A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
WARM FEBRUARY: February was the second- warmest in Iowa on record, prompting vegetation to come out of dormancy sooner than usual. That could intensify the dry conditions across south-central and southeast Iowa due to early evapotranspiration, according to a report prepared by the technical staff from the state departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Homeland Security, and U.S. Geological Survey.
Hydrologic conditions and drought have remained the same throughout the winter in Iowa. The wettest area of the state is far northern Iowa, receiving double the normal amounts for January and February, while the southeast one-third of the state remains dry.
Stream flow conditions are above normal across the majority of the state, except in parts of southern Iowa, which have decreased to normal levels.
For a thorough review of Iowa’s water resource trends, go to www.iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate.
NO LICENSE NEEDED: The House passed 65-34 and sent to the governor Senate File 357, which would allow a farm operation to have electrical work completed by an electrician who is not licensed by the state of Iowa, including electrical work on any commercial or industrial installation on the farm.
Under the bill, the person completing the work must have a business interest in the farm, must be related to the farm owner or be an operator or manager of the farm.
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Currently, the owner of a farm could complete electrical work on the farm property without having an electrical license, but the owner must apply for an electrical permit and schedule an electrical inspection of the project.
The bill codifies a 2012 executive order issued by Gov. Terry Branstad and a district court decision that creates an exception for farms that are not considered to be commercial businesses.
Rep. Chuck Holz, R- Le Mars, said farm operations want to limit the number of people coming and going to reduce the threat of biohazards being introduced into livestock facilities.
FUEL PRICES STEADY: The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.32 across Iowa Tuesday, according to AAA. That was up a penny from last week and 39 cents a gallon higher than one year ago.
The national average Tuesday was $2.31, 1 cent lower than last week’s price.
Meanwhile, retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa held steady with a statewide average of $2.47 per gallon. One year ago, diesel prices averaged $1.96 in Iowa.
Turning to heating fuels, the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported propane prices were down 3 cents from last week’s report, with a statewide average of $1.23 per gallon. Home heating prices are down 1 cent from last week, ending with a statewide average of $2.01 a gallon, and natural gas prices were up 14 cents at $2.58/mmBtu.
TAKE THE SPLASH PAD TO CLARKSVILLE: The Enhance Iowa Board on Wednesday awarded a $26,000 Community Attraction and Tourism grant to a splash pad project in Clarksville at the board’s meeting in West Des Moines.
The overall project is estimated to cost more than $139,000, and organizers had hoped for $30,000 in state assistance.
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The Clarksville project includes the construction of a handicap-accessible splash pad with a bollard activator, ground geyser, spray cannon, aqua dome and other features.
The Enhance Iowa Program provides financial incentives to communities for the construction of recreational, cultural, educational or entertainment facilities that enhance the quality of life in Iowa. To date, nine CAT awards have been granted by the board — totaling $3,168,481.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau