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Iowa House Approves Scaled-Back Bill on Radon in Schools

A scaled-back bill regarding radon testing in Iowa schools passed the whole Iowa House on Tuesday , setting up negotiations between the House and Senate over the issue.

The House has completely rewritten Senate File 366 to direct the state Department of Education to encourage school districts to test for the presence of cancer-causing radon gas in school buildings and to address high concentrations. The bill contains no actual mandate for districts to perform the testing, though, and only requires school officials to notify the department if they have a radon testing and mitigation plan in place or if they plan to adopt such a plan in the future.

Information received by the department will be turned over to the Legislature.

It passed on a 98-1 vote.

Bill sponsor Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley said he’s received a positive response from school superintendents.

School Radon Bill Still Alive but Testing Removed

Plans to require radon testing in schools statewide were sidelined this week by Republican lawmakers and school officials who worry positive tests would expose districts and the state to serious liability and expensive repairs.

Supporters of the Democratic-led legislation had strong criticism that the bill under consideration now only requires districts to report on whether they've conducted tests and have a plan to reduce radon if it's found.

"Saying we're not even going to look to see if there's a problem, I think, is a stunning dereliction of duty and I'm very disappointed in that," Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, at a news conference Thursday. "If you're going to be responsible you should test and deal with the problems that testing reveals but putting our head in the sand just means more people will die of lung cancer."

Iowa House passes school radon bill with no testing

An Iowa House turned legislation mandating schools test for radon gas, which is believed to be a leading cause of lung cancer, into a “toothless tiger” Wednesday, according to the bill’s Senate floor manager.

An amendment unanimously approved by the House Local Government Committee makes the bill “virtually meaningless,” Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said.

The amendment stripped provisions that would require schools to perform a short-term test for radon gas at each school by June 30, 2025, and at least once every 10 years thereafter. The Legislative Services Agency estimated that cost to be $1.9 million, which House floor manager Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said was based on “educated guesses.”

McCoy’s bill, approved by the Senate 37-10 a year ago, also proscribed a course of remediation if the tests showed radon gas at or above four picocuries per liter and further testing.