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Cash for Caulkers – the Sequel

June 7, 2010
By State Rep. Betty De Boef (R-What Cheer)
With some Iowans still grumbling about the way that Governor Culver and the Office of Energy Independence bungled government rebates for new appliances, the Congress is ready to try again with another program to stimulate the economy. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act. The new program would provide almost $6 billion over the next two years in savings and rebates to consumers who upgrade their homes energy efficiency.

The new program is on top of the $4.7 billion provided by Congress in the 2009 economic stimulus bill for home weatherization. Most of these funds have yet to be spent by the states. Providing additional funds for the same purpose was a major focus of the objections to the bill from Congressional Republicans.

Under Home Star, rebates or discounts would be provided to homeowners at the time of sale. The retailer or contractor then would submit documentation to a processing office which would verify the information and forward the request to the Energy Department for payment. To prevent fraud, the program would require licensing for all participating contractors and a certain percentage of projects would be inspected.

Home Star has two different efficiency programs. The Silver Star program provides upfront rebates of up to $3,000 for specific energy-efficient improvements in homes, such as installing energy-efficient appliances or duct sealing, insulation or new windows or doors. A Gold Star program would entitle people to up to $8,000 when they conduct comprehensive energy audits and implement measures that reduce energy use throughout their homes by more than 20 percent.

While the House passed the bill, it still must be reconciled with the Senate. It is unknown at this time who would be administering the program if approved. Many Iowans probably would like to have some input in that decision, so that the failures of this winter’s rebate program are not repeated.

It is expected that the work product of these groups will form the backbone of any recommendations by the Commission. But there is no guarantee that this will occur as conversations around the state indicate one of the Commission’s co-chairs is formulating his own grand scheme to redo Iowa’s healthcare system.

Rules Panel Quizzes DNR on Controversial Camping Rule

On May 10, 2010, the Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) questioned the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on why it was moving forward a change in its definition of “immediate family.” Currently, DNR’s rules define “immediate family” as “parents, dependant children and grandparents.” The new definition reads ““spouses, parents, legal guardians, domestic partnerships, dependant children, and grandparents.”

Some legislative members of the ARRC expressed concern that the inclusion of the domestic partnerships term. Senator Merlin Bartz expressed opposition to the proposed rule, arguing that it is one more way this administration is trying break down the traditional family.

Regrettably, this redefinition isn’t really necessary to accommodate the primary intent of the rule. That intent is accomplished by the second aspect of the proposal, which is to balance overcrowding and noise at state parks while still accommodating family activities.

Current rules limit occupation of specific non-group camp sites to 6 persons who may use two tents, with the second tent only being used for sleeping by an under-age dependant child. Current rules allow an exception to exceed the number limit for ‘immediate families.’ However, this existing rule exception still doesn’t allow for circumstances where an adult spouse might want to occupy a second tent because of snoring issues, or technically when unrelated adult persons want to share a site, while not sleeping together in the same tent.

The second aspect of this rule addresses this complication, by allowing related adults to use a second tent. Providing the second tent occupies a space less than 8-feet by 10-feet. During ARRC discussion on this rule, a Republican ARRC member inquired how, if challenged by DNR park personnel, several adults might ‘prove’ that they are spouses or domestic partners or how DNR would prove that such person don’t meet the criteria of immediate family and why does the state care? DNR was not able to offer an immediate response to this inquiry. However, despite these concerns raised by members of ARRC, the Natural Resource Commission approved this new definition of immediate family applying to two identical rules, one dealing with state parks & recreation camping areas and the other dealing with state forest camping areas, on Thursday, May 13, 2010 by unanimous aye-votes.

Iowa Tax Refunds Delayed

Iowans who filed their 2009 tax returns by mailing in the paper form have noticed something different this year, it’s been a month since the filing deadline and they have yet to receive their refund. Accordingly, many taxpayers have contacted the Department of Revenue to obtain confirmation their tax return has at least been received and that their refund is in the mail. Unfortunately, unless the return has been manually entered into the system, there is not a way to receive such confirmation. As you can imagine it is causing heartburn in households around the state.

Concerned Iowans are turning to their state legislators with several questions. “Since my return has not been officially received by the Department will I be penalized?” The answer: No, as long as your tax return is postmarked by April 30, 2010 you will not be penalized. And, “where is my refund?” The answer: It’s on its way, but it’s been delayed.

Recently, the Department of Revenue acknowledged that they are behind schedule this year in processing 2009 tax returns. Specifically, the delay is associated with individuals who have filed a paper return, approximately 25% of all tax filers. Those who filed their returns electronically have not experienced the delay, because those returns are able to be processed much quicker.

What’s the hold up? Governor Culver’s Fiscal Year 2010 ten percent across the board cut is to blame. Last year, the Department of Revenue took a substantial hit when Culver executed his across the board cut. As a result, the department has been unable to fulfill temporary positions that help expedite processing tax returns. Less staff to handle the work load translates into delays, which doesn’t bode well for families strapped for cash eagerly awaiting those refund checks.



Please don’t hesitate to contact me during the interim. I can be reached at 641-634-2227, or hgdb@iowatelecom.net.



















Article Photos

State Rep. Betty De Boef

 
 

 

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