Property tax reform is at the top of the list of topics discussed but later tabled by the 2011 Iowa Legislature. The governor and leaders of both political parties began 2011 agreeing that property tax reform was at the top of the legislature’s agenda. Six months later, nothing was accomplished because of split control at the statehouse.
Iowans elected a Republican governor last fall and Republicans hold a 20-seat advantage over Democrats in the Iowa House. But the Iowa Senate is still controlled by Democrats, who hold a two-seat advantage there. The two parties in the legislature had different approaches on the issue and the governor had another.
In the end, a compromise was elusive. Governor Branstad hasn’t ruled out the idea of calling legislators back to Des Moines later this year for a “special session” to deal with the property tax issue. “We’ll see,” Branstad says. “I’m not going to make any decision on that in the short term.”
Lawmakers debated establishing limits or even banning so-called “red light” cameras, but shelved that topic as well. Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says he’s fielded hundreds of complaints about the cameras — and the very pricey tickets.
“I think it’s very disappointing,” Zaun says. “…I’m going to make a heck of a run for it next year and I’m not going to give up until we get, minimally, some limitation on what these cities can charge.”Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, suggests the cameras are working to reduce speeds and curb red-light-runners.
“We live in modern times,” Danielson says. “We should take advantage of modern technology if we can protect the public that way.” The top policy accomplishment of the General Assembly was approval of a massive plan that reconfigures legislative and congressional district lines. The redistricting plan is based on the new data from the 2010 Census. The 2011 legislature made dove hunting legal in Iowa, too.
Senator Dick Dearden of Des Moines, an avid hunter, got a little emotional when the bill passed the senate in March. “This is something that I’ve been very passionate about over the years and I’m glad this day has finally come,” Dearden said. Another legislator who’s hunted for doves in other states told his colleagues how to cook dove: wrap the dove breast in bacon, he said.
Opponents legislators rushed the bill through in less than 24 hours, giving critics little time to mount a campaign to defeat the bill.