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New Year Brings Changes In State Law

January 7, 2014
Emmetsburg News

The start of a new year has brought about several new laws for Iowans, with several new laws directly affecting younger drivers. Other new laws will have some impact on all taxpayers in the state aw well.

Perhaps one of the most notable changes that went into effect last Wednesday touches

New drivers who have issued a provisional license, an instruction or "learner's permit or school permit. Under the new law, any young driver applying for an intermediate license after Jan. 1 is now required to carry an instruction permit for a year before they may apply for an intermediate license. Previously, the time requirement had been for just six months. The rationale for the changes was to give younger drivers twice the amount of "behind the wheel" time in different seasons of the year, according to Mark Lowe, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation's Motor-Vehicle Division, which is in charge of driver licensing in the state.

The new law also restricts younger drivers to carrying only one non-related minor passenger in the vehicle during the first six months that they hold an intermediate license.

"I don't think those are going to make earth-shattering changes for young drivers, but over the long term I think it's going to be an improvement in our graduated driver's license system," Lowe said.

In regards to school licenses, the new law limits those drivers, to just one unrelated minor passenger when driving without adult supervision. Unlike the intermediate license restriction, this restriction applies as long as the young driver holds a minor school license and can't be waived.

"We know that the first six months are the riskiest and we know that distracted driving behaviors and risky behaviors increase significantly when teens have unrelated minor passengers in the car, so we want to reduce that risk for the first six months," Lowe said.

For the remaining drivers in the state, renewing a drivers' license will become a little more convenient, as a new law will allow DOT officials to transition from five-year licenses to licenses good for eight years at a time.

The transition to the eight-year license will take the next four years, through 2018, before all of Iowa's 1.1 millions licensed drivers work through the system. The DOT will assign random license terms to renewals in order to spread out the numbers of licenses being renewed over an eight-year period.

The yearly fee for a drivers' license will remain the same, as basic yearly fees will stay at $4 per year for a noncommercial license, $8 per year for a commercial driver's license, and $2 per year for a motorcycle endorsement.

One requirement of the new law is that a license issued to a driver younger than age 72 cannot exceed the person's 74th birthday. At age 72, licenses shift over to two-year renewal periods. Also, licenses issued to minors and persons who are temporary foreign nationals are not included in the eight-year plan, and have shorter renewal periods as set by other state statutes.

State identification cards will not be included in the same transition as drivers' licenses. All identification cards issued after Jan. 1 will be valid for eight years and the fee will be $8.

Another major change to the legal landscape comes in the form of largest tax cut in state history. The cut will have an impact on commercial property owners and income earners when they file tax returns in 2014 reflecting credits and liabilities for the 2013 tax year.

With thousands of commercial property owners in Iowa facing a Jan. 15 deadline to apply in their counties for a new tax credit established in the 2013 Legislative session, some qualifying property owners may not find out until August or September just how much credit they will receive. This is dependant on how many applications were filed for the $50 million that Iowa's 99 counties would receive from the state to create the new commercial property tax credit.

Under the tax policy compromise worked out by the Legislature, commercial and industrial properties will be assessed at 95 percent of valuation retroactive to last Jan. 1, then at 90 percent starting on Jan. 1, 2014 and each year thereafter.

A three-percent tax assessment growth limitation also was placed on residential and agricultural properties retroactive to last Jan. 1, instead of the four-percent growth called for under the current rollback.

For individuals, the overall tax relief plan doubles the earned income tax credit for lower-income working families from the seven percent to 14 percent in tax year 2013 and then to 15 percent in tax year 2014.

And, officials of the Iowa Department of Revenue have also announced that an income tax credit included in the 2013 tax relief package will amount to $54 for eligible individuals filing timely Iowa returns. For tax year 2013, the Iowa Department of Management has certified that $120 million is available in the Iowa Taxpayers Trust Fund Tax Credit Fund to be distributed as income tax credits calculated on the basis of 2.21 million returns having been filed in the 2012 tax year.



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