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Friday, February 6th marks the 26th day of the 110-day legislative session, and the end of the fourth week. While things probably appear to an outsider to be progressing very slowly, the pace is speeding up considerably as legislators look ahead to the first funnel deadline four short weeks away and the amount of heavy lifting that lies in front of them.
Many of the budget subcommittees are hearing testimony every day from various state programs they fund in an effort to bring new legislators up to speed on the numerous functions of state government. It is also a chance in many cases for state programs to showcase some of their achievements from the previous year and to demonstrate the value they have created from the appropriation they received.
Early session is also the busiest time for advocacy groups to visit the Capitol. Legislators right now often have three breakfast events, three to five lunch events and anywhere from two to six evening legislative receptions they are attempting to balance on a single legislative day. No one ever knows how long the session will end, so every group tries to get on the calendar early. Plus, it is always good to be talking to your legislators about issues before the funnel deadlines and before the budget discussions begin.
In the weeks ahead, you will see the pace at the Capitol quicken as subcommittee meetings multiply and the Legislature starts to determine behind the scenes what major initiatives will move forward this year. Some contenders include gas tax and transportation funding, funding for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, moving the state's Medicaid program into managed care, anti-bullying legislation, broadband expansion, the Governor's Iowa NEXT proposal, allowable growth for schools, and many others.
In the last issue of Policy Perspectives, we gave you information about the IEDA's Renewable Chemical Production bill (one-pager HERE). IEDA also has another bill this session which will make a number of Iowa Code changes to their programs. The summary for that second bill can be found HERE. PDI is supporting both bills.
TIF Bill Update
We have been told the Tax Increment Financing bill is still being drafted. The best thing you can be doing is opening up a dialogue with your legislators about how effective TIF is in your area. Start that conversation NOW. Find your legislators HERE
PDI 2015 Grow Iowa Day at the Capitol
Thank you to those of you that braved the snowstorm this week to attend PDI's 2015 Grow Iowa Day at the Capitol. The midweek event meant that legislators were already in town, so we saw a great turnout with a lot of very good discussion. If you weren't able to attend, please consider reviewing the PDI Legislative Agenda (HERE
) and reaching out to your legislators.
Property Tax Presentation
After a few scheduling snafus this week, Legislative Services Agency Tax Analyst Jeff Robinson was able to give his annual update on property taxes in Iowa to the House Ways and Means Committee. We have provided his Powerpoint presentation HERE. Property taxes in Iowa are extremely complicated in how the different classes relate to one another, so it is always interesting to see what trends are occurring over time. For example, in slides 8 and 9, you'll see that residential continues to be responsible for a larger share of overall property taxes. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what tax policy is desired for future growth in Iowa, just an observation.
Robinson also provided the committee members with an update on the Property Tax and Income Tax Credit Act of 2013, and distributed a 5-page handout which is available HERE. The first page and half recount the bill's actions, and then the document goes into the fiscal analysis of the bill's impacts. The chart on page 3 addresses the reimbursement to local governments for any lost revenue resulting from the new commercial and industrial rollback. That reimbursement does reach a cap in Fiscal Year 2017; at that time the rollback would be already fully phased in. Hence, any increases in commercial growth after FY 2017 would not be reimbursed (similar to existing law of the land prior to this bill).
The Iowa League of Cities, a partner to PDI on a number of issues, asked us to share this invitation with PDI members
"City Focused" Economic Development Workshop
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Embassy Suites, Des Moines
You are invited to join us on the morning of Tuesday, February 24th for a city focused Economic Development Workshop. Sessions range from Economic Development 101 to Advanced TIF where topics such as the transitioning from sun-setting TIF districts and negotiating the right deal. In addition, Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Director Debi Durham will give a presentation discussing the basics of economic development programs administered by IEDA. In the evening, the League will be hosting a Legislative Reception at Noodle Zoo in Des Moines from 4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m..
This event is open to all those who are interested in Economic Development from a city perspective so please pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested.
Registration is available on the League's Web site, www.iowaleague.org or by calling Shannon Busby at (515) 244-7282. Registration is $60 for League members or $70 for non-members. A $10 late fee begins on February 18.
The Governor and both chambers of the Legislature seem to be in agreement that broadband expansion legislation needs to be enacted this year. The Governor released his "Connect Every Acre" proposal during the Condition of the State address. His office has put out a one-pager on the proposal that is available HERE.
There are also a few bills introduced by legislators to expand broadband, most notable of which is SF 60 by Senator Sodders. If you have input for legislators on broadband access, be sure you reach out them. They're listening! Something will likely pass this year, so be heard!
New Iowa Workforce Development director announced
Governor Branstad officially appointed Beth Townsend as director of Iowa Workforce Development. Townsend had served as acting director since Jan. 11, when Teresa Wahlert resigned the position. Townsend previously was director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. She worked as a judge advocate general in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years. A reservist, Townsend retired in 2010 after nearly 21 years of service. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate.
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