We are in the 17th week of the Iowa state session, and the end appears to be in sight. This week, lawmakers are working to wrap up final business—including passing the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Sections of the budget are organized by topic area. Last week, after negotiations between the chambers, the Senate passed Senate File (SF) 558, an agriculture and natural resources budget bill, by a vote of 33-16. A line item for Watershed Management Authority staff, which was included in the House appropriation subcommittee’s proposal, was not included in the final budget. We are disappointed that lawmakers again chose not to invest in protecting one of our state’s most precious resources.
On May 1, an amendment was filed to SF 558 that would establish a Driftless Area Development and Conservation Authority and Fund—for which Watershed Management Authorities are named as a collaborator.
On April 25, the Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced House File (HF) 661, which includes provisions that would simplify farmers market licensing requirements, shifting them from a per-county to a statewide basis. The bill remains viable.
If you have any questions or would like to share the rural issues that are important to you, do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515.215.1294.
Thank you for making your rural voice heard.
SF 558—Undecided: Introduced by the Senate Committee on Appropriations, this bill contains budget items relating to agriculture, natural resources, and environmental protection. On April 25, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 33-16. On April 27, it was advanced by the House Appropriations Committee and placed on the Appropriations calendar.
SF 550—For, with note: Introduced by Senate Ways and Means Chair, Sen. Dan Dawson, this legislation would modify sales and use, water service, property, and local option taxes, and other tax mechanisms. Notably, the legislation would fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, or IWILL. The Center is registered in support of this legislation specifically as it relates to Watershed Management Authorities and the Local Conservation Partnership Program detailed in sections 135 and 136. SF 550 passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on March 9. On March 28, a fiscal note was released, and on March 30 the bill was placed on the Senate calendar under unfinished business.
SF 311/HF 666—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. On April 11, HF 666 was amended and passed the House by a vote of 98-0. It was read in the Senate on April 12 and attached to SF 311. On April 19, amendments were filed on both bills.
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.
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. On March 15, the bill was amended and passed by the Senate by a vote of 33-15. In the House, it was placed under unfinished business on April 6, and multiple amendments have subsequently been filed, the most recent on May 1.
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. HF 248 passed the House by a vote of 75-24 on Feb. 15, and the Senate on March 22 by a vote of 41-9. On April 28, it was signed by the governor.
SF 411 —Undecided: Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chair, Sen. 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. This bill passed the Senate on March 6 by a vote of 41-6. On April 6, the bill was placed under unfinished business, a procedural move to keep it eligible for consideration.
Other bills of interest
HF 661/SF 134—For: Introduced in both the House and Senate, this legislation would make changes relating to licensing for local foods producers and vendors. On March 15, HF 661 was amended and passed the House by a vote of 77-20. On April 25, the Senate Ways and Means Committee recommended its passage. The Center is supportive of elements of the bill that would shift farmers market licensing requirements from a county basis to a statewide basis. It would also make changes to licensing requirements for food processing plants, temporary food establishments, and the definition of homemade food items.