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The Linn County Board of Supervisors approved Linn County’s 2021 state legislative priorities (PDF). These priorities were developed with input from Linn County department heads and elected officials, and through review of the Iowa State Association of Counties proposals. Linn County will work to advance these priorities during the 2021 Iowa legislative session that began Jan. 11, 2021.
Linn County’s top seven legislative priorities are:
Property Tax Backfill
Honor the state’s commitment to fund local governments with the property tax backfill implemented by the legislature as a part of the commercial and industrial property tax rollback. Reduction or elimination of the backfill will reduce local government revenue and result in a residential and agricultural property tax increase and/or diminished local services.
Mental Health and Disability Services
Implement a stable long-term funding mechanism for the regional mental health and disability services (MH/DS) system that allows regions to satisfy increasing mandates and expectations for services. Local property taxes cannot adequately provide for expanded regional responsibilities. To that end, Linn County requests the following:
Emergency Medical Services
Support passage of legislation intended to provide better coverage and adequate funding of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in unincorporated areas by allowing county Boards of Supervisors to declare EMS an essential service and the ability to put in place a specifically designated voter-approved property tax to fund its operation. These state funds should be available for life-saving training and equipment to rural first-responder personnel in areas without ambulance service, and regardless of their affiliation with an EMS system.
Social, Criminal & Racial Justice Reform
Review and implement the recommendations of the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, develop and implement policies for law enforcement on anti-racial profiling, and pass additional legislation to address needed hate crime statutory classifications.
Oppose any legislative change to the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) that reduces benefits for past, present or future public employees. The IPERS system is financially healthy and IPERS benefits attract and retain a quality workforce.
Derecho Recovery & Investment
Establish a Derecho Recovery & Investment Fund to “Releaf Iowa” for the 23 counties included in state and federal disaster declarations for the significant task of reestablishing tree canopy destroyed by the derecho. The fund would operate similarly to the Community Attraction & Tourism (CAT), River Enhancement Community Attraction & Tourism (RECAT), or other programs like Vision Iowa or Enhance Iowa that require significant local government investment to leverage state appropriations. The state should promulgate rules and regulations to encourage the use of Iowa’s public and private nurseries for this “Releaf Iowa” community replanting initiative.
Establish a $1 Billion Pandemic Relief Fund that guarantees robust investment in everyday Iowans, local governments, schools, small business owners, and workers who have suffered economically and personally from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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While the full list of legislative priorities includes input from Linn County department heads and elected officials, members of the Board of Supervisors have identified their own areas of high priority. Linn County Supervisor Chair Stacey Walker’s priority is the pandemic relief framework to help Iowans struggling in the wake of COVID-19. Supervisor Ben Rogers’ priority is bringing long-term funding stability to Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services. Supervisor Zumbach’s priority is addressing unfunded and underfunded state mandates. Zumbach also noted that on a personal level he supports legislation to provide better coverage and adequate funding of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in unincorporated areas. Zumbach also noted that while he supports medical use of cannabis, he does not support full cannabis legalization.
“We know that people are hurting. We’re dealing with the pandemic, a sluggish economy, and the aftermath of an unprecedented derecho storm event. These legislative priorities will help bring much needed relief to the people of Linn County,” Linn County Board of Supervisors Chair Stacey Walker said.
Walker added, “Honoring the property tax backfill is significant, because without it, local government budgets would be devastated.”
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