April 13, 2018

    SAVE Fund Extended for School Infrastructure
    Public Hearing Held on Possible Tax Reform
    Preventing Food Shaming in Schools
    House Leaders Move Forward on Plan to Raise Property Taxes, Cut Local Services
    More Funding to Help Veterans Signed into Law
    Paddling Safety on Iowa’s Waters

    SAVE Fund Extended for School Infrastructure

    For at least three years, schools in Iowa have been concerned about the extension of the 1 cent sales tax for infrastructure known as “SAVE.” This week, the House reached a bi-partisan agreement and sent a bill to the Senate that would extend the SAVE program until 2050.

    As part of the plan, additional funds would be used to provide greater property tax relief for property poor districts and greater property tax relief to all school districts. Schools have used SAVE funding as a tool to pay for necessary repairs and upgrades to school properties.

    The bill also addresses the revenue purpose statement of a SAVE project to the electors, and requires an additional public hearing with notice. Using SAVE dollars for athletic infrastructure construction would be allowed for “replacement” or “upgrade,” but not include repair or maintenance of an existing facility.

    Fund for Career Academies

    The bill also creates a grant fund that could be used for building Career Academies. Nearly 70% of all new jobs will require some form of training beyond high school. Career Academies allow high school juniors and seniors to take advantage of college level courses in an advanced high school curriculum.

    House File 2481 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    Public Hearing Held on Possible Tax Reform

    A special public hearing on proposed tax changes was held by the House Ways and Means Committee this week. The public hearing was called for House Study Bill 671 regarding proposed tax changes from GOP lawmakers. Members of the public spoke out on individual income and corporate taxes, increased taxes on credit unions, and the loss of revenue and the impact on the state from the proposed reforms.

    Several concerns have been made as to why the legislature would be cutting taxes for corporations when the state was forced to make midyear budget cuts because of lagging state revenues. One of the speakers noted that Iowa schools have received record low funding in recent years while the new tax proposals would reduce state revenues and leave schools shortchanged again.

    Other speakers expressed concerns with provisions that are part of the Senate proposal on taxes. Several representatives of credit unions spoke during the public hearing to express the potential impacts of raising taxes on their institutions and how that would negatively impact credit union customers.

    Representatives of the solar energy trade association noted that the state tax credit for solar energy that is repealed in the Senate proposal has been very effective in expanding solar installations in the state. The ride sharing company Uber, as well as taxi operators, noted that increased taxes on their service would be hardest on the elderly, senior, and disabled that often rely on their service for their basic transportation needs.

    While final details haven’t been release by Republican leaders, the House Ways and Means Committee could consider the tax proposal as soon as this week.

    Preventing Food Shaming in Schools

    Lawmakers sent a bill to the Governor this week to prevent practices that shamed students in school if they could not pay their lunch debt. Under the bill, the following actions are no longer being allowed as these actions humiliate or “shame” a student because they cannot pay for the meal:

      • Requiring the student to consume the meal at a table set aside for students who owe a meal debt.
      • Have a student discard a meal after it has been served.
      • Require a student to wear a wrist band, hand stamp, or other identifying marks, or do chores or work to pay for their meal.
      • Denying participation in afterschool program or other extracurricular activities.

    Once a year schools are currently required to offer assistance to parents or guardians in filling out Free and Reduced-Priced Lunch forms. Due to changing economic circumstances, this would now be required twice a year.

    Some schools have set up private accounts and accept donations to help pay for school lunch debt. The bill prevents the school from using those funds for another purpose, which has also happened in Iowa.

    The bill now goes to Governor.

    House Leaders Move Forward on Plan to Raise Property Taxes, Cut Local Services

    A House committee has taken another step forward on a plan that could leave Iowans with higher property taxes and fewer services, like police and fire.

    The plan, offered by Republican leaders, would cut the state’s property tax backfill to schools, cities, and counties. The backfill was promised to local communities in 2013 as part of a commercial and industrial property tax cut that would have led to millions in lost revenues to local governments.

    According to a recent survey, 93% of local officials said they will have to raise property taxes if the state ends the backfill, essentially shifting the commercial and industrial tax burden to homeowners and farmers. Local officials also said the plan will result in a cut of services offered to Iowans, cuts to public safety including police and fire, and increased class sizes in our schools.

    House Study Bill 678, which has passed a sub-committee and now heads to full committee, would scale back payments to the backfill that is currently at $152 million to just $25 million over the next several years.

    More Funding to Help Veterans Signed into Law

    Legislation making it easier for the state of Iowa to help its veterans was signed into law last week. This legislation increases the amount of money that can be spent out of the Veterans Trust Fund from $300,000 per year to $500,000.

    The Veterans Trust Fund was created in 2003 and is designed to assist veterans with services like dental work and car repairs. The legislation, Senate File 2366, also adds preventing homelessness to the list of acceptable expenditures. Currently, the Iowa Lottery transfers $2.5 million to the fund every year.

    Veterans may apply for these funds at their local county veteran’s office. A list of these offices and their locations can be found here: https://va.iowa.gov/counties.

    Now with the Governor’s signature, the legislation will become effective on July 1, 2018.

    Paddling Safety on Iowa’s Waters

    Iowa’s waterways are thawing and will soon be ready for canoeing, kayaking, and other water sports. While some paddlers are eager to get back on the water, it is important to remember the temperature of Iowa waterways are still cold. Air temperatures are warming up but it will be several weeks before rivers and lakes in Iowa are ideal temperature for water sports.

    The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has several safety tips for paddling in cold water:

      • Wear a life jacket
      • Dress for the water temperature which is often colder than the air temperature
      • Attend a class to improve your boat control skills
      • Watch out for piles of debris that can pull paddlers under
      • Use the buddy system and don’t paddle alone
      • Bring a change of clothes in case you get wet, decreasing the chances of getting hypothermia
      • Let others know where you will be paddling and how long you plan to be gone

    For more information on paddling visit, http://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Canoeing-Kayaking.