Iowa Legislative Update—Feb. 9, 2021

Environment
Small Business
Small Towns

Bringing rural Iowa to Des Moines

The Iowa Legislature just wrapped up the fourth week of its 2021 legislative session. Bills are moving at a record pace, and we’re doing our best to deliver comments, share resources, and work with legislators to achieve policy solutions that improve the quality of life across rural Iowa. From renewable energy to water quality and rural broadband, we are registered for, against, and undecided on 18 bills as we go into Week 5—and we need your voice now more than ever. 

Please, reach out if you want to add your voice to our efforts! Email Cody Smith at codys@cfra.org or call.

Thank you for your commitment to rural Iowa.

Here are the bills we are following: 

Renewable energy

In the days since our last legislative update, renewable energy legislation has taken center stage in our efforts at the Capitol. We’ve been advocating on behalf of rural Iowans’ ability to take advantage of solar energy while pushing back on other bills to protect private property rights across the state.

House File (HF) 221—For: An Act relating to the solar energy system tax credit available against the individual and corporate income tax, the franchise tax, the moneys and credits tax, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions. Introduced by Rep. Jarad Klein, this bill would help farmers, small businesses, and homeowners across rural Iowa generate a long-lasting return on investment when they purchase solar energy. The bill would: 

Double the state-imposed cap on the Iowa Solar Tax Credit from $5 million to $10 million beginning in 2021 to  promote the long-term growth of our state’s solar industry. 

  • Allocate an additional $7 million in 2021 to pay down the years-long backlog of farmers, small businesses, and homeowners who have already purchased solar energy systems and have been waiting to receive their credit.
  • Bolster Iowa’s clean energy leadership by decoupling the Iowa Solar Tax Credit from the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and set the state credit at 15% of total project costs. Currently, the credit is written to be 50% of the federal ITC, leaving Iowa’s clean energy future at the mercy of an unpredictable federal government.
  • Set a Dec. 30, 2030, expiration date for the Iowa Solar Tax Credit.

UPDATE: Last week, we sent you an action alert calling for your support of this bill. Your voices helped advance this bill with unanimous support out of the House subcommittee! HF 221 now sits in the full House Ways & Means Committee and we encourage you to click here to send a customizable email to your state legislators, contact them directly, or write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper in support of this bill! We are also supportive of similar bills HF 323 and SF 215

Learn more: 
Legislation could illuminate Iowa's clean energy future
Check out this resource from our partners at the Iowa Environmental Council.
Read our official comments here.

Senate Study Bill (SSB) 1088 / House Study Bill (HSB) 149—Against: An Act relating to vegetation management by certain electric suppliers. As written, these bills give municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities widespread authority to remove any vegetation within an electric distribution line corridor. We believe there should be changes that protect private property rights, conduct a clear assessment of the risks that may, or may not be, posed by existing vegetation. In addition, we are advocating for a clear remedial process for affected property owners.

UPDATE: Both of these bills have advanced out of subcommittee and are in the Senate and House Commerce committees, respectively.

Learn more:
Read our official comments here

SSB 1152—Undecided: An Act relating to wind energy conversion facilities and making penalties applicable. This bill aims to set financial requirements for the decommissioning of wind turbines while also setting standards for land restoration after completion.

Water quality

We are working hard to secure resources for watershed management authorities, watershed coordinators, and other locally directed watershed improvement efforts. Right now, we’re working to establish a Watershed Advancements That Enhance Resources (WATER) Pilot Program through which the Iowa Department of Natural Resources would grant three, three-year, $300,000 grants to eligible watershed management authorities to staff a watershed coordinator. We continue to believe that Iowa’s water quality, flood mitigation, and outdoor recreation efforts are most successful when we empower our communities to chart their own paths forward. We will continue to provide updates as we make progress on these important topics.

HSB 56—Undecided: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, changes state code to define county flood mitigation activities as an "essential county purpose," which would allow county boards of supervisors to contract debt and approve bonds, as allowed, for other essential county purposes. 

UPDATE: A subcommittee meeting for this bill was held on Feb. 1; as of Feb. 9, it has not advanced.

Senate File (SF) 1—Undecided: Sponsored by Sen. Brad Zaun, this legislation modifies state code that defines which animal feeding operations are, and are not, identified as single operations in law. The intent is to comply with air and water regulations on animal feeding operations, as enforced by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

SF 52—Undecided: An Act prohibiting the sale or use of pesticides containing a compound belonging to the neonicotinoid class of chemicals, making penalties applicable, and including effective date provisions.

Rural economic development

There has been a flurry of legislation relating to agriculture, beginning farmers, small businesses, and a variety of other topics regarding rural economic development. While we are tracking each of the following bills, we see the most promise in bills investing in rural broadband, altering the beginning farmer tax credit, and promoting investments in small businesses.

SSB 1089 / HSB 133—For: 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 including effective date and applicability provisions.

This is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ broadband bill, which she announced in her Condition of the State Address in January. In all, the bill would allocate $150 million for broadband expansion this fiscal year and up to a total of $450 million by 2025. We are excited for this groundbreaking investment in rural broadband. In addition to our support, we are encouraging lawmakers to adopt a clear definition of what “rural” means in the bill. We have suggested using the “Nonmetro” county classification as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

UPDATE: A subcommittee hearing on SSB 1089 was Feb. 1; the bill has not yet advanced. Members of the subcommittee are Sens. Koelker, Lykam, Schultz, Wahls, and Williams.

HSB 1—For: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Lee Hein, relates to tax credits awarded by the economic development authority for specific capital contributions made to certified rural business growth funds for investment in qualified businesses. The bill would allow private investors to raise capital for funds dedicated to aiding rural small businesses. Contributions to those funds are then eligible for a tax credit. The amount of tax credit is contingent upon the number of jobs created by those businesses the fund is used to support.  

SSB 1144 / HSB 167—Undecided: An Act relating to the beginning farmer tax credit program, modifying participation and lease agreement requirements and tax credit amounts, and including effective date provisions.

UPDATE: A subcommittee meeting on HSB 167 was held on Feb. 3; the bill has not yet advanced.

HF 242—Undecided: An Act relating to agricultural lease agreements entered into by eligible taxpayers and qualified beginning farmers participating in the beginning farmer tax credit program, allowing an eligible taxpayer’s unused tax credit to be transferred to the qualified beginning farmer, and including effective date provisions.

HF 112—Undecided: An Act relating to certain tax credits and assistance awarded by the economic development authority, and including effective date provisions.

UPDATE: A subcommittee meeting for this bill was Jan. 28; the bill has not yet advanced.

SF 68—Undecided: Sponsored by Sen. Chris Cournoyer, this bill amends state traffic laws to require drivers of motor vehicles to pass bicyclists in the same legal manner as when they pass another motor vehicle. This bill appears to prioritize cyclist safety and promote outdoor recreation in rural Iowa.