By Cody Smith, former staff member
The Iowa Legislature began its 2021 legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working diligently to track bills and follow the activities of the Legislature so we can keep you updated about issues that affect rural Iowa.
As we continue to weigh in on legislation, track bills, and engage with lawmakers, we encourage you to reach out and share your thoughts with us.
In the meantime, here is a short recap of the bills we are following at this point in the session.
While Gov. Kim Reynolds decided not to reintroduce the Invest in Iowa Act she proposed during the last legislative session, we remain committed to securing resources for watershed management authorities, watershed coordinators, and other locally directed watershed improvement efforts. We will continue to work with legislators throughout the session and provide updates as we make progress on these important topics.
House Study Bill (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.
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 a single operation 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.
As of today, the renewable-energy landscape at the Iowa Legislature has remained relatively quiet. We are working with our partners and lawmakers from both parties to encourage them to decouple Iowa’s Solar Tax Credit from the federal Investment Tax Credit, as well as raise the state-mandated cap of $5 million annually.
Data from the Iowa Department of Revenue shows the tax credit has been oversubscribed since 2015, meaning the demand for solar energy has far outpaced the state’s ability to provide this tax incentive to farmers, small business owners, and others who have already invested in solar energy. The same information also shows if a solar customer were to invest in solar energy today, they would be waiting well into 2023 to receive the incentive.
Rural communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, as those of us who live and work in rural Iowa know, many of our communities have been eager for more economic investment for a long time. While our main priorities remain advancements in watershed management and renewable energy, we’ve been following bills that could also bring some change to rural Iowa. They include:
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.
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.
We encourage you to be involved in the legislative process by communicating with your representatives about issues that are important to you. Here are some tips for engaging with your legislators and a quick tutorial on how to navigate the state’s legislative website.
As always, we are here to listen and engage with you about the issues that matter most to you. If you have feedback on our priorities or other issues you’d like to engage with us on, let us know. Thank you for your commitment to rural Iowa.