MUSCATINE — All ayes Thursday night as Muscatine City Council approved a resolution supporting the Home Rule amendment to the Iowa Constitution, allowing more local control in Iowa communities.
Muscatine is one of hundreds of Iowa cities that have already passed resolutions or proclamations supporting the amendment, now in its 50th year. Iowa citizens voted in 1968 for the amendment to provide more local control of government through elected officials and regulation of specific restrictions.
"I do support Home Rule," Councilman Kelcey Brackett said. "I think that it's a great thing for us to have."
The first line of the resolution states, "Home rule is essential to effective and responsive municipal governance in Iowa and provides flexibility to make decisions at the local level, where decisions are made closest to the people they impact and can be tailored to fit local conditions, needs, and concerns in order to better serve taxpayers."
Brackett went on to say that he would like to see lawmakers and the governor allow cities to use Home Rule rather than saddling cities with state decisions. He mentioned issues with fireworks use and cities that were restricted when trying to raise the local minimum wage as examples of ways the amendment has been overrided and "that's not truly having Home Rule." He said Home Rule is important and something cities should be able to utilize and the ability to do so hasn't been possible over the last few years.
The vote in 1968 moved Iowa from the Dillion Rule, where the powers of local governments came directly from the Iowa Constitution. "Dillon" was Iowa Supreme Court Justice John Dillon, who in 1868, ruled "that city governments could only possess and exercise powers which were expressly granted by the legislature. Under the Dillon Rule, cities could only exercise those powers granted to them in the Code of Iowa. If the Code didn’t provide that a city could do a particular thing, the city couldn’t do it," according to information from the Iowa League of Cities.
The amendment does have two restrictions. The first regards taxation. Cities must adhere to the legislature on its ability to tax its residents. Cities are allowed to tax real property, according to the Iowa Code, with limitations on the amount of the value of property may be taxed and the levy rate applied to those values. Cities may also tax sales and use transactions but are limited on the tax rate for those transactions.
The other restriction limits cities' Home Rule power. A city cannot use Home Rule in a way that goes against laws passed by the legislature and the state, through the legislature, may prevent cities from governing by passing laws that would take precedence over municipal action.
To recognize the anniversary, the league is encouraging each Iowa city to sign a proclamation stating, “Home Rule is essential to effective and responsive municipal governance in all cities in Iowa,” and that local control “continues to be vital to the health and prosperity of all cities in Iowa.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation supporting the amendment at the beginning of the year.
A list of the cities that have passed a proclamation may be found on the league's website.