Editor's note: This is the final installment of Inside the Capitol for this year's Iowa legislative session.
Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City
This session, my focus was on taxpayers – with the specific goal of reducing crippling property taxes for middle-class families, fixed-income seniors and small businesses.
The extension of the SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) penny sales tax for school infrastructure, which I had the honor of floor-managing in the House, is of critical importance to our local schools and will allow them to continue to provide our kids with safe and state-of-the-art facilities in which they can learn and fulfill their potential. The SAVE bill really is the definition of a win/win as it not only addresses school infrastructure needs, but also will significantly reduce property taxes. With nearly $6 billion over the next 30 years going toward property tax relief, the SAVE extension was also the single largest property tax relief package in our state’s history. In addition to that direct reduction, another bill we passed, the property tax transparency bill, will require a focus on actual dollars paid in taxes rather than the current confusion over assessments vs. rates. It is important to not only lower taxes, but also provide taxpayers with information about what they are paying, how much it is increasing, and why it is increasing.
I was once again successful securing an extension of the Targeted Jobs tax credit program that is of critical importance to Sioux City as we seek to compete in this uneven tax climate (specifically with a 0 percent income tax state right across the border). Also, I pushed for a sales tax exemption for our nonprofit blood banks that will ensure we keep these needed services and quality jobs in our state. Additionally, affordability of child care is often a barrier to employment. That is why I introduced a bill to double access to the Child Care Tax Credit, increasing the income cap from $45,000 to $90,000. It passed the House with near-unanimous support. I am hopeful the Senate will take it up next year.
Overall, it was a successful session because we respected taxpayers and kept the needs of our constituents at the forefront.
Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City
When I ran for office, my platform was defined by values of faith, freedom, family, sanctity of life, lower taxes and limited government. I expressed my deep concern about the continual growth in the size of government. In the last 15 years, state and local government spending grew by 125%, state government spending increased by 65% and inflation rose by 43%. If the value of your money is reduced that much while government taxes and spends more, Iowans have less disposable income on which to live. Government spending has become a threat to the economic security of working families and fixed-income seniors.
This past year the residential property taxes of Sioux Cityans went up by a staggering 11% while commercial property tax valuations soared by an average of 35%.
Controlling the growth of property taxes was the main objective in passing SF 634. Homeowners will now have some clarity on property tax increases. It will require a local government to inform taxpayers of a new “status quo” tax rate. Exceeding this rate alerts the taxpayer their taxes may be rising. If the tax dollars and percentages discussed at the public hearing exceed 2 percent compared to the previous year, the local governing body must approve the amount of increase with a two-thirds vote. My senior property tax freeze was part of SF634 but lacked enough House support to remain in the final bill. It will be brought to the floor again.
Last year we passed the strongest life bill in the country, the "Heartbeat Bill." We were saddened to see it struck down by the district court but elated to see another 10 states pass similar legislation. The fight for life continues.
I am very grateful for an understanding wife, Senate friends and engaged constituents.
Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City
This legislative session will be marked by modest success, missed opportunities, and questionable use of power. I would like to focus on our successes, though, since it is important to highlight where legislators of both parties worked together.
For mental health advocates, it has been a long road to finally see the creation of a children’s mental health system. The new framework will include core services like prevention, early identification, and crisis stabilization. Looking ahead, our goal must be to resolve the question of funding.
I was glad to see modest funding increases for our community college system and grant-funded programs for trails. Programs like these help to attract new families to our community, and breathe new life into recreation, public health, and growth for small business. For our school district and taxpayers, it was a huge victory to see an extension of the one-cent sales tax for school infrastructure. New to the program will be added property tax relief, with much of it targeted toward historically disadvantaged communities like Sioux City.
After listening to local farmers and business owners, I served as floor manager for a bill to allow industrial hemp production in Iowa for the first time. I was also glad for a modest expansion of our state’s medical cannabis program to provide medically appropriate compassion to those in need. Finally, I enjoyed serving as the lead Democrat for a program to help rural communities with economic development (House File 339) and help to address rural population loss.
It is remarkable that nothing – nothing – was done to improve the state’s privatized Medicaid disaster. Democrats provided numerous suggestions and opportunities, but none were taken. Finally, the GOP should be ashamed of their continued use of power to take pot-shots at the LGBTQ community and judicial branch. The rule of law, civil rights code and Constitution are not a pick-and-choose menu.
Sen. Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City
The 2019 legislative session ended Saturday, April 27. I am pleased to have helped pass initiatives that are good for our economy and for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
We legalized industrial hemp, a low-input, sustainable crop that can be used in thousands of products. This emerging market will create jobs and open up all kinds of economic growth opportunities in farming, processing, trucking, finance and advertising.
We strengthened Iowa’s guardianship and conservatorship laws to help vulnerable kids and adults. We created the Iowa CARE Act, which allows Iowans to designate a caregiver who will be given instructions to care for their needs when they’re discharged from a hospital. We established a statewide children’s mental health system to ensure kids in crisis get the help they need as quickly as possible, no matter where they live. And we improved our state’s medical cannabis law so that more suffering Iowans can get appropriate treatment and relief from debilitating conditions.
Yet there is so much more we could have accomplished. We missed opportunities to grow our economy, create jobs, improve wages and benefits, and train more skilled workers.
Our investment in education at all levels hasn’t kept up with rising costs. Local schools increasingly can provide only the bare minimum with the funding they’re getting, while tuition at our community colleges and universities will go up again this fall, leaving students with more debt.
The Legislature did nothing to fix the governor’s privatized Medicaid mess that has gone on for more than three years, though Democrats proposed a comprehensive plan to make significant improvements. I am also disappointed that Senate Republicans stopped a bipartisan effort — one that was approved in the House and supported by the governor — to restore voting rights for felons who have served their time.
Beyond missed opportunities, some of the legislation passed this session is bad for Iowans and the future of our state. I voted “no” on a misguided effort to politicize Iowa’s courts by revamping our highly respected judicial nominating system. I also voted against a bill that will hurt Iowa's growing renewable energy industry by raising taxes on homeowners and businesses that have installed solar.
On a final note, this spring’s flooding in western Iowa presented us with some unexpected challenges. I will continue working with state, federal and local governments to help ensure Iowans and businesses have the resources they need to get back on their feet.
It’s been an honor to serve the people of Sioux City during my first year in the Iowa Senate. I encourage constituents to stay in touch over the coming months. You can email me at Jackie.email@example.com.