On January 23 Governor Branstad filed a formal written objection to the state of Iowa's rule which requires farmers to pay a $500 inspection fee for farm building electrical work. Branstad said the regulation is unnecessary and the Iowa Electrical Examining Board, which approved the rule in 2008, went beyond its authority.
The written objection will not rescind the rule, but now places the burden on the Iowa Electrical Examining Board to defend its rule in a lawsuit against the Board. Click here for a copy of Branstad's objection letter.
Objection filed regarding state of Iowa's electrical inspection rule
"This rule is unnecessary, it's costly and it exceeds the power of this board," he said. "This is a power grab by the state electrical examining board and it hurts hardworking Iowa farmers."
The rule requires safety inspections for most electrical work done on commercial and industrial properties in Iowa. The rule specifically exempts electrical work that is considered "routine maintenance" and certain types of buildings, such as those owned by the state. Branstad was joined by five farmers and state Senator Jerry Behn of Boone, for the signing of the objection, held in the State Capitol. Behn is a farmer and the Senate Republican leader. "This is a classic example of an unelected board going ahead and putting unnecessary regulations on Iowa businesses," Behn said.
Branstad said he decided to sign the formal objection because the 70-day limit to veto the rule had passed. He said the rule is burdensome because it requires farmers to pay for the inspections even though the legislature intended that farmers be exempt from the inspections. Department of Public safety officials maintain that farmers are subject to inspections.
By filing the formal objection, it is expected to result in a legal battle
The chairwoman of the Iowa Electrical Examining Board counters that the 3-year old rule, which calls for an inspection, helps eliminate duplicate services offered by cities and counties and has helped reduce electrical fires by 35% in two years.
Most electrical work on farm buildings does not require inspections, but bigger projects do, such as increasing voltage for larger equipment. Mentzer also says costs of inspections are based on the size of a project, with typical inspections costing around $215. A recent $600,000 project, for example, had a total permit cost of $355.
Branstad's action by signing the objection to the rule means that it will be easier for a farmer to challenge the rule in court. An effort to repeal the statewide electrical permit requirements stalled in last year's legislative session.
HF 589 "Interfering with Agriculture" bill introduced in Iowa Senate
In other legislative news taking place at the Iowa Statehouse last week, the Iowa Senate took HF 589 up for debate on January 25; this bill would make "agricultural production facility fraud" a crime and prohibit people from accessing such facilities under false pretenses. If a person obtains access by false pretenses, lies on their employment application or employment agreement with intent to commit an act unauthorized by the owner, the person is guilty of agricultural production facility fraud.The amendment would protect farmers against individuals and organizations who enter farms fraudulently and would provide penalties against those individuals. The Iowa Corn Growers Association supports this bill, and supports providing a resolution to the issue of fraud and trespass on Iowa farms.