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The Iowa House State Government Committee approved an amendment to Senate File 2022 that took a bill about the practice of cosmetology and barbering and turned it into a bill that will prohibit the Iowa Utilities Board from granting and a pipeline company from seeking or exercising an eminent domain right until March 1, 2023. 

The amended bill is an eleventh-hour attempt to protect private property rights for Iowans against a proposed private pipeline project intended for profit. 

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Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, chair of the committee, said he is not anti-pipeline, nor is the amendment. 

“In fact, I call it a compromise based on what one side wants and the other side does not want,” he said. “Negotiations can go on without the threat of eminent domain being held over their heads. The amendment I’m about to consider is about private property rights. Period. There’s no question about that. That’s not up for debate. That’s what it’s about.”

Just three individuals spoke in the subcommittee of the whole — all three were property owners who spoke in support of the amendment and bill.

“If you allow eminent domain to be used by a private company for profit, then you no longer have private rights for property,” said one landowner. “If it can happen to us, it can happen to you.”

Another individual testified that the pipeline companies are using a “strong-arm” policy in negotiations currently, holding the threat of eminent domain over the heads of landowners who are reluctant to agree to the use of their land.

Kaufmann said it is his hope the pipeline project happens and that it happens because the companies and property owners reach agreements. He said the amended bill is in line with conversations he has heard that negotiations will take time.

Republican Rep. Megan Jones abstained from voting because she said she is personally affected by the pipelines. 

Democrats spoke against the amendment due to concern with the process being used. 

Ultimately, the amendment passed 12-10-1, with Jones abstaining. Republican Rep. Joe Mitchell, who has deep ties to former Gov. Terry Branstad (who works for one of the pipeline companies), joined the Democrats in opposition. 

“Nobody should be surprised what we’re doing here,” Kaufmann said. “Give me a break. We do things all the time to make sure that legislation gets accomplished. The people back home that are affected by their land — they don’t give a shit about the process. They care about results. They don’t care if…we follow the process and it just didn’t make it through. No, they care whether it got done.”

Kaufmann said the bill is in the Ways and Means Committee, which means it is funnel proof. 

“This is about results,” Kaufmann said. “The reason that Washington D.C. is so disliked is the obsession with the process and we just have to do things a certain way. They want results. There’s nothing confusing about this.

“As far as transparency, my transparency is the United States Constitution. The name on a deed on a piece of paper that makes you a landowner does not subject you to all this government crap. That’s what this is about.” 

Previously, Kaufmann said he proposed pipeline legislation earlier this year and tabled it. He said other Republicans and Democrats did as well and he tabled that. 

“Here’s the choices before us today — respect the process or respect property rights,” Kaufmann said. “It’s funnel. We have a vehicle. I remain on the side of We The People. What we’re doing today is keeping a promise that we make sure there’s a level playing field. Landowners can continue to negotiate.”

Author: Jacob Hall

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