Opportunities, Challenges as End of Session Draws Near

posted on Monday, April 25, 2016

A version of this article appeared in today's Legislative News Bulletin, a seasonal publication the Iowa Environmental Council sends out weekly during the Iowa Legislative Session. Sig up to receive the Legislative News Bulletin and other email communications from the Council here.

Last Tuesday, April 19, marked the 100th calendar day of session and the end of per diem expenses for legislators. While we saw action on several pieces of key legislation this past week, many issues pertaining to Iowa’s water, land and energy remain unresolved as we head into what is expected to be the last week of the 2016 Iowa Legislative Session.

Funding for water quality, conservation

As reported last week, SF504, which would raise the state sales tax by 3/8 cent to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, passed out of subcommittee on April 14 and became eligible to be heard by the full Senate Ways and Means Committee. However, Ways and Means has yet to bring the bill forth for debate. Senator Johnson (R-Ocheydan) twice offered an amendment to a budget bill that would fund the Trust via offsets in income tax last week. Both times the amendment was ruled not germane, meaning leadership found it not "in close relationship, appropriate, relative or pertinent to" the bill currently being discussed. We continue to meet with legislative leaders and push for long-term, sustainable funding for Iowa’s diverse natural resources that is immediate and accountable.

Clean energy tax incentives

Several bills were introduced last week that would make important improvements to Iowa’s clean energy tax incentive programs, expanding access to clean energy. SSB3190, which was introduced late Friday afternoon, is the most comprehensive of these bills. SSB3190 increases the annual amount of megawatts available for solar projects under the 476 production tax credit program by 10 megawatts (MW). The bill also extends the deadline for 476C projects – which is set to expire at the end of 2016 – by one year. The bill also addresses an inadvertent technical error negatively affecting the upfront solar tax credit program that was created when the Legislature passed a tax coupling bill earlier this year. HF2459, the standings bill moving through the Legislature, now contains language to address this important fix. Additionally, SSB3190 contains language to clarify ownership requirements for the 476C program. HSB658, which is scheduled to be heard by the House Ways and Means Committee today, also contains similar language clarifying ownership requirements. It does not yet include the one year extension or increase of 10 MW of solar capacity.

As the end of session draws near, we remain vigilant in our work to advance these and other pieces of legislation to preserve Iowa’s natural resources and clean energy leadership.

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