Friday, May 18, 2018
Iowa Senate – Tim Kapucian
Tim Kapucian, Iowa Senate
Published 2:10 p.m. CT May 17, 2018
Greetings from Under the Golden Dome
Greetings from out on the acres. I literally went from my Senate seat to the tractor seat. We adjourned around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, and my area of the state – east central Iowa – has been dry so planting has progressed quite well. Actually, moisture would be much appreciated. Other parts of the state have had a tougher time and friends in the northern part of the state have little if any crops in the ground. So thank you for your patience on my take on the 2018 legislative session.
The water quality bill was one of the more important bills for agriculture and all Iowans for that matter. It was a hold-over from last year when the House and Senate could not find common ground. SF 512 codifies a dedicated funding stream for water quality improvement projects – $271 million over the next ten years. Roughly half from gambling revenues and half from a metered water excise tax that will replace the current tax on metered water. SF 512 was signed into law early in the session and was the first bill signed by Governor Kim Reynolds.
SF 2349 allows Farm Bureau and Wellmark to jointly provide healthcare plans for individual small business owners and farmers, who have seen staggering health insurance premium increases and have no employer provided health care. It is expected to be available Jan. 1, 2019.
We began the funding process for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State. The large number of cases and cramped quarters they deal with along with outdated bio-security protocol due to the design and connection of all the buildings at the Vet School complex threatens their accreditation and ability to continue to provide timely service to clients. Funding will come from gambling revenues collected from the state.
Transportation was quiet this year and probably the most notable item was the confirmation of Mark Lowe as the DOT director.
Iowa has the fourth highest individual income tax rate in the country and the highest corporate tax rate in the county. Iowa is ranked 40th in business tax climate by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. U.S. News and World Report, while ranking Iowa first overall, ranked Iowa’s business environment 46th. If nothing is done to reform the tax code, Iowans’ state taxes will increase as a result of federal tax reform because of federal deductibility.
Hardworking Iowa families and small business owners will receive $398 million in income tax relief in TY 2019. The tax plan immediately provides an average tax reduction of nearly 10 percent and continues to provide tax relief beyond 2019. When fully implemented as soon as 2023, the plan will reduce the number of individual income brackets to four, with a top rate of 6.5 percent. The top corporate rate will be lowered to 9.8 percent from 12 percent.
This agreement dramatically simplifies Iowa tax law by eventually eliminating federal deductibility, reducing the number of individual income tax brackets, automatically coupling with most federal tax laws and providing a comprehensive review of tax credits. The tax plan utilizes a trigger to protect budget sustainability in future years, ensures full repayment of the Cash Reserve Fund this year and does not reduce the property tax backfill. It maintains large ending balances in both Fiscal Year 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020, according to estimates from the REC, and protects key budget commitments made to education, health care and public safety. It also modernizes the sales tax code to treat online businesses the same as Main Street businesses. The agreement also provides relief to farmers and small business owners by increasing the Section 179 and Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction.
Additionally, measures were taken to ensure schools have adequate resources for providing social services to our children. House File 2441 adds psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors to the approved expenses for at-risk funds. Social workers were also added to the approved positions under operational sharing agreements in order to alleviate the cost associated with hiring a full time social worker.
Governor Reynolds also created a Children’s Mental Health Board this year, another step in the right direction towards establishing a children’s mental health system in Iowa.
The Heartbeat Bill will essentially prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected, usually when the baby is six weeks old. Exceptions are rape, incest, life of the mother and abnormalities that prevent survivability. This was and is a very contentious issue. People are simply for or against it and this will undoubtedly face legal action and could possibly cause a review of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court.
Progress was made on addressing mental health in the state. HF 2456 will have the state establish six regional mental health centers where patients can be evaluated to decide the appropriate facility but suit their needs. Currently, hospital rooms or jail cells have been filling the role. A hospital may not have the expertise required for the patient’s treatment and becomes a very expensive place to stay while the determination is made as to what facility best suits their needs. Jails likewise do not have that ability to determine the proper facility either. This is a step in the process and will require ongoing adjustments as well as funding.
A number of things were addressed concerning education. One percent growth in state funding was approved. It is important to remember that Iowa is ranked fourth in the nation for school funding with a 20.6 percent increase since 2008 (including SAVE dollars).
We addressed student and transportation equity concerns. Some schools were not being reimbursed equally per student and some of the geographically larger districts had much higher transportation costs than the more urban school districts. A phase-in process to rectify these inequities was put into code.
We also voted to continue operational sharing which allows districts to share a position and changes the way these positions are weighted in the funding process.
This year Senate File 2113 began the process of addressing mental health in Iowa’s schools for our children. In Iowa, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 34-year-olds and the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 14-years-old. This bill requires training for Iowa’s educators to recognize the signs of depression in children and teens. The bill further requires the establishment of protocols for suicide prevention.
We passed HF 2377 to address the growing problem of opioid abuse. This bill prevents doctor-shopping, reduces over-prescribing and provides support to Iowans suffering from addiction. Many of these addictions are resulting from pain prescriptions.
One of my biggest disappointments this year was our inability to pass a bill to move forward on industrial hemp production in Iowa. While I understand it may not become a large crop acre wise, it would be an option for some and I know the organic folks would like it as additional choice in their crop rotation.
During World War II, Iowa supplied 25 percent of the hemp needed, some 50,000 acres, for the war effort. The US is Canada’s largest export market for their hemp production. At last count, 40 states are working on some type of industrial hemp program. With more and more states looking at it that leaves less potential acres for Iowa.
Also moving forward with our medicinal cannabis program by allowing more chronic conditionals to qualify and actually having a well-functioning program did not happen this year.
These are some of the actions we took this year that stand out in my mind as I reflect back. I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe summer and fall.
See you out and about the district!
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