Government

Talking taxes, impaired driving, fuel prices and more: Iowa Capitol Digest for April 19

The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Thursday, April 19, 2018:

TALKING TAXES: “We’re still talking, we’re still working … and that’s how you get to consensus,” Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Thursday, April 19, 2018, in her Capitol office after a meeting with legislative leaders on tax reform efforts. “We’re going to keep meeting and walking through that and it’s my goal to get a tax bill done this year.”

Reynolds is negotiating with House and Senate leaders over the competing plans offered by the governor and both chambers — with cuts ranging from $1.3 billion to $2 billion over five years.

She thinks there’s general agreement on the framework for tax reform. “It’s just how we get there, when we get there and what the details look like.”

Negotiations reportedly center on how the final approach is implemented, what elements to include and in what time frame so Iowans get the full benefit of federal income tax cuts and additional state relief.

IOWA GOLF: With representatives of the PGA Iowa Section, Iowa Golf Association and Iowa Turfgrass Institute on hand, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation Thursday recognizing the economic, environmental and health benefits of golf.

According to the associations, golf contributes $817 million of direct, indirect and induced economic output, 11,435 jobs, $280 million in compensation and $72 million in state and local tax revenue. Iowa golf facilities hosted charity events that raised almost $29 million. Gold courses are responsible users of green space that provide habitat for plants and wildlife as well as a filer for runoff and cooling effect on developed areas.

Walking an 18-hole golf course is equivalent a five- to seven-mile walk that will burn up to 2,000 calories, according to the golf associations.

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DRUG-IMPAIRED DRIVING: Officials with the Iowa State Patrol say they plan to participate in a six-state drug-impaired driving enforcement campaign that has the theme: “Driving High? Kiss Your License Goodbye!” Patrol officials say that like drunken driving, drugged driving is impaired driving, which means it is illegal in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Whether the drug is obtained legally or illegally, driving while drug-impaired poses a threat to the driver, vehicle passengers and other road users, according to officials in the state Department of Public Safety. Between Friday and Sunday, the Iowa State Patrol will join participating law enforcement from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma in a six-state drug-impaired driving enforcement campaign aimed at curtailing the illegal activity. Patrol officials say research has been proven that THC — the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects — slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane. Driving while impaired by any substance is illegal and can be deadly to the driver and other road users, according to DPS officials.

FUEL PRICES UP IN IOWA: Officials with the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship say the price of diesel fuel in Iowa is on the rise, increasing four cents to end the week at $2.97 per gallon. Nationally, diesel fuel prices rose five cents to $3.02 per gallon. One year ago diesel prices averaged $2.50 in Iowa. The change was driven in part by rising global crude oil prices. As of Tuesday, AAA reported that the price of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.59 a gallon, a seven-cent increase from last week and 23 cents higher than one year ago. The national average also was seven cents higher at $2.73 a gallon. Turning to heating fuels, natural gas prices rose 14 cents, ending the week at $2.83/mmBtu.

MORE TOBACCO MONEY FOR IOWA: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced the tobacco companies involved in the 1998 landmark settlement with multiple states including Iowa transferred about $50.9 million to the state treasury on Thursday. In the last 20 years, Iowa has received more than $1.2 billion in payments under the settlement. Miller said Iowa will continue to receive annual Master Settlement Agreement payments — the largest settlement in U.S. history — in perpetuity, based on the number of cigarettes sold in the United States. “Our office carefully monitors and aggressively enforces this agreement so Iowa gets its fair share of the settlement,” Miller said in a statement. “We are pleased to see the results through this year’s payment, particularly in light of the state’s difficult budget situation.” About $11.2 million of this year’s payment — or 22 percent — will go to the state. The 78 percent remainder will be used principally to pay bondholders who bought bonds issued by the Tobacco Settlement Authority. In 1998, Miller and attorneys general of 45 states signed the MSA with the nation’s four largest tobacco companies to settle lawsuits to recover billions of dollars in state health care costs associated with treating smoking-related illnesses. This year’s payment came from 29 companies, including Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, Vector and Commonwealth Brands.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re not really taking a lead from the Irish Senate.” — Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, in response to a motion passed Thursday by the Irish Senate in recognition of Storm Lake Times Editor Art Cullen — whose ancestors came from Ireland — for winning a Pulitzer Prize last year prompted by his editorials that challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa. A similar Iowa Senate resolution honoring Cullen has not been taken up by the GOP-run chamber.

—Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau

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