Wow! Spring is here! As a farmer, I get pretty excited this time of year. The snow is melting, rivers are high, but soon it will be time to have equipment ready for planting. It is somewhat that way in the Senate. We have been preparing bills for floor debate since January. Now, we are getting “in the field” by debating bills on the floor.
One of the hotly debated bills passed this week was SF 548. There was confusion that this bill would stop or greatly reduce acquisition of land for conservation, recreation, and water quality purposes. The bill would prohibit a private entity from acquiring taxpayer subsidized loans in order to purchase land. The entity that has been doing this is the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. They do accumulate land that might later be used in conservation projects. This bill does not stop that from happening, it only says they can’t use 0- ½% loans subsidized by taxpayers to make those purchases. The INHF is okay with this bill as well as Pheasants Forever.
I spoke with a young farmer last year who had the experience of being outbid by the INHF on a piece of land bordering his own. He said there was no way to compete with someone with near unlimited funds and ultra-low interest rate. Why should an individual have to compete with a private entity with that kind of advantage? We agree that fairness (equal opportunity) should be maintained.
Another bill that deals with fairness is SF 583 which deals with small producers of solar energy. Many Iowans have chosen to install solar panels to produce electricity for their own needs. On days when they produce more electricity than they use, they can sell the excess to the utility company. The rate they are paid does not include a charge to maintain the grid that delivered their electricity to the utility.
SF 583 allows an investor owned utility to charge a reasonable amount for infrastructure. There were arguments that this would eliminate all new solar projects in the state. Currently, RECs and municipal utilities do the very thing we approved for investor owned utilities. RECs have more small producers of solar energy than any other utility group. This bill will make sure consumers without solar are not paying for the infrastructure solar producers use. It will not affect solar installations already in use.
Tuesday, the Senate passed a limited work requirement for individuals receiving Medicaid benefits. There are exemptions for pregnancy, having children under six, disability, and illness. The intent is to require able-bodied people, without dependents, to work, go to school or volunteer 20 hours a week in order to receive tax-payer funded healthcare.
We have a remarkably low unemployment rates now because Iowa has experienced a healthy business environment the last two years. Many employers have asked where they can find more employees. This seems like the right time to address welfare reform that will help eliminate fraud and improve accountability. Perhaps even more important, it may give that little nudge required to get some recipients back in the workforce. A job does a lot more than pay bills. It can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride in being part of a productive society.
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” John Quincy Adams
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please feel free to contact me by email or phone 641.430.8415 with any questions or concerns. Enjoy the warm weather!