Terrible Iowa Senate energy bill returns – Michael Breitbach edition

Matt Chapman reports on the lengthy Iowa Senate debate over a bill that is terrible on many levels. You can watch the proceedings on video here, beginning around 9:07:30. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Republicans approved Senate File 2311, the omnibus energy bill, on March 6 after yet another late-into-the-evening debate this session. I guess the logic is the later it gets, the worse the legislation seems to be.

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Iowa Senate Republicans seeking to end solar tax credit

The official Iowa Senate Republican tax plan would repeal the state’s popular Solar Energy Systems tax credit later this year.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra introduced Senate Study Bill 3197 on February 21 and scheduled a subcommittee meeting on the 130-page bill for 8:00 am the following morning. Sweeping changes to individual and corporate income tax rates could reduce state revenue by more than $1 billion annually, though the details are unclear, because no fiscal analysis is publicly available.

Although the bill would create a new legislative committee to “comprehensively review and evaluate each tax credit” (pages 31-2), it also calls for scaling back or eliminating some tax credits, with the solar incentive the first to go.

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The bill that was absolutely written by Jake Chapman, not MidAmerican Energy

Citizen lobbyist Matt Chapman (no relation to Senator Jake Chapman) digs into the politics behind a bill that has been called “the utility attack on Iowa’s clean energy leadership.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

The subcommittee hearing on Senate Study Bill 3093 was scheduled for room 315 on the south side of the capitol. Although it is a good-sized room, and the temperature was 15 degrees outside on February 1, lobbyists were packed in like sardines, and it was suffocating. Iowa Senate Commerce Committee vice chair Senator Michael Breitbach joked before the meeting, “if anyone passes out you can just lean on” the people crammed in next to them.

It would not be an exaggeration to say there were sixty people in that room. Seventy five even. SSB 3093 has more than a hundred lobbyist declarations already.

Committee chair Jake Chapman was late; you could hear the groans when someone said he was getting on the elevator and would be a few minutes. Chapman was seated and vice chair Breitbach was running the meeting. He said we would go through the legislation by section and would be considering only objections, because of time constraints. That suggested lobbyists backing the bill would keep quiet. It was also a clue that a trap was being set.

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The utility attack on Iowa's clean energy leadership

Josh Mandelbaum of the Environmental Law & Policy Center advocates for clean energy and clean water policies in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I started off my post last week lamenting that Senate Study Bill 3078 was one of the worst energy bills that I had seen at the legislature. I still believe that to be the case. Unfortunately, a new bill that has been introduced (Senate Study Bill 3093 and its companion House Study Bill 595) is even worse.

In short, SSB 3093 undermines Iowa’s clean energy leadership by significantly scaling back energy efficiency, allowing new charges on solar customers, and removing consumer protections and oversight. As state Consumer Advocate Mark Schuling explained to the Des Moines Register, “It looks like the utilities’ Christmas list was all rolled into one bill. It’s good for utilities but not for customers.”

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Are MidAmerican and Alliant trying to kill Iowa's energy efficiency programs?

Josh Mandelbaum advocates for clean energy and clean water policies in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last week Republican State Senator Randy Feenstra introduced Senate Study Bill 3078, one of the worst energy bills introduced at the legislature since I have been working for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The bill would completely eliminate the requirement for utility energy efficiency programs under Iowa law.

Iowa was one of the first states to adopt energy efficiency programs in the early 1990s, and we have been a national leader in energy efficiency since then. These programs are a part of our clean energy leadership, and one reason we have kept our energy rates below the national average. Thanks to a general political consensus on these programs, there hasn’t been much public discussion about energy efficiency in Iowa. Now seems to be the right time to help people understand the value of these policies. As I’ll explain in more detail below, energy efficiency is one of our most important tools for protecting consumers, addressing climate change, and creating local jobs.

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Five takeaways from the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2018

The Iowa House and Senate convened Monday with the usual big promises and platitudes about working together to build a better future for Iowans.

Behind the optimistic rhetoric, all signs point to another contentious legislative session. The opening day speeches by Republican and Democratic leaders, enclosed in full below, revealed almost no common ground about the focus of lawmakers’ work and no indication that the most important bills will incorporate Democratic ideas. My takeaways:

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