Tax exemption amendment and newborn screenings



R-District 6, Vail

Coldddddddddddddddd. Twenty below has not happened in the seven years I have served in the Senate. But things were still hot in the Capitol. Subcommittees were meeting every day.

I chaired two subcommittees on Thursday. SF 5 would remove the automatic property tax exemption for forest reserves. Arguments for and against the bill were made to the committee by 25 different representatives of groups involved with timber sales, soil conservation and water quality, to name a few.

The original bill was passed into code in 1924. I did not sponsor SF 5, but was assigned by the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee as the floor manager. The desire of the legislator who sponsored the bill was to help many of our smaller counties in the southern part of Iowa reign in a costly property tax dollars exemption. The southern counties have the lion’s share of Iowa’s natural forests. The county general fund pays for roads, police and fire protection, mental health services and many other servies. Those small counties are also experiencing purchasing of tracts of forested areas by out-of-state buyers whose intent is not contribute to the tax base at all because of this exemption in the code. I believe the job of granting or denying this exemption should fall to the county board of supervisors. I am asking for that amendment before moving the bill along. This will restore local control and end an unfunded mandate that has existed since 1924.

My second subcommittee was SF 60. This is a metabolic newborn screening panel bill that would match Iowa’s panel to the federal panel. This screening of newborns is a blood test of newborns during the first 48 hours of life and would test for 25 life-threatening conditions that may be present but not normally a problem that require treatment before their symptoms take effect and often become fatal to the child.

There are over 5,000 deaths per year caused by these diseases. The tests would be made by the state hygienic lab. Startup costs are quite high and are a concern for several senators, but at this time I am very supportive of the bill. A neighbor of mine and a constituent lost their baby and brought this issue to me. The disease was called spinal muscular atrophy and it is now being recommended to the state screening panel.

I serve as the vice chair of the Human Resources Committee, as well as the Natural Resources & Environment and Local Government committees. Please feel free to contact me at 515-281-3371 or by email at