Bill Dotzler

Bill Dotzler

Two Senate committees have approved a $500 tax credit for gas stations that install devices that let disabled motorists summon a station employee to pump their gas. The legislation would not require all Iowa gas stations to install “refueling assistance devices” on pumps, but any station upgrading its equipment would have to do so. Stations with just one employee would not have to comply.

Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says having a specially equipped vehicle that allows a disabled person to drive isn’t enough if they can’t fill the vehicle with gas.

“They’re kind of isolated and it’s a real problem,” Dotzler says.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, Democrat from Iowa City, says this is a “reasonable approach” to a growing concern.

“There’s like 760,000 Baby Boomers in Iowa and I think increasingly people are going to need assistance if they’re going to be independent and able to drive their cars in old age,” Bolkcom says.

Senator Rita Hart, a Democrat from Wheatland, worked on similar legislation that passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House. She says changes in the bill may make it “more palatable.”

“We’ve really tried to work with all the stakeholders and tried to come up with something that will work in the business world, but will truly make a difference to disabled people,” Hart says.

The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means tax-writing Committee today on a 12-2 vote. Senator Michael Breitbach, a Republican from Strawberry Point who voted against the bill, says convenience stores with two employees will find it difficult to comply.

“You’d have to take one person out of the kitchen if they’re preparing food, deep fat fryer going, they’d have to leave that station to go run the cash register and the other person would have to go outside,” he says.

Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, was the other “no” vote in committee.

“When you start this with gas stations, are we also going to have clothing stores bringing product out and receiving payment? Are we going to have Walmart getting calls from handicapped spots in the parking lot?” Schultz says. “This bill wouldn’t require that, but this bill opens up the door to something that I think is up to the business owner to attract business or provide additional services and, in fact, in our small towns I see people doing this already.”

The bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee last week by a unanimous vote. It is now eligible for debate in the full Senate.