The Rozenboom Report – April 21st, 2023

by Senator Ken Rozenboom
Iowans all across the state have been looking for property tax relief, especially with the arrival of new assessments over the last few weeks. Senate File 569 gets at the core of rising property taxes and offers property taxpayers real, permanent relief. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a 48-1 vote on Wednesday.

In Iowa, property taxes are levied by more than 2,000 local taxing districts. Counties, cities, townships, school districts, and special districts, like community college districts, hospital districts, and sanitation districts, all have taxing authority. While Iowa places limits on property tax rates per $1,000 of assessed value, counties and cities can apply supplemental levies for certain services.

In 2021, the Legislature passed property tax relief for Iowans, eliminating the mental health tax levy, which should have saved taxpayers $100 million. Unfortunately, many counties in the state did not pass those savings onto the property taxpayer, simply spending that money on other priorities. Now, amid rapidly increasing assessments and concerns about an additional tax burden, Iowans turned to their legislators.

SF 569 provides over $100 million in relief to Iowa property taxpayers and is aimed at controlling the growth of property taxes and increasing transparency in property taxes and local government spending. It is intended to push local governments to follow the Republican legislature’s example to budget responsibly, invest in important priorities, and provide tax relief to the taxpayers.

The bill provides $57 million in new property tax exemptions, $4.5 million in tax levy elimination and an estimated $45.4 million in city and county levy reform. To help control the growth of property taxes and excessive spending by local governments, Senate File 569 automatically reduces rates when assessments rise, restores basic levy limitations to control spending, eliminates loopholes abused by local governments to exceed limits set by law, and simplifies and consolidates 17 levies.

Senate File 569 also brings more transparency to the property tax process and gives property taxpayers more information on what exactly they are getting for their tax dollars. The bill requires cities, counties, and schools to contact property owners and notify them of upcoming changes to their property tax bill and requires those same entities to deliver to property owners a standardized statement with consistent and clear information related to the local budget spending.

Also on Wednesday the Senate passed the final version SF 496, the parental rights and school transparency bill, and the House followed suit on Thursday, sending the bill down to the Governor for her signature. The bill does not “ban books” as many claim. It simply defines age-appropriate as it relates to the educational programs and library materials, and clarifies that this does not include any material with a description or depiction of a sex act. The bill also states that K-6 students should not be subject to instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation. Finally, the bill states that parents and guardians bear the ultimate responsibility and have the constitutionally protected right to make decisions affecting their minor children.

In an effort to give more flexibility to Iowa’s education system, we sent SF 391 down to Governor Reynolds. The bill makes a number of changes to help districts best meet the needs of their specific schools, like making the required courses for students more flexible, allowing for students to opt out of physical education if they are involved in a work-based learning program or other physical activities. It will also make school district agreements with community colleges more flexible by no longer requiring a district to have at least 600 students in order to allow a community college instructor to teach any unit of coursework in an agreement, and allow schools to hire former public librarians as school librarians.

The work continued as we sent tort reform to the governor with the passage of SF 228. The bill sets a $5 million cap on the non-economic civil damages for cases involving malpractice with commercial motor vehicles. The bill is designed to protect against “nuclear” verdicts that could cost the company millions of dollars, leading to higher prices and more supply chain problems for Iowans.

Also this week, the Senate passed SF 542, which gives Iowa teenagers more opportunities to learn the responsibility and dignity of work. First, the bill makes changes to the hours 14- and 15-year-olds can work. Currently, this age group can work up to 8 hours in a day and up to 40 hours in a week when school is not in session, and up to 4 hours a day and up to 28 hours in a week when school is in session. The bill allows this age group to work up to 6 hours in a day during the school year, but they are still capped at 28 hours for the week. This change will be especially helpful because it would give this age group the ability to work more on weekends versus school nights.

Secondly, this bill gives 14- and 15-year-olds more flexibility of when their shifts can occur. Currently, this group’s shifts can begin as early as 7 AM year-round, and that remains unchanged. The bill allows shifts during the school year to go as late as 9 PM versus the current 7 PM. During the summer, shifts could go as late as 11 PM versus the current 9 PM. This provides teenagers with more flexibility in their schedule so they could theoretically work and do an extracurricular activity if they wanted.

The last major piece of the bill allows waivers to be issued to students participating in approved work-based learning programs. The students need parental consent to participate in these programs and to be approved, the programs must meet certain criteria and requirements regarding safety and education. The waivers allow the participating students more flexibility in both hours and the specific work activities so they can receive hands on experience and training as they prepare for their career after high school.

Negotiations on the state budget went well this week, and I hope we can wrap the session up by the scheduled April 28 target.

Posted by on Apr 21 2023. 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.

Comments are closed


Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google
Log in | Copyright by Oskaloosa News