Allowing guns on school grounds, banning bump stocks, and tightening prescription drug controls: Iowa Capitol Digest, Jan. 30

The Iowa State House chamber on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House chamber on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018:

WEAPONS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS: Iowans who have a valid non-professional permit to carry a firearm would be allowed to carry their weapon onto school grounds when transporting a student to and from school under a bill that won approval in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said Senate File 2086 could be expanded to go beyond students to include transporting a spouse, staff member, materials or equipment onto school grounds and parking areas, but the bill would not allow for taking a weapon into a school building.

Richard Rogers of Iowa Firearms Coalition said his group viewed the bill as “a necessary change in Iowa law” now that some 300,000 Iowans have permits to legally carry a weapon but could face a felony criminal charge if they did not stop to unload and secure a firearm before going onto school property. The process then would have to be reserved after picking up a student, he said, which could raise the potential for an accident in the management of a weapon.

Emily Piper of the Iowa Association of School Boards said her group had “serious reservations” about liability and safety issues associated with the bill.

“We just don’t see that this as necessary, and we see this increasing our risk,” Piper said.

Connie Ryan of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund questioned why lawmakers would think it’s a good idea to allow weapons on school grounds.

“Why in today’s world, with all of the school shootings that we’ve had, with all of the shootings in other public venues, but particularly schools, why is the safety of our children not the primary thing that we’re looking at and allowing people to bring guns onto school grounds, in our opinion, just has the possibility of bad results for our kids,” she said.

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Schultz said he disagreed with the premise that the bill would make children less safe, noting that people who have had training with weapons “are the good guys.”

BUMP STOCK BAN: Fifteen House Democrats have introduced legislation to ban multi-burst trigger activators, often referred to as bump stocks.

A multi-burst trigger activator enables a firearm to discharge two or more shots in a burst or allows semi-automatic weapons to fire as many as 400 to 800 rounds per minute, similar to a fully automatic weapon.

House File 2144 would prohibit the manufacture, possession, shipment, transportation or receipt of bump stock. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

A violation would be Class D felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500.

PRESCRIPTION MONITORING: A Senate Human Resources subcommittee approved legislation that would require drug prescriptions to be handled electronically to curb abuses.

A series of bills reviewed by the subcommittee of Sens. Tom Greene, R-Burlington, Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, and Mark Segebart, R-Vail, would expand reporting requirements for the Prescription Monitoring Program in an effort to curb “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy shopping” by people abusing opioids.

“There are red flags. If this particular patient is going to four different docs and four pharmacies, that’s a problem,” said Greene, a pharmacist for more than 40 years.

Senate Study Bill 3074 would require prescriptions to be handled electronically beginning Jan. 1, 2020. That was a compromise. The Board of Pharmacy recommended implementation July 1, 2019, but hospitals, clinics and pharmacies pushed for a July 1, 2020, start date.

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“We didn’t want to push it too far out,” Andrew Funk of the Board of Pharmacy told lawmakers because there is a sense of urgency.

Greene agreed that opioid abuse in Iowa is a crisis and said later that “the longer you delay it, the more the issue festers. We have to do what we can to be proactive in addressing the problem.”

Similar laws have been approved by legislatures in seven states, and at least 20 states are considering comparable legislation this year, according to lobbyists.

PROTESTER BILL: Protesters who intentionally block an interstate highway to slow traffic and create a potentially dangerous situation would face stiff penalties under a bill approved by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday.

Senate File 426 would make the action — like a post-2016 election protest on Interstate 80 near Iowa City — a serious misdemeanor on first offense, which would escalate to an aggravated misdemeanor and a Class D felony carrying a five-year prison term and $7,500 fine on subsequent violations.

However, subcommittee chairman Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said the penalties might be lessened before the bill came to the full committee. A DOT enforcement officer suggested the penalty for juveniles be specified as a simple misdemeanor and that the language differentiate between obstruction by objects and people.

Daniel Zeno of the ACLU of Iowa opposed the measure, saying it appeared to be a political response to a specific situation that would have a chilling effect on Iowans’ constitutional rights.

FOREIGN AGENTS: Candidates for state boards subject to Senate confirmation and people seeking executive-branch employment would be required to disclose to Iowa officials if they were registered as an agent for a foreign government under a bill that cleared a Senate State Government subcommittee Tuesday.

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Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said Senate Study Bill 3086 would not prohibit someone from acting as a foreign agent, but it does require the person to disclose that information either before being confirmed for a state post or if the arrangement occurs after confirmation.

Smith said the bill is response to a situation that arose last year when it was reported that Kim Schmett, chairman of the Iowa Employment Appeal Board, and his wife, Connie, a member of a State Health Facilities oversight board, operated a consulting firm that was paid more than $101,000 by Saudi Arabia to lobby against a federal law that allows victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to sue that country.

Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters she planned to ask Iowa legislators to close what she considered a “loophole” in the law that apparently allows state officials to also work as agents of a foreign government — an arrangement she views as a potential conflict.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “My concern actually echoes the ACLU, which is kind of unusual in my position as a prosecutor.” — Jasper County Attorney Michael Jacobsen, who spoke in opposition to a bill requiring local governments cooperate with federal immigration authorities or lose state funds.

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