DES MOINES — Dozens of new state laws go on Iowa’s books Monday.
Some could make an immediate impact. Others will not be noticeable for months.
Here are some of those new laws:
Soon Iowans will be able to cast legal bets on professional and college sporting events.
The new law goes into effect July 1, but the state is still writing and rules and regulations for legalized sports betting, which will be available to any of the state-licensed casinos or online. State regulators say they expect the framework to be in place for this fall’s professional and college football seasons.
A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave all states the option to legalize sports betting. Iowa joined a rush - 18 states now have legal sports betting.
Casinos will be charged a 7.5 percent tax on sports betting revenue, and the activity will be regulated by the state agency that oversees casino gaming and horse and dog racing.
The state continues to transform its mental health care delivery system. Having previously reformed the way mental health care services for adults are delivered and expanding those services, the state this year created the framework for a delivery system specifically for children.
The new children’s system has been described as a foundation for future development, and a positive and necessary first step in a state that before this lacked a statewide children’s mental health care system.
“It’s a good first step in developing a children’s mental health care plan,” said Jack Whitver, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Ankeny. “We wanted to put that framework in place. But that’s just the beginning of the work. ... But it’s a really good first step.”
School districts will have more confidence bonding for infrastructure projects and local taxpayers should get more property tax relief with an extension of a 1-cent sales tax.
The sales tax extension was due to expire in 2029 —- not exactly right around the corner. But school districts asked for the extension so they could have confidence bonding long-term for infrastructure projects. The extension to 2051 should give districts that flexibility.
The extension also contained some new requirements, including that 30 percent of the sales tax revenue be put toward local property tax relief. That provision was debated between mostly Republican legislators who sought more property tax relief and Democrats who wanted to keep the entirety of the funding for school infrastructure projects.
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Republicans also led the effort on a new law that adds an extra procedural step for local governments whenever property taxes are poised to increase.
The new law requires city councils and county boards to document and hold a public hearing for residents when they plan to increase property tax revenues through higher tax rates or reevaluated property value assessments.
Because budget work is completed for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the law will not have a tangible impact until next spring, when local governments work on their 2020-2021 budgets.
Whitver called it “one of the most important bills” passed during this year’s session, and said similar laws in other states have been effective at slowing property tax increases.
“We think it will have a good, long-term effect on keeping property taxes at a reasonable level,” Whitver said.
The governor’s “Empower Rural Iowa” program received a boost in the form of grants to expand broadband internet access in rural Iowa and tweaks to a tax incentive program designed to spur the development of affordable housing in rural areas.
“As the economy changes in the 21st century, one of the ways to continue to keep rural Iowa strong is to have good broadband service,” Whitver said. “If you don’t have good broadband and good cell phone service today, you can’t work from home and you can’t run a business.”
A new requirement for absentee ballots can be traced to roughly 20 contested absentee ballots that arrived after Election Day in a 2018 statehouse election that was decided by just nine votes.
Now all absentee ballots are required to include an intelligent bar code that will enable local elections officials in all 99 counties to determine whether an absentee ballot was mailed by the deadline. Previously, inclusion of the intelligent bar codes was optional.
Iowa hospital patients can designate a family caregiver who will be notified when the patient is released and given information from the hospital about the patient’s ongoing needs.
The so-called “Iowa Care Act” was a primary goal of the state chapter of AARP. Advocates say the new law will provide significant help for family members and other caregivers as they help seniors transition from hospital care to their homes.
Hospitals are now required to discuss with designated caregivers an outgoing patient’s abilities, limitations and needs at home, and must explain any medical tasks to be performed.