CAPITOL COMMENTS: Legislature misses out on water quality opportunity

By Representative Todd Prichard

I have a personality flaw. I cry over spilled milk. I would attribute this to my mother’s sense of frugality. Wasted time, money, supplies — it all drives me crazy.

This week the legislature wasted an excellent opportunity to improve water quality in our state. On Tuesday, the House passed out SF512, a bill the Senate had introduced last session.  While not horrible, it is not the comprehensive bill Iowans need to address water issues. I ultimately did vote in favor of it, but only as a starting point. SF512 could have (and should have) been so much better than what it was. It will make limited progress, but is by no means a solution.

Too many missed opportunities — or “spilled milk” — have impeded the passage of a comprehensive water quality bill over the past two years. In 2017, the House passed its own version of this legislation. That bill, while not perfect, included local input in identifying water quality projects.  It encouraged local governments to work within the watershed. Most importantly, it had better oversight.

Unfortunately, a narrow majority of House Republicans voted to bypass a conference committee this week, opting to pass the Senate bill. There was no conversation or compromise. Had it gone to a conference committee, I am confident that a more extensive bill would have emerged.  Instead, we missed another opportunity. We didn’t just spill the milk with this one, we knocked over the entire bulk tank and wasted a day of milking.

My fear today is that leaders in the House and the Governor’s office will claim victory on this issue and will no longer prioritize this legislation. We all know that more attention is needed to address water quality issues in Iowa. The passage of SF512 can be the first step, but it cannot be the last one we take this session.

Going forward, I will continue to advocate for a more comprehensive bill to clean up our waterways.  I am glad there is now dedicated funding for water quality that will be available every year without having to be annually re-appropriated. That is, however, a small consolation.

Do not let anyone tell you differently – much more action is needed from the state legislature to make real progress on water quality.

Upcoming Events

February 3 — Legislative Forum, 9 a.m. @ Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton

March 9— Legislative Forum, 10 a.m. @Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office, 506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton

April 7– Legislative Forum, 9 a.m. @ Chickasaw County Farm Bureau office,

506 W Milwaukee St, New Hampton

Representative Todd Prichard of Charles City, Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City and Representative Ted Gassman of Scarville with North Iowa Area Community College students. They were at the Capitol for the 30th IACCT Student Legislative Seminar in Des Moines.