The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Legislative update for week 12 in the legislative session.
Monday morning the State of Iowa honored more than 20 landowners, families and organizations for gifts of conservation land and conservation easements in 2012.
These gifts totaled more than $5 million and protect more than 3,500 acres in 21 counties. Gov. Branstad presented certificates after speaking about the importance of these gifts.
Iowa ranks 49 in public ownership of land. Through gifts such as these, Iowa gains more land that is open to the public and protected from commercialization.
During debate on Monday, we passed five bills, one of which generated concern of several groups. The bill dealt with “mothballing” hog barns. The bill allows small hog barns to be “mothballed” as young farmers attend college or enter military service. Most of us felt this is truly a small farmer bill, while a few people fear the creation of a loophole for corporate farms. During debate, it was pointed out that a small family farm would be very foolish to accept the liability for the storage of manure of a corporation. The bill passed the House by 83-16. This bill will now be sent to the Senate where amendments are expected to be added that will further limit and further define this bill as a small beginning farmer bill, and not as a corporate loophole.
Tuesday morning after a brief caucus, we passed two noncontroversial bills (97-0) with little debate as there was no opposition to either. The University of Iowa showcased its many programs in the Rotunda.
I was pleased to meet Alicia Schalla, daughter of Jon and Roxanne Schalla of Cantril. Alicia, a student at the U of I, spoke to me about the many programs and support for students as her reason for enrolling at Iowa.
When I was viewing the many exhibits, I was amazed to see a wrench manufactured by a copy machine. These machines are also known as 3-D Printers (Replicators), and are capable of duplicating actual parts and machines. The wrench on display was a 6-inch adjustable wrench of the type commonly called a crescent wrench.
I don’t understand how a copy machine can make a working wrench with moveable parts. The wrench comes out of the machine assembled. This technology will certainly change the manufacturing industry.
Wednesday morning we debated several bills, the most important, in my opinion, was a bill dealing with the Innovation Fund Tax Credit. This bill would allow the tax credit to be transferred twice – once to the investor in the innovation and one additional transfer.
The Department of Revenue will be required to publish an annual report to include the name of each person holding such tax credits. This bill would encourage Iowa companies and entrepreneurs in the development of ideas and innovations that have been discovered through taxpayer research at our universities. In short, we wish to promote the development of jobs in Iowa, rather than have our ideas developed out-of-state with the associated flow of new jobs to other states.
The Agriculture Committee met briefly to approve and move forward a Senate bill that would legalize Bengal and Savannah cats that are F-4 (four generations removed from the original cross breeding) to be exempt from Iowa’s dangerous wild animal law. Cats of this type are the result of the cross breeding of Asian Bengal or African Serval wild cats with domestic cats.
The Natural Resources Committee met for the last scheduled meeting of the session for consideration of two Senate bills. One bill dealt with adult hunter safety classes, and the other bill makes certain invasive weeds illegal in Iowa.
The committee also heard a report on the Iowa REAP program (Resource Enhancement And Protection). This program was established in 1989 and has funded Iowa projects totaling $288 million thus far. REAP is perhaps best known for the help in funding county conservation, trails, roadside vegetation and historical resource development. The REAP budget may be funded up to $20 million annually; however, the budget has not been funded to that level. The governor’s recommendation for the next year is a level funding of $12 million.
Thus far, Davis County has received $1.86 million, Jefferson County $1.47 million, and Van Buren County has received $2 million in REAP funds. This money was used for soil and water improvements as well as historic building restorations in each county. This is a very popular conservation program that is supported by many individuals and many groups.
Those groups that would like to apply for REAP grant money should visit www.iowareap.com and look for “grants” for applications and instructions. Grant applications are due by Aug.15, so the writing of an application should start now.
Thursday morning on a vote of 45-51 with four members absent, we voted not to accept the Senate version of the education reform bill, which included a 4 percent allowable growth figure. The bill will now move to a conference committee where five House members and five Senate members will hammer out a compromise bill that cannot be amended.
Many schools, long suffering from the uncertainty of the Iowa Legislature, are sending out notices of teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, delays in the purchase of books and technology, and changes in bussing which will cause more parental transportation. School superintendents have warned us for months that this would happen.
It is my hope that quick conference committee action will finally end this uncertainty. As the uncertainty ends, schools will continue to face austere budgets and the results of past underfunding.
This week marks the second self-imposed deadline of the session. A few common sense proposals still eligible to become law this session include testing schools for radon and made-in-Iowa legislation to keep our tax money in our local communities.
The three major concerns of this legislative session still await resolution. Education reform has moved to a conference committee, while commercial property tax relief and mental health reform have seen little attention.
In a report released April 2 by the Department of Management, it was reported that Iowa gross tax receipts are 5 percent higher than last year and personal income tax receipts show an increase of 7.6 percent above the same period last year. Corporate income tax is showing an 11.1 percent increase over the same fiscal year-to-date periods. These numbers speak well for Iowa’s financial stability and growth and our continued climb out of the recession.