Iowa Legislative Update—Jan. 24, 2023

Environment
Small Business
Small Towns

We’re in the third week of Iowa’s legislative session. Lawmakers have been busy introducing legislation—a few hundred bills to date—with more expected to come.

Last night, the House and Senate passed the Students First Act—Gov. Reynolds’ wide-reaching school choice spending bill—outlined in House File 68 and Senate File 94. Gov. Reynolds signed it into law today, Jan. 24. The legislation will shift funding from public schools to private schools and is likely to hurt rural communities. To learn more, read our recent blog.

We’re also watching multiple bills relating to local government, water quality, and renewable energy. They include a bill that would reduce barriers for farmers market vendors (For), a bill relating to soil health (For), and a bill calling for a restrictive statewide siting standard to the detriment of local control (Against). 

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

Thank you for making your rural voice heard.

Water quality

Senate Study Bill (SSB) 1052—For: Introduced by Senate Local Government Chair Jesse Green, this bill would designate certain county flood mitigation activities as essential county purposes. Specifically, the legislation names reconnection of floodplains, and wetland and oxbow lake restoration. A subcommittee for the bill met Jan. 23 and recommended its passage. The legislation now heads to the full Senate Local Government Committee. 

Senate File (SF) 34—Against: Introduced by Senate Local Government Chair Jesse Green, this bill would prohibit counties and cities from adopting, enforcing, or otherwise administering regulations on stormwater that exceed or conflict with federal or state regulations. We are concerned about this legislation’s potential implications for local control. It was assigned a subcommittee on Jan. 11, but a meeting has not yet been scheduled. 

Renewable energy

SF 2—Against: Introduced by Sen. Brad Zaun, this bill would create a statewide siting standard for wind energy systems that includes a minimum setback distance of 5,000 feet from existing non-participating dwellings and property lines. The bill would remove local control from county governments and create an unworkable setback standard, limiting economic opportunities for Iowa’s rural communities. The legislation was filed in the Senate Commerce Committee and assigned a subcommittee. A subcommittee meeting has not been scheduled. 

House File (HF) 70—For: Introduced by Rep. Charles Isenhart, this bill seeks to incentivize the use of agriculture at solar sites by establishing a new corporate solar tax credit. To receive the credit, the facility must be subject to the state’s replacement tax which does not include facilities for self-generating purposes. The facility also has to be located on a site actively engaged in farming, including livestock, and pollinator habitat operations. HF 70 was referred to the House Commerce Committee, and has not yet been assigned a subcommittee.

SSB 1043—Against: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Waylon Brown, 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 Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to control the cost to ratepayers. The bill’s subcommittee recommended its passage on Jan. 19. 

SSB 1059—For: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Waylon Brown, this bill addresses the same section and process as SSB 1043, however it requires all public utilities that own electric generating facilities to be included in the process. It also features the addition of an integrated resource plan that would be filed biannually to the IUB. This would force the utility to report their projected resources used to meet demand, the source of that energy, lower-cost strategies, and alternate planning scenarios. Should SSB 1043 be passed, it would make this bill moot. SSB 1059 was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee and was assigned a subcommittee. A subcommittee meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.

Other bills of interest

HF 69—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. We are analyzing this legislation to determine its potential impact on Iowa’s Watershed Management Authorities. A subcommittee meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 25 at 12:30 pm. 

SSB 1040/HF 80—For: Introduced in both the House and Senate, this legislation would shift farmers market licensing requirements from a county basis to a statewide basis. Presently, vendors are required to pay an annual $150 license fee to sell at farmers markets on a county basis. To sell in multiple counties, one must pay multiple county fees. This legislation would institute a single statewide annual $150 fee, reducing barriers for agricultural producers and small business owners to widely market their products. A subcommittee meeting in the Senate is scheduled for 1 p.m. today, Jan. 24. A subcommittee meeting in the House is scheduled for Jan. 25 at 4:30 pm.

SF 94/HF 68—Against: This legislation will create an Education Savings Account Program for every student in the state, amounting to $7,600 per year, which is equal to the state’s program cost per pupil per school budget year. These scholarships will be funded by taxpayers for the use of tuition and educational expenses at non-public schools. If a student chooses to attend a private school, that school receives the state funding and the public school loses out on the $7,600 for that student. The program is estimated to cost the state $345 million annually. Both bills passed out of the House and Senate Monday evening, and were signed earlier today, Jan. 24, by Gov. Reynolds.