The Rozenboom Report by Senator Ken Rozenboom – April 19, 2019

Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40)

Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-District 40)

by Sen. Ken Rozenboom

This week the Senate passed a bill creating a children’s behavioral health system in Iowa. Last year the legislature made significant improvements to the adult mental health system in our state, and this year we are expanding those services to children. The creation of the children’s mental health system adds to the existing infrastructure for the adult mental health system, and creates a board to oversee the system. The data collected will help policymakers make important decisions in the years ahead. The House passed this bill last month and it passed the Senate 46-2 on Tuesday. It now goes to the governor for her signature.

The federal Farm Bill passed by Congress last year removed hemp from the controlled substance listing and legalized it as a commodity. Senate File 599 passed the Iowa Senate this week permitting Iowa farmers to grow hemp, which is a versatile plant that can be used in the production of more than 50,000 products. Until now, Iowa was one of only 11 states without a hemp program. SF599, the Iowa Hemp Act, sets up a program that limits the number of hemp acres a licensee may plant and requires THC testing of the crop prior to harvest.

Few issues raise the ire of Iowans more than runaway property tax increases. Because of the structure of Iowa’s property tax laws, an increase in the assessment of a property can yield significant increases in property taxes even without any action by elected officials at the local level to increase tax rates. As a result, property taxes for Iowans have more than doubled in the last 18 years. Meanwhile, income for those same people has risen only 43 percent over that same time period. Clearly, this rate of increase is unsustainable.

Senate Republicans released a plan this week to control the growth, improve the transparency, and increase the accountability of property tax increases. Under Senate Study Bill 1260, when valuations on property rise, the levy rate for cities and counties automatically adjusts so the property taxpayer pays the same tax as they did the previous year. Local governments can raise revenue up to 2 percent from the previous year and 3 percent with a supermajority of their members, but those officials now must actively vote on that increase at a public hearing instead of passively spending the windfall from increased valuations.

Elements of this plan have been effective in controlling property tax increases in many other states including New York and Utah. Despite claims to the contrary, this bill will not affect any pension payments from local governments nor affect their ability to service their debt. This change controls property tax increases, improves transparency in property tax collections, and increases accountability on the local level for rapidly rising tax rates.

Also this week the Senate passed Senate File 617, which authorizes sports wagering and fantasy sports in Iowa. This bill allows for online gambling on professional, collegiate, and international sports. It requires a person be at least 21 years of age in order to participate in sports wagering or fantasy sports contests. Proponents insist that sports wagering is already happening across the country and our state illegally, and that by passing this bill Iowa will have a framework to ensure Iowans can place bets on sports contests in a safe, legal way.

The sports wagering bill passed the Senate on a 31-18 vote, but the vote was very bipartisan. The bill passed with 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats voting for the measure, and 12 Republicans and 6 Democrats voting against. I voted against it.

When I first ran for the Senate several years ago, one promise I made over and over was that I would try to look at every bill through the prism of the family. That is, does the bill help or hinder the family unit? I believe SF 617 fails that test. While I understand that the state of Iowa has become very dependent on gambling revenues, I cannot support an expansion of gambling opportunities. Every year the legislature is called on to fix a lot of problems, some of which are caused by the breakdown of the family unit in my view. I believe that any action to encourage more wagering activity, especially with the convenience of online gambling, will cost Iowa more in social costs than will ever be gained by additional gambling revenue.

It’s my wish that each of you has a blessed Easter!

Posted by on Apr 20 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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