HF 561 & Iowa's Senator Liz Mathis

Liz Mathis Sworn In

As readers should know, we oppose HF 561, a bill in the legislature relating to new nuclear power in Iowa. In advocating against this bill, what has become clear is that whatever the resolution, the outcome is not about which party one belongs to or about ideology. Good people of every background are engaged in the public debate over nuclear power and how it will be financed in Iowa, and that can only strengthen our Democracy.

Senator Liz Mathis (D-18) of Robins has been a key target of advocacy groups on all sides of this issue. If I were her, I would be getting tired of all the notes, calls, conversations, meetings and input. She is in the unique position of having replaced Swati Dandekar in a special election, when Dandekar took Governor Branstad’s appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board last year. The Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa’s lone nuclear reactor is in her district. Many of her constituents are served by the Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative Association which is headquartered in Marion, near her district. Naturally, advocates for or against HF 561 would like her to side with them. The thing is, politics is not so simple. Here is a quote from Mathis’ newsletter from the capitol this week, listing HF 561 as one of her priorities this session.

“HF 561… is the bill that would allow the permitting, licensing and construction of another nuclear power facility in Iowa. This has especially become a hotter topic as bills are getting debated and passed and amended. Please know this: I’m doing my homework on this topic, asking a lot of questions, and paying attention to what you are saying. There are multiple facets to this bill and the arguments surrounding nuclear power and how it should be funded. I have a nuclear power plant in my district that employs 600 people and works with the REC’s to provide power to our residents. HF 561 has generated many phone calls and emails. I have seen several of you here at the State Capitol.”

It is not clear where Mathis stands, so in that way, she is fitting in as a politician. But what is more important is that Liz Mathis is not taking the easy path, as some legislators do in Des Moines. She is trying to make an informed decision on the bill.

When a group of us saw her in the Capitol last Tuesday, she took the time to speak with us and listen. She made no commitment about her potential vote on the commerce committee, or if the bill gets to the Senate floor, but what occurred to me is that Liz Mathis is approaching this topic in a way we hope all of our legislators would, with an open mind, a considerate attitude and an even demeanor.

Whether or not we agree with Mathis’ final position on nuclear power, her approach to HF 561 is the way we would like to see more elected officials approach their work on every issue. A reasoned approach can benefit all Iowans.

~ Paul Deaton is a native Iowan and regular contributor to Blog for Iowa.

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