DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa legislative panel approved a bill Tuesday to require radon testing in schools across the state, though lawmakers made clear that changes would be made to the legislation to address timetables and funding sources for the mandate.
Members of a Senate education subcommittee approved the measure on a two-to-one vote, with the two Democrats voting in favor and the one Republican opposing the legislation. It goes to the full Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who chairs the committee, said he considers the current bill a work in progress, and funding sources and a timeline for the testing will be addressed in future amendments.
The first step is determining how many school districts already test their buildings, he said, as the priority is identifying radon in places where teachers and students are present.
“At the very least, we owe it to Iowans to have the schools tested,” Bowman said.
The bill would require school districts to carry out radon testing in all buildings where students and teachers are regularly present by June 30, 2016, with follow-up tests every 10 years. This testing must be conducted by someone certified by Iowa’s Department of Public Health.
School boards would then be required to address the situation if radon levels deemed unsafe are found. This would mean contracting a credentialed individual to develop a mitigation plan, which would have to be implemented within one year.
Emily Piper, a lobbyist with the Iowa Association of School Boards, said the costs of such requirements could be burdensome for many school districts. She said she fears schools will fall back on property taxes to fund the testing and mitigation efforts, which might work for some districts but not for others.
Unless specifications are made about the source of funding, Piper said she doesn’t entirely support the bill.
“It’s not about the issue itself and the need to do the testing,” she said. “It’s about the cost and how we’re going to pay for that.”
Lobbyists with the Department of Public Health expressed concern with the quick turnaround for testing required by the bill. Currently, the department deals primarily with residential buildings, so school buildings would likely entail new standards, they said.
A bill being considered by the House would instead require testing to take place by June 30, 2025.