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Legislative Representative

2014 Legislative Update (3/21/2014)

Emily Piper, Contract Specialist

Emily Piper

Contract Lobbyist

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The 2014 legislative session convened on January 13 and leaders immediately started talking about a quick end to this legislative session.  That stands in stark contrast to the past several years when the legislative session has dragged on past the statutory deadline.  This year’s statutory deadline is April 22.  Legislative leaders anticipate being able to meet, if not beat, that deadline.  It is an election year and the congressional retirements is having an impact on state legislative races as several legislators have indicated they will run for one of the three open seats.

A sign that this legislative session is moving quickly is an unprecedented early agreement between the two chambers on budget targets.  Normally, split government makes this difficult.  However, in early March, legislative leaders announced agreement on the overall state spending number as well as the individual budget area targets.  This means that legislators can move quickly to resolve differences in individual line item spending categories rather than negotiating on the larger spending targets.

The FY 2015 budget targets as agreed upon by the House and Senate establish overall state spending at $6.97 billion, a 7.4 percent increase over fiscal year 2014 and roughly $30 million less than proposed by Governor Branstad.  Big ticket items like the backfill to local governments for the loss of revenue due to commercial property tax relief and implementation of last year’s education reform package comprise a large part of the increased spending.

IRWA has a number of issues on the table for this legislative session.  In cooperation with the other water utility groups, IRWA is proposing a phase-out in the state sales tax on residential water sales and the establishment of an infrastructure fund for water and wastewater infrastructure.

State Sales Tax on Water
Water is the only essential service that is still taxed at the residential level.  Water utilities are making a concerted effort to remove that tax and to provide a tax break for nearly every Iowan.    The proposal would phase out the 5% sales tax on residential water consumption but maintain the 1% that is collected for school infrastructure. The estimated cost of removing the 5-cent sales tax on residential water sales is approximately $20 million once fully implemented. 

Water Quality & Infrastructure Program
The goal of this legislation is to provide funding to help utilities dealing with aging infrastructure, drought recovery and planning and compliance with nutrient reduction standards.  The Environmental Protection Agency assessment of infrastructure needs over the next 20 years for drinking water is $5.9 billion and $3.4 billion for wastewater.  Iowa does not currently provide a dedicated source of state funding for these infrastructure needs.

In addition, changes in regulatory requirements including more stringent NPDES permit requirements in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, are on the horizon.  The 102 cities and 48 industries identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy are estimated to face over $1.5 billionincosts to implement the requirements of the Strategy for point sources.   This is just the tip of the iceberg as all dischargers will eventually be impacted.

The proposed legislation would provide $23 million in funding for water and wastewater infrastructure through the following initiatives:

Finally, IRWA successfully concluded discussions with the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, the Iowa Chapter of AWWA and the League of Cities to address concerns about rural water operations within two miles of a city’s incorporated limits.  Under current law, nonprofit rural water associations are not required to notify cities of their intention to serve customers within two miles.  The agreement reached with these groups preserves the rights of rural water systems to serve existing customers or add new ones in existing service areas but requires rural water associations to notify a city of their intention to enter into completely new service areas within that two mile zone.  Cities maintain the right to reject the request but must provide the rural water system with its plan to develop the area and serve those customers.  In addition, timelines to ensure that customers are served are reduced.  The goal of this agreement, which is encompassed in HF 2192, is to create a better framework for cooperation between rural water and municipalities.

Emily Piper


DC Water Rally - Feb 11-13th

Iowa had eight representatives in attendance at the NRWA Water Rally — Randy Pleima, Mahaska Rural Water System, Jim LaPlant, Central Iowa Water Association, Randy Van Dyke, Robert and Audrey Peton, Cole Heikens, Iowa Lakes Regional Water, Rodney Holben, City of Pisgah and Greg Huff, IRWA. Jim Auen with Lewis and Clark Rural Water System also accompanied the Iowa delegation to some of the meetings.

As luck would have it, the Iowa group was able to visit with five out of the six members of Iowa’s Congressional Delegation - see photos below. IRWA’s delegation focused on the successes of the federal technical assistance programs in Iowa and advocated for continued funding for these programs for FY13 and FY14. Funding commitments were also sought for the USDA WEP Loan and Grant Program and the Water and Wastewater State Revolving Fund loan programs.

Click on photo below to view a larger image. Slideshow presentation is also available.

Iowa's delegation meeting with Senator Charles Grassley
Iowa's delegation meeting with Senator Tom Harkin
Iowa's delegation meeting with Senator
Charles Grassley

Iowa's delegation meeting with Senator
Tom Harkin

Iowa's delegation meeting with Congressman Steve King
Iowa's delegation meeting with Congressman Tom Latham
Iowa's delegation meeting with Congressman
Steve King

Iowa's delegation meeting with Congressman
Tom Latham

Iowa's delegation meeting with Congressman Dave Loebsack
Iowa's delegation meeting with Congressman
Dave Loebsack