Government

Lake Macbride motorboat bill hits choppy waters: Iowa Capitol Digest, Jan. 17

Bagpipe players mark the beginning of ceremonies Wednesday honoring Iowa veterans at the state Capitol building in Des Moines. The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs is pushing 11 legislative initiatives to benefit veterans. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Bagpipe players mark the beginning of ceremonies Wednesday honoring Iowa veterans at the state Capitol building in Des Moines. The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs is pushing 11 legislative initiatives to benefit veterans. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Jan. 17, 2018:

VETERANS DAY AT THE CAPITOL: Scores of military veterans gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday to celebrate their service to the country and push for legislative initiatives designed to bolster their health care, employment and other opportunities.

“We need to do a lot more than just giving ‘Thank yous,’ ” said Dan Gannon, chairman of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs, who noted more than 230,000, or about 7.4 percent of the state’s population, are military veterans. “The next step is helping veterans with their health and financial needs.”

Gannon said the commission is pushing 11 legislative initiatives that protect the financial integrity of state agencies and programs that serve veterans and support the lottery-financed Veterans Trust Fund.

Other proposals would boost the military property tax exemption, provide free license plates to medal winners, establish and expand veteran treatment courts and enact legislation that would “instill Americanism and patriotism in grades kindergarten through 12.”

The day’s activities included speeches by Gov. Kim Reynolds and acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and a memorial service held for 75 Iowa veterans who have committed suicide.

MACBRIDE MOTORING REJECTED: An Iowa House subcommittee rejected SF 259 that would allow the use of motorboats on Lake Macbride at any time. The bill, approved 38-12 by the Senate last year, would limit boats with motors of no more than 10 horsepower to operate a no-wake speed.

In rejecting the bill, the Natural Resources subcommittee of two Republicans and a Democrat cited the damage a wake from boats can do to the shoreline of shallow lakes and the impact on game fish, some of which aren’t found in other Iowa lakes.

Rep. Scott Ourth, D-Ackworth, said he has a motorboat but also enjoys paddling.

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“I think there is something to be said for maintaining one or two pristine lakes where people can enjoy peace and quiet without the boats whizzing around them,” he said.

IMMUNITY: Students from Iowa’s public universities lobbied a subcommittee of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee to approve SF 415 to provide immunity from prosecution for certain criminal offenses if a person seeks emergency help for themselves or someone else who is overdosing on alcohol.

The Senate approved the bill 49-0 last year, but it stalled in the House. It was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last year but never debated.

On Wednesday, the subcommittee put the bill on hold while the Department of Transportation looks into whether the change would affect any federal funding.

The bill, similar to laws in 38 states, would help keep students safe, University of Northern Iowa student Isaiah Baker said. Students would be more likely to call for help if they knew they would not face prosecution, he said.

The practice already is in the student conduct codes and common practice at UNI and the University of Iowa, according to UNI student Maggie Miller. Likewise, Iowa State University safety officers and Ames police follow that practice, according to ISU student Jesymn Perrin.

Miller said students have been working with the Iowa State Police Chiefs Association, which has suggested working changes.

The association is registered “undecided” on SF 415, as is the Board of Regents.

INCOME TAX RETURNS: A proposal, HF 2034, from House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, would require presidential candidates to release their federal income tax returns to the Iowa secretary of state to be included on Iowa’s election ballot.

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The bill, which has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, would prevent a candidate’s name from appearing on the ballot if the candidate failed to release tax returns.

“I hope it’s taken seriously,” Smith said, “because it increases transparency and is consistent with what presidential candidates have done for 40 years” until Donald Trump refused to make his returns public before or after the 2016 election.

Smith also wants the Sectary of State’s Office to publish the tax returns within seven days of receipt after redacting “information deemed necessary by the secretary of state and the attorney general.”

SIMULATED FIREARMS: Members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee voted 2-1 Wednesday to approve legislation that would include a simulated firearm under the definition of a dangerous weapon.

The Iowa Association of County Attorneys requested Senate File 3006 to deal with situations where a perpetrator commits a robbery or other crime using a toy gun, a BB gun or fake gun that creates the same fear in the victim as a real gun but is prosecuted as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Prosecutors would like to toughen the criminal statute by creating language that would not classify a simulated firearm as a dangerous weapon but rather would raise the penalty when the simulated firearm is used in a dangerous manner.

Opponents expressed concern the proposal might create unintended consequences, impose disproportionate punishment and carry implications under Iowa’s “stand-your-ground” law.

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