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Over and out!

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 11:22 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 4:53 p.m. CDT

Officially, the session didn’t end until shortly after 9 a.m. Friday. We gaveled in at 8 for passage of a resolution that would allow the Senate Oversight Committee to subpoena witnesses during their attempt to get to the bottom of the “Hush Money” controversy. Twenty-four hours earlier, the legislature had worked through the night, with the Senate adjourning after daylight Thursday morning.

All said, although quite controversial, the session was quite productive. My objectives with soil and water conservation and natural resource protection were well rewarded, although the House refused to meet my goal of $18 million for “cost share funding” through the Department of Agriculture. This funding would allow leveraging of approximately $45 million in private funding to allow approximately $63 million for work state-wide through the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Grassed waterways, native grass filter strips along streams, pond construction, farmland terraces, winter cover crops, etc., were the objective. As it was, the Republican Majority in the House insisted on less than $10 million, leaving a lot of currently engineered projects intended to keep top soil on the farm and aid in cleaning Iowa’s surface waters grossly underfunded. In addition, the funding would have been a great boost for land improvement contractors, creating jobs and spending from that industry across the state.

A great accomplishment was my well known objective of $25 million for REAP, Iowa’s nationally award winning Resource Enhancement and Protection program. This is the 25th anniversary of REAP, which I co-authored during my early years in the House. The program allows for land and water improvements, cultural and trail grants, and a diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities across the state.

A real frustration for me over the past 10 years has been my inability to get the House and Senate to agree on the elimination of sales tax that has to be charged clients of Environmental Testing Labs across Iowa. Our state is the only one in the nation that does so, thus causing a huge competitive detriment for Keystone in Newton and others headquartered in Iowa. I got an agreement at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, and a new bill I quickly put together sailed through the Senate and House. Effective July 1, 2015, this will allow a level playing field for Environmental Testing Labs who compete for state and federal mandated testing of water supplies, sewage station outflow, and a myriad of testing required to protect the public health and welfare. This was a job creator, for Iowa’s labs will require additional professional help for new contracts.

Although this session is over, and come January of 2015 I shall be out of the legislature, I will not sit back and watch the world go by. I actually think I can be quite effective outside the gold dome, by advocating for our land, water and air. In addition, I will work to increase the visibility of Iowa around the world, with many nations depending on us for feed grain and meat protein. I really look forward to what the future has in store.

Now with the session over, call me at (515) 975-8608; write me at box 1271, Newton, 50208; or email dblack@black4senate.com I shall continue to serve your needs through the year.

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