Government

Bill advances in Iowa Senate committee allowing guns on school grounds

Law against sabotage of infrastructure also moves forward

State Senator Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, 2017 Iowa Legislature
State Senator Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, 2017 Iowa Legislature

DES MOINES — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to allow Iowans who have a valid firearms permit to carry their weapon onto school grounds when transporting a student to and from school.

“This is good legislation,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, noting that Senate File 2086 will protect Iowans from unintentionally violating current law that bar the practice.

The committee agreed to expand the language beyond students to include transporting a spouse, staff member, materials or equipment onto school grounds and parking areas.

The bill would not allow for taking a weapon into a school building.

“This is narrow, and it’s a good piece of policy that should impact Iowans’ lives in a positive manner,” Schultz noted.

In other action Wednesday, the committee voted 8-5 along party lines to approve legislation imposing a 25-year prison term for anyone convicted of intentionally damaging or trying to damage infrastructure deemed critical to the safety and economic well-being of Iowans. The law also would carry a fine of up to $100,000 upon conviction.

Senate Study Bill 3062 would pertain to acts of sabotage committed against critical infrastructure or facilities related to communications, electricity, water, wastewater, airports, railroads, energy and hazardous materials, along with associated systems that are “crucial lifeline systems.”

Officials in the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management requested the change to fix “a bit of a hole” in Iowa’s criminal code, which includes criminal charges and penalties for terrorism, arson, burglary and criminal mischief but does not specify “critical infrastructure” as defined in the proposed bill.

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Democrats who opposed the bill expressed concern the provisions could be used against farmers accused of fouling waterways with agricultural chemical runoff.

Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, said he did not think the legislation would have that outcome but promised the issue would be addressed during floor debate if need be.

Also Wednesday, the committee voted 12-1 to forward legislation that would make the crime of kidnapping by a stranger of a person under the age of 18 years a forcible Class B felony punishable by a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Iowa county attorneys asked to toughen the penalty after a high-profile 2013 case in which a man freed from prison abducted two girls and killed one before hanging himself.

And finally, protesters who intentionally block an interstate highway to slow traffic and create a potentially dangerous situation would face stiff penalties under a bill committee members approved on an 8-5 party-line vote.

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, Schultz said the penalties likely will be modified when the bill comes up for floor debate.

And finally, protesters who intentionally block an interstate highway to slow traffic and create a potentially dangerous situation would face stiff penalties under a bill committee members approved on an 8-5 party-line vote.

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.

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Schultz said the penalties likely will be modified when the bill comes up for debate in the Senate.

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