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Iowa Capitol Digest

Iowa Capitol Digest

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HJ - Standard Iowa Capitol Digest

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest from Monday:

EPA RENEWABLE FUELS REVERSAL: Officials in the Biden administration’s newly revamped federal Environmental Protection Agency announced its decision to support a court interpretation of the small-refinery provisions of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and the first ones cheering the reversal were Iowa Republicans.

“The small refinery exemption waivers have undermined the Renewable Fuel Standard for far too long, diminishing demand for ethanol and biofuels,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds, hoping the EPA’S decision is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Today’s announcement by the EPA in defense of the 10th Circuit Court’s decision to rein in these waivers is a victory for Iowa farmers, our renewable fuels industry, and our rural economy.”

Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst called Monday’s development “a step to provide much-needed certainty to ethanol and biodiesel producers,” while Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said he was pleased the EPA now agrees that the exemptions need to be a “common sense” extension of an exemption for a refinery that could demonstrate “disproportionate economic harm.”

Shaw said the RFS exemption program was intended to be a tool to provide temporary relief to truly small refineries.

“It has been abused for far too long,” he said. “Hopefully, this signals an end to the dark days of undermining the RFS through illegal exemptions and waivers, and we can look forward to the law being applied in a way that actually grows demand for ethanol and biodiesel blends as was always intended.”

PUBLIC WEIGHS IN ON VOTING CHANGES: More than two dozen Iowans spoke at an hourlong public hearing on sweeping legislation that would dramatically alter how Iowa’s elections are run, including by significantly reducing the state’s early voting period.

Out of the 28 Iowans who spoke on the bill, only nine spoke in support. The ratio was even more lopsided online, where just 11 wrote in support against 877 who wrote in opposition to the bill.

The proposal, which has been moving rapidly through the legislative process, would make the state’s early voting time frame one of the shortest in the country, ban anyone other than the individual voter from returning an absentee ballot, constrain county elections officials’ ability to add drop boxes for completed absentee ballots and establish satellite early voting locations, and create stronger punishments for county elections officials who violate state law.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said amendments are being prepared that would lessen some of the early voting reductions.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said the twin bills, HF 590 and SF 413, are scheduled for debate in the Senate on Tuesday and House on Wednesday.

IOWA SENATOR HOSPITALIZED: Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, announced at the start of Monday’s session in the Iowa Senate that Sen. Tom Shipley had been admitted to an Omaha hospital over the weekend for health concerns.

“He is undergoing a variety of tests. I encourage you to keep Tom in your prayers,” Rozenboom said, then did exactly that in saying, “we commit him to your care and your keeping” in offering the daily prayer to begin Senate proceedings.

Shipley, 68, a Corning Republican, has represented the 11th Senate district in southwestern Iowa since 2015.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: Legislation that would give more time to bring criminal charges against pedophiles who sexually abuse minors cleared a House Public Safety subcommittee Monday.

House File 566 would eliminate Iowa’s statute of limitation on criminal actions involving sexual abuse of children. Under current Iowa law, criminal charges in child sex-abuse cases must be brought within 15 years after the victim turns 18, or until he or she turns 33. Subcommittee chair Rep. Garrett Gobble, R-Ankeny, the bill’s sponsor, said the intent of removing the statute of limitation would be to give prosecutors more time to build on evidence instead of having cases automatically disqualified because they had timed out.

He said the bill would give minors “time to mature and realize that what happened to them might not have been proper. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get charged and convicted if there’s no evidence. It just means that they’re not automatically disqualified,” he said. Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, said he liked that the bill would give young people an opportunity to seek justice at a time when they didn’t feel intimidated.

A similar bill, SSB 1017, was slated for Judiciary Committee consideration Monday but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute.

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