D.C. Dispatch: Lawmakers bark at puppy mills, Biden energy policies

By: - April 1, 2023 12:00 pm

One of the dogs housed at a facility run by Daniel Gingerich of Seymour. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

Iowa’s congressional delegation was doggedly pursuing legislation this week ranging from anti-animal cruelty proposals and restrictions on veterinary drugs to bills promoting fossil fuel production and ethanol.

Nunn joins support of dog protection bills

Rep. Zach Nunn joined with a bipartisan group of House members to support Goldie’s Act and the Puppy Protection Act, bills that aim to protect dogs from puppy mills and cruel living conditions.

Iowa dog breeders had the worst record in the nation for violations in 2022.

This emaciated golden retriever was found inside a horse stall in an Iowa dog-breeding facility run by Daniel Gingerich. Federal officials say Gingerich placed dogs there in an effort to hide them from inspectors. (Photo from U.S. District Court exhibits)

Goldie’s Act was named for a golden retriever that died after being neglected and abused in a USDA-licensed puppy mill in Wayne County. The business, operated by Daniel Gingerich amassed over 100 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The bill would require more frequent USDA investigations, empower inspectors to remove suffering animals and require thorough reporting of violations.

“Dogs are family members, and they deserve the best defense from people who would do them harm,”  Nunn said. “These bipartisan bills are important to ensure better protection for dogs and to hold individuals accountable for cruel behavior.”

The bill was originally introduced by Nunn’s predecessor in Iowa’s 3rd District, former Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne,

The Puppy Protection Act would create standard operating procedures for commercial breeders. It would eliminate dangerous and unhealthy stacked cages and wire floors, require regular veterinary checkups and a healthy diet, exercise and socialization, according to ASPCA, which supports the bill.

Veterinary tranquilizers

Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced a bill aimed at ending the illicit use of the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine while protecting its veterinary use.

Xylazine is a “central nervous system depressant that can cause drowsiness and amnesia and slow breathing, heart rate and blood pressure to dangerously low levels,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would classify xylazine as a Schedule III drug and require a report on how to best regulate its illicit use. The bill also would “ensure all salts and isomers of xylazine are covered when restricting its illicit use” and it would declare xylazine an “emerging drug threat,” according to a press release.

“This bill recognizes the dangers posed by the increasing abuse of animal tranquilizers by drug traffickers, and provides new tools to combat this deadly trend,” Grassley said in a statement. “It also ensures that folks like veterinarians, ranchers and cattlemen can continue to access these drugs for bona fide animal treatment.”

Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire are co-sponsors of the bill. Republican Reps. August Pfluger of Texas, Ken Buck of Colorado and Gus Bilirakis with Democratic Reps. Jimmy Panetta of California and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire have introduced companion legislation in the House.

House passes GOP energy bill that promotes fossil fuel production

Iowa’s House members all voted in favor of H.R. 1, a bill that outlines GOP energy priorities. The bill passed the House with five votes from Democrats.

Here’s what Iowa’s delegation had to say:

Rep. Randy Feenstra: “In 2019, the United States became energy independent for the first time in 62 years. However, on his first day in office, President Biden destroyed American energy production by killing the Keystone XL pipeline and outsourcing our energy needs to our enemies. I am proud to support the Lower Energy Costs Act – which includes my amendment to prevent China from buying American farmland suitable for ethanol and biodiesel production – to lower gas prices for our families, reduce diesel costs for our farmers, protect our energy security, and end our reliance on foreign oil.”

Rep. Ashley Hinson: “President Biden has waged war on domestic energy production since his first day in office, sacrificing our energy security and raising costs across the board. This package will incentivize domestic production rather than curtail it, and is the first step toward restoring our energy independence and reducing inflation.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks: “Energy security = national security. I was proud to vote in favor of H.R. 1.” She also penned an op-ed with Republican Utah Rep. John Curtis in the Washington Examiner, which you can read here.

Nunn: “Having a country that is energy independent is how we achieve a safer country and stronger economy, which is why I voted in favor of the Lower Energy Costs Act. Energy diversity is the best way to lower costs for Iowans and ensure energy independence.”

Feenstra also introduced and passed an amendment would “prevent China from buying American farmland suitable for ethanol and biodiesel production,” according to a news release. The bill is not expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and Biden has said he would veto said.

Miller-Meeks leads Iowa delegation in ethanol bill introduction

Miller-Meeks led the Iowa House delegation in introducing a bill that aims to increase the octane level in fuels using ethanol.

The bill would would require new vehicles to operate with a 25% ethanol blend (E25) starting in model year 2028 and an E30 blend by 2033. Retailers would be required to sell the higher ethanol blends.

The bill also would phase in higher gasoline octane levels through the greater use of ethanol beginning with a 95 Research Octane Number (RON) standard for automobile model year 2028 and increasing to 98 RON by model year 2033, according to a news release.

“Iowa is the top ethanol producing state in the country, and I know that our biofuels industry is of utmost importance to our economy,” Miller-Meeks said. “Our legislation would promote increased use of higher ethanol blends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve health, and support agriculture’s contribution to the economy and environment.”

The Next Generation Fuels Act was introduced in the Senate last week by Iowa’s senators.

“Iowa is leading the fight to lower the cost of gas, provide more options at the pump, and make America energy independent,” Nunn said. “With the NextGen Fuel Act, we are working across the aisle to promote low-carbon, high-octane fuels that are better for the environment, fuel efficiency, and budgets.”

Democratic Reps. Nikki Budzinski of Illinois and Angie Craig of Minnesota as well as Republican Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois helped introduce the legislation as well.

Feenstra keeps focus on greater funding and research for ag tech

Feenstra and Panetta introduced a bill that would double funding from $50 million to $100 million for the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA) and expand the scope of its research.

Under the Advancing Cutting Edge (ACE) Agriculture Act , AgARDA would
“address animal and plant pathogens and pests that can harm farm productivity and study efforts to help farmers conserve water, protect soil health, combat drought, and mitigate the devastating impacts of extreme weather events,” according to a press release.

Republican Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall and Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“Continued investment in agricultural research and development is vital to the success of our family farmers and rural main streets in Iowa,” Feenstra said. “From foreign animal disease mitigation to increased crop yields, cutting-edge agricultural research and innovation will help make our farmers and producers more profitable, productive, and competitive in global markets.”

Grassley seeks greater transparency in public policy influencers

Grassley reintroduced a bill aimed at exposing foreign influence in think tanks and nonprofit policy organizations.

“We can’t allow for think tanks and nonprofits to become a backdoor for foreign nations to exert influence and attempt to sway public opinion,” Grassley said.

The Think Tank Transparency Act of 2023 requires public policy nonprofits to  disclose within 90 days of signing contracts or agreements with foreign entities or receiving money from them. The bill would create a database for public inspection, according to a press release.

Penalties for violations would include fines of at least $1,000 per day. The Department of Justice could bring civil action to compel compliance, with the costs to be borne by the violator.

Republican Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan has introduced companion legislation in the House.

Grassley, Durbin reintroduce work visa bill

Grassley and Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin reintroduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act , a bill that would “close loopholes” in those work visa programs, according to a press release.

The bill would prioritize H-1B visa issuance for workers with higher levels of education in STEM,  change the definition of a “specialty occupation” to require a bachelor’s degree or higher and increase penalties for wage violations. It also would require employers seeking to hire H-1B employees to post those jobs on a searchable Department of Labor website.

“The H-1B and L-1 visa programs were established to fill in gaps in America’s high-skilled workforce, not supplant it,” Grassley said. “Unfortunately, some companies have exploited these programs to replace American workers with cheaper labor, which ultimately harms American workers and foreign labor alike.”

Durbin and Grassley have been pushing for the passage of this legislation since 2007. Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are all cosponsors of this bill.

Grassley, Casey seek greater protections for older workers

Grassley and Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey introduced a bill that works to strengthen protections for older workers against age-based discrimination.

A 2009 Supreme Court decision in an Iowa case, Gross v. FBL Financial Services raised the burden of proof for older workers alleging age discrimination above what is required in cases alleging other forms of workforce discrimination.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would “reestablish critical protections in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and make it easier for employees to prove when they are a victim of age discrimination in the workplace,” according to a press release.

“Older Americans offer tremendous value to our society and our economy and they deserve the protections Congress originally intended,” Grassley said. “The decision in the case of Iowan Jack Gross has had a major impact on employment discrimination litigation across the country.  It’s long past time we clarify the intent of Congress to make sure people like Mr. Gross don’t face discrimination due to age.”

Ernst joins support for campus religious freedom bill

Sen. Joni Ernst joined in support of the Equal Campus Access Act of 2023, a bill aimed at making sure “religious student organizations will not face discrimination on college campuses,” according to a press release.

“The Biden administration continues to target individuals of faith, with college campuses serving as their battleground. Religious freedom is a pillar of our nation, a value worth fighting for, and a right our constitution guarantees,” Ernst said.

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Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen was a reporting intern with Iowa Capital Dispatch. He is a student at Drake University studying Multimedia Journalism, Magazine and Brand Media, and International Relations. Additionally, he helps to manage the Ambassador-in-Residence initiative at Drake with Ambassador Terry Branstad and Drake's Global Engagement team.