Sunday, February 1, 2009

3 Good Bills In Des Moines

The Iowa legislature is now in session and there is the usual assortment of bills that will raise taxes and increase regulations on hapless Iowans. But amidst this tidal wave of bad bills are at least three good ones.

House File 74, the “Iowa Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2009,” would mandate that the state establish a website with a “searchable budget database website for the public to access the details of the expenditure of state tax revenues and a searchable tax rate database for the public to access the details of each tax rate for all taxing districts in the state.” In other words, you would be able to look up where the state is spending all its money and also figure up how much all the various levels of government are bilking you on taxes.

Modeled after one of President Obama’s few signature pieces of legislation while in the U.S. Senate, this bill was introduced by Republicans in the Iowa legislature (probably in the hopes that some of Obama’s mojo will rub off on them). Currently nine other states have followed Obama’s lead and set up state government transparency sites of their own. Interestingly it’s only a few Democrats opposing it here in Iowa, presumably because their fingerprints will be all over the wasteful spending that will be discovered because of the website.

The estimated cost would be about $40,000 for the website. (That’s a government estimate, so it will be higher.) But if it helps taxpayers and watchdog groups keep Iowa government on the fiscally straight and narrow path, it will quickly pay for itself.

Ed Falier Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief, had this to say about the new bill: "Iowans for Tax Relief agrees with President Obama and we endorse his call for change. The people are the consumer of government, and all Iowans should be able to find out exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. I want to thank the bill sponsors who are here today and ask all other Legislators to honor the agenda of our new President and support swift passage of this bill."

House File 116 cleans up language in current law dealing with transporting firearms. Let’s say you’re one of the many new gun owners who went out and bought their first gun because you think the Obama Administration is going to ban them soon. You go to the local shooting range to practice. Knowing that it is illegal to transport a LOADED weapon in your vehicle, you pull the magazine of ammo out of the gun, put the gun in its case and into the trunk. You toss the magazine into your glove compartment and head home.

You just broke the law! According to the way it’s worded now, a loaded detachable-magazine is considered a loaded weapon, even if it’s not IN the weapon. HF 116 would change that, making it harder for recreational shooters to inadvertently become criminals.

Also dealing with firearms is House File 86, “An Act relating to the justifiable use of reasonable force.” Under current law, Iowans have a duty to flee from criminal attack before being “justified” to use deadly force outside their home. The proposed law would specify that “a person has no duty to retreat, and has the right to stand the person's ground, and meet force with force, if the person believes reasonable force, including deadly force, is necessary under the circumstances to prevent death or serious injury to oneself or a third party, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

So good guys could legally stand their ground, and it would become the criminal’s “duty” to run like hell. Often called the “Castle Doctrine” (because “a man’s home is his castle”), it is an old concept based on English common law.

Despite cries from alarmists that such laws (which they cleverly call “Make My Day Laws”) will lead to constant bloodbaths, at least 19 other states have adopted Castle Doctrine laws of one sort or another without any problems.

Since these three bills only benefit taxpayers and common citizens, there is a risk that they will be pushed aside in favor of bills that are supported by powerful special interests. Please write your State Representative and ask him or her to support one or all of these bills. You can find your Rep here.

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