A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018:
STATEHOUSE BABY: Rep. Megan Jones, R-Spencer, introduced her 2-week-old daughter, Alma Jones, to her House colleagues on Tuesday.
“Thankfully, she’s slept most of the day,” Jones said during an afternoon House Local Government Committee meeting. It was Jones’ first day back at the Capitol since giving birth Jan. 24.
A third-term representative, Jones is the first member of the House to give birth during a legislative session since then-Rep. Janet Petersen’s son was born during the 2007 session. Petersen is now the Senate minority leader.
To celebrate her return and her daughter’s birth, Jones treated her colleagues to Jones Fufu — pink — Soda.
Jones and her husband, Will, also have a son, Anchor.
SCHOOL AID: The Iowa House and Senate have scheduled debates on setting state aid to schools Wednesday.
Republicans, who control both chambers, have proposed a 1 percent, $32 million increase in state aid to K-12 schools. That’s less than Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 1.5 percent, $54 million proposal.
Currently, the K-12 state aid is $6,664 per student, according to the Legislative Services Agency. The proposed 1 percent increase would boost that by $67 to $6,731 per pupil in fiscal 2019 and bring the total state K-12 spending to $3.21 billion.
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REINSTATING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: Death-penalty proponents in the Iowa Senate are pushing for a limited deterrent aimed at protecting children, peace officers and communities from terrorist attacks or heinous acts of violence.
A five-member Senate Judiciary subcommittee is slated to take up a measure next week that would reinstate capital punishment in situations where someone aged 18 or older kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor, kills a peace officer in the line of duty or commits an intentional act in which two or more people are killed.
“My personal belief is that there are some instances out there of pure evil,” said Republican Sen. Dan Dawson, a Council Bluffs peace officer who is a subcommittee member and supporter the bill. “Those people will always be evil, and we have to have a penalty for them to address those exceptional instances.”
The bill calls for a two-tiered process whereby an accused perpetrator deemed mentally competent is tried before a jury or judge. If convicted of a capital offense, a second, separate review would be conducted to determine if the person should be put to death via lethal injection.
The bill has enough votes to advance in the Senate but the overall fate of the death-penalty issue is uncertain, given that a broader reinstatement has stalled in the House.
In a related development Tuesday, the four bishops of Iowa voiced their opposition to the death penalty.
“We speak in opposition to the use of the death penalty in any form and to its possible reinstatement in Iowa,” according to a joint statement from Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels, Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula, Sioux City Bishop R. Walker Nickless and Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates issued through the Iowa Catholic Conference.
SEX OFFENDERS AT SCHOOL: A proposal to broaden the restrictions on sex offenders on school property unanimously cleared the House Public Safety Committee, but with a recommendation that it be amended on the floor.
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House File 2059 would expand the restriction to include all sex offenders. The restrictions in current law apply only to those who have been convicted of sex offenses involving minors.
The bill would require a person registered as a sex offender to have the written permission of a school administrator to be on school grounds. Sex offenders can be present if they are a student, to pick up or drop off their own child or to vote.
The first violation of the law would be a Class D felony. Subsequent violations would be Class C felonies.
Rep. Rick Olson, D-Des Moines, recommended adding language to the effect of permissions should not be “unreasonably withheld” to avoid problems arising from personality conflicts or an administrator’s bias.
AMBULANCE FEES: The House Local Government Committee approved legislation that could result in as much as $35 million a year in federal reimbursement for Iowa ambulance services that transport Medicaid recipients.
House File 2103 would direct the Department of Human Services to amend its Medicaid plan to allow ground emergency medical transportation providers, such as fire departments and emergency medical services as well as private ambulance services, to receive supplemental federal reimbursement.
John Pederson, a lobbyist for the Iowa Firefighters Association, said ground transport services in Iowa have an average cost of $800 per trip, including equipment, personnel and supplies. However, they may be reimbursed only $150 under Iowa’s current Medicaid plan.
The bill passed unanimously, making it eligible for consideration by the full House.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Around here, what doesn’t make you mad tends to put you to sleep.” — Lobbyist Gary Grant to Rep. Megan Jones, R-Spencer, who carried her sleeping 2-week-old daughter with her at the Capitol on Tuesday.