Referendum vote huge for Iowa conservation

On November 2, Iowans will vote on a measure that could yield millions of dollars for conservation efforts.

Check out this piece from

Come November 2, voters will see a referendum on a constitutional amendment that its sponsor says would have “completely changed the face of Iowa” had it been the law of the land 20 years ago. And, at a time when the red and blue partisans in the legislature can’t seem to agree on anything, this measure eased through two different legislative sessions with 90 percent support from Republicans and Democrats.

If voters approve the referendum, the next sales tax increase would generate millions of dollars for cleaning Iowa’s filthy waters, to help stop farm soil from washing into its streams and rivers and to develop new parks and trails.

Known as Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment, the measure would designate three-eighths of one percent of a sales tax increase to a trust fund dedicated to conserving the state’s natural resources. That fraction would generate about $150 million a year.

“If we would have passed this 20 years ago, we would have already spent $3 billion on conservation,” said Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, who sponsored the bill.

It would be only the third amendment to the state constitution in the past 16 years, Dearden said.

The vote, in the words of Iowa Nature Conservancy Director Sean McMahon, “is nothing short of a referendum on conservation.”

“It’s now or never,” he said, calling it one of the most important conservation measures to pass through the legislature in a generation. “If we were to lose, legislators would not have the stomach to bring it up again for a while.”

Even if legislators raised the issue in the next session, they would be “back to square one,” said Jim Gillespie, bureau chief of field services for the Iowa Division of Soil Conservation.

“They would be forced to go through two legislatures,” he said, referring to the legal requirement that all amendments to the state constitution pass through two consecutive legislative sessions. “It would be at least three years to get it back to the people.”…

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