This week went by quickly in the House. I sponsored HF557, a bill that eliminates the requirement to isolate pigs for 30-60 days and test for pseudo-rabies after a hog show. This change will allow hog producers to participate in multiple shows over the summer season. The bill passed 97-0. In the House we also passed a bill that would transfer water quality programs from the DNR to the Department of Ag & Land Stewardship. This change will streamline the process, benefit farmers and improve water quality in our lakes and streams.
Last weekend I attended Jones County Cattlemen’s Association banquet. On March 26th I will be attending the ␣Re–Open Iowa for Business’ Rules and Regulations tour meeting in Dubuque at the Best Western Hotel. The event is designed to receive input from Iowans about burdensome rules and regulations that are preventing businesses from growing and moving to Iowa. The event runs from 2:30 ␣ 4:30pm and is open to the public.
As always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 281-7330. Also, if you are ever in Des Moines make sure you stop by the Capitol to visit.
Sincerely, Lee Hein
House Passes Eminent Domain Protection for Land Owners
On Tuesday, the Iowa House passed House File 603 with an overwhelmingly bipartisan support. House File 603 was written to help solve problems with eminent domain laws. Republican Rep. Jeff Kaufmann worked with Republicans and Democrats to draft legislation that would address the issues facing Iowans as cities grow onto farmland and resources are stretched thin. Eminent domain is not a new issue to Iowa or to the legislature. However, House File 603 addresses some new issues, including the creation of lakes for water use in Iowa and standards for land condemnation.
During the past several weeks the house judiciary committee held two subcommittee meetings to hear from Iowans who are losing their land to condemnation and the acquiring agencies who are attempting to take the land. After listening to both sides and evaluating the facts, House Republicans drafted a bill designed to protect the land owner from erroneous taking but that would not stop a legitimate taking needed for a real public use.
Some highlights of House File 603:
- Property that is listed on the State Register of Historic Places shall not be removed from the register solely for the purpose of condemnation. This protects historic places from takings, unless a joint resolution authorizing the condemnation is approved by at least 2/3 of each House of the general assembly and signed by the governor.
- Prior to creating a lake, the agency must show by clear and convincing evidence that it is for public use and there is no other prudent and feasible alternative for a drinking water source.
- If land is taken to create a lake for water use, the plans, analyses, application for funding and other planning activities by the acquiring agency will not provide for the use of the lake for recreational purposes. This prevents agencies from increasing the water use or taking more land for recreation.
- The Department of Natural Resources cannot condemn land for recreational use. During subcommittee hearings the DNR agreed that they do not take land for recreational use and the portion of the code allowing this is no longer used or needed. This provides extra protection for land owners in the future.
House File 603 is now in the hands of the Senate. With the bi-partisan house support, House Republicans are hopeful that Democratic leadership in the Senate will recognize the very serious issue of eminent domain facing Iowans and take up this legislation. Without action in the Senate, many Iowans will lose their farmland, their homes and their family legacy for recreational, nonpublic purposes. This is not the true intent of eminent domain and it is up to the Iowa Legislature to protect the land owners from those who would violate their property rights.
House Passes .08 For Boating
Senate File 7 lowers the current .10 blood alcohol limit for operating motorboat or sailboats to .08.
This bill aligns the BAC level for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) offenses with the vehicle OWI level. This will help reduce vessel accidents, injuries and fatalities caused by alcohol impaired operators. Currently, a person could be legally under the BAC limit on the water (.10), but could be over the limit in a vehicle (.08) leaving the lake or river.
In addition an amendment was offered on the floor that defines operating as, “is powered by a motor of ten horsepower or more which is running, and when used in reference to a sailboat, means the sailboat is either powered by a motor of ten horsepower or more which is running, or has sails hoisted and is not propelled by a motor.”
The bill passed the House on a vote of 97-0.
HF534 – Instructional Hours
After approving an amendment that stripped the original language removing the school start date from Code, the bill was left changing mostly one thing: Instructional hours for elementary and high school.
Current code sets the school year at 180 days with a minimum of 5.5 hours per day for a total of 990 hours. The bill passed removes the days requirement and set the hours at 1,080. This is the equivalent of 6 hours per day. Those hours include passing time between classes and assemblies but do not include lunch, professional development, or parent-teacher conferences.
A poll taken of all school districts showed that over 75% are currently meeting or exceeding 1080 hours. The remaining 25% can increase their day by a few minutes to meet the new requirements, depending on how close they are to the statutory 990 hour requirement.
The new hours instead of days requirement will help to preserve the integrity of the instruction time a student should have every year by stopping the practice of counting days with early release and late starts as instructional time. It will also allow for flexibility in setting schedules by allowing districts to go to 4 day weeks if they choose, saving on transportation and building operational costs. Any changes to the schedule will require the school board hold a public hearing to discuss the changes.
The bill passed the House 62-33 with bipartisan support. The Senate had worked earlier in the year on a similar bill, but it is unclear if they will act on this bill.