A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017
MORE DAYLIGHT: Iowa could leave the Central Time Zone under a plan a House subcommittee recommended Wednesday. A House subcommittee endorsed ending the twice-a-year clock change by making daylight saving time the “new normal” in Iowa. Originally, HF 206 would have ended daylight saving time in Iowa by establishing year-round Central Standard Time as Iowa’s official 24-hour daily measurement. Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, called daylight saving time an “antiquated system” from a more agrarian time. Although it might create some problems along Iowa’s borders, he is interested in ending the twice-a-year clock change in favor of “more sunlight in the evening.” Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, told the subcommittee “I come from a tourist area so this is very attractive.”
A similar bill, SF 168, has been introduced in the Senate. However, Gov. Terry Branstad said recently said Iowa should not do anything to put it “out of sync with the rest of the country. I think that would cause a lot of confusion and problems.” HF 206 now goes to the full Commerce Committee.
TOP CONSUMER COMPLAINTS: Used auto sales topped the list of complaints filed with the Iowa attorney general’s consumer protection division last year for the second year in a row, according to state officials. Out of 2,836 written complaints, 207 were related to used-vehicle sales practices, including credit issues, officials said. That was followed by 172 complaints in the home improvement arena and 149 home mortgage complaints. Those top three were unchanged from a year earlier. “Our office receives a steady stream of complaints about used vehicle sales, the majority of which are related to credit issues,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Buyers who take a little time to learn more about their rights before they sign a contract and take time to research the vehicle they want to buy are often a step ahead of the most common problems.” Rounding out the top 10 consumer complaints were internet service providers and bundles (135), cell phones (104), magazine and newspaper subscriptions (93), debt collection (92), auto repair (69), new vehicle sales and leases (64), and satellite TV service (63).
PRESERVING NEWSPAPERS: The State Historical Society of Iowa announced a plan Wednesday to preserve more than 12 million pages of newspapers in its collection, giving Iowans greater access to more than 300 titles dating to the 1830s. Under the authority of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the State Historical Society has signed a five-year contract to loan the newspapers to the Advantage Companies — a Cedar Rapids business with a division dedicated to preserving historical newspapers. The agreement clears the way for Advantage technicians to increase and accelerate the preservation of newspapers dating to 1837, all of which have been gathered from communities and publishers statewide. Starting this spring, the newspapers stored at the State Historical Building in Des Moines will be transported to Advantage’s 80,000-square-foot records-management facility in Cedar Rapids. Technicians will first photograph the pages onto microfilm and then digitally scan the microfilm to provide wider access to the public. State officials say the soon-to-be microfilmed and digitized newspapers will enhance the State Historical Society’s vast collection of previously microfilmed content, which currently comprises more than 24 million pages from more than 650 statewide titles on more than 44,000 rolls of microfilm. Anyone can access the state’s newspaper collection, free of charge, by visiting the State Historical Society of Iowa Research Centers during the recently expanded hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St. in Des Moines, and the Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Ave. in Iowa City.
HIGH-PRICED HACKING: Conviction for computer hacking would be more expensive under a bill introduced in the House Wednesday. The bill draws on best practices from the federal government and private sector, according to Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant. Lawmakers are working with the state’s chief information officer and the FBI, he said. HF 339, which will be debated in a House Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday, would increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a Class C felony if computer data is accessed that contains a confidential record, trade secret, or operational or support data of a public utility, rural water district or public airport. “We want to keep the penalties in the virtual world the same as the physical world,” Nunn said. If computer data is copied, altered, or deleted, it would be a Class D felony. A class “C” felony is punishable by confinement for no more than 10 years and a fine of at least $1,000 but not more than $10,000. A class “D” felony is punishable by confinement for no more than five years and a fine of at least $750 but not more than $7,500.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Texting and driving is really foolish. It kills people and it can be prevented.” -- Darrel Harken of Riceville, father of Grace Harken – who was struck and killed by a vehicle operated by a driver who was distracted by a cellphone while she was riding her bicycle on Highway 218. Harken was part of a “Stay Alive: Don’t Phone & Drive” coalition that spent Wednesday meeting with lawmakers at the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines pushing a proposed bill that would make it a primary offense to use a hand-held electronic communications device while operating a motor vehicle unless used in hands-free or voice-activated mode