A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items for Monday:
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Backers of expanded access to medical marijuana in Iowa plan to hold a rally Tuesday on the west steps of the state Capitol to raise awareness of the treatment benefits associated with cannabis. Leaders of the group Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis say they have invited Iowans suffering from debilitating diseases and their loved ones to join Tuesday's march to call attention to the medical cannabis bill (Senate File 484) pending in the Iowa Senate. Patients and their families will be asking all Iowa legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad "to have sympathy for those Iowans whose debilitating health conditions can be helped by medical cannabis." Advocates say those who are suffering have run out of FDA-approved medical options and are asking for compassion and access to medical cannabis.
MISCONDUCT BILL: A peace officer in Iowa who is found guilty of sexual misconduct with offenders or juveniles while transporting them from a jail to another facility would face an aggravated misdemeanor under a bill on its way to Gov. Terry Branstad's desk. Iowa senators voted Monday to approve House File 258, which establishes a new crime and penalty of no more than two years in jail and a fine of up to $6,000 upon conviction. Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said the current offense just applies to employees of the Iowa Department of Corrections but would be expanded to cover all peace officers. The House voted 99-0 last month to approve the bill barring a peace officer from engaging in a sex act with an offender under the supervision of the Department of Corrections or community-based corrections districts or with a juvenile in a juvenile placement facility or a prisoner in a county jail. There are 6,000 sworn peace officers in Iowa.
SENATE CONFIRMATIONS: Members of the Iowa Senate voted 48-0 to confirm 15 Iowans to state boards and commissions during an "en bloc" vote Monday. The confirmations included former state Sen. Merlin Bartz, R-Grafton, to the Vision Iowa Board, Betty Grandquist to the Iowa Commission on Aging and Rachel Eubank to the state Alcoholic Beverages Commission. The name of former state Rep. Geri Huser, D-Altoona, Gov. Terry Branstad's choice to serve as chairwoman of the Iowa Utilities Board, was placed on the individual calendar for a separate vote later. Gubernatorial appointees subject to Senate confirmation must receive an affirmative vote of at least 34 senators, or a two-thirds majority, to win approval.
WIND COALITION: The Governors' Wind Energy Coalition Monday named Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as the group's new chairman and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the coalition's vice chairman. "States continue to play a leading role developing the nation's renewable energy resources, and capturing the jobs and economic benefits that these growing clean energy industries provide," Inslee said in a statement. The Governors' Wind Energy Coalition was founded in 2010 and consists of 23 Democratic and Republican governors from every region of the country, working together to develop the nation's wind energy resources. The coalition recently advocated for Congress to extend the federal renewable energy production and investment tax credits and for federal policies to promote transmission development to support onshore and offshore wind energy development.
IOWA HIGHLIGHTED: The Iowa Economic Development Authority announced Monday the state's business climate will be showcased in a 24-page editorial supplement that will be featured in Hemispheres, the onboard magazine of United Airlines. The special section will be available to 12 million passengers during the month of April. IEDA director Debi Durham said the special, in-depth section provides an overview of Iowa and highlights Iowa products and innovations that are having a global impact. Additionally, the feature explains how Iowa excels in the advanced manufacturing, biosciences and financial services sectors. The Iowa section can be viewed at hemispheresmagazine.com/dossier.
PANTHER PRIDE: The University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team was honored in both legislative chambers on Monday. The team was feted for its 2014-2015 season, which included a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth. Coach Ben Jacobson recently signed a new contract that will pay him almost $1 million annually and extends its life to 2025.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "This is something we don't get to do very often, and when we do, we understand how special it is." — Ben Jacobson, head coach of the University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team, whose 31-4 Panthers that made the NCAA tournament were honored by resolutions in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate on Monday for their 2014-15 season accomplishments.