We’re around the halfway mark of the 2023 Iowa legislative session, but plenty of work remains for state lawmakers. The projected last day is April 28.
Last Friday, March 3, was the first funnel deadline, by which bills needed to pass through committees in their own chambers to remain viable. There are some exemptions to the funnel, such as budget and government oversight items.
We were glad to see many of our priorities remain viable. They include bills relating to water quality funding, local foods, and a requirement for electric transmission line applications to include an agricultural land restoration plan.
There were also a number of bills we opposed that did not advance—including a bill calling for statewide siting standards for solar development on agricultural land, and another outlining statewide siting standards for wind energy.
Finally, we were encouraged to see House File (HF) 282, relating to soil health, not only pass the funnel, but the entire House by a vote of 95-0 on Feb. 22. It is now in the Senate and has been assigned a subcommittee.
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 email@example.com or 515.215.1294.
Thank you for making your rural voice heard.
Senate File (SF) 311/House File (HF) 277—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 House, this legislation passed its committee on Feb. 13 and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. There, its subcommittee recommended passage on March 1. In the Senate, it passed the Agriculture Committee on Feb. 15 and was placed on the Senate calendar. Both bills remain viable.
Senate Study Bill (SSB) 1052/HF 448—For: These bills would designate certain county flood mitigation activities as essential county purposes. Specifically, the legislation names reconnection of floodplains, and wetland and oxbow lake restoration. SSB 1052 was introduced in mid-January, and in late February its companion in the House, HF 448 was also introduced. In the Senate and House, subcommittees for the bills recommended their passage on Jan. 23 and Feb. 28, respectively. Unfortunately, neither of these bills cleared the funnel and are no longer 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. SF 455 was approved by its committee on Feb. 28 and placed on the Senate calendar. It remains 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 was not susceptible to the funnel deadline and remains viable.
SF 532/SSB 1201—For: These pieces of legislation contain the same language and were introduced by Sen. Annette Sweeney in different committees. The bills 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. Formerly SF 428, the legislation passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee on March 2 with an amendment. It was subsequently renumbered to SF 532 and remains viable. SSB 1201 was introduced in the Natural Resources Committee and passed out of its subcommittee, but did not clear the funnel and is no longer viable.
SF 332—For: Introduced by Sen. Mike Klemisch, this bill would create a shared solar net metering cooperative. It would allow for virtual net-metering of community solar for behind-the-meter facilities of one megawatt or less and allows for up to 10 investors. It also allows Iowa farmers, school districts, businesses, cities, and counties with solar arrays in multiple locations to consolidate their multiple meters onto one virtual meter. This bill would save Iowans on their electricity bills by crediting the customer for excess energy produced proportional to the size of the investors solar subscription and would open up investment in a local and renewable source of energy to more Iowans. The legislation was filed in the Commerce Committee and assigned a subcommittee, but the subcommittee ultimately did not meet. Unfortunately, this bill did not clear the funnel.
SSB 1149 —Undecided: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Waylon Brown, this bill would incentivize battery storage development by updating the Iowa public utility regulatory code. The bill was filed in the Senate Commerce Committee, and a subcommittee recommended its passage on Feb. 15, but it did not clear the funnel and is no longer viable.
SSB 1077—Against: Introduced by Chair Dawn Driscoll in the Senate Agriculture Committee, this bill would create statewide siting standards for solar development on agricultural land, unless the land is at least 150 feet from the nearest adjacent landowner and 1,200 feet from the nearest residence or livestock facility. The Center opposes the legislation because it sets unworkable siting standards and removes local control. Our staff provided a verbal comment during the subcommittee meeting and advocated for an alternative approach of implementing a voluntary siting matrix. The bill’s subcommittee met on Jan. 30 and recommended an amendment and passage. The legislation did not clear the funnel and is no longer viable.
SF 198/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. It was subsequently sent to the Senate and attached to SF 198, which passed out of its committee in early February. The legislation remains viable.
SSB 1059—For: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Waylon Brown, this bill addresses the same section and process as SF 198, 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 the projected resources used to meet demand, the source of that energy, lower-cost strategies, and alternate planning scenarios. Should SF 198 pass, it would make this bill moot. The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee and assigned to a subcommittee. On Jan. 25, the bill was tabled until a future meeting. Due to the funnel, it is no longer viable.
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 rural communities. The legislation was filed in the Senate Commerce Committee and assigned to a subcommittee, but did not clear the funnel and is no longer viable.
SF 411 —Undecided: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairperson 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. Formerly SSB 1085, the bill’s subcommittee recommended its passage on Feb. 7 and it was renumbered. It passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 23 and subsequently passed the Senate on March 6 by a vote of 41-6.
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 has been assigned a subcommittee in the Senate, and remains viable.
SF 134/HF 278—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 fee of $150, reducing barriers for agricultural producers and small business owners to widely market their products. It also includes similar provisions to lessen the burden on temporary food establishments.
In the House, this legislation passed out of committee and was then referred to Ways and Means, where a subcommittee recommended its passage on Feb. 28. In the Senate, the bill followed a similar path, and its Ways and Means subcommittee recommended an amendment and passage on Feb. 1. Both bills remain viable.
SF102/HF 307—Monitoring: Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Taylor, this legislation would repeal the ability of a pipeline company to survey private land with a 10 days written notice. The Senate bill was introduced in the Commerce Committee and assigned a subcommittee. A companion bill in the House was introduced on Feb. 15 and referred to the Judiciary Committee. Neither version was heard by a subcommittee, and the legislation has died.