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The Iowa Caucus and winter storms created an abbreviated work schedule this week at the Capitol. On Monday the legislature was not in session so members in the House and Senate could be in their respective districts to attend their precinct caucuses. It was great to see our voter turnout so high and so many people eager to participate in the political process. I hope you all enjoyed this big event and will continue being involved in the future. Tuesday’s winter storm blanketed much of the state with snow and created unfavorable travel conditions for many, which led to the cancellation of several committee meetings and subcommittee meetings.
Discussions are under way this legislative session to legalize fireworks in Iowa. SF 508 passed out of subcommittee last week, and was discussed in the State Government committee this week. This issue is not new to the Iowa Senate. Last year it appeared that this legislation had some traction early in the session, but fizzled out before adjournment. This bill would permit the sale, use and regulation of consumer fireworks designated to meet standards of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Approximately 40 other states allow for the use of some or all consumer fireworks. The proposed legislation would place the regulation duties within the office of the state fire marshal to enforce all laws dealing with the use and sale of fireworks. The bill would provide guidelines and protections to only allow for the sale of consumer fireworks. Under provisions in the bill, individuals would get licenses to sell, with revocation of licensure for violations of the law. The bill also restricts the use of consumer fireworks to those 18 years or older, and provides designated use times.
Education funding was discussed last week in the Iowa Senate, but it appears that the conference committee made little progress this week. Recent Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) reports indicate state revenues are not rising as anticipated. In fact, revenue growth is stagnant. The ag economy is not as strong as in recent years due to lagging commodity prices, and we also were dealt a significant blow last spring when the avian flu devastated our poultry industry. All of these factors impact Iowa’s economy and our state budget.
I am receiving a lot of e-mails asking the legislature to pass the “coupling bill” as soon as possible, and for good reason. Historically, early in the session, the Iowa legislature has passed legislation that would allow Iowa taxpayers to utilize many of the same credits and deductions that are now available at the federal level. Not coupling will create significant challenges for farmers and small business owners because they made business decisions in 2015 that anticipated that Iowa would again conform to federal law. Without this vital taxpayer protection in place, it is estimated that Iowans could owe an additional $96 million in taxes for 2015. That is not acceptable! In addition to the additional tax liability, small business owners and farmers will be required to maintain two sets of books, records and depreciation schedules. Multiple sets of rules also make it very difficult for businesses and individuals operating on an interstate basis.
To address this issue, the House passed HF2092 on January 28 on an 82-14 bipartisan vote. As of this writing, Senate Democrats have made no attempt to advance the House bill through committee and on to the Senate floor for a vote. Meanwhile, our small business owners, farmers, and tax preparers all wait for action. I hope we can take this up early next week.
Please take advantage of upcoming legislative forums. My colleagues and I will be at Eggs and Issues next Saturday, February 13 from 8:30 to 9:30 AM at Smokey Row in Oskaloosa, and in Centerville from 10:00 – 11:00 AM on Saturday, February 20 at the Chariton Valley Planning & Development office at 308 N 12th Street.
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