Capitol Update: Week 14

Agriculture Budget on the Move

I sit on the Ag & DNR Budget Subcommittee.  We have been working towards a fiscally responsible budget.  The priorities of this subcommittee were to:

  • Increase the state effort and appropriations for soil conservation and water quality improvement efforts,
  • maintain and if possible increase programming and funding for animal health safeguards and catastrophic animal disease preparedness, and
  • prioritize the ability of state parks to stay open and perform essential maintenance and grounds-keeping functions that make visits to the parks a good experience.

This bill proposes to address the worrisome foreign animal disease by both: (a) Sustaining ongoing general fund appropriation to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL) in  Ames at the $4-million level, and (b) providing $100,000 in general fund appropriation to act as seed money to start a partnership between Iowa livestock commodity groups; our outstanding veterinary assets, both state veterinarians in IDALS, VDL, and the national livestock disease laboratory at Ames.

Regrettably, one of the consequences of the interaction of the priorities for this Budget Subcommittee and the budget target for it, is that we had to make tough choices.  This budget bill proposes to terminate funds to the Leopold Center and redirects them to the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.  These moneys are from the Groundwater Protection fund (at least 1.5-million) and are derived from fertilizer and herbicide excise taxes.

From time to time programs need to be reviewed.  Some run their course and have served their purpose.  I believe the Leopold Center falls in this category.  It has done some great things in the past.  The Nutrient Reductions Strategy will pick up the ball and hopefully with the extra funding, move the ball forward.

24/7 Sobriety Program

Drunk drivers on Iowa’s roads present an incredible danger to the Iowans.

Modeled after successful programs in other states, Senate File 444 implements the 24/7 Sobriety program as a way to combat drunk driving.  By voluntarily opting in, participating counties will be able to require repeat offenders and first-time offenders (under certain conditions) to submit to twice daily drug and alcohol tests.

Requiring twice daily in-person drug and alcohol tests will hold offenders accountable and encourage them down the path of sobriety to end an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Drunk and drugged driving re-occurrences were dramatically reduced after South Dakota implemented a similar program.  This saved lives and the state money in reduced court and jail costs.

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