As most Iowans remember from our high school government class, the role of the Iowa Legislature is to make laws at the state level. But did you know that the Iowa Legislature also passes legislation that affects our City Councils, Boards of Supervisors, Community College Boards of Trustees, and School Boards? If you have ever wondered about the decisions that they make or how certain money is spent, it is usually due to a piece of legislation that the General Assembly passed versus the choices of local entities.
If we look at the most current legislative session, an example of state legislation that impacts local entities is House File 2456. The following is the description that is provided on the Fiscal Note prepared by the Legislative Services Agency, “House File 2456 provides changes to two property-tax levies available to community-college districts. It allows both the Facilities Levy, established in Iowa Code section 260C.22, and the voter-approved portion of the Equipment Levy, established in Iowa Code section 260C.28, to be continued by resolution of the Board of Trustees without voter approval after a levy has been approved by voters for two consecutive elections and has been in place for 20 consecutive years. This Bill allows the Boards to continue each of the levies by resolution at the current rates for periods not exceeding 10 years. This Bill provides that levies renewed by resolution can be discontinued or the rate changed by petition of eligible electors and subsequent election.”
So both the House and Senate passed a bill that would allow community-college districts to extend these levies: both chambers felt that it was okay to remove your right to vote on the extension of the Equipment Levy as it is currently written in the Iowa Code. Luckily the Governor vetoed this piece of legislation. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the activities of our Legislature. It is not that voters don’t support community colleges, but they don’t support their vote being taken away.
Governor Branstad stated in his veto letter to Secretary of State Matt Schultz the following reasons for vetoing this bill, “Voters should have the power to approve or disapprove property-tax increases or continuing additional levies. When voters get to decide, it helps to hold everyone accountable. Typically, when these measures are on the ballot, they receive voter approval. Voters should have the opportunity to decide this important property-tax issue. Decision-making power in the hands of the voters helps for voters, communities and community colleges to work together to best serve the needs of the community.”
The Iowa Code is a collection of all the laws enacted by the Iowa General Assembly. This collection is what sets the rules under which city and county governments operate, the rules concerning budgeting, and what different funds can be spent on at the local level. Yet, most of us don’t even begin to understand and know about the laws that are included in this document. Additionally the Iowa Code includes the laws that govern our school boards, community-college districts, and regent universities. Check out the Iowa Code here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/
I hope after reading this article you will pause and take the time to check out what the Iowa Legislature is up to during the legislative cycle. For if the Governor had signed HF 2456, then one of our rights would have been eroded. While it is the Governor’s job to watch out for the rights of the citizens, it is also important for citizens to monitor what your elected officials are up to and remind them that they represent YOU and not their own interests!
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