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Monday morning hundreds of Iowans descended upon the state capitol in an effort to defeat two bills that were introduced in the state legislature.
The bills in question were House File 542 and Senate Study Bill 1221.
Supporters said the bill would keep government from having an unfair advantage in buying farmland.
“Our members are in support of this bill,” said Kevin Kuhle, with the Iowa Farm Bureau.
Opponents said HF 542 would restrict, states, counties and cities from using state funds to buy new public lands for parks, trails or water quality issues.
After the few seats were filled in the small hearing room, well over 100 people stood shoulder-to-shoulder around the house subcommittee, chaired by Representative Rob Bacon, a Story City Republican.
Kate Zimmerman, Ringgold County Conservation Board Executive Director, was one of a few Ringgold county residents there voicing their opposition to the bills.
“I strongly oppose both HF542 and SF1221,” said Zimmerman. “In a state that is already ranked in the bottom five for public land access and a state that has an abhorrent history of failing to protect our native flora and fauna, this bill comes as another attack to set back Iowa to the dark ages. These two bills are devastating to private land owners, city, county, state and non-profit conservation departments.”
Beginning the hearing, Representative Scott Ourth from Warren County stated he had never had more emails, phone calls or texts on an issue in his seven years in state legislation, which triggered big applause from the room.
After the Farm Bureau representatives voiced their arguments in support of the bill, multiple people from conservationists to farmers voiced their displeasure.
Molly Hanson of Iowa Rivers Revival explained Iowa ranked fourth in the nation in floods and over half of conservation land is in the 100-year flood plan.
“We are seeing Iowans who want to live, work and play here,” said Hanson.
The House bill ultimately did not move out of subcommittee, and the group moved on to the Senate bill later on in the day.
This bill, as explained by the lobbyist for Ducks Unlimited Marc Beltrame, would be more difficult because of the weight of the bill. This bill was lighter in wanting to remove tax credits for citizens who donated land as well as the restriction of state or county entities utilizing the State Revolving Fund.
Many of the same arguments were heard throughout this hearing, but the bill advanced out of subcommittee on a 2-1 vote with Senators Tom Shipley and Robert Hogg voting in favor with an agreement that an amendment be made to remove the tax credit portion of the bill. Senator Nate Boulton voted in opposition to the bill.
The bill will now head to the Natural Resources and Environment subcommittee for further evaluation before it heads to the Senate floor.
“Land owners would no longer be able to apply for the charitable contribution for tax credit to protect their land or donate for public use,” said Zimmerman. “Your local cities and counties would no longer be able to expand parks, trails or land of any kind. Please help us send a message to Iowans that our environment and quality of life is a priority and will not allow the tragedy of HF542 and SF1221 to happen.”