The Iowa legislature is set to conclude its session this week, but the final days won’t come without a little tension.
Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, Rep. Steve Olson, R-DeWitt, and Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, attended the year’s final legislative forum Saturday at the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, giving indications how the final week would end.
Budgets still need to be finalized, but Bowman expressed his frustration with Republicans, who he said put on a political show recently.
“I’m embarrassed by my Republican colleagues,” Bowman said. “What they’ve been doing is unneeded. It creates division and people hate that about politicians.”
The issues Bowman described as unneeded were welfare, child support and women’s health services debates.
“I had to tolerate it for two days and it’s frustrating,” Bowman said.
However a few of the bills discussed during the previous week at the statehouse did garner debate during Saturday’s forum.
The House passed Tax Incremental Financing reform last week, restricting the type of projects that cities and counties can use TIF funds in the future.
The bill also limits new Urban Renewal areas and adds reporting and auditing requirements. As an economic development tool, TIF funds allow cities or counties to freeze taxes on a property within a TIF district. Taxes collected on the property are taken away from other taxing entities.
While Olson was for the measure, Bowman and Wolfe were against it.
“I would rather do less, than punish folks who use it right,” Bowman said.
All three legislators said Clinton area districts utilize the funds as intended, but they noted other places where abuses were happening. Olson mentioned that some places in Scott County are costing school districts money by abusing the TIF system.
However, Wolfe and Bowman said they would rather see more information and make a decision later on limiting local government’s ability to use TIFs.
School start date
Another controversial issue exiting the House last week involved setting a regimented school start date on the fourth Monday in August.
Currently, the law states that schools are allowed to open during the week of Sept. 1. However, districts can apply for waivers from the Iowa Department of Education for an earlier date. Of the state’s 351 districts, 346 of them received a waiver last year to begin school ahead of the date, according to the Iowa Department of Education.
The Senate likely won’t take up the issue, but the passage of the bill in the House is good news for tourism industry officials, who have lobbied for a later school start date for years.
Bowman indicated that he favored local control, while Wolfe favored the system that currently is in place.
“If there’s a problem with too many waivers, then we should talk to the Department of Education,” Wolfe said. “We should use discretion."