A bill that would exempt the sales and use tax from the purchase price and installation costs of emergency generators used for power outages or natural disasters. All three representatives on the subcommittee agreed the bill wasn’t written clearly and if it would have a future it would need to be cleaned up.

The title of the bill and the bill itself did not match up. The title of the bill includes the installation costs, but nothing in the bill mentions it.

Dane Schumann of the Iowa Emergency Management Association said the group brought this bill forward after thinking for a couple years how to help people get more prepared for emergencies.

“Down in the Gulf states they have a couple sales tax holidays for emergency preparedness supplies,” Schumann said. “Here in Iowa it’s not hurricanes, but we’ve got winter and we’ve got blizzards and tornadoes and things like that kind of throughout the year. We thought we’d go at this kind of narrowly focused to try to exempt sales tax emergency generators for residential people only as a way to help them.”

Losing electricity can hinder and linger, especially in rural areas, Schumann said.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler asked what the difference was between an emergency generator and a regular generator. There wasn’t really an answer.

Rep. Dustin Hite asked how it would be policed to ensure that the generators were truly being used in emergency situations only.

Again, there was no real answer.

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s John Benson said power is considered lifeline critical infrastructure.

Scott Hansen of Benton County Emergency Management compared the tax-free opportunity to the tax-free weekend for school supplies.

“In 20 years we’ve had to set up shelters in our communities in our county more than 10 times because a lack of power due to various events,” Hansen said.

States with the program currently have not tracked information, he said, so the impact is unknown. Hansen said a whole-home generator installed costs $4,000-$7,000.

“I know the government spends a lot of money when we set up shelters,” he said.

He anticipated an offset in the reduction in sales tax revenue long term.

Rep. Wheeler expressed desire to get a fiscal impact done on the bill. He also echoed Rep. Hite’s concerns.

Schumann suggested putting something in the bill that related to whatever voltage would be necessary to produce energy for a house.

Rep. Timi Brown-Powers was the lone Democrat on the subcommittee.