April 24, 2024

Fry, Sinclair address water

At Friday’s legislative luncheon, Rep. Joel Fry, Sen. Amy Sinclair and Rep. Ray ‘Bubba’ Sorensen spoke about what bills had made it through the second funnel week, as well as answered audience questions, including one about Osceola’s water situation.

Water

When asked what was being done about Osceola’s water, Fry replied that he, by phone, and Sinclair, in person, had met with Osceola city leaders the Saturday prior, March 16, to discuss how they could help, and had also met with the Iowa DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to see how some regulations could be moved along more quickly to help expedite the different possible solutions.

“We are doing whatever we can at our level,” said Fry.

Sinclair said that discussions that were had at the Saturday meeting included looking at easing requirements on a disaster declaration, which is what both she and Fry said was one of the bigger issues right now.

“There needs to be an emergency declaration determined by city leaders,” said Fry, adding that there are federal and state measures that have to be met first for an emergency declaration to be declared. Once an emergency is declared, that opens up more resources for the state to provide assistance.

In talking with city leaders, the topic of putting water back into West Lake - which the city and water board has been looking at doing - was discussed, and Sinclair said that she and Fry been able to get the DNR to talk with the Department of Homeland Security, who can assist from an infrastructure perspective when it comes to short-term options such as piping or wells. However, Sinclair reiterated that it’s up to the local level to decide what route they want to take first, so that the legislature can look at what regulations need changed, or to know what money they can use.

“It’s gotta start here, it really does. I’m here to help, any way I can….we can facilitate getting with the right people, the right organization, getting trucks and piping available from Homeland Security…[a] decision that has to be made here, in order for us to help access funding and to help access the regulatory relief that you’re asking for. I need a decision to know what money and regulatory relief to go to,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair touched on the Farm Bill, which contains language that prohibits money from being used for surface water, and urged people to be a part of the solution when it comes to the water situation.

“Don’t just complain. Come with ways you can help, come with ways that make sense. Come with how you can solve the problem, not just complaining about not having it solved,” she said.

AEA

The AEA bill was addressed, with Fry saying that it had passed the Iowa House to the Iowa Senate the night prior, and would likely head to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk sometime this week. When questioned about the need for a task force and why not wait another year to pass a bill on AEAs, Fry replied that the task force will be necessary in making sure the legislature follows the issues that are found.

Several expressed concern at the speed at which the AEA bill is moving, and its potential impact on children and schools.

Timber Reserve

Fry gave an update on the timber reserve bill, which is out of ways and means and will head to the house floor either this week or next.

Under the forest reserve program, Iowa landowners can place acres of their land into forest reserve (if certain criteria is met) and not be taxed on it. Its original purpose was for conservation measures, but also to reduce tax burdens on those landowners who were not making any profit off of the land. Today, there are now a large number of acres across the state that are not being taxed, and that tax burden falls on everyone else. However, those who are not paying taxes are still benefiting from what the taxes pay for in the county.

The bill will allow each county’s supervisors to opt out of timber reserve program for the county if they desire.

School safety

Fry and Sorensen addressed the school safety bill, which will allow for school safety officers to carry guns, and address insurance. Under the new law, the school board who desire to allow guns on campus will be required to have a large amount of training in order to carry in school. Sorensen pointed out that Iowa code already allows school safety officers and teachers to carry a gun in school, however, schools found themselves dropped by their insurance carriers due to liability.

“This is not putting guns in the hands of teachers, that is not what this is about. This is about school safety, and as we’ve heard across the state…the important thing is to have someone respond quickly in the event of a shooter,” said Fry.

THC

The three touched on the regulation of consumable hemp, or THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). There was a loophole in the industrial hemp program that was passed a few years ago which allowed for consumable hemp to be sold in drinks. The issue has become how can it be regulated, how much is allowed and how to keep it out of the hands of minors. Fry said he’d heard some concerns about how it would affect medical cannabis, but said that will not be affected in looking at regulations for recreational use. Sorensen said it would include adding warning labels to cans.

Other topics

Fry spoke of his mental health bill that is moving along to bring mental and behavioral health to a statewide system from regional. Sorensen talked about SF 2340, which deals with immigration in Iowa. Under the bill, Iowa law enforcement officers would be able to arrest illegal aliens in Iowa, who have previously been denied entry into the United States or deported.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.