Eastern Iowa lawmakers offer compromises on eminent domain, passenger rail

Proposals hoped to move lawmakers closer to adjournment

James Q. Lynch
Published: May 21 2013 | 9:39 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 3:36 pm in

A pair of Eastern Iowa lawmakers are hoping to help the Legislature toward adjournment by offering a bipartisan compromise on two key issues that have generated interest in recent years.

Reps. Bobby Kaufman, R-Wilton, and Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, have offered a compromise on eminent domain legislation and funding for a passenger rail proposal that includes matching federal funding for an initial run between the Quad Cities and Iowa City with possible expansion to Des Moines.

Kaufmann’s eminent domain proposal has passed the Iowa House four times this session, each time with more than 90 votes.

“There has also been much bipartisan support in the Senate, but it has not been brought up for a vote,” Kaufmann said. “The legislation ensures that land cannot be condemned for recreational purposes by skirting the 2006 law.”

The passenger rail proposal, which initially was part of Gov. Terry Branstad’s fiscal 2014-15 budget proposal, has met with significant resistance. The $5.5 million each year would be a part of the state match.

“Passenger rail is an important initiative for my district, and our local Chambers of Commerce,” Jacoby said. “This compromise reflects the continuing spirit of all legislative districts being heard and I believe gives both issues new life and a new pathway into becoming law.”

As the 2013 session winds to an end, bipartisan proposals like this could very well be the linch pin to adjourning, the lawmakers said.

A controversy in Clarke County has been an impetus for Kaufmann’s bill, according to Radio Iowa:

“A group of southern Iowa landowners is hoping a last-minute effort from lawmakers could roll-back construction plans for a lake near Osceola. Doug Robins of Osceola says the farm ground that’s been in his family since 1971 may go under water if lawmakers don’t act.

“The city of Osceola and other local governments in the area are planning to build a 900 acre lake for drinking water and as a water supply for businesses, like a meat processing plant in Osceola. Developers hope to start buying land for the project this year.”

Kaufmann’s legislation would forbid Iowa governments from using eminent domain to acquire land for lakes that would be used for recreation.

Another Osceola landowner, Kathy Kelley, said she and her husband personally have spent $15,000 fighting the proposed lake, which she charges is more about recreation than about finding a new water supply.

Lake supporters say Osceola is growing and the current water supply isn’t adequate to meet demand.

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