From the Iowa Legislature

Monday, February 17, 2014

One of my colleagues here in the House called home last week, and his wife told him their old farm house was really making strange noises. The creaking and moaning of houses has been common this winter. People here in the Des Moines metro area have called the police saying they have heard explosions in their neighborhoods. Some have even seen flashes of light.

Scientists are telling us that some communities are experiencing what are known as "frost quakes" which are caused by moisture in the ground suddenly freezing and expanding. In Missouri some people said it sounded like a sonic boom, and rattled the windows, and others say it sounds like someone is firing snowballs at the side of the house. With water mains breaking and pipes freezing in homes, it is no wonder people are yearning for Spring, not to mention the high heating costs we are experiencing.

Budget work continues and since this week is a funnel, standing committees are all working hard to move bills to the House floor for debate. This week will be hectic, but the first funnel is designed to "flush out" those bills which will advance, and most certainly sink many others. A funnel is a self-imposed deadline that will help determine the legislature's workload from here on out.

The House scheduled some debate time for Tuesday afternoon and evening, and passed several bills, including two major pieces of legislation.

House File 2109 places a ban on the purchase and possession of electronic cigarettes by Iowans under the age of 18. Electronic cigarettes contain no tobacco, but some do have nicotine in them. Since there is no tobacco involved, the bill does not subject electronic cigarettes to the State tobacco tax or the Smoke Free Air Act. The legislation basically enables the State to regulate these devices. I supported the bill.

After two hours of debate, the House passed House File 2175, which bars doctors from dispensing abortion causing drugs via video-conferencing. Briefly, the bill would, for example, prevent a doctor in Des Moines from dispensing pills that would induce an abortion to a patient in an outlaying clinic. The bill passed with Republican and Democrat votes, and I supported the bill.

The United States Department of Agriculture said this week that net farm income will drop by about 30% this year. For anyone involved in production agriculture, this is no surprise. Grain prices are lower, yet input costs remain high. On the livestock side, there is a lot of uncertainty because of disease in the hog herd and cattle numbers are down. At least 25% of Iowa's economy is tied to agriculture. Questions to ask: will food prices also drop and will land and input costs also fall? Please give me your thoughts or opinions on these questions.

On Thursday, January 30, 2014, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release in which Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey encouraged eligible farm owners to apply for the 2014 Century and Heritage Farm Program. The program is sponsored by IDALS and the Iowa Farm Bureau and recognizes families who have owned their farm for 100 years in the case of Century Farms and 150 years for Heritage Farms.

Applications are available on the Department's website at by clicking on the Century Farm or Heritage Farm link under "Hot Topics."

The ceremony to recognize the 2014 Century and Heritage Farms is scheduled to be held at the Iowa State Fair on Tuesday, August 12th. The Century Farm program began in 1976 as part of the Nation's Bicentennial Celebration and 17,851 farms across the state have received this recognition. The Heritage Farm program was started in 2006, on the 30th anniversary of the Century Farm program, and 650 farms have been recognized. Last year 365 Century Farms and 67 Heritage Farms were recognized.

I have had many visitors at the Capitol this year. What a joy. Legislators have hectic schedules, and it is so special to have guests. You have braved the nasty weather to come see us, and your presence gives us a few minutes to relax and visit about issues important to you and those you might be serving. If you are planning a visit to the Capitol, please let me know. I can easily adjust my schedule to spend time with you. It is your government, and I love having you here.

Noted in passing: funny man Sid Caesar, everyone's darling Shirley Temple, and Richard Bull. Who is Richard Bull? He played the general store owner Nels Oleson on the television show "Little House on the Prairie".

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at