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Final Newsletter for the 2013 Session
We have wrapped up the 2013 legislative session so now legislators can go back to their regular jobs, get the crops into the fields and continue with their family activities. Letís review the major results of the session.
Many of us have been pressing for significant, comprehensive tax reform. One of the highlights of this session is the largest property tax cut in Iowa history. This legislation rolls back commercial property taxes from 100% of valuation to 90% over a two year period, limits residential and agricultural property taxes to 3% growth valuation from the current 4%, and gives a dramatic cut to apartment complexes and assisted living facilities phased in over a ten year period.
This legislation enables small businesses to create jobs and Iowa families to keep more of their hard-earned money. Senate Republicans believe Iowans are taxed enough already and more relief can be achieved. We will continue to fight for reforms such as locking down property tax valuation increases.
The federal government is marching toward universal healthcare with the nation-wide push for Medicaid expansion. The program funds are uncertain as the federal government struggles with spending issues and seems to have no regard for healthy outcomes of its participants. Governor Branstad has pressed for a solution that encourages Iowans to take ownership of their healthcare responsibilities while still providing health care for low income families.
The Governor and the Iowa legislature arrived at an agreement that appears to be the best possible solution. The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is a hybrid program that provides healthcare for Iowans up to 100% of Federal Poverty Levels by enrolling them into the Medicaid program using mostly federal dollars, and those between 100% and 138% of FPL by helping with premium assistance on the Health Benefits Exchange. There is also an incentive for people to take responsibility for their own health by providing a waiver of premiums by participating in healthy activities.
The legislature and the Governor have been working toward education reform since 2011, and this year we passed what is being called an education reform bill. Many of us believe the education reform passed by both chambers could be more focused on student outcomes rather than funding. However, we did fund schools with an additional 4% supplemental state aid (formerly allowable growth) for each of the next two years, and made some small steps toward more accountability.
These reforms also include independent accreditation of nonpublic schools, establishment of private instruction by a teaching parent that is exempt from school district reporting requirements, parental instruction of driverís education for homeschoolers, and parental instruction for up to four non-related students. Another innovative reform was offered to establish Education Savings Accounts allowing for true choice and competition in education, but this attempt to provide really significant reform was defeated on a very close vote.
This session Senate Republicans crafted a bill changing the tax code for the benefit of Iowans and enabling taxpayers to keep more of their money. The bill provides for a comprehensive overhaul of the Iowa income tax system giving Iowans a choice when paying their income taxes: either the current system or the new simplifed system. Compared to current law, the proposed plan provides an overall 5% reduction in income tax liability in the first year of enactment, an overall 10% reduction in liability in the second year, and an overall 15% reduction in liability in the third year and beyond. Despite the fact that the Senate majority blocked the bill, we will keep fighting for tax relief next year.
One piece of legislation passed recently is a real win for all of Iowa. We were able to restore most of the liability protection for rural landowners who allow the public on their land for hunting, fishing or other recreational or educational activities. This long-standing protection had been threatened by an unfortunate Iowa Supreme Court decision in February, and it was feared that landowners would simply deny entrance onto their land by the public. We believe this corrective action will fix the problem, allowing farmers and city folks to continue the great relationships that generations of Iowans have enjoyed.
I want to thank all constituents in District 40 for allowing me to represent them in the Iowa Senate. I have received hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and other communications from all over District 40 providing input into the legislative process. This is truly how the system should work. Please feel free to contact me during the interim. I will be working on legislation in preparation for next yearís General Assembly.
Feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at my cell phone: 641-295-6551.
Senator Ken Rozenboom
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