Government

Authorizing cannabidiol board to make changes, guaranteeing steady supply of white eggs, keeping stun guns classified as a dangerous weapon: Iowa Capitol Digest, Feb. 13

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)

BEAR ARMS: The House Judiciary Committee voted 13-8 along party lines to approve what floor manager Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, called a “straightforward and simple” resolution calling for an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that “affirms and recognizes the fundamental right of the people to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer and use arms for all legitimate purposes. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, objected to the “strict scrutiny” language, calling such a directive to the Iowa Supreme Court “both rude and also could lead to unfortunate and problematic consequences.”

Windschitl defended the language, saying it is a baseline.

“We’re telling Iowans and the Supreme Court we mean it,” he said. “This is where we are. We’re not going backward” on gun rights.

DPS, DOT COORDINATION: Legislation to extend the coordination of enforcement activities between the state Transportation and Public Safety departments won subcommittee approval Tuesday.

The coordination was approved by the Legislature last year, but for just one year. HSB 639 would extend it indefinitely.

There was broad support for the extension from the departments as well as local law enforcement who see Iowa State Patrol troopers and DOT commercial vehicle enforcement officers as providing valuable backup in emergencies.

However, Vern Foughty, president of the Retired Iowa State Patrol, didn’t like the arrangement.

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“Two state agencies trying to do the same thing on same highway causes problems,” he said. “Someone has to be in charge.”

The consensus was the coordination is working and the subcommittee forwarded the bill to the full Transportation Committee for consideration Wednesday.

PLAIN WHITE EGGS: Legislation approved by the House Agriculture Committee will guarantee a steady supply of white eggs at supermarkets.

The committee approved HSB 623 would require stores that sell specialty eggs, such as cage-free and organic eggs, to also sell what are known as commodity eggs or conventional eggs if the participate in supplemental nutrition programs such as the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, program.

The concern, according to floor manager Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, is the make sure that people who use WIC to buy food can buy the most cost-effective eggs.

The bill would ensure that supermarkets continue to provide the most cost-effective option for families to meet their nutritional needs “so they can raise family in affordable way,” Klein said.

“The real issue here is economics,” said Rep. Bruce Bearinger, D-Oelwein. Iowa is No. 1 in the country in egg production.

In states where the commodity egg market has dried up, producers have moved to warmer parts of the country where utility costs are lower, according to Chairman Lee Hein, R-Monticello. If the commodity egg market is lost, corn and soybean producers would see their markets shrink, he added.

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The bill was approved 22-1 with Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, noting “no.” He pointed out the inconsistency of the Legislature, which last year prevented local governments from adopting consumer choice ordinances, enacting a consumer choice law.

STUN GUN CHANGE: The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed Tuesday to keep stun guns classified as a dangerous weapon, but removed the requirement that a person would need a permit to carry or possess the guns.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, said the change was made to acknowledge that various family members may use a stun gun for protection, but Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, expressed concern that removing the permit requirement also removed any age limitation which he said “would be irresponsible on our part.”

Bisignano expressed concern over teenagers having “stun parties” or other problems that might crop up, leading Dawson to say that the issue likely would be addressed by amendment before Senate Study Bill 3101 is debated by the full Senate.

MEDICAL CANNABIS REVAMPED: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-1 to authorize the state’s medical cannabidiol board to make changes to the state’s medical cannabis program regarding which ailments are covered by the law and how much of the addictive chemical may be present in the medical product.

Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, who managed Senate Study Bill 3106, said the bill “gives the medical experts the authority to make the rules rather than a bunch of senators or a bunch of legislators or the governor. We’re giving the actual experts a chance to make the rules on what Iowa needs to do in order to provide cannabidiol to patients that need it and to set what conditions qualify and what levels of the THC these different conditions might require.”

Current law caps the allowable tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level to more than 3 percent. Committee Chairman Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said the change would not impact the Des Moines company which has been designated to manufacture cannabidiol products for medical use in Iowa.

ARTICLE V CONVENTION: A bipartisan group of Iowa senators is ready to rein in the federal government.

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Members of the Senate State Government Committee voted 10-5 Tuesday to approve a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict the authority of the federal government. Senate Joint Resolution 8 calls for Iowa to join 13 other states that already are seeking a convention of states that would impose fiscal restraints, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and to ask Congress to propose similar amendments. At least 34 states must act affirmative before a convention of states can proceed. The Iowa House approved a similar measure last year.

“Things are getting further out of control,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, the bill’s manager. “It’s time for the states to stand up and do this. It’s not going to fix itself.”

However, Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, expressed concern that the guidance and rules of a convention, which has not happened since 1787, are not well defined or delineated, which creates a risk in the nation’s current hyper-political climate. The issue now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

WATER QUALITY: The House Agriculture Committee approved a bill to extend a program for collecting conservation data, give rural water associations and industries access to water quality funds that the Legislature approved earlier this year in SF 512.

HSB 645, which was approved 19-5, would extend the collection of data on on-farm conservation projects that are being done without government assistance, according to floor manager Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake.

It also allows rural water associations to access the funding to treat sediment and bacteria. Also, industries, such as meatpacking, would be eligible for funds to reduce nutrients in discharge from plants.

SF 512 limits project funding to a maximum of $500,000.

BUCKLE UP: HSB 530, approved by the House Judiciary Committee, would allow judges to reduce damages by up to 25 percent in a civil case if there is evidence that a person’s failure to wear a seat contributed to their injuries. Under current law, they may be reduced 5 percent.

“The question you have to ask yourself is: Does this help victims of negligence or insurance companies,” Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, said. “This is helping insurance companies. Vote ‘no.’”

It passed 13-8 on a party-line vote.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This bill is the legislative equivalent of trying to travel to the moon by jumping higher.” — Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, about a water quality bill, HSB 645, approved Tuesday by the House Agriculture Committee.

Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

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