Iowa Republicans Unveil their Taxpayer First Act

Today the Iowa House Republicans have rolled out their first bill, the Taxpayers First Act. Since we have a legislature divided between Republicans and Democrats, it is hard to know how much, if any, of this bill will make it throught the legislature. However, it is interesting to see from the outset what is likely to be pushed immediately in the House.

Here are some highlights, especially as they pertain to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources:

1. Division IV, Sec. 21. Halt the purchase of real estate by the DNR. The intention seems to be to stop in its tracks the effort by the DNR to purchase land and easements for parks, recreation, and wetlands. However, as currently written, the proposed language could be read to restrict the use of environmental covenants intended to reduce the cost of environmental remediation and response costs. Here is the language:

1. Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, for the
period beginning on the effective date of this section through
the close of the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2011, the
department of natural resources shall not enter into a new
arrangement to acquire or otherwise control real property.

2. For the purposes of this section, “new arrangement” means
an obligation entered into on or after the effective date of
this section. An obligation includes but is not limited to
an agreement, contract, lease-purchase arrangement, or any
other instrument leading to state ownership or control of real
property that was not previously owned or controlled by the
state. “New arrangement” does not include a real property
acquisition or control project for which an appropriation to
the department was encumbered prior to the effective date of
this section.

3. This section, being deemed of immediate importance,
takes effect upon enactment.

The problem is the definitional phrase “any other instrument leading to state ownership or control of real property.” Environmental covenants, easements, and restrictive covenants are intended to “control” the use of real estate. Many of these instruments make the State of Iowa a beneficiary. Because there is no cost to the DNR, an exception is warranted for these covenants and easements. Also, the DNR has in the past swapped land with landowners to improve access to lakes and rivers. That would be jeopardized as well.

2. Division II. Section 11. Prohibition against agencies from employing a person to “primarily represent the agency relative to the passage, defeat, approval, or modification of legislation.”

3. Division VIII. Section 67, line 7. Zoning Regulations. Elimination of the requirement that zoning regulations comply with “smart planning principles.”

4. Division VIII. Section 74. Recision of award money for any city or county that used smart planning principles if the contract has not been entered into. Presumably, contracts awarded using dumb principles are safe.

5. Division . Section 78. Elimination of the $6.5M passenger rail service revolving fund.

6. Division X, Section 86. The elimination of the Office of Energy Independence. (Iowa Code § 469).

7. Division XII. Section 99. Substantive changes to the Grow Iowa Values Fund and related renewable fuel programs and the moving of appropriations from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund to the Grow Iowa Values Fund.

Other budget cuts include a large reduction in the purchase of library books by the Regents, a requirement for recommendations to eliminate duplication and eligibility for four-year old preschool, child care assistance, programs that support low-income families, head start, even start, early childhood, and at-risk pre kindergarten programs, elimination of voluntary preschool, reducing the number of agencies serving the aged, cutting in half the health care coverage commission costs, cuts in youth programs, tobacco use prevention programs, local health car delivery for children, local public heath nursing, home care aide services, public health, shelter care for children and families, a reworking of the funding for mental health services, elimination of Regents sabbaticals for 18 months, elimination of out of state travel for government employees, eliminaton of core curriculum by the Dept. of Education, a reduction in the AEA budget by $10 million, elimination of participation in the NAFTA corridor, elimination of the use of state benifits for illegal immigrants, and a push to sell the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).

A copy of the bill can be found here:

Iowa Taxpayer First Act

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About James Pray

Attorney with BrownWinick Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa.
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