By Sen. Jason Schultz (R-District 9, Schleswig)

I have always known how important our outdoor resources are to Iowans. Our campgrounds are full all season. Hunting and fishing drive tens of thousands into the Iowa countryside all year round. Mushroom hunting, geocaching, bird watching, and bicycling bring out tens of thousands more. That’s why I was not surprised at the amount of Iowans who reached out when two bills held subcommittees this week.

What did surprise me was what I learned about the two bills after I looked into what had happened.

House File 542 was filed by a representative in Southwest Iowa. He stated the purpose of the bill was to start a conversation about how land is acquired for public use and how taxpayers and farmers are impacted by it.

There has been a concern for years about the state gathering ground and how they rent tillable acres back to farmers. There have been concerns that departments using tax dollars are buying ground that private citizens were bidding on. The message I received is that Iowans like how their county boards are operating and I haven’t heard of any problems over the years either. I’ve only taken complaints about issues at the state level.

We have had bills to address similar concerns come and go nearly each year. From what I can find here at the Capitol, this bill did not make it out of subcommittee and will die at the funnel deadline this week. I don’t think the representative had any ill intent and his views are matched by a lot of rural Iowans.

Senate Study Bill 1221 touched on a similar subject, but has a much more focused purpose. It simply removes the ability of private organizations to access state revolving loan funds in order to buy land for the purpose of selling that land to a level of government. When you have access to revolving loan dollars, taxpayers are subsidizing the loan to allow interest rates as low as a quarter percent.

The issue seems to be the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation using subsidized loans to buy pieces of ground that local citizens are bidding on. They then sell the ground to the government later. The citizen has to use their own money and pay market rates for their loan. This gives a huge advantage to the outside organization. SSB 1221 doesn’t end the state revolving loan fund, only stops private entities from using the fund to gain an advantage.

The other function of SSB1221 is to end the current tax credit when a landowner donates their land to a conservation organization. No one should have any problem with a landowner donating their land to a cause they support.

The sponsors of the bill ask if taxpayers should be subsidizing the donation with tax dollars to incentivize more donations. That’s a fair policy discussion. That is all this bill does. The bill doesn’t end land acquisition or control county conservation boards at all. It is nothing like HF 541.

Like any bill, I look forward to reading your thoughts on the issue, and I am confident the bill will change as it moves out of the subcommittee this week. Thank you to Iowans for showing us how important this subject is to you.

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