Iowa Politics Today: Branstad's ten bill day, tax payers feeling property assessment blues

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A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Thursday April 21, 2017:

NEW JOB: Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that Iowa Veterans Home Commandant Jodi Tymeson will take over as the new executive director of the Iowa Department Veterans Affairs on May 1. Previously, Tymeson was named chief operating officer of the Iowa Veterans Home in May 2013 and then promoted to commandant five months later. Tymeson served in the Iowa Army National Guard from 1974 to 2007. She also served as a full-time sixth grade teacher at Cedar Heights Elementary in Cedar Falls from 1988-1992 and taught as a substitute teacher from 1993-1998. From 2001-2010, Tymeson served as a state representative for Madison, Warren and Dallas Counties. The governor’s office has begun a search for a new commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

DOUBLE DIGIT DAY: Gov. Terry Branstad today signed 10 bills into law Thursday, including HF 263, domestic abuse and stalking through the use of unauthorized global positioning device.

“This is probably the biggest bill-signing day,” Branstad said, pointing to more than 100 pens set out on his desk as he prepared to sign the legislation. “I mean, more pens than I’ve probably used in any previous session.” He has signed nearly 90 bills so far this year

The governor also signed “Pippa’s Bill, SF 51 that calls for testing newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus or CMV.

To see all of the bills, visit https://governor.iowa.gov/bills-signed-into-law.

TRANSITION FUNDS: A catchall budget bill working its way through the legislative process calls for setting aside $150,000 to cover expenses associated with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds transition to governor when Gov. Terry Branstad resigns to become U.S. ambassador to China.

Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, said the governor’s office requested $150,000 to cover the costs associated with the changeover and paying exit packages for departing Branstad staff. Democrats tried unsuccessfully to strip the expenditure in a standing appropriations bill for the fiscal year that begins July 1, calling the line item “excessive,” “wasteful” and “unnecessary,” but Republicans noted the state has provided transition money for previous occasions when Iowa at a leadership change at the top executive office.

Although the budget for the Governor’s Office is $2.2 million, Reynolds said Thursday the funds would be needed to cover staff turnover, technology changes and potential for travel and supplies associated with the transition.

“It’s ‘up to $150,000,’” she added, so the costs could be less.

The $150,000 is six times what the Legislature budget for Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 1998, but less than the $170,000 for Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in 2007.

ASSESSMENT PROTESTS: Public outcry over high property assessments and valuations from taxpayers around Iowa prompted legislators to make changes to the current process for protesting local assessor’s orders.

Members of the Iowa Senate voted 50-0 Thursday to approve House File 478 after amending it to make it easier for taxpayers to contest large assessment spikes, making it easier to remove aggressive, poorly performing “rogue” assessors and shifting the burden from taxpayers to assessors to justify property values.

“There’s been so much angst and discussion among taxpayers. They all got their assessments this past few weeks and they’re very bitter. They’re saying, ‘Hey, Legislature, you have to do something, this is ridiculous,’” said Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, who pushed for the changes to HF 478 that won unanimous Senate approval. The bill makes it easier for property owners to contest their high evaluation by allowing one appraisal to give them more time to protest an assessment that likely will increase their tax liability. Feenstra said the changes are designed to better balance the current property assessment process.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I believe that we have accomplished more significant legislation in this session than any session I have been involved with,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake,

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