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Iowa House Agricultural Committee Chair Asked to Step Down

February 25, 2009

Des Moines, IA – Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has filed a formal ethics complaint with the Iowa House Ethics Committee, trying to have Agriculture Committee chair Dolores Mertz removed from her position because of a conflict of interest. It's only the second time in recent years that the organization has taken such an extraordinary step against a state legislator.

Iowa CCI board president Barb Kalbach says Mertz has family and financial ties to the hog confinement industry and that legislation that deals with factory farms regularly comes before her committee.

"She can assign it to a subcommittee that can kill it, and she can also decide which bills are brought to a vote before the full committee and which ones aren't."

She says Mertz has a well-documented and well-known history of supporting legislation favoring factory farms, creating a conflict as Agriculture Committee chairperson.

"We aren't asking it because she is a bad legislator, but we feel that as a chairperson she is way too compromised to decide where bills impacting rural Iowans go."

Kalbach says that because Iowa has had more than 700 illegal manure spills in the past 16 years, and the state Department of Natural Resources' list of impaired waterways has jumped to 441, the committee that controls factory farm laws should be impartial.

Representative Mertz, who had no immediate comment on the complaint to the Ethics Committee, has ten days to respond to it.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA