U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, reintroduced a bill last week that would allow — and almost ensure — the exodus of federal agencies from the nation’s capital.

The SWAMP (Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement) Act would strip a slice of U.S. Code that requires federal agencies be located in Washington, D.C., according to a release from Ernst.

The act also would establish a competitive bidding process for states to try and win agencies away from the capital. The Executive Office of the President, the Department of Defense and all other national security-related agencies that must be close in proximity to lawmakers would be excluded.

“Washington-based federal agencies and bureaucrats make important decisions that impact the lives of Iowans and all Americans,” Ernst said in the release. “Yet, how can these rule-makers fully consider and understand the effects of their decisions when those who are most impacted by their rules and regulations are out-of-sight and out-of-mind?”

Ernst wants agencies out of the swamp — borrowing a term from Donald Trump‘s successful presidential campaign — and closer to the people who Ernst says “know the needs of their states, farms and businesses best.”

Dubuque County Farm Bureau President Craig Recker supports the change.

“Personally, if you can get something out of D.C., I think it will be better, in general,” he said. “It seems like those people live in a bubble out there.”

Recker, as a farmer, works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In that agency, the higher-ups in D.C. already work through local employees like in Natural Resource Conservation Service offices spread all over the country. And Recker said that system works fine, for the most part.

But the fact that the policies are being made in a city far away is where he sees a problem.

“Having (agencies) in D.C., you get a lot of bureaucrats,” he said. “A lot of the Midwest people, for instance, don’t want to take the jobs because they don’t want to leave their homes and move to Washington. You’d probably get a more diverse group of people and ideas if you put it where farmers and other people live.”

Part of this act is an attempt to bring jobs to the states where the agencies would live. That, of course, means taking jobs away from folks in the D.C. area, where more than just bureaucrats rely on the agencies.

As of late 2017, roughly 10% of D.C. metro area residents were directly employed by the federal government. Many more were indirectly impacted.

All of this rankles Diane Rosenburg, co-founder of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture. She said for the same reason Midwesterners won’t all move to D.C., the agencies’ most-seasoned officials won’t leave their homes.

“They have families, spouses working other jobs,” she said. “You’re not going to get people relocating all over the country.”

So the agencies would have to fill positions all up and down their ranks.

“In Washington, we have people with good track records in policy-making,” Rosenburg said. “It’s not a good idea to put these agencies where you’re not going to get any of that experience back. They may never get built. It might be a way to downsize. Eventually they might recoup, but we don’t have the time to lose.”

Nothing in the SWAMP Act means agencies in the USDA would be coming to Iowa, Wisconsin or Illinois. The bidding process would just as likely favor states like California or Arizona — rich states and agricultural powerhouses in their own rights.

FINKENAUER HELPS HANG UP ROBOCALLS

To U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, robocalls are more than a minor irritant, an occasional disruption to a peaceful meal.

The often predatory interruptions can be the result of rule-breaking companies willfully ignoring toothless regulations.

“It’s a huge issue, and it’s something that can be distracting and interrupt Iowans’ daily lives, especially our seniors,” Finkenauer told the Telegraph Herald last week.

But thanks to Finkenauer — and nearly all of her peers in the U.S. House of Representatives — those policies and rules soon could have some bite. The House last week passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which now heads to the U.S. Senate.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations to prosecute companies that violate Federal Communications Commission regulations to four years. It also requires callers to have verified caller ID information.

“They can actually go after the folks that are breaking those rules,” Finkenauer said. “That’s one of the issues we’re hearing about.”

It’s truly a bipartisan effort, she said.

“It really doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican, you’re still getting those phone calls,” Finkenauer said.

CALENDAR

  • 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, Jumpers Sports Bar and Grill, 2600 Dodge St. — Dubuque County Democrats host a watch party for night one of the second round of Democratic National Committee debates for the Democratic presidential primary.
  • 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, Denny’s Lux Club, 3050 Asbury Road — Dubuque County Democrats host a watch party for night two of the second round of Democratic National Committee debates for the Democratic presidential primary.
  • 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, Flora Park, 2605 Pennsylvania Ave. — Iowa Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, will host a Corn Boil fundraiser. Admission is a $25 campaign donation. Admission includes food.
  • 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, Dubuque Shooting Society, 10380 U.S. 52 — The event is the Dubuque County Republican Party’s annual summer picnic and social. Admission is $20 for adults and $5 for kids younger than 10. Guns and licensed NRA instructors will be available for lessons.
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