Iowa Environmental Council Legislative News Bulletin: February 15, 2021
Week 5 Legislative Recap – February 8 – 12
Activity is ramping up at the Capitol, as the deadline for bills to be introduced by a sponsor passed last week and the first funnel approaches on March 5. IEC is tracking several bills that are moving rapidly, including the Forest and Fruit Tree Exemption (SF 352) and the natural gas and propane requirement bill (HSB 166/SSB 1126).
Bottle bill issues have emerged once again this session, taking many different forms. Of the seven bottle redemption bills that have been introduced only one seems to have any traction. Bottle Redemption (SSB 1160), which attempts to raise the long standing one cent handling fee to a two cent handling fee, passed out of subcommittee last week. While the Iowa Grocery Industry Association and their membership support this bill, the Iowa Beverage Association and distributors are lined up in opposition.
Read our program recaps below for updates on key legislation and view our bill tracker to see all of the bills the Council is tracking so far this session.
Energy Program Activity
The energy program continues to watch several bills introduced earlier this session as they advance at the state Capitol. We remain optimistic about the bipartisan support for expanding Iowa’s state solar tax credit and are working to cultivate grassroots support as HF 221 makes its way to the full House Ways and Means Committee next.
IEC continues to closely watch HSB 166 and SSB 1126, which restrict cities and counties from choosing clean energy resources and carves out a market for uneconomical gas imports. Iowa already enjoys an abundance of carbon-free electricity, and this bill would hinder communities from utilizing this local and cost-effective resource. HSB 166 passed out of committee this afternoon. IEC hopes to see the bill narrowed in focus and preserve the autonomy of local government.
A new set of bills were introduced last week, which would hinder wind development at the state level. SF 298 and SSB 1152 have been referred to the commerce and agriculture committees respectively, and aim to impose unfavorable regulation on wind siting and decommissioning. We will continue to monitor these bills closely in the coming weeks.
Water Program Activity
The Water Program continues to watch several bills, one of which is SF 352, the Forest and Fruit Trees Exemption, which lessens the tax exemption for forests and orchards from 100% to 75%. Senator Rozenboom chaired the subcommittee on the bill last year, and introduced it this year. He stated in debate that tax exemption for forests and orchards is a good idea, but problems with the current code need to be addressed in order to stop the shift of property taxes. While there are issues with the tax exemption that should be addressed, this bill goes too far by increasing the qualifying acreage from 2 to 10. Also part of the conversation was the devastating loss of trees in the derecho and the need to incentivize more tree planting, not less. The bill is ready for debate in front of the Senate this week. IEC has registered against the bill, and we will keep you updated on the bill’s progress and how the public can get involved.
Another bill of interest is SF 208, which would require schools to set up water bottle filling stations designed to filter out lead. This bill has been introduced in the legislature as a result of research done at the University of Iowa Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) on lead in school water supplies. CHEEC has been assessing levels of lead contamination in school drinking water supplies across the state, and their findings indicate that tens of thousands of Iowa children may be exposed to unsafe levels of lead. Remediation approaches such as bottle filling stations have high health benefits relative to their cost.
Legislative Dates of Interest
Take a look at an updated list of forums happening across Iowa this week.