Capitol Digest

Capitol Digest

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The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest:

FIRST FUNNEL APPROACHES: Legislators stepped up the pace of work Thursday in anticipation of next week’s first “funnel” deadline for non-money and policy bills to clear at least one committee of the House or Senate to remain eligible for consideration this session.

On a unanimous vote, the Senate Commerce Committee approved Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to expand broadband access in rural areas as a way to support high-tech jobs, precision agriculture, quality education, local economies and connectivity opportunities. SSB 3112 calls for $15 million in total funding to optimize the Broadband Grant Program and an increase in the state match for broadband projects with higher levels of speed and service.

However, committee members split along party lines as majority Republicans approved legislation that would create a criminal offense for defrauding a drug or alcohol test in a private-sector workplace. Proponents of SSB3023 expressed concern that synthetic urine or urine additives available online are being used to circumvent drug tests.

The bill would create a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $65 to $625 for the first violation.

Meanwhile, the Senate State Government Committee voted 13-2 to raise the legal age for possessing tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. Senate Study Bill 3016 would prohibit a person from selling, giving or supplying any tobacco, tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, vapor products or cigarettes to anyone under 21. It also bars those who are 20 or younger from smoking, using, possessing, purchasing or attempting to purchase those products.

The same committee voted 14-1 to approve Senate File 155, a measure to expand the definition of barbering to include mobile cosmetology as part of this session’s professional licensing reform.

LOW-SPEED ELECTRIC BIKES: Iowa could become the 24th state with specific regulations related to low-speed electric bicycles.

The House Transportation Committee and a Senate transportation subcommittee approved bills designed to define the parameters under which e-bikes could be manually pedaled or battery-operated at speeds of up to 28 mph on designated thoroughfares.

With the increasing popularity of e-bikes costing $1,500 or more, bicycle enthusiasts are pushing to differentiate them from motor vehicles, mopeds and scooters and regulated similar to traditional bicycles.

Robert Palmer, a lobbyist for the League of Cities, expressed some concern that provisions of Senate File 2205 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88&ba=sf2205) and House Study Bill 630 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HSB%20630&ga=88) might hinder cities’ abilities to regulate e-bikes — such as barring them from bike trails and sidewalks.

Under the House bill, e-bikes would be allowed to go anywhere traditional bikes are permitted, said Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant

During the Senate subcommittee discussion, e-bike enthusiasts said operating while intoxicated laws would not apply to e-bikes because they would not be classified as a motor vehicle, but Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, a retired law officer, said the bicycles’ electric motors would make them subject to Iowa’s OWI statute.

CHRONIC WASTING: Chronic wasting disease would be added the definition of “infectious or contagious disease” in Iowa Code under HF 2240 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HF2240) to allow the Department of Natural Resources to take action to control the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer.

CWD has been increasing in Iowa, according to the DNR, from one reported case in 2013-14 to 43 cases reported of suspected in 2019-20. Eighty-nine cases have been found in zones around Harpers Ferry, Elkader, Dubuque, Corydon and Sioux City.

BYPASS: A House Transportation subcommittee signed off on HF 2260 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HF2260) to require the Iowa Department of Transportation to conduct a public hearing when proposing a four-lane bypass around a town of fewer than 10,000 people.

The bill came from concern in Wapello that a proposed Highway 61 bypass on the west side of town could lengthen the response time for emergency vehicles in some cases, Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun, said.

Last year, he said, the road from the proposed Highway 61 interchange into town was blocked for nearly four hours when a truck overturned.

The DOT’s proposal would require emergency vehicles to travel a circuitous route to serve Wapello residents.

THE REAL DEAL: Musical groups advertising a performance in Iowa would have to include at least one member who previously released a commercial sound recording under that group’s name, according to legislation that won subcommittee approval.

Rep. Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, whose district includes the legendary Surf Ballroom, offered HF 2304 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HF2304) because she’s aware of problems in other states with bands advertising themselves under a recognizable name even though none of the members performed with the original group.

Exceptions include groups that advertise themselves as tribute or cover bands or if a group is the authorized registrant and owner of a federal service mark for the recording group.

The Attorney General’s Office suggested changes that would conform to the state consumer protection laws.

BANNING ANTI-SEMITISM: HF 2303 (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HF2303) would require a government entity investigating allegations of discrimination to consider the definition of anti-Semitism. For the purposes of the bill, which has 48 co-sponsors, anti-Semitism would be defined as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

Lobbyist David Adelman told the subcommittee that anti-Semitic speech has increased on college campuses and elsewhere. HF 2303 would protect free speech rights, such as the criticism of Israel, he said. Adelman recommended the new preferred spelling — Antisemitism — be used in writing the law and suggested that merely referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, it should be included in the law.

FLOOD AID: Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation to provide slightly more than $21 million in state matching funds to priority flood recovery projects without jeopardizing federal money. The legislation, approved unanimously by the Iowa House and Senate, also will provide additional money to Glenwood Resource Center.

“These dollars will go to immediate needs for levee repairs and flood recovery as we prepare for this spring’s potential flooding impacts in Iowa,” Reynolds said

This bill appropriates more than $21 million to the Flood Recovery Fund within the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Last year, the Legislature provided $15 million for the fund. Those dollars went to critical flood recovery and redevelopment opportunities in communities impacted by the devastating floods of 2019.

SF 2144 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88&ba=SF2144 also allocates $333,000 to the Department of Human Services to support efforts to make changes at the Glenwood Resource Center. It will be used for clinical assessments by University of Iowa staff, expert evaluations, and to provide technical assistance on process and procedures.

NAIG LEADS MEXICO TRADE MISSION: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will lead a trade mission delegation to Mexico next week.

The Sunday through Wednesday mission, coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, focuses on increasing exports of manufactured products and agriculture goods.

Naig, who led a trade mission to Mexico in 2017, said he expects “a sense of excitement and optimism” thanks to the recent signing of the USMCA trade agreement involving Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Iowa companies exported $2.1 billion in goods to Mexico in 2018. Mexico is Iowa’s second-largest export destination and the leading export market for corn, exporting $547 million in corn in 2018.

In addition, Mexico is the largest destination for animal feed and sugars.

STALLED K-12 FUNDING BILL: House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said he did not think the GOP-run Legislature’s failure to meet a Thursday deadline for resolving a K-12 funding stalemate between the House and Senate would adversely affect the state’s 327 school districts.

The two chambers are about $15 million apart. The Senate favors a 2.1 percent increase, while the House and Gov. Kim Reynolds favor a 2.5 percent increase in base supplemental state aid for the next school year.

Grassley said school administrators and know for certain they’re be receiving at least a 2.1 percent increase along with funding for transportation and per-pupil inequity issues that both sides already have approved.

“We do recognize that we want to get this done in a timely manner and give some certainty to our school districts as they set their budgets,” the House speaker said.

Legislators are to set the K-12 supplemental state aid figure within 30 days of receiving the governor’s recommendation — which was included in her Jan. 14 Condition of the State address.

— Gazette Des Moines Bureau

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