IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa businesses could soon face higher fees for legal filings for the first time in many years under a plan by Secretary of State Paul Pate to raise money for technology upgrades.
Pate’s office proposed administrative rules Wednesday that would set higher fees for services used by corporations large and small.
The public has until Oct. 17 to comment on the rules, which are drawing some concerns from business groups. A legislative committee could also review the plan but appears unlikely to stop it.
Lawmakers earlier this year gave Pate’s office the authority to raise up to $2 million through fee increases annually for the next five years to pay for modernizing its outdated computer systems.
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Pate said in a statement Thursday that he realizes the increases aren’t “going to be a popular decision for everyone.”
“But it’s the right thing to do so that we can provide Iowa’s business community with the service it deserves,” he said. “This will help us operate at the speed of business, not the speed of government.”
Pate’s office said that Iowa’s fees are among the lowest in the nation and haven’t increased in decades, noting that he cut them when he was secretary of state in the 1990s.
It said the money would go toward a program that will speed up online filing and allow staff to handle a higher phone call volume, as well as improving the office’s cybersecurity protections.
Businesses that have accounts with Pate’s office for billing would face the steepest increase, with annual fees quadrupling to $100. The office said those accounts are “very expensive to maintain.”
The cost of reports that corporations file every two years to remain registered would increase by $15 for both electronic and paper formats — up to $45 and $60 respectively.
The fees for Uniform Commercial Code filings would double — to $20 for paper documents and $10 for non-paper formats. UCC filings are made by banks and other creditors to give notice that they may have an interest in a debtor’s property.
Association of Business and Industry senior vice president Nicole Crain said her group’s members want to know more about what efficiencies have been made and what improvements in service they can expect for the higher cost.
“ABI will be asking these questions of the Secretary of State and expecting an answer prior to any support of a proposal of this magnitude,” she said.
The Iowa state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Matt Everson, said small businesses should not be “a cash register for government bureaucrats.”
“Setting the precedent that expensive government projects require funding from the private sector is dangerous and unnecessary,” he said. “What may seem like nominal fee increases with this bill could easily turn into overwhelming and fiscally irresponsible increases in the near future.”
The plan is getting support from the Iowa Bankers Association, where vice president Sharon Presnall said leaders are convinced the technology upgrades are needed and that Iowa’s fees are low.