As this is written, the 2016 Iowa Legislative Session is still plugging along, even though the per diem ran out April 19. The early attitude was to get done on time and move into campaign mode. It’s been interesting to participate in it and, once again, the politically split chambers haven’t meshed together with compromise.
The Home Builders Association of Iowa took positions on 71 bills and monitored many others. Most of our top tier concerns morphed into something else, died, or 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 included statute of limitations (discovery rule) time reduction, workforce development initiatives, tax coupling, water quality, environmental policy and concerns including topsoil issues, employment and minimum wage initiatives, tax and legal authority regarding real property, mandated carbon monoxide detection, competitive bidding procedures, property tax issues, environmental policies, common interest communities, construction contracts, low income housing, public construction projects, utility disclosures, renewable energy, licensing issues, 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 $5,700 per housing start in 2015. Policy makers must be able to review proposed and existing regulations to confirm that they do not inhibit our housing affordability.
- Statute of Repose & Statute of Limitations: These are two different topics of discussion and we didn’t pursue a Statute of Repose bill this year. There was a Statute of Limitations (Discovery Rule) bill that was in play, 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.
- Budget: This year legislators need to pass nine different budget bills—Administration/Regulation, Health/Human Services, Education, Economic Development, Infrastructure, Justice Systems, Agriculture/Natural Resources, Transportation, and Standings. Here is a timeline on what has transpired:
- In January, the Governor presented a budget that spent $7.412 billion.
- In early February, the Senate released its plan to spend $7.409 billion.
- In late February, the House announced it would only spend $7.320 billion.
- In mid-March, new revenue estimates showed the state can only legally spend $7.351 billlion.
- Now, legislative leaders are a long ways apart, post official end.
The Governor and Senate used earlier estimates to set their budgets, so they must drop their levels to stay within Iowa’s 99% budget law (we can only spend 99% of the money our state takes in during the year). The Governor announced his revised budget on March 31. Legislators continue to work on a joint budget, and have $176.7 million in new money to spend. Since the Legislature has decided to increase school funding by 2.25% ($153.8 million) there is ONLY $22.9 million left to allocate among all the budgets.
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.