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Bills the Iowa Chapter is following during the 2012 Legislative Session

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Non-Toxic Ammunition

“Eagles die every day. They get hit by cars or run into telephone wires. It just happens.”

by Sen. Dick Dearden (D-Polk) to The Des Moines Register , 5/10/12, who reportedly bagged 75-100 Mourning Doves on September 1, the first day of the season, while hunting with Gov. Branstad and Rep. Richard Arnold (R-Lucas).  

Read the article, Branstad expected to shoot down ban on lead ammunition for dove hunting

Branstad's lead shot move was the real administrative fiat: Governor was wrong to presume how Senate would vote -- The Des Moines Register, 5/14/12

Senate needs to support hunting rule on lead shot: Lawmakers should respect knowledge and authority of Natural Resource Commission -- The Des Moines Register, 2/4/12

The Lead Is Poison Coalition recently developed a document about requiring non-toxic shot for dove hunting. Download the document.


Nuclear Power

"If we become a center for nuclear energy and we meet our needs and also remain a net exporter of energy, that's good for our manufacturing base, good for our low-income families and good for our elderly on fixed incomes." 

by Sen. Matt McCoy (D-Polk), the Senate Commerce Committee chair, to the Associated Press.  Read more.

Iowans deserve honest answers from MidAmerican, by Neila Seaman, Chapter Director, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, 4/8/12.

Iowa View: Iowans don't need or want new nuclear energy, by Neila Seaman, Chapter Director, The Des Moines Register, 4/4/12.

Iowa View: Iowa should learn from Florida's nuke mistake, by Florida Senator Mike Fasano, The Des Moines Register, 3/29/12.

FOE Radio Ads

Friends of the Earth, a Sierra Club partner in opposing the nuclear power bills, recently began airing radio advertisements in Iowa markets.  Listen to the ad.

Regulators: Nuclear plan could cost Iowa residents, Associated Press, 1/23/12

Key lawmaker thinks nuclear bill will be approved, Associated Press, 1/25/12


 

How did your legislator vote on environmental issues during the 83rd Iowa General Assembly?

See the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter's 2009-2010 Legislative Scorecard

Information from the Iowa Senate Democrats

Information from the Iowa Senate Republicans

Information from the Iowa House Democrats

Information from the Iowa House Republicans

Senate Democrats Public Forum Schedule

House Democrats Public Forum Schedule

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Last Updated 06/19/2012

Sine Die 

The 84th General Assembly came to a close in the late afternoon of May 9, 2012.  The Iowa Chapter was successful in most of its challenges during this legislative session.  Three of our priorities -- stopping construction while in progress for a new nuclear power plant, saving public lands and preserving the ban on lead-based ammunition to hunt Mourning Doves -- all prevailed in the Legislature..

Thank you to all of our members and supporters who responded to our action alerts and attended our lobby days.

Thank you to all of the legislators who supported our positions for our reasons and reasons of their own.

Thank you to all of our partners whose long hours paid off.

See how legislators voted the past two years on issues important to the Sierra Club.

 

Legislative Wrap-Up

Lead Ammunition for Mourning Dove Hunting

In a stunning move, Gov. Terry Branstad issued Executive Order 77 on May 11 "to correct a Senate failure" for not debating the resolution that would rescind the lead ammunition ban on hunting Mourning Doves.  Branstad's order indicates that "...the Iowa rule banning use of traditional shot by hunters because the determination of whether hunters should be forced to stop using traditional lead shot is the role of the legislature, not an unelected NRC [Natural Resource Commission]."  Read the Executive Order.

Twin joint resolutions, SJR2001 and HJR2001, would have nullified the Natural Resource Commission's amended rule that would prohibit lead ammunition when hunting doves. Both resolutions passed their necessary committees and the House passed its version 68-27 on February 2. See how they voted. The Senate resolution was not brought up for debate before the session ended on 5/9/12.  As a result, the rule became effective as passed by the NRC in July 2011 -- until Branstad stepped in.  

Senate File 464, formerly known as the Dove Hunting bill, passed both chambers and was signed by the governor within 72 hours in 2011. During the rulemaking process, the Department of Resources (DNR) received more than 850 comments.  Of those, 541 opposed dove hunting; however, 214 comments supported a non-toxic shot requirement if a dove hunting season was established.  The NRC heard the public and courageously amended DNR's rule to ban lead-based ammunition.  

However, the Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC), a legislative oversight committee, reversed the NRC's amendment for the 2011 hunting season by voting 9-1 in August 2011 to put a legislative hold on the rule allowing the season to proceed but removing the rule ban on lead-based ammunition.  Both chambers of the legislature were required to approve a resolution to remove the lead ban or the rule would become effective.

The Sierra Club challenged the constitutionality of  the ARRC in a lawsuit filed in March 2012 alleging that the Iowa law creating the ARRC violates the separation of powers in the Iowa Constitution because it authorizes the ARRC, a legislative oversight committee, to suspend the implementation of an administrative rule legally adopted by the executive branch of government.

During 2012, lawmakers heard arguments that the NRC overstepped its authority to add a lead prohibition in its dove hunting rule; that there isn't enough research to indicate a need for a lead ammunition prohibition; that the science that exists is "junk;" and that this is the first attempt in an effort to ban guns. 

What is so stunning about Branstad's Executive Order is how many times he changed his position on this issue.

The NRC minutes from 7/14/11 state: "Commissioner Clement stated that he had discussed the proposed amendment early that morning with Governor Branstad and that he (Governor Branstad) stated that if this amendment was the consensus of the commission he would be okay with it. Commissioner Schemmel commented that it troubled him that this amendment was being proposed at this point, but had reviewed many of the public comments both for and against the use of non-toxic shot a dove season and personally is opposed to that restriction but for the consensus of the commission would vote for it. Commissioner Underwood stated that she was in favor of the proposed amendment as she felt that it was an important issue to address in the state." Read the minutes.

Then, Brenna Findley, the Governor's Administrative Rules Coordinator, appeared before the ARRC on 8/16-17/11 and "clarified the position of the governor, which is that whether or not to limit or ban traditional shot is a decision that belongs to the legislature."  Read the minutes.

But on 5/11/12, the governor insisted that the lead ban is “something that should be decided by the Legislature, not by administrative fiat” and then he signed the Executive Order.  

The Des Moines Register Editorial Board observed on 5/14/12, "The governor, not the Natural Resources Commission, is the one who appears to be overstepping his authority.  And contaminating Iowa's outdoors in doing so."

You can find out more about this issue, links to the science and the history of the dove hunting bill during the 2011 legislative session and the NRC's rulemaking process on the Chapter website. You can also take a look at the "Nontoxic and Lead Shot Literature Review" produced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 2008.

 

 

Senate Nuclear Bill Passed Committee But Never Debated

Two days after the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, the Senate Commerce Committee, determined to expand nuclear power in Iowa, amended and passed HF561 by an 8-7 vote on 3/13/12.  In the end, victory was ours when the Senate adjourned without debating HF561 on the floor.

Nuclear power definitely isn't a solution to Iowa's energy needs. And, nuclear power definitely isn't clean. It may not emit the amount of greenhouse gases as coal plants; but safety and storage of spent fuel issues have never been resolved. The technology MidAmerican Energy suggests it will use (but was not restricted to use in the bill) has not been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and, therefore, is not operating anywhere in the world.

A memo from the staff of the Iowa Utilities Board on 12/23/11provided a stinging economic critique of legislation passed by the Iowa House in 2011 that would make ratepayers liable for massive utility costs and cost overruns from building new nuclear power plants.

The memo acknowledged that, as amended, the bill "would shift nearly all of the construction, licensing and permitting risk associated with one or more nuclear plants from the company to its customers...[by] guaranteeing recovery of pre-approved prudent costs, including a profit on capital investments.  Some of these provisions could create incentives for the company to engage in behavior that could be contrary to the public interest in certain situations..."  Further, the bill would require "that the Board allow full recovery of all prudent expenditures incurred for the proposed plant(s), including profits, if the utility decides, for any reason, not to complete the plant..."  Finally, the IUB staff wrote that the bill "could effectively create an incentive for the utility to walk away from the plant."  Read the memo.

In response, the Senate Commerce Committee passed amendments Committee leadership said "fixed" the bill.  However, the amendments did nothing more than require MidAmerican Energy to wait until it begins spending money on its proposed nuclear plant before the Iowa Utilities Board could approve collecting increased rates by the energy company. MidAmerican Energy still has not provided a report to legislators, who in 2010 approved the energy company spending $15 million of ratepayers' money to study the feasibility of constructing a new nuclear power plant in Iowa.

See the facts about this bill and other information the Chapter provided during this legislative session.

 

We Saved Iowa's Public Lands

The Iowa House of Representatives never debated House File 2449, referred to as the "government efficiency" bill, that directed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to inventory all of its public lands (Division V, Section 16) and prohibited the DNR from purchasing any additional agricultural land (Division V, Section 17).

Rather, the Senate moved its own version of an "efficiency" bill through the process and passed it 49-0 on 4/19/12. The House, convinced its bill would never pass the Senate, finally abandoned HF2449 and adopted the Senate version 93-0 on 4/25/12. The Senate bill made no mention of selling off public lands. Gov. Branstad signed the bill on 5/9/12.

House File 2449:

Risked Iowa's Water Quality. Iowa law defines agricultural land as virtually all land in Iowa. The DNR would have been prohibited from purchasing wetlands, prairies, parks and river buffers to protect water quality.

Sacrificed the Natural Legacy. This land does not belong to the government. It belongs to Iowans. Don't let anyone hijack our state's future.

Was Fiscally Irresponsible. Public land in Iowa generates nearly $4 billion annually. HF2449 would have sacrificed the land we all share, land that is important to our economy.

HF2449 originally anticipated generating $20 million from the sale of public lands to fund the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.  Rep. Peter Cownie (R-Polk), floor manager of HF2449, ultimately abandoned the idea when it was discovered the DNR did not have that much public land in inventory to sell.  State parks, state forests and land purchased with federal funds could not be sold.  Cownie told The Des Moines Register on 4/25/12 that “We did find $3.5 million...That’s a lot of money to a lot of Iowans.”

 

The Return of the "Ag Gag" Bill

HF589, the bill that prohibits entering on or damaging property associated with a facility or operation where animals or crops are maintained, returned to he General Assembly.  The bill as passed by the House in 2011 essentially makes it illegal for a person to audio or video record the operation and prohibits committing fraud by obtaining access to the facility or crop operation by false pretenses for the purpose of committing an act not authorized by the owner or by making a false statement as part of an employment application.  Sen. Joe Seng (D-Scott) introduced amendment S-5004 in January 2012 that substantially changes the bill to make it illegal to gain employment by fraudulent means.  

The Senate passed the amended bill 40-10 on 2/25/12.  The House agreed to the Senate's amended bill and passed it 69-28 on 2/28/12.  The law became effective on 3/2/12 when the governor signed it.

 

 

Chapter priorities for this session included:

Energy/Climate Change:

Nuclear Power.  HF561/SF390 -- These two bills would enable utilities to begin charging ratepayers for proposal nuclear power plants.  HF561 passed the House in 2011 by a vote of 68-30 with two not voting on April 16, 2011 where it stalled in the Senate.  A companion bill, SF390, is still active but the Senate is expected to address HF561 instead.

The Iowa Chapter’s legislative energy and climate change priorities continue to include promotion of renewable energy solutions and distributed generation through feed-in tariffs, property assessed clean energy bill (PACE), green building code changes, a solar energy rebate program and a burn ban of residential waste. 

 

Conservation:

Dove Hunting. Resolutions are expected to be introduced in both the House and the Senate that would permanently remove language banning the use of lead shot while hunting Mourning Doves.  The  Natural Resources Commission inserted the language into its rule and then the Administrative Rules Review Committee put a legislative hold on the lead ammunition ban in the rule until the Legislature could address it.  The Chapter supports a lead ammunition ban on hunting Mourning Doves.

 

CAFOs:

Every session, the Chapter must employ defensive efforts to stop the legislature from weakening  existing legislation and DNR rules that regulate the operation of CAFOs, including a recent ban on the spreading of manure on snow-covered or frozen ground.  The Chapter supports legislation that calls for local control of CAFO siting, a moratorium on new construction of CAFOs, that reduces the density of concentrated animal feeding operations – a practice that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions -- and stronger regulation of odor and air pollution controls. 

 

WATER QUALITY:

Defensive efforts to stop the Legislature from weakening water quality laws and new antidegradation rules will again be one of the Chapter’s priorities.  During the 2011 session, the House passed a bill by 64-32 with four Representatives absent that would move DNR water quality programs to IDALS.  The bill never made it out of the senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.  However, it could reappear during the 2012 session.  Find out more about this issue.

Historically, we have experienced surprise legislative attacks to weaken existing water quality protections and enforcement.  Threats include the elimination of the Environmental Protection Committee and drastic budget cuts for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Chapter will support legislation that helps keep water on the land through Smart Planning and other floodplain management principles.

 

CONSERVATION FUNDING:

 

Iowans approved in November 2010 a Constitutional amendment that establishes a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.  During the 2010 legislative session, enabling legislation (which is not protected in the Iowa Constitution) to set up the funding formula that previously had been agreed on passed.  During the final weeks before the election, the Iowa Farm Bureau opposed the trust fund and ran an unsuccessful campaign to defeat the Constitutional amendment.  The Chapter is now concerned that opponents will launch efforts to alter the enabling legislation changing the funding formula and/or inserting other damaging language in a bill.  Staff and volunteers will monitor budget and standings bills and advocate for increased funding for conservation and environmental protection.

 

Some legislators oppose purchase of additional public land.  Iowa is already near the bottom of all 50 states in the amount of public land.  Legislation has already been introduced banning the purchase of public land by the Iowa DNR (even with federal dollars) and the nationally recognized and popular Resources Enhancement and Protection Fund (REAP) is under attack, especially the open spaces account.

 

FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT:

 

Retaining water on the land is a priority.  Climate change has increased our state’s future flooding impacts and experts are projecting increased precipitation and more frequent extreme rain events.  The flooding impacts of 1993, 2008 and 2010 will continue unless Iowa takes floodplain management seriously now.  The Chapter will actively support strengthening policy that prohibits building in floodplains and to stop unnecessary development in 500-year floodplains.   The Rebuild Iowa Office (RIO), organized after the 2008 floods, was shuttered in 2011.  The Chapter will closely monitor progress made by RIO and any attempts to legislatively undermine policies RIO put into place.