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Iowa Politics Roundup: “Religious Conscience Bill” Looks Unlikely to Move Forward - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 11 February 2011 13:59

Legislative Leaders Welcome Discussion of Repealing Bottle Bill

A bill that would repeal Iowa’s 1978 bottle bill will advance to the full House Environmental Protection Committee, despite opponents of the law saying they never asked for a repeal.

“We need to look at curbside recycling,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) said Thursday. “I’m not under any illusion that that’s a bill that ends up on the governor’s desk this year. But I think that’s a discussion that needs to take place. ... [The bottle bill] has served the state extremely well, but no one even contemplated curbside recycling at that point in time.”

Bills proposed in both the Iowa House and Senate would repeal Iowa’s beverage-container-control law (more commonly known as the “bottle bill”), which requires Iowans to pay a 5-cent deposit on cans and bottles for all carbonated and alcoholic beverages. That money is returned if Iowans bring the empty containers to a grocery store or redemption center.

Representative Ross Paustian (R-Walcott), a farmer and the bill’s floor manager, said Thursday that the bill will be brought out of subcommittee next week and taken to the full committee, although he acknowledged that it could die there.

“I think it’s a mess at the grocery stores,” Paustian said. “My daughter used to work at a couple of Hy-Vees, so she knows firsthand what it’s like, and she’s relayed that to me many times. I’d like to see the grocery stores do what they do best, and that’s sell healthy, wholesome, safe foods. So it’s a burden for them. I just think with the recycling programs we have, we are way ahead of when the bill was passed. We had nothing back then.”

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association and the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa are among those backing the bill.

“We think that it’s time to move to a different system,” said Scott Sundstrom, a lobbyist for the Iowa Grocery Industry Association. “We have never asked for a repeal of the bottle bill standing alone. We think we need to go a better system.”

Sara Bixby, director of the South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency, argued against repeal of the bottle bill.

“By repealing the bottle bill and going with something as proposed here, you’re gutting everything that we’ve done for the last 20 years on our current recycling programs, on our current composting programs,” she said. “This is not the right place to start.”

Jim Obradovich, a lobbyist for the Iowa Recycling Association, Redemption Centers of Iowa, Iowa Society of Solid Waste Operations, and the Iowa Environmental Council, said repealing Iowa’s bottle bill would close 70 redemption centers and cause at least 200 people to lose their jobs.

“I don’t think that’s the policy we want to have in the state of Iowa, especially during tough economic times – passing legislation that specifically closes these facilities and put these people out of work,” he said.

Senate Majority Gronstal welcomed the discussion about possible repeal of the bottle bill.

“I think people are engaged in a very serious education campaign about the next generation of recycling efforts in this state and what makes the most sense in terms of keeping things out of landfills, doing more recycling,” Gronstal said. “I think it’s a good discussion to be had. Whether they’ve got the right bill remains to be seen, but I commend them for introducing the bill.”

Recall Bill Dies in Subcommittee

A bill that would have allowed for the recall of elected officials in Iowa was rejected by a House subcommittee on a 2-1 vote.

“School-board members make really tough decisions. They close buildings. They merge with other districts. They whole-grade share with other districts,” said Mary Gannon of the Iowa Association of School Boards. “They are making the tough decisions at the ground level. ... We shouldn’t be kicking those people out of office for making the right decisions for what’s best for the kids in their district.”

House File 177 would have allowed for the recall of an elected official by the electors of that political subdivision or election district. A petition for recall must have the signatures equal to at least 20 percent of the total votes cast for the office in question – with a minimum of 50 signatures required. If the office-holder does not resign from office, a recall election will be held.

“We don’t have a recall process in the state of Iowa. There’s several other states that do have a recall process,” said Representative Nick Wagner (R-Marion), who proposed the legislation. He said a recall process would give “voters an extra voice.”

But Representative John Wittneben (D-Estherville), a former city council member, sharply criticized the bill as “quite ridiculous” and said it would discourage people from running for elected office. He said he didn’t see making an unpopular call as a just reason for a recall. He also said the cost of the proposed special recall elections would bankrupt small counties.

“On our city council, when we started banning burning barrels, everybody in town came out of the woodwork, and they didn’t want that to happen. And after it happened, everybody realized it was a good thing. But if we had been subject to recall, we’d have lost everybody on our city council,” Wittneben said. “You really think people are going to want to serve on the school board or the city council knowing that every time they make an unpopular decision, they’re going to be recalled?”

New Report Sees Inefficiency in Business Tax Breaks

In a report titled “Wrong Diagnosis, Wrong Remedy – Iowa Business Taxes Are Already Low,” Peter Fisher of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership argues that business tax breaks are an expensive and inefficient way to attempt to stimulate a state economy.

“Proponents of business tax breaks claim that taxes are a significant factor in the location choices of businesses, and that a state can tax-cut its way to economic growth and generate tax revenue in the process,” the report says. “As we will see, there are good reasons to be skeptical of such a claim, and several decades of research on the relation between state taxes and growth confirm that such claims are vastly overblown and sometimes completely misleading. Business tax breaks turn out to be an expensive and inefficient way to attempt to stimulate a state economy.”

The report says there is a strong case for state taxation of corporations, which benefit from the investments that state government has made in education, infrastructure, and public-safety services.

It says tax breaks will have little if any positive effect on private-sector employment, because they only have a small impact on business costs, while much larger considerations include production costs and location.

“In fact, the revenue losses may well produce immediate public-sector job losses,” the report says. “Furthermore, the private-sector-employment effects of such tax cuts could be reduced or even eliminated by a long-term deterioration in the quality of public services, which themselves have been shown to be important to businesses making location decisions, and which provide an important part of the foundation for the state economy.”

The report comes as Governor Branstad has proposed cutting the small-business income-tax rate in half and making it a flat 6 percent, at a cost to the state of $200 million. He’s also proposed reducing commercial property taxes by 40 percent over the next five years, taxing new investment at 60 percent of its valuation, and rolling back taxes on existing commercial property by 8 percent a year over five years for a cost of $500 million.

This weekly summary comes from, an online government and politics news service.

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