The Rozenboom Report by Senator Ken Rozenboom – March 9, 2019

 On Tuesday, March 5, the Government class from Pella Christian High School came to observe the sub-committee hearing on SSB 1227.


On Tuesday, March 5, the Government class from Pella Christian High School came to observe the sub-committee hearing on SSB 1227.

by Ken Rozenboom

State legislators work on a wide array of issues. In this week’s newsletter I want to focus on two bills that I’ve directed throughout the committee process, and are eligible for debate on the floor of the Senate. As the chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee I drafted Senate Study Bill 1221. This bill, as amended in committee, is very narrowly focused on one fundamental question: Should a private entity be allowed to access a low interest (0.25% – 0.5%) taxpayer loan from the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) to buy land to re-sell to public entities?

The SRF has been in existence for 30 years and is a valuable tool used by cities, counties, sanitary districts, watershed organizations, soil & water conservation districts, and others to finance projects related to water quality projects, wastewater treatment, drinking water, sewer rehabilitation, storm water improvements, and other non-point source projects.

Approximately 12 years ago, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, a private organization, began using the SRF to finance land acquisition. The land they purchase is typically re-sold to either the Iowa DNR or to County Conservation Boards. This use of taxpayer dollars by a private entity creates an uneven playing field and a competitive advantage over other Iowans wanting to purchase land. The INHF is the only private entity in the state utilizing the State Revolving Loan Fund to finance and subsidize land acquisition. The mission, purpose, and work of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation are laudable, but in my view, their land acquisition should not be done with the help of taxpayer dollars.

Contrary to what you may hear, Senate Study Bill 1221 is a very narrowly focused bill that does not reduce public land by one acre, nor does it restrict the State of Iowa, County Conservation Boards, or any local government from purchasing land. It simply levels the playing field.

Another bill that went through the Agriculture Committee this week is Senate Study Bill 1227. In 2012 the legislature passed the “ag-gag” bill to prevent nefarious people from obtaining employment on livestock farms, under false pretenses, with the intent to create videos of perceived animal abuse or, in some cases, staging the abuse. In January, the Iowa courts ruled that the 2012 legislation was unconstitutional, stating that lying on a job application is constitutionally protected free speech.

SSB 1227 creates a criminal offense for a person who deceptively obtains access or employment at an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, intending to cause physical or economic harm. A person who commits this crime would be guilty of a serious misdemeanor the first time and aggravated misdemeanor any time afterwards. This legislation is important to protect livestock producers from malicious actors seeking to destroy their businesses with false accusations.

The importance of the bill is magnified by biosecurity concerns by livestock producers. Threats from foreign animal diseases such as African Swine Fever and FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease) are very real, and outbreaks of those diseases would bring Iowa to its knees. As the chairman of the subcommittee on this bill I will be floor managing the bill, hopefully next week.

On Tuesday, March 5, the Government class from Pella Christian High School came to observe the sub-committee hearing on SSB 1227.

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