Governor Tom Vilsack is offering an alternative to the property rights bill the Iowa Legislature is poised to discuss this Friday, but key lawmakers are already rejecting it.
When legislators reconvene in special session this Friday, Republicans predict the House will quickly vote to override Vilsack’s veto of the property rights bill. One Senate Democrat leader has predicted the Senate will do the same. But Vilsack is proposing a new bill that would make it easier to build lakes and airports, projects Vilsack says are crucial to the state’s economy. “It is not fundamentally different than what was passed. We believe it’s an improvement,” Vilsack says. “It better balances property rights which are important to protect as well as job creation and growth which I think everybody in Iowa wants.”
Vilsack also proposes a new State Ombudsman for Property Rights to hear complaints from landowners whose ground is being seized by their local city or county. “I still have hope that Republican legislators in particular will be willing to discuss and talk about this and to consider the option that we’ve put on the table,” Vilsack says.
The governor, a Democrat, says he’s been talking by phone with “several” legislators from both political parties and on Friday morning he hopes to speak privately with statehouse Democrats before the legislature convenes. “We are looking for a common sense solution to making sure that private property rights are protected at the same time that we don’t jeopardize economic development opportunities in the state unrealistically,” Vilsack says.
Republican legislators are quickly rejecting Vilsack’s alternative. Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City calls it a “bait and switch” proposal. “The governor’s trying to trade an ombudsman at the same time he’s trying to make more farms and businesses at risk of being condemned,” Rants says.
The section of the bill which deals with cities trying to clean up “slum and blighted” neighborhoods would be changed under Vilsack’s scenario, too. The bill Vilsack vetoed said that 75 percent of the sleazy property cities condemn and seize had to be “slum” or “blighted.” Vilsack proposes lowering that to 50 percent. Vilsack also wants land acquisition for a lake in Page County to go ahead because the project has received a state “Vision Iowa” grant. “On the theory that there have been steps taken along the lines to approve these projects, resources have been expended in planning for them and it would be a bit unfair to change the rules of the game midway through the game,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack cites a report from his Department of Economic Development which suggests the bill legislators intend to enact by overriding Vilsack’s veto will “cost” the state over a thousand jobs. Rants rejects all of Vilsack’s arguments. “We’ve made I don’t know how many changes and the bill has been voted on four different times and each time it’s been significantly altered,” Rants says. “The time for discussion ended up May.”
Vilsack vetoed the bill June 2nd. The Iowa Legislature is scheduled to convene mid-morning on Friday to debate overriding that veto.