openureyes

Are state laws in the cross-hairs of trade deals?

(Important points raised by the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and a member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

By STATE REP. CHUCK ISENHART, Dubuque

For two years, along with other state legislators, I have waved yellow flags about the Pacific and European trade deals being negotiated by the Obama Administration.

As Congress moves to give the president authority to “fast-track” trade treaties with other nations — meaning Congress would give up its ability to change the agreements — those flags are turning red.

Why do state legislators care? Proposed language in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could threaten our ability to enforce state laws. This undermines the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States.” Congress may give the President the ability to effectively negotiate this amendment away.

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New Big 10 Rivalry? Iowa can compete with Maryland on clean water

(Thanks to State Representative Chuck Isenhart for the guest commentary. He is ranking member on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the state Watershed Planning Advisory Council. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowans want clean water, but that has not motivated Iowa policymakers to tackle water pollution.

Rather, the driving fear is stronger regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the “dead zone.” That 5,000-square-mile area in the Gulf of Mexico has become toxic to life because of nitrogen and phosphorus, mostly from farm runoff. Iowa and Illinois are the top culprits.

The state’s “nutrient reduction strategy” is a narrow approach designed not to clean up Iowa’s water in our lifetimes, but to forestall specific federal limits on polluted water. The plan is focused on how to manage fertilizer. That piece is good as far as it goes, but does not go far enough. Iowa needs a broader strategy.

The Gulf of Mexico is not the only water body with a “dead zone.” For example, Maryland depends on  the Chesapeake Bay as a $1 trillion economic driver, including tourism, recreation, seafood and other industries. Maryland has been fouling its own nest for decades.

Imagine the Gulf of Mexico in Iowa. No doubt dealing with our 489 impaired lakes and streams suffering death by a thousand drips would become more urgent, undeserving of the 80 percent budget cut inflicted by Governor Branstad this year.

As both perpetrators and victims, Maryland citizens made clean water a top public priority. In leaner economic times, a 2012 poll showed that 91 percent of Maryland residents said cleaner water was important and nearly two-thirds supported increasing a statewide household tax to do it. Eighty percent wanted the state to be active in managing growth.

I spent a day on a recent trip to Maryland learning about the Chesapeake Bay. Governor Martin O’Malley put his staff at my disposal after I met him on his summer visit to Iowa. What lessons can be learned from the Chesapeake initiative that might be helpful to us?

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