Here is IEC's legislative news bulletin for January 16 – 23, 2023.
The second week of the 90th General Assembly started slow with the legislature having MLK Day off, but both chambers picked up their pace first thing Tuesday as they raced to introduce bills and move them through the subcommittee process. We even saw bills move through the full committee process by the end of the week. Leader Windschitl said they expect to have floor debate on House rules and the Education Savings Account this week, and the next week they will start passing other bills over to the Senate. By Thursday, things had quieted down as most legislators headed back home to escape the mid-week winter storm.
Elimination of Gender-Balance Requirements
Although education reform commanded everyone’s attention this week, another bill, SSB 1037, garnered some media attention as well. Sen. Jason Schultz, Chair of the Senate State Government Committee, introduced legislation to eliminate gender-balance requirements for state-created boards and commissions. Schultz believes the goal of the legislation has been accomplished. A majority of those in attendance expressed concerns and urged the subcommittee to oppose the bill because it has done good for Iowa, and they don’t want the state to go backwards. The bill moved forward on a party-line vote and is expected to be brought before the full State Government Committee within the next few weeks. IEC has registered in opposition to this bill.
The third week will be the legislature’s first full week of work. We expect the pace to quicken in both chambers with a full committee and subcommittee schedule set for the first full week of the legislature. A list of scheduled committees and subcommittees with their virtual access information can be found at the provided link. We expect the Governor’s education reform and school choice package will be debated by the full House and Senate as early as today.
Several bills of interest to IEC were filed during the first week. View the bill tracker by clicking below.
• SSB 1043 – This bill would eliminate IUB oversight of MidAmerican and Alliant investments in pollution reduction equipment at their coal plants. This change is concerning for several reasons. It flips what was a process designed to balance the interests of customers and the utility and turns it into another opportunity for energy companies to make money. It puts a legislative seal of approval on utilities investing many, many millions of dollars to keep these aging and polluting plants operating instead of looking at clean energy as an alternative to coal, even when analysis shows subbing clean energy for coal would be more cost-effective. Iowans have no choice about where we buy our electricity and it is critical that the IUB has tools for oversight — this removes one of those tools with no way to ensure utility customers aren’t taking the hit financially from this change.
• We are also watching SSB 1059, which appears to be an attempt to create a process for looking at utility future generation plans. Although such planning is theoretically consistent with what IEC has been working toward, we want to ensure the parameters proposed in this legislation are adequate for a process that will allow full access to information and fully consider how MidAmerican and Alliant are planning for the future.
• SSB 1052 – Water Program Director Alicia Vasto spoke at today's subcommittee hearing on this IEC-supported bill related to flood mitigation and natural infrastructure. This bill would add natural infrastructure tools to the powers that counties already have for flood mitigation. Nature-based flood infrastructure, such as wetland reconstruction and floodplain reconnection, is more cost-effective and more effective at reducing flood damage than traditional gray infrastructure such as levees and floodwalls. Counties can currently spend taxpayer money on levees and floodwalls with expensive upfront costs and ongoing repair costs. This bill provides flexibility for local counties by giving them local control to make strategic investments.
• IEC continues to track Executive Order 10, which imposed a moratorium on new rule making. The moratorium begins February 1, meaning that there are no more opportunities for agencies to initiate rulemaking before the moratorium takes effect. Although the executive order has exceptions to allow new rules, they are limited. By March 1, the Governor’s office will set a schedule for each agency to review its rules and the Department of Management will provide a template for the review. We anticipate that the animal feeding operation rules, which IEC informally commented on, will be significantly delayed by the moratorium.
Legislative Dates of Interest