DES MOINES – A top Democratic lawmaker is questioning whether Branstad administration officials can ignore a state law that requires inspections of electrical work done on farm buildings in Iowa.
Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said Friday he was requesting a formal opinion from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office regarding an announced a policy change by the state Department of Public Safety to end its role of conducting electrical inspections at farm facilities effective next week unless the inspection is voluntarily requested by the property owner or designee.
“This is a safety issue and it is a state law,” said Kibbie, who expressed concern over a Branstad administration decision to indefinitely suspend the law requiring electrical inspections effective on July 1. He asked Miller’s office to provide the Legislature with a legal opinion regarding the new police and “whether it conflicts with existing law and rules.”
“As president of the Senate and a member of the (Legislature’s) Administrative Rules Review Committee, I have some concerns about this new policy,” Kibbie said in his letter to Miller. “The Legislature spent considerable time on this issue and found common ground on what we saw was appropriate regulation and subsequent approval of electrical work done on farm facilities. My concern focuses around whether or not this new policy conflicts with the intent of the law and the rules approved by the rules committee for its implementation.”
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht declined to respond to Kibbie’s request or the administration’s new policy immediately on Friday, saying the governor’s office planned to issue a news release regarding the topic later in the day.
Earlier this year, Branstad signed a formal objection to the inspection rule, saying he believed that requiring farmers to have safety inspections done after performing electrical work was unduly burdensome. He called the 2008 rule a “power grab” by the Electrical Examining Board that “hurts hardworking Iowa farmers."
The governor said his action last January in signing the objection meant it would be easier for a farmer in court to challenge the rule.
However, a notice by the state Department of Public Safety’s fire marshal division to electrical contractors, utility companies and electricians dated June 26 indicated that effective July 1, the state’s Electrical Licensing and Inspection program would re-allocate resources by “concentrating more on the personal life safety of individuals rather than focus our efforts entirely on structures many times that are not inhabited or occupied by people.”