Unfinished Business in Iowa Legislature Impacts the Hungry in QC

There is some unfinished business in Des Moines, Iowa and it could mean less food for the hungry in the Quad Cities.

The 2013 Iowa Legislative Session is now over, but with two bills that never made it to Governor Terry Branstad’s desk.

The first (HF2471), referred to as the Income Tax Check-Off Hunger Fund, would allow people to donate through their income tax form.

The second (SF2356) would exempt food banks from having to pay sales tax.

“We have to purchase a fair amount of equipment and other things to handle food safely and efficiently so we do pay more sales tax than maybe some of the other charities,” explains Caren Laughlin with the River Bend Foodbank in Davenport. “This is money that we could be using to feed the hungry and buy food so we really wish that bill had passed.”

The River Bend Foodbank moved to Davenport earlier this year. Their previous location was in Moline and in Illinois, food banks do not have to pay sales tax.

However, Laughlin says their move to Davenport was for a bigger warehouse where they could grow their services.

“We serve about 10,000 individuals every week,” says Laughlin. “We’re meeting the need on a whole new level because of this facility.”

Meeting the need would be easier if the River Bend Foodbank did not have to pay any sales tax.

“The more resources you have, the more you can do and the more food you can get out,” explains Laughlin. “It’s real simple.”

It doesn’t seem to be that simple in Des Moines, though. While HF2471 and SF2356 passed their originating chambers nearly unanimously (94-1 and 49-0, respectively), they never made it to the opposite ones.

“I think they got considered too late,” says State Representative Linda Miller, (R) Bettendorf. “By the time they got to their respective committees and then re-referred since they’re both Ways and Means Bills, it was too late in the session to actually get them through.”

State Rep. Miller says she has a solution, though. She says she, State Senator Joe Seng, (D) Davenport and State Senator Roby Smith, (R) Davenport are proposing to file companion bills in the next legislative session.

“That means a bill, the same bill – one in the House and one in the Senate – at the same time,” says State Rep. Miller. “I think with State Sen. Smith and State Sen. Seng, we’ll do it in a bi-partisan way and see if we can get this through.”

For now, Laughlin and those at River Bend will have to wait.

As they do, you can help them. Saturday, May 10th is Stamp Out Hunger in the Quad Cities. All you have to do is put non-perishable food items – like canned goods – in a bag and place the bag next to your mailbox. Your letter carrier will then pick it up when he/she drops off your mail for the day and deliver it to the River Bend Foodbank. Stamp Out Hunger is organized by United Way of the Quad Cities. This year, their goal is to collect 100,000 pounds of food.

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