Iowa Legislative Update—April 4, 2023

Farm and Food

By Kate Hansen, former staff member

We’re nearly three months into the Iowa legislative session. Last Friday, March 31, was the second funnel deadline, the date by which most bills needed to pass through committees in the opposite chamber from where they originated to remain viable. 

We were disappointed to see House File 282 die in the second funnel. The bill would have made updates to the Soil and Water Conservation chapter of Iowa State Code to allow soil and water conservation districts to prioritize soil health and carry out water quality protection projects. It passed the House on Feb. 22 on a unanimous vote, but did not clear the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

Also, Senate File 532, a bill that would have required any application for transmission expansion to include an agricultural land restoration plan is no longer viable. While disappointing, we were glad to hear developers who testified during the subcommittee hearing say that many of the issues identified in the bill are already part of their best practices. 

A number of our priority bills remain viable, including those relating to local foods and water quality funding. 

If you have any questions or would like to share the rural issues that are important to you, do not hesitate to reach out to me at or 515.215.1294.

Thank you for making your rural voice heard.

Water quality

Senate File (SF) 550—For, with note: Introduced by Senate Ways and Means Chair, Sen. Dan Dawson, this legislation would modify sales and use, water service, property, and local option taxes, and other tax mechanisms. Notably, the legislation would fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, or IWILL. The Center is registered in support of this legislation specifically as it relates to Watershed Management Authorities and the Local Conservation Partnership Program detailed in sections 135 and 136. SF 550 passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on March 9. On March 28, a fiscal note was released, and on March 30 the bill was placed on the Senate calendar under unfinished business. It remains viable. 

SF 311/House File (HF) 666—For: Proposed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, this legislation relates to programs and regulations administered and enforced by the department. It encompasses multiple content areas, including water quality. Division IV of the bill would allow Water Quality Initiative funding in an urban account to be moved to an agriculture projects account at the department’s discretion. It is our understanding that in past years, funding has been left over in the urban account, even after all eligible applications were funded. We see this proposal as an opportunity to maximize the impact and availability of state funds directed to water quality. Watershed Management Authorities often use these funds to implement key conservation and flood mitigation projects in their area. 

In the Senate, SF 311 was placed on the calendar under unfinished business on March 30. In the House, HF 666 is on the House Ways and Means calendar. Both bills remain viable.

HF 376—For: Introduced by Rep. Charles Isenhart, this legislation would fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, also known as IWILL, by increasing the state sales tax incrementally from 6% to 6.375% by 2026. Such action would create robust new funding for conservation efforts across the state, including Iowa’s Watershed Management Authorities. The bill was introduced on Feb. 21 and referred to Ways and Means. It remains viable. 

SF 455—Monitoring: In its first iteration as SF 34, this bill would have prohibited counties and cities from adopting, enforcing, or otherwise administering regulations on stormwater that exceed or conflict with federal regulations. In the amendment process, the bill evolved, and now relates to regulation of top soil and storm water at construction sites. On March 15, the bill was amended and passed by the Senate by a vote of 33-15. On March 29, it passed out of the House Local Government Committee. It now heads to the House floor and remains viable.

Renewable energy

SF 532—For: This legislation was introduced by Sen. Annette Sweeney. It would require that an application to build electric transmission lines submitted to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) must include an agricultural land restoration plan for the construction of the line. A unique plan would be made with each landowner and property to fully restore the land of any damage caused during construction. The legislation would set a standard for land restoration for all future transmission infrastructure buildout. This bill passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee on March 2 with an amendment, however it never was considered on the Senate floor. It did not clear the funnel and is no longer viable.

HF 248—Against: This bill would remove a requirement placed on public utilities that own electric generation facilities fueled by coal to file biannual updates to their plan and budget for managing regulated emissions. Instead, the legislation would allow the affected utilities to have the sole discretion in filing updates to this plan, which would reduce oversight from the IUB to control the cost to ratepayers. On Feb. 15, HF 248 passed the House by a vote of 75-24. On March 22, it passed the Senate floor by a vote of 41-9. The same day, the bill’s Senate companion, SF 198, was withdrawn. HF 248 now heads to the governor to sign.  

SF 411 —Undecided: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chair, Sen. Waylon Brown, this bill states that a county or a city cannot adopt an ordinance, motion, resolution, or amendment that limits consumer access to an energy source or contributes to the prohibition of the sale or production and the infrastructure necessary to provide consumer access. An energy source is defined as any fuel or power source used to operate an engine including any type of fossil fuel, hydrogen, natural gas, and electricity used for charging vehicles. This bill passed the Senate on March 6 by a vote of 41-6. On March 23, it passed the House Commerce Committee and was placed on the House calendar. It remains viable.

Other bills of interest

HF 282—For: Introduced by Rep. Norlin Mommsen and referred to the House Agriculture Committee, this legislation would make updates to the Soil and Water Conservation chapter of Iowa State Code. The bill would allow soil and water conservation districts to broaden their purview by prioritizing soil health and carrying out water quality protection projects within their jurisdiction. It would also allow soil and water conservation districts to partner with a private entity to help fund these projects. 

Center staff provided recommendations for the bill’s improvement, including additions to a list of conservation practices to include rotational grazing and extended crop rotation. This language was incorporated into the current version. This bill passed the House by a vote of 95-0 on Feb. 22. It did not clear the second funnel deadline, and is no longer viable. 

HF 661/SF 134—For: Introduced in both the House and Senate, this legislation would make changes relating to licensing for local foods producers and vendors. On March 15, HF 661 was amended and passed by the House by a vote of 77-20. On March 30, the Senate Agriculture Committee recommended its passage. On April 3 it was referred to Ways and Means, and soon after assigned a subcommittee. As amended, the bill would shift farmers market licensing requirements from a county basis to a statewide basis. It would also make changes to licensing requirements for food processing plants, temporary food establishments, and the definition of homemade food items. Both HF 661 and SF 134 remain viable.