REP. SALMON: Let Freedom ‘Stick It’ to COVID Vaccine Mandates

Those of us in support of a prohibition on COVID vaccine mandates by employers, as well as so many others who have lobbied, have gained enough ground with legislative leaders and with the governor so that now some action is being considered and discussed for the special session on Oct. 28th. The special session was set to take up the second redistricting map proposal. My hope is that it will also result in the protections for employees we have urged be put into place.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has issued an executive order doing just that: prohibiting any entity, including businesses from imposing a COVID vaccine requirement on employees. If in Iowa we can pass it through the legislature, that would be best. And so I hope that gets done.

What’s Next for Redistricting?

The legislature convened a special session on Oct. 5th to consider and act upon the proposed legislative and congressional district maps drawn by the Legislative Services Agency (LSA). The proposed redistricting plan failed to pass in the Senate by a vote of 32-18.

Since the first map has been turned down, LSA will begin drawing a second redistricting plan taking into consideration the reasons the Senate cited for why the first plan was not considered. The Senate requested a plan that “better balances compactness with the legally mandated population deviation” to be considered when LSA drafts their second plan.

Based on the criteria provided by the Senate a new map will be drawn to address the Senate’s concerns of compactness of districts while still adhering to the legal requirements of ideal populations, respect for county and political subdivision (cities/townships) lines, compactness, contiguousness, no gerrymandering, etc. The second plan is scheduled to be released on Oct. 21.

The legislature will vote on the proposed second plan on Oct. 28th. In order to be enacted, both chambers would need to pass the plan with a constitutional majority and then be signed into law by the Governor.

Contrary to partisan rhetoric, failure to enact the first map is not unprecedented nor an attempt to bypass the established nonpartisan process Iowa uses to adopt new legislative maps. The redistricting process Iowa uses, which has been called the “Gold Standard” in comparison to other states, has been in effect since 1981. Four times the state’s legislative and congressional districts have been redrawn and the first map was not enacted in 1981 and 2001. In 2001, the Senate also voted against enacting the first map and the second proposed plan was enacted into law later that session. In 2001 the issue of compactness of districts was also cited as a focus to address in plan two. In 1981, both plan one and plan two failed to be enacted before the third proposed plan was enacted without amendment.

When enacting a map that will set the legislative and congressional districts that determine Iowans’ representation in Des Moines and Washington, DC for a decade it is important to consider all factors required by law and to ensure that a fair map is enacted.

Iowa’s Strong Economy Drives State Revenue Higher Than Predicted

Fiscal Year 2021 was a very good year for the state of Iowa, as state revenue far exceeded even the rosiest of expectations. Net General Fund revenue to the state in Fiscal Year 2021 was $8.8006 billion dollars, an increase of $870 million over what the state collected in the previous year, which is 11% growth. The Fiscal Year 2021 revenue amount was well ahead of what the non-partisan Revenue Estimating Conference projected in March.

State General Fund appropriations for the fiscal year were $7.8089 billion, which means state revenue exceeded spending by $991.7 million. When that difference is added to the FY 2020 ending balance which was carried into FY 21 ($246.9 million), it means the state ended Fiscal Year 2021 with a balance of $1.2386 billion.

Because the state ended the fiscal year with a positive fund balance, money is distributed to the state’s savings accounts. The first step with that balance will be to pay performance of duty costs (state share of disaster aid payments), which is $26.5 million.

The second step is to fill the Cash Reserve Fund and the Economic Emergency Fund to their required levels of a combined 10 percent of the General Fund Budget. For Fiscal Year 2022, the Cash Reserve Fund will have $612.6 million in its account and the Economic Emergency Fund will have $204.2 million.

The third step in the accounting process for Fiscal Year 2021 will be to make the required deposit into the Taxpayer Relief Fund. Iowa Code says that the amount deposited in the Taxpayer Relief Fund is the difference between actual net General Fund revenue and the adjusted revenue estimate used in establishing the budget for that fiscal year. That is a little less than $1 billion.

The remaining amount of FY 21 General Fund collections, coming to $233.3 million, will be the ending balance carried forward into FY 2022.

The strong performance of Iowa’s economy in the midst of the COVID pandemic was the main driver of the state’s revenue growth. This is shown by the significant growth in net revenue from sales and use tax (+13.1%) and corporate income tax (+27.9%). These two groups provided $516 million of the FY 21 revenue growth.

Since the books were closed on Fiscal Year 2021, the October Revenue Estimating Conference has met. They have raised the FY 22 (this fiscal year) estimate to $8.9 billion.

Mask Mandate Court Case

Governor Reynolds is appealing a preliminary injunction issued by a federal district court judge in the court case over our mask mandate law for schools. For now schools are allowed to impose mask mandates while the case makes its way through the federal courts. Our law passed last May had supported parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their children and banned schools’ issuing mask mandates. The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide on the preliminary injunction.

UNI Disciplines Professor over Mask Mandate

UNI biology Professor Steve O’Kane told students in his class he would lower their grades if they refused to wear a mask. This is unacceptable behavior of a professor toward students, threatening to retaliate against them for a personal choice they make. It’s a violation of university and Board of Regents policies as well as state law. This certainly also violates the atmosphere of respect for 1st Amendment rights of students that the legislature, the Regents, and the universities have all been emphasizing in an effort to shift the culture of disrespect and intolerance for differing viewpoints that has developed at the schools.

Professor O’Kane has been removed from teaching the class where he threatened lower grade. No grades had been given out and the new instructor will be in charge of grades. He has been sent a disciplinary letter that will be put in his personnel file. He will be getting the lowest performance review that can be given by the university, which makes him ineligible for merit pay. Additional training on professional behavior and university and board policies is required to be given him.

In the professor’s comments to newspapers, he demonstrated a defiant attitude saying he will impose another mask mandate if he should be given the chance to teach in-person again. This is an unprofessional, unacceptable attitude to display and makes him a bad reflection on the university. If he doesn’t want to abide by the university standards, which is what taxpayers expect as expressed by state law, he should find a place to work not funded by tax money.

UNI under President Nook has taken some good action regarding respect for rights of students and campus members and unfortunately it appears it will take more action to turn things around.

Property Taxes
From Tax Education Foundation – Walt Rogers

Making an already stressful situation worse is receiving that little white envelope from the local county treasurer’s office. High property taxes make it difficult for many Iowans to stay financially afloat.

Since 2000, Iowa property taxes have increased 122 percent more than population, inflation, and cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security. According to The Tax Foundation, Iowa has the 10th highest property tax burden in the nation.

Often, the county Assessor gets blamed for these increases. However, it is local government spending that is at the heart of the problem.

Many local governments continue to hide behind increased assessments to support their out-of-control spending. This creates an “honesty gap” in property taxes leaving many taxpayers wondering why they are told taxes have decreased, but their actual property tax bill has increased.

Iowa needs a commonsense solution; it needs Truth-In-Taxation. Since 1985, Utah’s Truth-in-Taxation law has provided sustainable property tax relief to its citizens by slowing property tax growth.

Truth-in-Taxation is a revenue-based limitation, meaning as valuations increase, property tax rates automatically decrease. This law guarantees that each taxing entity receives the same property tax revenues as the previous year, including new growth. This prevents local governments from getting an automatic windfall simply because valuations have increased.

If a local government wants to exceed the certified tax rate, it requires a Truth-in-Taxation hearing accompanied by an extensive public notification and hearing process. As part of the public notification process, taxpayers receive a direct notice explaining how a potential increase will impact their property tax bill. This process also forces local government officials to take recorded votes to approve an increase in tax collections.

Rusty Cannon, President of the Utah Taxpayers Association, argues that Utah’s law provides “sunlight” on the budgeting process. Cannon noted that while “decisions can be made to raise taxes, the law simply requires that it’s done in the sunlight—that you essentially need to make your case to voters, to taxpayers, as to why the increase in revenue is needed.”

Truth-in-Taxation forces accountability, and it makes taxing authorities think twice about raising taxes. “You do it in a public setting; you notify them of what their liability increase will be on a parcel-by-parcel basis, so everybody has that full disclosure. So, there’s no automatic inflation that creeps in. There’s no automatic step-up (or) windfall if property values increase. It keeps a lid on those property taxes. However, if they do want to raise them, they simply have to do it in that public process,” stated Cannon.

Truth-in-Taxation provides greater accountability and transparency which will improve local government.

Feel free to contact me with ideas, thoughts, and concerns. You can email me at [email protected] I want to hear what you are thinking and will listen to your input. Together we will work to make a difference for the future of Iowa. Thank you very much for the honor of representing you!

Author: Sandy Salmon