As this is written, the 2015 Iowa Legislative Session is still plugging along, even though the per diem ran out May 1. The session has been interesting, with a wide budgetary disagreement gap between the split houses causing all sorts of stalling.
The Home Builders Association of Iowa came out of the gate with a priority list and fearless position-taking stance. We have taken positions 79 times, but as the session progressed a major portion of those died or were put on the back burner.
Overall some progress was made in regards to the issues affecting our industry, and more importantly, we weren’t really hurt by any bills either.
Topical legislation that we followed throughout the legislative session this year included first time homebuyer incentives, residential occupancy, mechanical licensing changes, and city zoning changes. We also kept track of competitive bidding procedures, radon testing and mitigation, property tax issues, environmental policies, and homeowner association laws. Plus we watched construction contracts, apprenticeship training, veteran homestead tax credits, low income housing, public construction projects, private sector drug testing, etc.
A few of our key initiatives included:
- Taxation: HBAI seeks to educate policy makers and the public on issues that will keep Iowa competitive and to ensure that future generations of Iowans have the opportunity of economic prosperity through home ownership. Property taxes are always at the top of the list.
- Housing Affordability: Our members are true patriots for housing affordability—they are small business owners under constant attack through unnecessary code changes and increased government regulation. These proposals drive up the cost of home ownership, which keeps Iowans trapped in less-efficient, less-safe existing housing.
Our efforts with the National Association of Home Builders resulted in a savings of $7,800 per housing start in 2014. Policy makers must be able to review proposed and existing regulations to confirm that they do not inhibit our housing affordability.
- Statute of Repose and Statute of Limitations: These are two different topics of discussion and we didn’t pursue the Limitations bill this year. There was a chance of a commercially oriented Statute of Repose bill, but it didn’t make it through the anti-tort reform, BAR Association led, Democrat controlled Senate.
We have the longest (15 years) Statute of Repose in the Country, benefitting only the legal community. Someday we will pass the Limitations bill, reducing from five years to three years for the discovery period. This is very important to the consumer, because the earlier that problem mitigation begins, the less overall damage there will be, reducing repair time, loss of use of the home, and a positive economic impact by reducing their insurance rates.
- Collaboration: We enthusiastically keep ahead of safety, energy, and health issues. As the industry evolves we prefer to collaborate and work within the market, rather than constantly change Iowa Code and Iowa Law. We believe that you cannot legislate out every bit of bad behavior in society and would prefer policy and procedures changes, further defining scope of practice, and enhancing city and states rights.
The session this year was full of interesting topics like African hair braiding, Rhino horn limitations, beer definitions, dump truck license plate illumination, etc. Good things were done with complete bipartisan support of course, but it just seems like wasted time bringing every tiny bit of self-serving, constituent pleasing, favor fulfilled bills into the mix.
Governor Branstad’s priorities of raising the gas tax, anti-bullying, and broadband expansion will move forward. Let’s hope that they can agree on the revenue projections in order to move forward with the budgetary considerations. Some believe that this session will go into June.
As a member of the HBA federation, your livelihood may be adversely affected by restrictive legislation. As a member, you have the inside track on legislative pitfalls and political responsibility. We are heavily involved at the Federal level too and have an excellent, pro-home ownership contingency in Washington D.C. and are grateful for that. If you are involved in the housing industry, please be a part of our growing numbers and influential status as a member of our Federation.