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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Statehouse Almanac

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Session Fatigue

"Repeal" said the electronic displays sitting high on the north and south walls overlooking the Senate floor.

"An Act relating to the repeal" begins the title to the bill before the Senate. "Repeal" the dictionary defines as to revoke or withdraw formally or officially; to revoke or annul by express legislative enactment. Thus began the wake for the local option sales tax for school infrastructure.

It was a short life in human terms; lasting little more than a decade. Perhaps, closer to a dog's life - a terrier's life. The beginning was just before the turn of the century up in northwest Iowa; Sioux City in Woodbury County. It was conceived to solve the infrastructure needs of the Sioux City school district. Neighboring counties called it unfair. It would be both embraced and given a cold shoulder before replicating across the state into every school district in every county.

School districts made a covenant with local voters. Schools would receive additional monies, use it for infrastructure needs, local citizens would have another vote in 10 years. Accountability and oversight were in place. The legislature broke that faith. It took away those local dollars and made them state dollars. Local officials no longer control those dollars; state officials do. A significant tax increase is included -- $32 million worth. All of the monies cease to become local dollars and become state dollars subject to the appropriation process of the state.

Future years will determine whether this legislation is a success or failure. Questions remain. Will the multi-millions generated by this state tax be spent for the intended purposes or diverted to others. While the motor vehicle use tax was not increased this year, this legislation seems to beg that it will be increased next year. Property tax relief is promised. Will it be realized? Is the substitution of one tax for another the proper approach? Will the tax relief fall short and spending just increase?

Now that the scheduled date for adjournment has passed, that means the per diem pay for legislators has stopped, the budget bills are moving rapidly. Sessions run deeper into the evenings. There are long periods of down time simply waiting for paperwork to catch up with floor action or negotiations to finalize. What is referred to as 'session fatigue' sets in. It is a time when mischief and mistakes can occur. That is not necessarily good for Iowa.

As the legislative session ends, the campaign begins. There is a President to choose along with many offices down ticket. Please do your part for this experiment in democracy we call America. Become knowledgeable of the issues and vote for your candidates.

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