December 09, 2021

Phasing out ‘backfill’ will devastate cities, Jasper County

In the Appropriations Committee last week, the majority party introduced House Study Bill 678 that would phase out “backfill” money the state has paid to cities and counties in the last few years. In 2013, the Iowa legislature passed a very large commercial property tax cut. To offset the resulting loss of revenue to local cities and counties, the state of Iowa promised to make up or “backfill” the amount, which totals $152 million annually. Over the last 3 years, Iowa has paid $391 million to local governments. But now, with the state facing extreme budget constraints, the legislature is considering ways to reduce the backfill. HSB 678 would phase the backfill down over four years. In this current fiscal year 2018, the backfill would remain $152 million. In FY 2019, the amount would be lowered to $100 million, followed by FY 2020 to $75 million, and FY 2021 to $50 million. In FY 2022 and the following years, the amount the backfill amount would be $25 million. This will have a devastating impact on our cities and county of Jasper.

The Public Safety Committee met on SF481, “An Act relating to the enforcement of immigration laws and providing penalties and remedies, including the denial of state funds to certain entities.” The impetus behind this bill is to make our communities safer. As a retired police officer, I applaud efforts to improve safety within our communities and am happy to work with others on this issue. This bill infers our law enforcement officials are not following state and federal laws, which is far from the truth. I have faith in our law enforcement professionals to enforce the laws and improve the quality of life for our citizens. After reaching out to multiple law enforcement professionals, I learned legislators did not reach out to them for valuable insight and information on this issue. Law enforcement personnel have worked with the laws in place on this issue and could educate legislators on what could be done to assist them.

In addition, this bill does not take into account the misplaced fear, perceptions and instability it could cause with our communities and law enforcement agencies. A piece of legislation like this should come with an educational component for both citizens and agencies. Community safety is of the utmost importance and we need to work together to propose legislation to assist those tasked to perform these duties. This is a complex issue with many factors. I would be happy to sit down with anyone to discuss how we can move forward to improve safety within our communities.

HF 2442 was brought to the floor of the House last Wednesday. The bill addresses concussions in student extracurricular activities and procedures concerning return to play. Concussions and repeated blows to the head have been linked to devastating long-term cognitive problems, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) among football players. The damage believed can start at a young age. CTE has been found in young adult hockey and football athletes after their deaths. HF 2442 requires that the Department of Public Health work with Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to develop training materials concerning recognition of possible head injury and return to play protocols.  Coaches and contest officials would be required to take training every other year. The measure overwhelmingly passed the House and goes to the Senate. The cooperation between the Iowa Brain Injury Alliance, Iowa Department of Public Health and the high school athletic groups is an example of cooperation between state agencies that can produce quality legislation.

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