State Senator: Hotel/Motel bill bounced between chambers

I would like to add some additional insight to Rep. Mary Wolfe's opinion piece about the Hotel/Motel bill. I filed this bill in Ways & Means in the Senate in February.

I worked with our staffer, who has been working on Iowa Tax Code for 18 years. She worked closely with the Department of Revenue, and they both agreed that we needed to define "Landlord Tenant Relationship" so there would be no confusion on who should be paying Hotel/Motel Tax. I forwarded an email to Representatives Wolfe, Mommsen and Hite (who floor managed the bill in the House) that the Department of Revenue preferred the language in the Senate bill.

We can all agree that it is frustrating that a bill that was submitted and ready to go in February didn't make it to the floor calendar until the last week, but in my first year I learned a lot about the many moving parts involved in getting things done. When the House passed it over, it had made it out of sub-committee in the Senate, but not out of Committee, so we needed to get "unanimous consent" in order to put it on the agenda. In order to get that, the Senate Democrats requested that non-profits like the Ronald McDonald House (or other long-term stay facilities for hospital stays) be exempted. I thought that was quite reasonable and in order to get it on the agenda, and we accepted the amendment. The bill passed in the Senate with only one no vote and it was passed back to the House, who amended it back to their version, except with the Ronald McDonald language still in, and sent it back to the Senate.

Additionally, there was another amendment from one of our Senators from the Lake Okoboji area that was dropped because it added complexity to the bill that might have stalled it. When we found that out, we took it out immediately.

Rep. Wolfe is right – one sentence in this one page bill hung it up. The Senate agreed with the Department of Revenue that the language was needed, and the two Representatives in the House that are both lawyers (Hite and Wolfe) disagreed as Rep. Wolfe illustrated in her opinion piece. It is too bad that the two chambers couldn't resolve it before it got bounced back and forth twice and then finally died without resolution and adjournment.

The good news is that during the course of this session, we were able to educate and gain support for the bill from legislators across the state, which allowed it to pass both Chambers in a bi-partisan manner. I have the assurances from Senate leadership that we will get this issue resolved over the interim and done early next session. As this is the first time Hotel/Motel has been passed out of the Senate and we were so close this year, I am optimist and will work hard to make sure that is the case.

Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, represents District 49 in the Iowa Senate.