Passenger Rail and Eminent Domain Get Married

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa Capitol

LAKE MACBRIDE— What will it take for the Iowa House to get a bill considered on the floor of the Iowa Senate? Representatives Dave Jacoby and Bobby Kaufmann are hoping that pairing a Senate Democratic priority— funding passenger rail in order to be eligible to receive a substantial grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to upgrade railroad tracks to handle 79 mile per hour traffic— with House File 219— an act relating to eminent domain authority prompted by a controversy in Clarke County— will do the trick.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann has invested considerable political capital in the eminent domain issue. A March 11 story in the Muscatine Journal provides some background information, including the fact that HF 219 passed the Iowa House 93-6. According to Kaufmann, he recruited Rep. Dave Jacoby to co-sponsor the eminent domain bill, asked Jacoby to help write the language, and has spoken publicly about his positive relationship with the popular Coralville Democrat. Eminent domain is one of Kaufmann’s signature issues this session, and he has a lot riding on the outcome, personally and politically. The text of their joint press release is below.

To outsiders, it is unclear what is the secret sauce for getting Republican house bills like HF 219 to an up or down vote in the senate.  What is clear is the process is complicated. Democrats can appreciate the complexity, and for the most part, the results of the Senate’s actions. In any event, how this bipartisan collaboration plays out will be something to follow in the closing days of the first session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly.

Kaufmann-Jacoby Joint Press Release May 21, 2013
Kaufmann and Jacoby offer a compromise to the Senate

Rep. Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville) and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) have offered an agreement on two key issues that have garnered a lot of interest in the last several legislative sessions.  “The eminent domain language passed the Iowa House four times this session, each time with over 90 votes,” said Kaufmann.  “There has also been much bipartisan support in the Senate, but it has not been brought up for a vote.”  The legislation ensures that land cannot be condemned for recreational purposes by skirting the 2006 law.  A controversy in Clarke County has been an impetus for the bill.

The passenger rail proposal which includes matching federal funding for an initial run between the Quad Cities and Iowa City (with possible expansion to Des Moines) has met with significant resistance.  The $5.5 million dollars would be a part of the state match.  “Passenger rail is an important initiative for my district, and our local Chambers of Commerce.  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,” said Rep. Jacoby.

As the 2013 session winds to an end, proposals like this could very well be the lynch pin to adjourning.

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