The Senate just finished our first funnel week. Funnel pushed many bills through committee and readied them for floor debate. Funnel is a self-imposed time constraint for legislative bodies, and it helps us focus on the issues that are most important for the state: taxation and budget. Bills that merely affect the functioning of the Iowa Code must be out of committee by first funnel. We voted on the first day of session to move up funnel two weeks in hopes of allowing more time for the weightier issues.
My three non-budgetary committees, especially local government, saw action that far exceeded the norm. Many of these bills make sense for Iowans. We advanced bills that would allow local communities greater flexibility in the way they do business, bills that will protect and promote the educational advancements of children, and bills that clarify existing Iowa law. We also passed legislation out of committee that would legalize the sale and display of fireworks. Many of these were bi-partisan bills. We worked hard to finish legislation that we thought should be discussed on the floor.
There were, however, several bills against which I voted. One such bill was SF2107 in Commerce. SF2107 deals with the selling and development of solar energy. While I support advancement in alternative sources of electricity, mandating such a change is not in the best interest of the people of Iowa. Additionally, this bill allows for certain solar entities to be classified as utility companies, even though they are operating within the territories of already existing utilities. Iowa has territorial law that has been in place for years and has proven to be a benefit to both rate payers and utilities. This legislation had the potential to negatively impact our service territory laws and impose mandates that could result in the unnecessary increase in power bills for Iowans.
The following is a statement passed along to me in opposition to this bill:“(We) understand the importance of embracing advancements in renewable distributed generation. We anticipate that our member-consumers will increasingly invest in this technology and it is prudent that our cooperative has the opportunity and flexibility, without counterproductive mandate, to arrive at a solution that promotes the implementation of this technology while maintaining a sustainable and affordable service that the majority of our consumers will continue to depend upon.”
The Senate Commerce Committee met one final time on Thursday morning as a blizzard headed toward Des Moines to send to the floor a few final bills. SF2107 came up for debate as expected. I remained opposed to the mandate, the upheaval of our utility territories, and the increase of the price of electricity when so many families are already living from paycheck to paycheck. Our system worked, and the bill was withdrawn, leaving it dead for the session. This was good news for me, for District 14, and for Iowa.