone at 641-919-2314.