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Iowa Rural Water Association
Legislative Update
November 14, 2018

Emily Piper, Contract Specialist

Emily Piper

Contract Lobbyist
515-202-7772

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The mid-term elections have occurred and Iowa’s election results present an interesting picture.   Governor Kim Reynolds becomes the first female elected governor in Iowa and Iowans are sending two more women to Congress.  Both women beat Republican incumbents in a year in which Republicans lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives.  But locally, Republicans maintained their trifecta control over the Iowa Legislature with Governor Reynolds at the helm.  Senate Republicans increased their margin to 32 by defeating a Democrat incumbent and taking control of two open Senate seats previously held by Democrats.   Republicans also maintained control of the open seat previously represented by Senator Mark Chelgren but lost an incumbent in Sioux City, Rick Bertrand. 

On the House side, Republicans saw their margin of control narrow to 54-46.   Four Republican incumbents lost in suburban seats and a number of other races were decided on tight margins.   Most notable in the House is the need for Republicans to fill eight committee chairmanships:  Commerce, Education, Local Government, Public Safety, State Government and Ways and Means along with the health and human services budget subcommittee and the administrative rules review committee.  Democrats needed a net of ten seats to take control of the Iowa House and fell short of that goal by winning only seven but losing a Democrat incumbent and an open seat previously held by Democrats for a net gain of five seats.

The legislative committee of the Iowa Rural Water Association, comprised of representatives from rural water systems and communities from across the state, met in September to discuss legislative action items for the 2019 legislative session.  In addition, the committee considered ongoing involvement in non-legislative issues including the implementation of the water quality bill, legislation that provides guidelines for cities considering the sale of their water or sewer utilities to a private company and ongoing challenges with railroad companies compliance with Iowa’s existing statute and rules governing rail crossings.

The IRWA board of directors approved recommendations from the committee to research options for providing more regulatory flexibility to water and sewer systems and to seek legislation to implement such findings.   The Department of Natural Resources faces the same challenges that many agencies in state government face – the pressure of doing more with fewer resources.  This can impact responsiveness to their customers – our members.   Our goal is to look at opportunities to relieve this pressure and give more local control to the state’s water and sewer systems without compromising public health and safety.

IRWA will also continue to participate in the stakeholder process conducted by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to implement HF 2307.  This bill, passed into law last year, outlines a process for cities to use when considering a sale to a private water company.  It is intended to make certain that all information about future rates, investments in the system and staffing needs are considered in the purchase price.  In addition, this statute ensures that a community consider other options, such as service by another community or rural water system.   The IUB is charged under the statute with developing the process and has conducted three workshops with the interested parties to discuss the proposed rule.   IRWA has participated in those workshops and provided specific written and oral comment.  Final action on this process is anticipated next year.

Finally, cities and rural water systems continue to face challenges from railroads and/or their management companies when applying for permits to cross rail lines for water or sewer.  IRWA will be working with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) which has governing authority to address problems that continue to surface with railroad compliance.   Iowa law and administrative rule is clear on the requirements for utilities.  As a reminder, here are the key facts:

    1. General liability insurance not less than $500,000/$1 million
    2. Excess liability insurance not less than $1 million
    3. Railroad protective liability insurance not less than $2 million/$4 million.  This coverage is to be maintained ONLY during the time of construction, maintenance or repair.