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Last Updated 05/17/2013

Opening Day

The 85th General Assembly is scheduled to open on January 14, 2013.

Committees Assigned

The Senate and the House of Representatives have assigned their members to standing committees.  See the list of assignments to the committees that are or may be important to Sierra Club and the Chapter.

Agriculture/Natural Resources Appropriations to be Decided Soon

UPDATE: The Conference Committee assigned to iron out differences in SF435 made its recommendations and both chambers adopted its report.  On May 16, the Senate passed the amended Senate File 435 by a vote 29-19.  A few hours later, the House passed the bill 97-0.  See how they voted.

Sen. Dennis Black (D-Jasper), the bill’s Senate floor manager, said during debate that the budget – at $27 million plus – is more than $5 million more than last year.  He said the Forestry Department is about $3 million under where it should be.  “The EPA is very pleased” with the $700,000 increase from FY2013 for CAFO inspectors, added Sen. Black.  During the early 2000s, those who participated in crafting the Master Matrix estimated there would need to be approximately 23 inspectors.  Sen. Black noted we are way behind that number.

The Chapter is still reviewing the contents of the bill, but here are a few highlights:

REAP.  The final appropriation for Resource Enhancement & Protection (REAP) is $16 million.  The Senate previously approved a $20 million appropriation and the House was willing to fund it at $12 million from the Environmental First Fund.  It amounts to about $4 million more than last year.

CAFO Inspectors.  Ultimately, legislators compromised at $1,320,000 or roughly 7 new inspectors.  The Senate bill allocated $1,920,000 while the House version approved was $1,120,000 as recommended by the Governor or five new inspectors.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it needed at least 13 new inspectors to be sure all of the animal feeding operations that require an inspection be inspected within the next five years.  The total amounts to a $700,000 increase and less than half of what the Senate was seeking. 

Nutrient Research Center.  Iowa State University will become the home of the new Nutrient Research Center.  Legislators created a new center for the purpose of pursuing “a science-based approach to nutrient management research, that may include but it not limited to evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices, and using an adaptive management framework for providing recommendations for the implementation of nutrient management practices and the development of new nutrient management practices.”  The Center will be administered by a director appointed by the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean.  A council will be appointed from the following representatives:

  • ISU dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences or a designee;

  • ISU Extension Service director or a designee;

  • One appointed by the president of the University of Iowa  from its IHHR – hydroscience and engineering within the university’s College of Engineering;

  • A person knowledgeable in an area related to nutrient research appointed by the president of the University of Northern Iowa;

  • A person knowledgeable in an area related to nutrient research appointed by the state association of private colleges and universities;

  • The Secretary of Agriculture or a designee;

  • The IDALS Soil and Water Conservation administrative director or a designee;

  • The DNR director or a designee.

The funding totaled approximately $1.5 million. 

Soil Conservation.  An allocation of $2.4 million will go to IDALS for the purposes of supporting the water quality initiative administered by the soil conservation division in fiscal year 2013-2014 and $4.4 million for FY 2014-2015. The funds will be used to support reducing nutrients in subwatersheds and will include demonstration projects that utilize water quality practices as described in the latest revision of the “Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy” document.

Water Quality Initiative Report.  IDALS is required to prepare and submit to the Legislature by January 15, 2014, a preliminary report regarding its efforts to administer the water quality initiative.  The report  is to include information regarding the establishment of water quality practices, including demonstration projects.  A final report will be due to the general assembly by January 15, 2015.

State Fish and Game Protection Fund.  The DNR will receive $41,078,234 for regulating and advancing hunting, fishing, and trapping, for protection, propagation, restoration, management, and harvest of fish or wildlife.

State Park.  DNR has also been allocated $6,360,000 in FY 2013-2014 for the maintenance and operation of the state parks and for the staff time associated with these activities.  The allocation for FY2014-2015 is $2,305,000.

Ag Drainage Wells.  Another funding mechanism will address the closure of agricultural drainage wells.  Sen. Black said all ag drainage wells should be closed within three years.  A bill addressing agricultural drainage wells is expected before the session ends.

See the Conference Committee Report.

See the amendment that was amended with the Conference Committee Report.

SF435 is available to view at both of the above links.


The Iowa Senate did not agree on the Agriculture/Natural Resources Appropriations passed by the Iowa House. The bill is now in Conference Committee.  Members appointed to this committee include Sens. Black, Dearden, Greiner, Rozenboom and Wilhelm and Reps. Bearinger, Drake, Grassley, Klein and Ruff.

Contact these legislators and tell them you insist they pass the Senate version on these two priority items for Sierra Club Iowa Chapter:

  • REAP. The Senate's bill funds REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) at $20 million while the House version cut it to $12 million.
  • AFO Regulations. The Senate bill budgets for 13 new animal feeding operations (AFO) inspectors that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it needed to properly regulate AFOs. The House version followed the Governor's recommendation of only 5 new inspectors.

(See how the House voted on these two amendments.)

Contact Conference Committee legislators NOW and say you want them to recommend the Senate's appropriation for those two items.

REAP funding is important because it invests in the state's natural and cultural resources. The program is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2021, but the state legislature sets the amount of REAP funding every year. This past year, REAP was appropriated $12 million.

Additional CAFO inspectors are needed to appropriately inspect the thousands of confinement operations in Iowa. Responding to sharp criticism from EPA that DNR's inspection and enforcement fail to meet minimum federal requirements, DNR responded that it needed an additional 13 employees and associated funding.

Tell the Conference Committee that the House version is not enough!

Please contact these legislators NOW. Time is running out on the session and it's important that they hear from us.

Please personalize your message in the space provided and tell the legislators why these appropriations are important to you.

NOTE:  If you sent a message and received an error message, please try it again.  There was a glitch in the programming but is now fixed.  Apologies for any confusion. 

CAFO "Mothballing" Bill Passes Both Chambers



Wagner Nomination to IUB Withdrawn

Gov. Terry Branstad withdrew his nomination of Nick Wagner, 39, to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) on April 8, 2013, after questions were raised over whether Wagner would be confirmed in the state Senate.  Senate Democrats, who hold a 26-24 majority, told Branstad that Wagner did not have the votes to get the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation.

Wagner, a Republican from Marion, was elected to the Iowa House in 2008.  He lost to Democrat Daniel Lundby in the June 2012 election.  Although the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter did not actively oppose Wagner’s confirmation to the IUB, Branstad’s withdrawal of Wagner’s name from consideration comes as a welcome relief.  He has been no friend of the environment and the Chapter was concerned he would contribute to reversing progress made on clean, renewable energy sources if he were confirmed to the IUB.

In 2011, Wagner voted in support of a construction-work-in-progress bill that would have allowed MidAmerican Energy to immediately begin charging its customers for a new nuclear power plant before it was ever built.  The measure passed the House but died in the Senate at the end of the 2012 session.

Also in 2011, Wagner voted in favor of prohibiting anyone to photograph concentrated animal feeding operations without permission, to relocate water permitting for CAFOs from DNR to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), and to strip all environmental rulemaking from the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) and transfer that authority to the DNR director.  House File 45, a bill that Wagner voted in support, prohibited the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from purchasing any additional land, revoked any funding previously appropriated for rail and drastically cut REAP funding.  The bill passed the House but the Senate amended it to remove the public land language, and reinstated rail and REAP funding.  The Senate version was eventually adopted.

Both chambers in 2011 passed a bill that would allow the hunting of Mourning Doves for the first time in decades.  When a coalition, including the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, convinced the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to ban the use of lead-based ammunition when hunting the small birds, members of both chambers filed a resolution to rescind the ban.  Wagner voted for the 2012 resolution but it died in the Senate.  Generally, that would mean the lead ban would stand but Gov. Branstad issued an Executive Order that rescinded the rule, thus allowing hunters to use whatever ammunition they wanted.

Between 2009 and 2010, Wagner voted in support of the stockpiling of dry manure, allowing MidAmerican Energy to charge customers to develop a three-year feasibility study for nuclear power (which has been released to the public) and allowing manure to be spread on frozen ground.  He opposed bills requiring state buildings to use green cleaning products and allowing cities to adopt smart planning principles. His votes also included opposition to requiring gender balance on Iowa’s boards and commissions and support for the sustainable funding trust fund.

Wagner would have replaced Darrell Hanson for the $113,000 a year position.  Hanson, a former chair of the EPC, was not reappointed.

Gov. Branstad also withdrew former Sen. Tom Rielly’s nomination to the Iowa Transportation Commission.  Confirmation for Rielly, a Democrat, was delayed by Senate Republicans.


Feed In Tariff bills introduced

UPDATE  SF372 was referred back to the Agriculture Committee on April 4, 2013, essentially deferring the bill until at least the 2014 session.  SF414 was referred to Appropriations and could still be considered during the 2013 session.

Two bills recently passed out of Senate committees need your support. The first (SF372) is from the Senate Agriculture Committee for incentive payments to Iowa farmers for on-farm, renewable electricity generation. The second (SF414) is from the Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee for grant and loan programs for projects in small wind innovation zones and for solar and wind projects on the farm or at home.

SF372 provides for small capacity (up to 20 megawatts) facilities on agricultural land to connect to and begin transmitting to electricity generating utilities. SF414 provides grant and loan programs for new and expanding small-scale projects.


New Bottle Bill introduced

UPDATE  The Senate Appropriations subcommittee considering the "Better Bottle Bill" held a meeting the first week of April.  Senators heard from supporters as well as those in opposition, environmentalists, grocers, distributors and recycling professionals.  Because it is an Appropriations bill, it can still be considered yet this year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee introduced a bill on March 26 that expands the 30-year-old bottle bill.  SSB1247 relates to the types of containers included under the beverage container control laws and the reimbursement amount paid by a distributor for empty beverage containers. The bill expands the list of beverages whose containers are regulated under Code chapter 455C, commonly referred to as the bottle bill. The newly regulated beverages include any nonalcoholic, carbonated and noncarbonated drinks excluding fruit and vegetable juices and fruit drinks and grade “A” milk and milk products as specified in the grade “A” pasteurized milk ordinance.

The bill also includes a list of other exceptions to the newly regulated beverages, limits the type of bottles, cans, jars, and cartons that are included under the definition for the term “beverage container.”

The bill excludes from the term bottles, cans, jars and cartons of three liters or more in size containing a noncarbonated beverage and bottles, cans, jars and cartons made of high-density polyethylene.

The reimbursement amount, commonly referred to as a handling fee, is paid by the distributor who collects the beverage containers from the dealer or person operating a redemption center. Currently, the reimbursement amount is 1 cent per container. The bill requires distributors to pay an additional 1 cent for each collected beverage container that is made of plastic.

The bill appropriates $10,000 from the general fund to the department of natural resources for purposes of administering the Code related to the beverage container control laws. 


Sierra Club Asks Appropriations Committee to Fund 13 CAFO Inspectors

The Iowa Chapter recently asked the Appropriations subcommittee on Agriculture & Natural Resources to appropriate money to fund 13 additional animal feeding operations inspectors.  In his budget, Governor Branstad included enough funding to add five inspectors, even though the Department of Natural Resources requested funding for 11 new inspectors.

The Chapter's request stems from the dedelegation petition that Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Environmental Integrity Project filed with the Environmental Protection Agency in September 2007 (find out more here).  The EPA chided the DNR in its informal investigative report last summer for several problems with the way DNR operates its program.  The DNR indicated in its response that it needs 13 new inspectors.

Read the Chapter's message to the Appropriations subcommitte

The budget proposed by the Senate includes appropriations for 13 additional inspectors; the House budget allows for five additional inspectors.  Ultimately, a conference committee comprised of both Representatives and Senators from both parties will be appointed to hammer out the chambers' differences.


Chasing Methane in the Legislature

The Chapter recently received a message from a 7th Grader who is leading an effort for the Legislature to pass a composting bill (SF306),  His message follows in its entirety.  Links have been added for style and easy reference.


My name is Ethan Trepka. I am a middle school student and in the STEMS club from Iowa City who is working with a team called Chasing Methane. We would appreciate your assistance in passing SF306, a bill regarding keeping food waste out of landfills. Our team's goal is to reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere by promoting industrial composting at landfills. We have completed waste audits, under the direction of the Iowa Waste Exchange, at two restaurants and the Capitol cafeteria. We have also completed in depth studies of restaurants and the capitol cafeteria to determine the amount of food waste produced and determined the volume of methane released if the food waste was placed in the landfill. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than Carbon Dioxide. Landfill's make up about 15% of the United States methane emissions. With help from Marty Jacobson of Green Iowa AmeriCorps, we calculated that if all of the 220,000 full service restaurants in the United States composted, there would be a 5% reduction in national methane emissions from landfills. Industrial composting in landfills has many benefits. Last year, the Iowa City landfill ran out of compost but still made 40 to 60 thousand dollars from the compost that was sold. In addition, the EPA has mandated that after July 2013 construction sites will be required to replace the top soil that is removed from the ground. Compost has been approved as a soil additive. We have learned from the Johnson County landfill that they anticipate a higher demand for compost.


We encouraged legislator's to created a bill, House File 123 that is now Senate File 306. This bill has been created and passed through a Senate subcommittee (Senate Study Bill 1138) and The Natural Resources and Environment committee. The full senate will vote on SF306 in March.


Would members of the Sierra Club be willing to contact state senators, encouraging them to vote for passage of SF 306? I have attached information about methane production, composting, and Iowa Senators contact information. The link to the bill is below.

Our team would greatly appreciate your support. Four Iowa landfills have shown food waste should be treated as an asset (composting) instead of a liability (compacted in landfills). Keeping food waste out of the landfills is the sensible thing to do.

Ethan Trepka, Chasing Methane team member

For more information, see Chasing Methane Fact Sheet and the Chasing Methane brochure.


Tips from a Legislator on Effective Lobbying

In March 2010, The Iowa Lawyer, a publication of the Iowa State Bar Association, published an article about Rep. Kraig Paulsen, who was Iowa House Minority Leader when the article was written.  In the article, Paulsen talked about what it takes to effectively lobby.[i] 

Just as in life, the legislature runs on relationships, Kraig says. A relationship doesn’t constitute someone who rushes in to make contact with legislators for the first time on a big bill that he or she cares about, then disappears for five or 10 years. Relationships are about getting involved with one’s elected officials back home.

He cites as an example an individual who works with Rural Electric Coops in the state. Every year when Kraig takes part in the parade in one of the towns in his district, he knows that when he turns a certain corner, this individual will get up from his lawn chair, come out to him in the parade and say hello. The individual also comes down to the Capitol a couple of times a year to visit with him.

“He never asks for anything, but I know who he is. And, when a bill comes up in the house that has some impact on RECs, he’ll call me and say: ‘Kraig that bill would be harmful to the RECs and their members.’ Because I have a relationship with this person, because I know who he is, I listen.

“People sometimes ask what is the best way to contact a legislator. If you have a relationship with that legislator, it doesn’t matter how you contact us,” he says. “If you’re a constituent who I know for a host of reasons and who now has an issue to lobby me on, I will listen.

"In short, rather than the issue driving the relationship, the relationship drives the issue."

If you don't already have a relationship with your legislators, now is a good time to begin developing one.  Legislators regularly schedule public forums to meet with their constituents.  Links to those schedules are provided for you in the left navigation bar titled "Legislators' Public Forum Schedules."  Attend the forums, ask questions, provide constructive input and feedback.  Talk to your legislators when you see them in public places.  Call them when you have something important to share with them.  You may not always agree with them, but they will be more inclined to speak with you when you come to the Capitol if they already know you.

[i] Boeckman, Steve, “House Minority Leader – Kraig Paulsen uses his leadership talents to keep his party’s voice heard,” The Iowa Lawyer, March 2010, p. 30