New State Veterinarian for Iowa
On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release in which Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced Dr. Jeff Kaisand as the new State Veterinarian within IDALS. As State Veterinarian, Dr. Kaisand will lead the Department’s Animal Industry Bureau, which oversees regulation of animal movement, exhibitions, importation and disease eradication/control.
The State Veterinarian also plays an important role in working with partners to prevent, prepare and respond to any foreign animal disease or natural disaster concern. The Bureau also regulates certain commercial companion animal breeders and retailers.
Dr. Kaisand served as Assistant State Veterinarian for six years and has been the Acting State Veterinarian since Dr. David Schmitt’s retirement as State Veterinarian in January 2019. Dr. Kaisand was an integral part of the state’s response to the Avian Influenza outbreak in 2015. Prior to joining IDALS, Dr. Kaisand held various veterinary supervisor roles with Iowa businesses and had his own veterinary practice.
Dr. Kaisand earned his degree in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University. He also has a degree in animal science from Iowa State University.
The SAVE Fund, Infrastructure Dollars, Property Tax Relief
Last week the House Education Committee approved a bill, on a bipartisan vote, extending the sunset date on the statewide penny sales tax that provides funding for school infrastructure. The fund, in which the penny is deposited, is called the SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) fund.
This has been a priority for schools for several years now, making sure the dollars that are used by our schools to maintain and build safe, high-quality learning environments that keep pace with changes in technology and student needs.
The original intent of SAVE was to not only save property tax payers money by providing a steady stream of revenue for infrastructure that otherwise would have fallen on property taxes through general obligation bonds, but also to provide direct property tax relief by sending 2.1% of the SAVE dollars to lower the rates for property tax payers in low-property value districts.
The bill took steps forward on this point by increasing the amount from 2.1% to 12%. The impact of this move will be an estimated $2.4 billion in direct property tax relief over the next 30 years. Most of the aid will go to low-value, high-rate districts, but some will go to all districts across the state for relief.
The bill also created a Career Academy Fund which will provide dollars to districts through competitive grants to create regional career academies meant to get high school students in the pipeline to high-quality, high-paying jobs through classes and experiences related to those careers.
New language this year that was not in last year’s bill is intent language to provide some measures of security in school buildings. Before districts are allowed to use their funds for athletic facilities, the district must ensure that all school buildings are secured with locked entrances, cameras, and other security features.
Lastly, the bill also put some accountability on the use of SAVE funds. Both the building of athletic facilities and the district use of SAVE dollars to back bonding projects will see more transparency as the school board must adopt a resolution and hold a public hearing on these two uses of SAVE funds. Voters will then have the opportunity to petition and stop such projects if they choose.
The Senate is moving a similar bill, concurrently, which has passed their Education Committee as well. Next up for both chambers is action through the Ways and Means committees.
To view the SAVE annual report, visit the Department of Education’s website here: https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/FY18%20SAVE%20Legislative%20Report.pdf
Iowa Teacher of the Year Nominations Due April 1
The Department of Education and the Governor are looking for nominations for 2020’s Iowa Teacher of the Year award. The award provides an opportunity to recognize an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges, and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; who is a dedicated professional that helps nurture hidden talents and abilities; who is a creative, caring individual; who takes teaching beyond textbooks and blackboards; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education.
Established in 1958, the annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. The Teacher of the Year serves as an ambassador to education and as a liaison to primary and secondary schools, higher education and organizations across the state.
The legislative appropriation is $85,000 in the Education Appropriations bill, part of the Student Achievement and Teacher Quality Program, for the Ambassador to Education position.
Nominations can come from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members and associations. Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website: https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/award-exchange-programs/iowa-teacher-year-toy. They are due April 1, 2019.
The 2019 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall.
EPC Rejects Petition for Stricter Lake Water Quality Standards
On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) held it monthly meeting and took action to reject a petition for rule making that was filed by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Iowa Environmental Protection Council that petition for numeric standards applicable to 159 of Iowa recreational waters.
The petition establishes standards for water transparency, concentration of chlorophyll-a, concentration of total phosphorus, and concentration of total nitrogen.
The proposed rules also designates 159 lakes as “Significant Public Recreational Lakes” which would then subject these lakes to the proposed nutrient-related standards.
The premises that underlie the Petition can be summarized as follows:
(a) Nutrient loading to Iowa surface waters are in excess of the ideal loadings;
(b) Nutrient loading is related to impacts on recreational uses;
(c) The State of Iowa has a legal duty to adopt numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus;
(d) Numeric nutrient criteria are necessary to the protection of Iowa lakes; and
(e) The State of Iowa should adopt the specific numeric recreational criteria set.
The Iowa DNR agrees current nutrient loadings to Iowa waters, from both point and nonpoint sources, need to be reduced. The Iowa DNR is an ongoing partner with numerous state and federal partners, including governmental agencies, educational institutions, business associations, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and private citizens, to address this significant issue.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested on an annual basis to reduce nutrient loads to Iowa surface waters. The Iowa DNR also acknowledges that nutrients have an impact on recreational uses of the State’s waters.
Iowa has been a leader in the collection of data needed to understand and address the occurrence of harmful algal blooms. That leadership has allowed Iowa to participate in current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to determine the role of nutrient loads on the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and the production of toxins.
As further explained below, the Iowa DNR denies that either the Clean Water Act (CWA) or state law requires the adoption of numeric nutrient criteria. The Iowa DNR further asserts that the specific recreational numeric nutrient criteria proposed in the Petition are not required by law, not supported by science, not necessary to the protection of Iowa lakes, and not needed to restore and maintain the quality of those waters.
The Iowa DNR asserts that the initiation of the proposed rulemaking will result in significant economic impacts to Iowans and risks the imposition of more stringent nutrient criteria by the EPA, the substance of which will be beyond the control of Iowa lawmakers.
Iowa has adopted narrative water quality standards that address conditions caused by excess nutrients. The CWA allows narrative water quality standards. See, Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. U.S. EPA, 16 F.3d 1395, 1404-1405 (1993). Iowa has satisfied its duties pursuant to 40 C.F.R Part 131 to establish recreational designated uses and to establish criteria related to those uses.
In rejecting the petition, it was noted that the move could cost Iowa Cities and towns about $205 million to meet the stricter standards.
Jon Tack, DNR’s Water quality Bureau chief observed that–“The breakdown per capita would be astronomical.” For example, the improvement would cost $41,822 per person in Corydon, a town of ~1,500 in southern Iowa.
Advocate for the petition cited concerns about microcystins that can taint surface waters when blue-green algae blooms affect surface waters used for drinking water or recreational purposes. What wasn’t discussed by the advocates of the petition is research that finds microcystin can be of concerns in water with low nitrogen nutrient levels if there is sufficient phosphorous legacy levels in top levels of sediments of water that can support nitrogen fixing cyano-bacteria algae that can produce the microcystin and out-compete other algae in low nitrogen nutrient waters.
DNR to Host Public Meetings Across State on Hunting
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently released the following press release:
The DNR is hosting a series of town hall-style meetings where local staff will provide updates on recently completed hunting seasons, discuss possible changes to hunting rules and regulations, and address other topics as requested.
“We want people to come out to these meetings, listen to the hunting seasons reviews, ask questions and hear directly from our staff,” said Todd Bishop, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Bureau. “Part of the meeting will be devoted to discussing potential rule changes and collecting feedback as we work through the rules process.”
The meetings are open to the public. Comments collected from these public meetings will be considered along with other related comments received by the Iowa DNR prior to proposing changes to hunting rules and regulations. Proposed rules will be presented to the Natural Resource Commission during a regular public meeting for consideration and additional public comment.
These meetings replace the one night listening session held in late winter over the past 15 years.
Meeting date, time and location
Bloomfield, Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Pioneer Ridge Nature Center, 1339 Hwy. 63
Chariton, Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Pin Oak Lodge, 45996 Hwy. 14
Creston, Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Multi-Purpose Room adjacent to the YMCA, Southwestern Community College
Algona, Feb. 25, 7 p.m., Waters Edge Nature Center, 1010 250th Street
Waverly, Feb. 25, 7 p.m., Waverly Public Library, 1500 W Bremer Avenue
Sac City, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Sac County Conservation Center at Hagge Park, 2970 280th Street
Council Bluffs, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Fish and Game Club, 531 Commanche Street
Okoboji, Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m., Dickinson County Nature Center, 22785 Nature Center Road
Des Moines, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Des Moines Izaak Walton League, 4343 George Flagg Pkwy
Jefferson, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., The Jefferson Depot, 509 East Lincoln Way
Iowa City, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., ISU Extension Office, 3109 Old Hwy. 218 South
DeWitt, Feb. 28, 7 p.m., DeWitt Community Center, 512 10th Street
Salix, Feb. 28, 7 p.m., Lakeport Gun Club, 3089 Calhoun Avenue
Toledo, March 7, 7 p.m., Tama County Nature Center, Otter Creek Lake Park, 2283 Park Road
Decorah, March 7, 7 p.m., Decorah City Hall, 400 Clairborne Drive
Firearms Legislation in the House
Various firearms bills have been proposed this year, some to strengthen Iowans freedoms, some to take them away. It’s easy to lose track of the bills with funnel quickly approaching. Below are several bills being under consideration in the House.
House Joint Resolution 3 – Freedom Amendment
House Joint Resolution 3 adds firearms rights to the Iowa Constitution. The Federal Constitution has the 2nd Amendment (A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.), but Iowa’s Constitution is silent on this right.
The proposed language recognizes the right of the people to keep and bear arms and subject any infringement on this right to a strict scrutiny review by the Courts. This amendment does not invalidate any current firearms laws, but instead preserves the right for law abiding Iowans to keep and bear arms, even if there are challenges in the federal courts.
This bill has passed subcommittee in House Public Safety by a vote of (2-1)
House File 259 – Family Defense Act
HF259 makes changes to the laws regarding where a person can carry their legally owned firearm. There are four separate changes addressed in the bill. First, a person, with a valid permit to carry, who has passed all necessary background checks, may bring their legal firearm on limited areas of school property. This includes the driveway, parking lot or sidewalk of a school.
The second portion of the bill allows a person who legally possesses firearms to leave the firearm in their vehicle at work as long it is securely locked in their vehicle. This bill does not allow an employee to carry while at work if their employer prohibits firearms on the premises.
The third part of this bill applies firearms laws equally across the state and prevents cities and other municipalities from enacting ordinances that differ from the state. This prevents legal confusion for law enforcement officers and legal gun owners.
Language in HF 259 also protects concert goers by ensuring political subdivisions who own or operate entertainment venues provide armed security and metal detectors for all attendees if firearms are not allowed on the property. The fourth and final part of the bill limits where firearms can be in a court house. Firearms would be banned in courtrooms controlled by the Judicial Branch. HF259 is scheduled for a subcommittee this week.
House File 385 – Constitutional Carry
HF385 requires federally licensed firearms dealers to use the National Instant Criminal Background Checks when selling firearms unless the buyer has an optional permit to purchase or carry a weapon. If a person is prohibited from legally purchasing a firearm, they can be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor.
A person who privately sells a firearm must also ensure the purchaser has passed a background check with NICS. Selling a firearm to a prohibited person is a class “D” felony.
HF 385 also increases penalties on people who give a false name or information in order to illegally obtain a firearm. In this case, the penalty is being raised form a class “D” to a class “C” felony and the person could spend up to 10 years in prison.
VA’s Appeals Modernization Act Takes Effect This Week
Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it has implemented the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which was signed into law August 23, 2017, and represents one of the most significant statutory changes to benefit Veterans in decades.
Effective today, Veterans who appeal a VA claims decision have three decision review options:
High-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
• In the Higher-level Review Option, a more experienced adjudicator will conduct a new review of the previous decision
• Veterans who selected the Supplemental Claim option may submit new and relevant evidence, and VA will assist in developing new evidence under its duty to assist
• If Veterans appeal to the Board, they can choose one of three dockets: direct review, evidence or hearing. The VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. Under the legacy process, decisions averaged three to seven years. The VA’s fiscal year 2019 budget included funding for 605 additional appeals employees, which VA used to establish two new Decision Review Operations Centers at the St. Petersburg, Florida, and Seattle, Washington, regional offices. The former Appeals Resource Center in Washington, D.C., was converted to a third Decision Review Operations Center. For more than 18 months, VA has worked toward full implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act, but reform has been a goal for VA and its stakeholders for years. In March 2016, VA sponsored an “Appeals Summit” in which VA, Veterans Service Organizations, Veterans advocates and Congress worked together to design a new appeals system. The summit resulted in the drafting, passage and implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act.
Iowa Fun Fact
Quaker Oats, in Cedar Rapids, is the largest cereal company in the world.