New Iowa laws affect drivers, taxpayers

Measures taking effect Wednesday affect young drivers, renewal periods

Drivers, young and old, as well as Iowa taxpayers who own businesses or draw wages will ring in 2014 with some new state laws affecting them.

While most laws passed by the Iowa Legislature during the 2013 session and signed by Gov. Terry Branstad took effect last July 1, a few measures carried Jan. 1 effective dates or 2014 implications.

One change that takes effect Wednesday affects young, inexperienced drivers operating motor vehicles on Iowa roadways under a provisional license or an instructional or school permit. A two-pronged law passed last session requires longer instruction time behind the wheel and attempts to reduce distractions caused by multiple passengers in a vehicle being driven by a novice.

“Motor vehicle crashes kill more teens than anything else,” Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, wrote in his constituent newsletter. “Changes to Iowa’s graduated driver’s license system taking effect in 2014 will help keep our teen drivers and all Iowans safe on the roads.”

One provision which affects all young drivers applying for an intermediate license after Jan. 1 increases the time -- from six months to a full year -- they are required to carry an instruction permit before they can apply for an intermediate license.

The new law gives drivers aged 14-16 years of age who are issued instructional permits twice the amount of time behind the wheel to learn from an experienced driver, according to Mark Lowe, director of the state Department of Transportation’s motor-vehicle division. It also allows for that driving practice to take place across all driving conditions and seasons, he said.

Another provision of Senate File 115 seeks to reduce distractions for young drivers by limiting to one the number of unrelated minor passengers that can ride with an unsupervised driver during the first six months after being issued an intermediate license. The limit does not apply to a young driver being supervised by an adult, and parents can seek to waive this restriction at the time that an intermediate license is issued.

“I don’t think those are going to make earth-shattering changes for young drivers, but over the long term I think it’s going to be an improvement in our graduated driver’s license system,” Lowe said.

The new law also limits a young driver with a minor school license – even if the license was issued before Jan. 1, 2014 -- to one unrelated minor passenger when driving without adult supervision. Unlike the intermediate license restriction, this restriction applies as long as the young driver holds a minor school license and cannot be waived.

“We know that the first six months are the riskiest and we know that distracted driving behaviors and risky behaviors increase significantly when teens have unrelated minor passengers in the car, so we want to reduce that risk for the first six months,” Lowe said.

DOT officials note that an unrelated minor child is defined as someone that is not the young driver’s brother or sister, step-brother or sister, or a child living in your household. The definition of adult supervisor as it relates to the new state mandate means the young driver’s parent, guardian, or custodian, an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years old with written permission from the parent, guardian, or custodian. Also, the supervising adult must sit in the front passenger seat while the novice is driving.

Another new law taking effect Wednesday will allow DOT officials to transition from driver’s licenses that are valid for five years to ones that are valid for eight years – a change that they say should save customers time and money.

Since the switch is a long-term DOT strategy, Lowe noted that not all of Iowa’s 1.1 million licensed drivers will receive an eight-year license during the transition period through 2018.

“During that time, the Iowa DOT’s issuance system will randomly assign customers five-, six-, seven-, and eight-year licenses designed to equally spread renewal volumes over an eight-year period,” he said.

The yearly fee for licenses will not change, with basic yearly fees remaining at $4 per year for a noncommercial license, $8 per year for a commercial driver’s license, and $2 per year for a motorcycle endorsement.

As required under the new legislation, a license issued to a driver younger than age 72 cannot exceed the person’s 74th birthday. At age 72, licenses shift to two-year renewal periods. Also, licenses issued to minors and persons who are temporary foreign nationals are not included in the transition and have shorter renewal periods set by other statutes.

Identification cards will not be included in the phased-transition. All identification cards issued after Jan. 1 will be valid for eight years and the fee will be $8.

For additional information or to watch an overview presentation about Iowa driver’s license types and fees, visit Iowa DOT’s website at:

Iowa lawmakers and the governor also approved the state largest tax cut in state history last session, which will have implications for commercial property owners and income earners when they file their tax returns in 2014 reflecting credits and liabilities for the 2013 tax year.

Thousands of commercial property owners in Iowa face a Jan. 15 deadline to apply in their counties for a new tax credit established in last session’s landmark tax legislation. However, qualifying property owners may not find out until August or September how much credit they’ll receive until it is known how many applicants were filed for the $50 million Iowa’s 99 counties receive from the state to create the new commercial property tax credit.

When the credit is fully phased in, bill’s architects projected that at least $145,000 of property value on every business would be taxed at the residential rate and almost two-thirds of the businesses receiving the credit would see their entire property value taxed at the residential rate.

Under the tax policy compromise, commercial and Industrial properties will be assessed at 95 percent of valuation retroactive to last Jan.1, then at 90 percent starting on Jan. 1, 2014 and each year thereafter. A 3 percent tax assessment growth limitation also was placed on residential and agricultural properties retroactive to last Jan. 1, instead of the 4 percent growth called for under the current rollback.

Another provision of the overall tax relief plan doubled the earned income tax credit for lower-income working families from the 7 percent to 14 percent in tax year 2013 and then to 15 percent in tax year 2014.Also, Iowa Department of Revenue officials already have announced that an income tax credit included in the 2013 tax relief package will amount to $54 for eligible individuals filing timely Iowa returns. For tax year 2013, the Iowa Department of Management has certified that $120 million is available in the Iowa Taxpayers Trust Fund Tax Credit Fund to be distributed as income tax credits calculated on the basis of 2.21 million returns having been filed in the 2012 tax year.

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