The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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August 17, 2013

Electrical inspections still required for Iowa farms

DES MOINES — The Iowa Electrical Examining Board won’t exempt farm buildings from mandatory electrical inspections.

The Des Moines Register reported the board voted 8-3 Thursday to reject a proposal that would have generally exempted farm buildings. The proposal was aimed at resolving issues stemming from a January court ruling that the board exceeded its authority by requiring inspections on most electrical installations on farms.

Some critics have argued the inspections are a power grab by the board and that the inspections overburden farmers. About 700 Iowa farmers sent emails to the board, seeking the exemption.

The board members who opposed the change said they wouldn’t agree to a move that could create safety hazards, even in the face of a lawsuit.

“I didn’t come on this board to settle lawsuits. I came on this board to protect public safety,” said Vice Chairman Wayne Engle, a Marion electrical contractor.

The board did agree to establish a task force to seek a compromise to present to the Legislature. That group will include farmers and representatives of the electrical industry and state and local governments.

State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds, who serves on the board, voted in favor of the exemption, noting he can’t document a single electrical fire in a farm building in which a person had died over the past 18 years.

Reynolds said he was concerned the board’s action could prompt more court action.

“This is about settling the lawsuit and not losing the entire program,” Reynolds said.

The issue stems from a measure approved by the Legislature in 2007 that dealt with electrical regulations. Following that law, signed by Gov. Chet Culver, the Electrical Examining Board required farmers to have most electrical installations inspected.

Gov. Terry Branstad, who was elected in 2010, made an official objection to the requirement in 2012, and later that year the Iowa Department of Public Safety ordered inspectors to suspend mandatory inspections of farm buildings. That order remains in place.

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