State officials are drafting rules to prohibit utility shut-offs in the homes of some Iowa soldiers. The 2010 Iowa Legislature passed a law barring utilities from cutting off the electricity or the natural gas supply to a deployed soldier’s home.

David Lynch, of the Iowa Utilities Board, says if the head of the household has been deployed, a utility can’t cut off electric or gas service because of unpaid or past-due bills. “Disconnection is prohibited until 90 days after the end of the deployment,” Lynch says.

The Iowa Utilities Board is drafting the rules that will govern how utilities deal with households that have unpaid electric or gas bills due to the absence of a soldier who’s been called to active duty. During a “public comment” period, Lynch says representatives of some of the state’s utilities have posed some general questions.

“Questions like: ‘How should the service member notify the utility of their status?…What’s the definition of deployment? What’s the definition of head of household?” Lynch says. “Those are some of the basic issues we’re still working through.”

Iowa utilities must give at least 12 days notice before they shut off electric or gas service to a customer. If the household has qualified for a Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance grant, utilities cannot shut off service from November 1st through April 1st.

This new prohibition on utility shut-offs in the homes of deployed soldiers will be year-round and not restricted to the winter-heating season. Lynch, who is legal counsel for the Iowa Utilities Board, has presented a legislative committee with the first draft of the rules for implementing the new law.

“We hope to have these rules in place prior to the upcoming winter,” Lynch says. The new prohibition on utility shut-offs in the homes of deployed Iowa soldiers is among a series of military-related laws which state legislators adopted this past spring.