Iowa Legislative update - Feb. 25, 2020

Small Towns

Last week was the first funnel deadline in the Legislature, which means bills must have moved from House and Senate committees to the full floor for debate or they cannot move forward this session. Appropriations bills and Ways and Means Committee bills are not subject to these deadlines, as well as bills that moved through the funnel last year. A few of the bills we are monitoring failed to move forward. In all, we have registered for, against, or undecided on more than two-dozen bills which relate to water quality, renewable energy, economic development, and more.

As bills are introduced in the next few weeks, I will keep you informed on our lead initiatives and other key legislation we are following. For more updates and questions, or to get involved, please reply to this email or contact me at

Water quality

Funding for Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL)

Senate Study Bill (SSB) 3116 / House Study Bill (HSB) 657 (For) A bill for an act relating to state and local revenue and finances, including modifying individual income taxes, sales and use taxes, water service tax, and certain tax credits and provisions relating to county juvenile court expenses and mental health region funding, making appropriations, and including effective date and applicability provisions.

During her Condition of the State Address on Jan. 14, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced her plan for a one-cent sales tax increase as part of her Invest in Iowa proposal to the Legislature. This one-cent increase includes the necessary three-eights of one cent increase to fund the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust, or IWILL. Click here to review our most recent analysis. On Feb. 13, we released a statement announcing our support for the legislation.

We are continuing our advocacy for providing state resources to Watershed Management Authorities (WMAs). In our work with the governor’s office, we helped forge a new program in the bill—the Local Conservation Partnerships Program. For the first time in Chapter 461 of the state code, this program will include WMAs as an eligible entity to receive funds from the Local Conservation Partnerships Account.

Update: In the coming weeks, we will continue to advocate for increases in funding to this program, which would receive about $15 million annually in this proposal. As we continue to engage with the governor’s office and legislators to increase investments in watershed-level efforts, I encourage you to reach out to us about how you can get involved in helping advocate for the passage of IWILL. Please, email me to get involved.

Senate File (SF) 2047 (For): An Act relating to the property tax exemption for property designated to be a native prairie or wetland and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.

Current Code section 427.1(23) provides a property tax exemption for land designated as native prairie or land designated as a protected wetland by the Department of Natural Resources if the property is not used for economic gain. This bill specifies that the receipt of payments under the federal wetlands reserve program or the federal agricultural conservation easement program shall not be considered a use for economic gain. 

Update: On Feb. 12, the fiscal note was released for this bill. SF 2047 currently sits in the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is not subject to the first funnel deadline.

House File (HF) 2342 (For) An Act appropriating moneys to the Iowa resources enhancement and protection (REAP) fund.

This bill would appropriate moneys to the Iowa resources enhancement and protection (REAP) fund (Code section 455A.18) which receives $20 million from the general fund of the state per fiscal year until 2021-2022. The bill increases the amount of the appropriation to $25 million, and makes the appropriation period indefinite. HF 2342 also contains adjustments in the instance of IWILL passage.

SF 2188 / HF 2495 (For): An Act concerning federal financial assistance funding for hazard mitigation. (Successor to SSB 3057)

This bill would allow the state to help provide funds to supplement federal hazard mitigation dollars.  Up to 10 percent would be eligible if granted under the federal Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act or the federal National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994. Under this bill, the state cannot exceed 50 percent of the total project cost. The local community must have a state-approved comprehensive emergency plan.

Update: On Feb. 12, the fiscal note for this bill was released, along with projects the state would provide a funding match, totaling approximately $3.0 to $5.0 million on an annual basis. On Feb. 18, HSB 625 was approved by the House Committee on Public Safety and renumbered as HF 2495.

SF 2314 / HF 2406 (For): An Act relating to the establishment of a disaster recovery homeowner assistance program and fund administered by the Iowa finance authority, transfers of moneys to certain funds, and including effective date provisions. 

Under the newly-created program, this bill codifies that eligible expenses would include repair or rehabilitation of the disaster-affected home, or for down payment assistance on the purchase of replacement housing outside of a 100-year floodplain, and the cost of reasonable repairs to be performed on the replacement housing to render it decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair. 

Update: On Feb. 13, HSB 619 (which was the predecessor to HF 2406) was passed by the House Committee on State Government. SF 2314 was passed through the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 19.

SF 2211 (For): Act providing for the establishment and administration of an electronic case management system by the department of agriculture and land stewardship for claims involving damages resulting from the application of pesticides, and including effective date and applicability provisions.

This bill would create an electronic system for managing cases claiming pesticide damages at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). The system would allow farmers and others filing claims to download, or print documents contained in a case file, including documents relating to a report in which there is a claim of damages resulting from the drift of a pesticide.

Update: This bill was passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Feb. 19.

Clean energy

HF 476 (For): An Act relating to solar energy system tax credits, and including applicability provisions.

This bill increases the maximum cumulative value of solar energy system tax credits eligible to be claimed annually by applicants from $5 million to $10 million. We will continue to work with our partners to advance this bill and expand the credit even further, while also pushing for language decoupling this state-level solar production tax credit from the federal tax credit, which began a gradual phase out in 2020. 

Update: This bill remains in the Ways and Means Committee and is not subject to the first funnel deadline.

SF 583 (For): An Act relating to electric utility rates and infrastructure support options for private generation customers.

After we helped defeat the misguided “sunshine tax” last year, we have been part of a coalition of solar advocates who have worked with MidAmerican Energy over the past eight months to find a compromise on solar legislation. A deal has been reached that will help provide consistency, reliability and the opportunity for solar energy to continue to grow in Iowa. 

Update: On Feb. 20, the strike and replace amendment to the bill was adopted by the subcommittee.

Economic development

HF 2459 / SF 2262 (Undecided): An Act relating to broadband service, including matters under the purview of the office of the chief information officer, the empower rural Iowa broadband grant fund, and certain broadband infrastructure tax exemptions, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.

This bill modifies the definition of “underserved area” to remove language related to broadband service being offered in a targeted service area. As a result, an underserved area now means any portion of a targeted service area within which no communications service provider facilitates broadband service meeting the download and upload speeds specified in the definition of targeted service area. We are monitoring this bill because these changes in definitions may create increased investment in rural broadband.

Update: These bills are a new addition from our last legislative update and HF 2459 was referred to the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 20.

HF 2023 (For): An Act exempting from the computation of the individual and corporate state income taxes broadband grants received by communications service providers, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions. 

This bill allows a communications service provider who receives a federal, state, or local broadband grant to exclude the total of that grant from the computation of their individual or corporate state income tax if the grant is used to install broadband infrastructure in targeted areas where no provider offers internet service that meets broadband speed thresholds. Broadband speeds are defined as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 3 Mbps upload by the Federal Communications Commission. 

Update: On Feb. 24, HF 2023 was passed by the House Ways and Means Committee.

SF 2048 (For): An Act relating to the connecting Iowa farms, schools, and communities broadband grant program, making appropriations, and including effective date provisions.

Under current state law, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, which administers the Connecting Iowa Farms, Schools, and Communities Broadband Grant Program, is prohibited from awarding a grant if it exceeds more than 15 percent of the communications service provider’s total project cost. This bill would increase the cap to 25 percent, thus allowing for more state investment in broadband infrastructure. 

Update: This bill is in the Appropriations Committee and is not subject to the first funnel deadline. No subcommittee meeting has been scheduled yet.

SF 601 (Undecided): An Act establishing a pesticide administration and enforcement fund and making appropriations.

This legislation would create a Pesticide Administration and Enforcement Fund under Section 206.5A of the Pesticide Act of Iowa for the sole purpose of administering certification courses and enforcing the rules of the act. This fund would collect the $75 fee for a three year commercial pesticide applicator certification and the $15 fee for a three year private/personal pesticide applicators license.

Update: On Feb. 12, this bill was recommended for passage by the subcommittee.

HF 2512 / SF 2264 (Undecided): An Act relating to county zoning procedures, and including effective date and applicability provisions.

This bill prohibits a county from requiring an application, approval, or payment of a fee for the exemption to apply to land, farm barns, farm outbuildings, or other buildings or structures that are primarily adopted for use for agricultural purposes. Under the bill, agricultural land, buildings, and structures can qualify for the exemption independently or in combination with other agricultural uses. The bill also specifies that land enrolled in a soil or water conservation program qualifies for the agricultural exemption. 

Update: HF 2512, which is the successor to HSB 632, was passed by the House Committee on Public Safety and placed on the House calendar on Feb. 24.

Upcoming events

March 11 - Environmental Lobby Day at the Capitol Building.
March 20 - Second funnel deadline. This is the final date for Senate bills and joint resolutions to be reported out of House committees and House bills and joint resolutions out of Senate committees.

Important links

Find your lawmakers' contact information
View the Iowa Legislative Calendar
Support and learn about the Center for Rural Affairs

Related content

2020 Iowa Legislative Priorities
Fact Sheet: Soil Health in Iowa
Iowa Watershed Resource Library
Fact Sheet: Watershed Management Authorities in Iowa
Fact Sheet: Watershed Planning 101
Fact Sheet: Leveraging Local Funds for Watershed Improvement​