Iowa Legislative Update - March 10, 2020

Water quality    |   Clean energy   |   Economic development 
Upcoming events   |  Important links    |   Related content   ​

Bringing rural Iowa to Des Moines

Things have been moving quickly in Des Moines. We have continued to track dozens of bills through subcommittee meetings, committee votes, and floor action in both the House and the Senate. 

As we weigh in on legislation ahead of the second funnel deadline on March 21, we want to hear your thoughts. We have registered for, against, or undecided on more than two dozen bills which relate to water quality, renewable energy, economic development, and more. One notable update for you is that the “solar bill,” Senate File (SF) 583 (see below), passed the House and the Senate unanimously last week—it currently awaits Gov. Reynolds’ approval.

We need your voice in this fight. In particular, we need your help in advocating for the passage of bills to authorize funding for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, also known as IWILL. 

Please, contact your senators and representatives to tell them you support Senate Study Bill 3116 and House Study Bill 657. Many legislators are having public forums and want to hear from you. You can also share your thoughts on social media using #IowansForIWILL and by reaching out to me if you want help crafting a letter to the editor to your local paper. 

If you have any questions, or want to get involved, please reply to this email or contact me at codys@cfra.org.

 Water quality

Funding for Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL)

Senate Study Bill (SSB) 3116 / House Study Bill (HSB) 657 (For) → A bill for an act relating to state and local revenue and finances, including modifying individual income taxes, sales and use taxes, water service tax, and certain tax credits and provisions relating to county juvenile court expenses and mental health region funding, making appropriations, and including effective date and applicability provisions.

On Jan. 14, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced her plan for a one-cent sales tax increase as part of her Invest in Iowa proposal to the Legislature. This one-cent increase includes the necessary three-eighths of one cent increase to fund the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust, or IWILL. After completing our most recent analysis, we released a statement announcing our support for the legislation on Feb. 13.

As a result of our continuous advocacy for directing state resources to Watershed Management Authorities (WMAs), we worked with the governor’s office to forge a new program in the bill—the Local Conservation Partnerships Program. For the first time in Chapter 461 of the Iowa code, WMAs would be an eligible entity to receive funds from the Local Conservation Partnerships Account, which would receive about $15 million annually.

Update: On March 4, a subcommittee consisting of Sens. Chapman, Bolkcom, Dawson, Jochum, and Smith, R. was held at the Capitol. We submitted official testimony in support of the bill and its investments in watershed management authorities, long-term watershed planning, and the need for staffing of full-time watershed coordinators. 

Senate File (SF) 2047 (For) → An Act relating to the property tax exemption for property designated to be a native prairie or wetland and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.

Current Code section 427.1(23) provides a property tax exemption for land designated as native prairie or land designated as a protected wetland by the Department of Natural Resources if the property is not used for economic gain. This bill specifies that the receipt of payments under the federal wetlands reserve program or the federal agricultural conservation easement program shall not be considered a use for economic gain.

Update: On Feb. 12, the fiscal note was released for this bill. SF 2047 currently sits in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This bill has not progressed since our last update.

SF 2188 / House File (HF) 2495 (For) → ​An Act concerning federal financial assistance funding for hazard mitigation. (Successor to SSB 3057)

This bill would allow the state to provide funds to supplement federal hazard mitigation dollars.  Up to 10 percent would be eligible if granted under the federal Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act or the federal National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994. Under this bill, the state cannot exceed 50 percent of the total project cost. The local community must have a state-approved comprehensive emergency plan.

Update: On Feb. 12, the fiscal note for this bill was released, along with projects the state would provide a funding match, totaling approximately $3 to $5 million on an annual basis. On Feb. 18, HSB 625 was approved by the House Committee on Public Safety and renumbered as HF 2495. On March 2, SF 2188 passed the Senate 48-0 and was sent to the House Committee on Appropriations, where it now awaits further action. A subcommittee of Reps. Bossman, Running-Marquardt and Worthan met March 9.

HF 2342 (For) → ​ An Act appropriating moneys to the Iowa resources enhancement and protection (REAP) fund.

This bill would appropriate moneys to the Iowa resources enhancement and protection (REAP) fund (Code section 455A.18) which receives $20 million from the general fund of the state per fiscal year until 2021-2022. The bill increases the amount of the appropriation to $25 million and makes the appropriation period indefinite. HF 2342 also contains adjustments in the instance of IWILL passage.

SF 2314 / HF 2406 (For) → ​An Act relating to the establishment of a disaster recovery homeowner assistance program and fund administered by the Iowa finance authority, transfers of moneys to certain funds,and including effective date provisions. 

Under the newly-created program, this bill codifies that eligible expenses would include repair or rehabilitation of the disaster-affected home, or for down payment assistance on the purchase of replacement housing outside of a 100-year floodplain, and the cost of reasonable repairs to be performed on the replacement housing to render it decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair. 

Update: On Feb. 13, HSB 619 (which was the successor to HF 2406) was passed by the House Committee on State Government. SF 2314 was passed through the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 19. On Feb. 27, a subcommittee of Reps. Landon, Mommsen and Running-Marquardt recommended passage. On March 4, a subcommittee of Sens. Koelker, Bolkcom, and Breitbach recommended passage of SF 2314. 

SF 2211 (For) An act providing for the establishment and administration of an electronic case management system by the department of agriculture and land stewardship for claims involving damages resulting from the application of pesticides, and including effective date and applicability provisions.

This bill would create an electronic system for managing cases claiming pesticide damages at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). The system would allow farmers and others filing claims to download, or print documents contained in a case file, including documents relating to a report in which there is a claim of damages resulting from the drift of a pesticide.

Update: This bill was passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Feb. 19. On March 5, the Legislative Services Agency released a fiscal note which estimates that SF 2211 would cost the Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship between $421,000 and $511,000 to implement the system including the site build, training, support, and an annual site license. 

Clean energy

SF 583 (For) → An Act relating to electric utility rates and infrastructure support options for private generation customers.

After we helped defeat the misguided “sunshine tax” last year, we have been part of a coalition of solar advocates who have worked with MidAmerican Energy to find a compromise on solar legislation. Key aspects of the deal include codifying net metering in state law, grandfathering existing customers in their current plans, and a transition to a Value of Solar rate down the road. Specific parameters included in SF 583 will ensure certainty for the solar industry, customers, and the utilities going forward. This agreement allows for growth of solar in Iowa and increases diversification of our state's energy portfolio, while keeping costs low for all customers.

Update: On Feb. 20, the strike and replace amendment to the bill was adopted by the subcommittee. On March 3, SF 583 passed the House unanimously. The next day, it sailed through the Senate with a vote of 48-0. The last step is a signature from Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

HF 476 (For) →  An Act relating to solar energy system tax credits, and including applicability provisions.

This bill increases the maximum cumulative value of solar energy system tax credits eligible to be claimed annually by applicants from $5 million to $10 million. We will continue to work with our partners to advance this bill and expand the credit even further, while also pushing for language decoupling this state-level solar production tax credit from the federal tax credit, which began a gradual phase out in 2020. 

Update: This bill has not progressed since our last update and remains in the Ways and Means Committee.

Economic development

HF 2459 / SF 2400 (Undecided) → 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 certain broadband infrastructure tax exemptions, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.

This bill modifies the definition of “underserved area” to remove language related to broadband service being offered in a targeted service area. As a result, an underserved area now means any portion of a targeted service area within which no communications service provider facilitates broadband service meeting the download and upload speeds specified in the definition of targeted service area. We are monitoring this bill because these changes in definitions may create increased investment in rural broadband.

Update: On March 3, SF 2262 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and was renumbered as SF 2400. Also on March 3, a subcommittee of Reps. Sorensen, Brink and Williams recommended passage.

HF 2575 (For) → An Act exempting from the computation of individual and corporate state income taxes broadband grants received by communications service providers, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions. 

This bill allows a communications service provider who receives a federal, state, or local broadband grant to exclude the total of that grant from the computation of their individual or corporate state income tax if the grant is used to install broadband infrastructure in targeted areas where no provider offers internet service that meets broadband speed thresholds. Broadband speeds are defined as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 3 Mbps upload by the Federal Communications Commission. 

Update: On Feb. 17, the subcommittee recommended passage of this bill. This bill remains in the House Ways and Means Committee and is not subject to the first funnel deadline. On March 5, HF 2575 passed the House 98-0.

SF 2048 (For) →  An Act relating to the connecting Iowa farms, schools, and communities broadband grant program, making appropriations, and including effective date provisions.

Under current state law, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, which administers the Connecting Iowa Farms, Schools, and Communities Broadband Grant Program, is prohibited from awarding a grant if it exceeds more than 15 percent of the communications service provider’s total project cost. This bill would increase the cap to 25 percent, thus allowing for more state investment in broadband infrastructure. 

Update: This bill is in the Appropriations Committee and no subcommittee meeting has been scheduled yet. This bill has not progressed since our last update.

SF 601 (Undecided) →   An Act establishing a pesticide administration and enforcement fund and making appropriations.

This legislation would create a Pesticide Administration and Enforcement Fund under Section 206.5A of the Pesticide Act of Iowa for the sole purpose of administering certification courses and enforcing the rules of the act. This fund would collect the $75 fee for a three year commercial pesticide applicator certification and the $15 fee for a three year private/personal pesticide applicators license.

Update: On Feb. 12, this bill was recommended for passage by the subcommittee. On Feb. 27, this bill was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. On March 2, a fiscal note was released for this bill. 

HF 2512 (Undecided) →  An Act relating to county zoning procedures, and including effective date and applicability provisions.

This bill prohibits a county from requiring an application, approval, or payment of a fee for the exemption to apply to land, farm barns, farm outbuildings, or other buildings or structures that are primarily adopted for use for agricultural purposes. Under the bill, agricultural land, buildings, and structures can qualify for the exemption independently or in combination with other agricultural uses. The bill also specifies that land enrolled in a soil or water conservation program qualifies for the agricultural exemption. 

Update: On March 12, SF 2264 was substituted with HF 2512 and passed the Senate 37-11. Since it passed the House by a vote of 66-29 in February, it awaits approval by the governor.

  Upcoming events

March 11 - Environmental Lobby Day at the Capitol Building.
March 20 - Second funnel deadline. This is the final date for Senate bills and joint resolutions to be reported out of House committees and House bills and joint resolutions out of Senate committees.

Important links

Find your lawmakers' contact information
View the Iowa Legislative Calendar

Support and learn about the Center for Rural Affairs

Related content

2020 Iowa Legislative Priorities
Fact Sheet: Soil Health in Iowa
Iowa Watershed Resource Library
Fact Sheet: Watershed Management Authorities in Iowa
Fact Sheet: Watershed Planning 101
Fact Sheet: Leveraging Local Funds for Watershed Improvement