Two new Iowa laws take effect

Two new laws that took effect at the start of 2013 could make a small splash for a large chunk of Iowans.

While many laws put in place will not take effect until July, a handful began Jan. 1.

Among those laws is one that makes volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians eligible for a $50 state tax credit.

Marshalltown Fire Department is the only area fire department that employs a full-time staff. Volunteers constitute the other departments.

Marshalltown Fire Chief Steve Edwards said the MFD often works with Albion, Haverhill and Le Grand’s departments via 28e agreements.

Don Weitzell, Le Grand fire chief, said the tax credit is a good start. Most small towns realize one of their town’s biggest assets is their volunteer services, he said.

Weitzell said volunteer firefighters and first responders need the same training as professionals, which can often make the fact that they are not paid the same as professionals, or in his department’s case, not at all, frustrating.

Volunteers need to complete a 60-hour course and 24 hours a year worth of classes.

“A house fire doesn’t know if it’s in a town covered by professionals or volunteers,” he said. “We have to be just as qualified.”

Another Iowa law that took effect New Year’s Day is one that expands the limitations on hunters and fishers. Fishers can now use three poles – a total of six hooks – to fish as opposed to the previous two-pole/four-hook allowance. The new law also allows for hunters and fishers to purchase three-year licenses.

Garry Brandenburg, local outdoorsman and outdoors editor for the T-R, compared the switch to three-year licenses to a magazine subscription, saying it benefits both those wanting licenses and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“In general, it’s a good option for them to have it is simply a marketing ploy,” he said. “I agree with it.”

In 2011, recreationists spent $144.7 billion – 1 percent of the gross domestic product – on their activities, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services. More than 90 million Americans ages 16 or older participated in some form of wildlife-related activity the same year.

Brandenburg said the DNR gets the money up front for a slight discount to the outdoors enthusiast.

The representative for the DNR could not be reached for comment.