June 18, 2014

    New Laws Start July 1
    Survey on Retiring in Iowa
    Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption Deadline
    Radon Assistance to Schools Vetoed by Governor
    Disaster Assistance Available
    Agriculture Art Awards
    Five Watershed Projects Receive State Grants
    Applications Open to Help Protect Iowa’s Waters and Wildlife

    New Laws Start July 1

    While the 2014 legislative session ended in April, Iowans should be aware of a number of new laws that take effect beginning July 1st, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

    Topping the list of new laws are several new initiatives aimed at boosting Iowa’s skilled workforce, including $66 million for the skilled worker job creation fund to help Iowans upgrade work skills, fill key shortage areas, and connect businesses with training and education.

    On strong bi-partisan votes, the Legislature also approved workforce housing credits to help local communities address workforce housing needs and new measures to protect Iowa seniors from abuse and neglect.

    Also starting July 1, firefighters, EMTs, and reserve peace officers can anticipate an increase in their tax credits from $50 to $100; and minors will no longer be able to purchase e-cigarettes.

    Other new laws the Legislature passed that start July 1:

      • Helped Iowans with the high cost of childcare while continuing education and working (HF 2463)
      • Created a new income tax credit of up to $2,500 for qualified adoption expenses (HF 2468)
      • Encouraged more production and use of ethanol and biodiesel (SF 2344)
      • Expanded eligibility for the Military Homeownership Assistance Program (SF 303)
      • Extended tax credits for solar and wind energy projects (SF 2343, SF 2340)
      • Improved quality of life for kids suffering from seizures and epilepsy (SF 2360)
      • Made it easier for students with a Minor’s School License in shared district schools to travel to schools other than their home school for extracurricular activities (SF 2228)

    For a full list of bills that take effect on July 1, log on to www.iowahouse.org.

    Survey on Retiring in Iowa

    The Iowa Department on Aging wants to know what Iowans think about retiring in Iowa. What makes Iowa an attractive place to retire, or not retire? What amenities do you want when you retire or if you are retired now? Iowans are encouraged to complete the survey here: http://www.proprofs.com/survey/t/?title=1odxv.

    The 2010 U.S. Census found that 20% of Iowa’s population is currently 60 years of age or older. By 2030, 20% of the population in 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties will be aged 65 or older.

    The mission of the Iowa Department on Aging is to develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and cost-effective system of long term living and community support services that help individuals maintain health and independence in their homes and communities. To find out more information about the Iowa Department on Aging visit: https://www.iowaaging.gov/.

    Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption Deadline

    This past session, the Legislature approved a measure granting all U.S. military veterans with 100% service connect disability to be exempt from property taxes for their place of residence. In addition, this includes surviving spouses of veterans who died on active duty or died due to their 100% service connected disability. This exemption can be applied retroactively to this current tax year.

    However, eligible veterans and families must complete and submit the form to their county assessor no later than July 1, 2014, to receive the property tax exemption for 2014. The newly revised Application for Disabled Veteran’s Homestead Tax Credit (Iowa Department of Revenue Form 54-049a (06/12/14)) is available for completion and submission to local county assessor’s offices by qualified disabled veterans and DIC claimants.

    The application form, along with a current Benefits Paid Letter, must be submitted no later than July 1, 2014, to obtain the tax exemption this year. The Benefits Paid Letter may be obtained by contacting U.S. Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000, visiting a U.S. Veterans Affairs office, or through the veteran’s e-benefits account online. The application form is available on the Iowa Department of Revenue website (www.iowa.gov/tax), the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs website (https://va.iowa.gov), or at the local county assessor’s office. Instructions for completion of the application can be found on the form.

    Radon Assistance to Schools Vetoed by Governor

    Despite a recent poll that showed 71% of Iowans favor requiring schools to test for radon and take steps to reduce it if necessary, the Governor vetoed $1 million in funding to help Iowa schools test for radon.

    The money in Senate File 2363 would have assisted schools with reimbursements for radon testing. It authorized school boards to provide short-term testing and retesting of radon gas at each school building for any new construction, additions, renovations or repairs. However, mitigation and testing would not have been required.

    Radon is an odorless, colorless gas. Its origin is uranium, which breaks down and releases radon gas, and Iowa has the highest uranium concentration in the country. According to the Surgeon General, indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk.

    Senate File 366, however, was signed into law. This bill requires the Department of Education to notify each school district and private schools of the risks of radon gas including related data, information on sources of funding available for radon testing and mitigation, and encourage them to implement a mitigation plan. School districts and private schools will have to report to the department by December 1, 2014, if they have a radon testing and mitigation plan in place. If they do not have a plan in place, they need to indicate if they have any plans on implementing a radon testing and mitigation plan in the future.

    Disaster Assistance Available

    Due to the strong storms earlier this month across western Iowa, the Iowa Individual Assistance Program has been activated. The program benefits are only available to residents of Cass, Harrison, Montgomery, Ringgold, Decatur, and Pottawatomie counties.

    The Iowa Individual Assistance Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or a maximum annual income of $39,580, for a family of three. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and for the expense of temporary housing. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery.

    To find more information on the program and to apply visit http://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs, or call 1-866-434-4692, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

    In addition, if you are in need of disaster crisis counseling, please call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985 and find more information here: http://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs.

    Agriculture Art Awards

    Iowa artists of all ages are invited to participate in the third annual “Celebration of Iowa: Agricultural Art Award” sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

    The theme for this year’s exhibit is “Global Stewards” and the deadline for submissions in Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Last year, entries were received from 55 artists representing 31 Iowa communities. Artwork is judged on innovation of concept, execution of contest theme, and the aesthetic and technical quality of the work.

    There is a Youth Division with a $1,000 first place prize and an Adult Division with a $1,500 grand prize. Second, third, and honorary award winners will also receive monetary awards.

    Exhibit entries will be evaluated by a panel of judges arranged by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Eligible participants must be Iowa residents working in 2D (3D, film, video, or installation work will not be accepted). All artwork must be original.

    Applications must be submitted via the Iowa Arts Council’s SlideRoom, an online application portal. Only one application may be submitted per individual. The online application can be found at http://www.iowaartscouncil.slideroom.com.

    Additional information and requirements, including artwork specifications, are available by visiting http://www.culturalaffairs.org or http://www.IowaAgriculture.gov.

    Five Watershed Projects Receive State Grants

    Five watershed demonstration projects were recently selected to receive $1.7 million in funding through Iowa’s water quality initiative over the next three years. In addition to the state funds, an additional $2.2 million is provided in matching funds. The projects will focus on adoption of practices outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

    According to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, these projects help us learn what works and show farmers how water quality practices can work on their land and within their farming operation.

    The five projects are within the large priority watersheds, prioritized by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC), which include the East and West Nishnabotna, Floyd, and Skunk watersheds.

    The demonstration watersheds selected cover 345,449 acres. The projects will implement and demonstrate the effectiveness and adaptability of a host of conservation practices including, but not limited to: cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands, terraces, bioreactors, buffer strips, no-till, strip-till, nitrogen inhibitors, extended rotations, conservation cover, drainage water management, and manure management.

    These selected projects will join the eight water quality demonstration projects that received $4.1 million in funding last December. Another round of funding for new watershed demonstration projects may be available later this year depending on funding availability.

    Applications Open to Help Protect Iowa’s Waters and Wildlife

    Applications for a program that helps improve water quality and provide habitat for Iowa pheasants was recently reopened. Signups began June 9th for the Pheasant SAFE program, a continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The program provides incentives to landowners to plant structures like trees and buffer or filter strips along waterways.

    “Other than a few weeks last winter, it’s the first opportunity for people to enroll in the Pheasant SAFE, a continuous CRP designed to bring pheasants and other grassland birds back by providing winter habitat,” said Chuck Gipp, the Director of the Department of Natural Resources.

    Iowa had 45,000 acres available under the Pheasant SAFE program when the application process opened. In addition, other continuous CRP programs may also be available for landowners that can not only benefit wildlife, but help protect stream banks, reduce erosion, and improve wetlands.

    Additional information can be found at your local USDA office or by visiting www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/LandStewardship/WildlifeLandownerAssistance/FinancialAssistance.aspx.