Hite Capitol Update: April 26, 2019

Rep. Dustin Hite (R-District 79)

Rep. Dustin Hite (R-District 79)

by Rep. Dustin Hite

Another debate filled week has passed in the Iowa House and we are winding down. We still have some important tax and budget legislation to pass, but we are committing to staying in Des Moines until it gets done. One of my biggest responsibilities this session was being the floor manager for property tax reform legislation. This legislation went through many different drafts and titles, but the final version we passed was Senate File 634.

At the beginning of the process, I was focusing on one thing—transparency. When a person’s property taxes increase, an elected official will have voted for that increase and will not be able to blame the tax increase on rising assessments. The ultimate version that was passed by both houses came along way from the original bill because I worked with cities and counties to address their concerns, but I wanted to keep the focus on transparency.

When it comes down to it, this bill does a simple thing. It says if the city or county is not going to increase tax revenues, here is your new levy rate based upon your new valuation. The council or board of supervisors will then vote on where to take that levy within the current system. In addition, we require public notice to be placed online in addition to in the newspaper.

The debate on the bill went into the morning and we finished up around 3 a.m. on Thursday morning. Democrats alleged this bill was aimed at destroying small towns and crippling IPERS, and nothing could be further from the truth. This bill is about the taxpayer and providing them the information they need to adequately voice their concerns to local officials. It was nothing but a tactic to scare our government employees and retirees, and that was unfortunate. Even IPERS came out the next day to state that this bill did not affect IPERS. There could be no better authority. This bill was a win for the Iowa taxpayer.

Beyond property tax reform, we passed the Hemp Act and Education Budget this week. Senate File 599 provides the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) with the primary role of implementing and operating the Iowa Hemp program. The measure allows both the growth of hemp crops and the retail trade of hemp products and CBD trade in this state as long as the THC content is less than 0.3% and the hemp products were grown, produced and processed under state and federal hemp regulations. SF 599 also creates a hemp fund into which license fees are deposited. Funds may include both from public and private sources. Moneys in the fund are appropriated to IDALS which will administer the program.

It should be noted and understood that it is likely to not be legal to grow hemp in the 2019 crop year and maybe not in 2020, because the federal legislation that reclassified hemp as a crop requires that USDA develop rules for the program and that state rules not only must be as stringent as federal rules, but state rules must be approved by USDA before they can be implemented. The legislation acknowledged these stipulations by containing contingent implementation provisions. Furthermore, farmers should appreciate that hemp has not yet been incorporated into federal conservation plans and phosphorous index requirements so it should not be planted for these purposes until the federal hurdles are cleared.

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support on a vote of 95-3.

After starting nearly $15 million apart on the Education Budget, the House and Senate came to a final agreement this week on funding for Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission (scholarships and grants for students), the Department of Education, Community Colleges, Vocational Rehabilitation, Iowa Public Television, and the Board of Regents. The compromise budget spends $952.7 million in FY20, a $40.1 million increase over estimated FY19 levels.

Many of the original increases proposed by the House were maintained, including those items that help add doctors and nurses to rural, in-need areas; scholarships for low-income students; scholarship money for 7000 Iowans to get training in high-need jobs areas; more funding to opportunities for high school students to access on-the-job training towards rewarding in-demand careers; mental health training and programming needs for K-12 schools; increased funding for programs to help families with young children; and significant new funding for community colleges.

Some of the highlights include a $300,000 increase to the Rural Primary Care Loan Program, a = $1,072,512 increase to the Iowa Tuition Grant Program, and a total of $2,100,000 spent on Mental Health Awareness Training.

The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 32-18. It passed the House 54-46, and will now go to the Governor for a signature.

We are looking to wrap up the session a week early, and we still have several big items on our plate. We still have budgets to finalize and a few policy issues that we would still like to get passed. I look forward to finishing the people’s work here at the Capitol and getting back home.

Posted by on Apr 26 2019. Filed under Local News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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