Government

Measure banning traffic cameras stalls for now in Iowa Senate

Senators advance bills to protect pipelines, limit dram shop liability

(FILE PHOTO) Traffic drives under the speed enforcement traffic cameras on I-380 Northbound near the J Avenue exit in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, August 25, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) Traffic drives under the speed enforcement traffic cameras on I-380 Northbound near the J Avenue exit in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, August 25, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Wednesday’s highly anticipated Iowa Senate debate on a bill seeking to ban speed and traffic cameras by July 1 barely got past the starting line when it was parked for additional work.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, made his opening appeal to have the electronic enforcement devices pulled from Iowa roadways when Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, asked that Senate File 2148 be deferred to allow him time to draft amendments he wanted to offer for consideration.

The request was granted by Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and the debate was temporarily halted with the possibility of coming before the Senate again as early as Thursday.

In other action, the Senate voted 33-16 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 $85,000 to $100,000.

Senate File 2235 would pertain to sabotage committed against critical infrastructure or facilities related to communications, electricity, water, pipeline, wastewater, energy, transportation and hazardous materials and with associated “crucial lifeline systems.”

Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, the bill’s floor manager, said the measure was not intended to impede legal protests, but rather target things such as terrorist threats that could crash critical infrastructure and put lives in peril.

“I don’t think this bill is ready for prime time, I really don’t,” said Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who sought a delay to address questions he had about the bill’s provisions and penalties that he contended were covered by existing law.

An activist said the bill is not really about terrorism but about stopping the kind of protests seen over the last two years against the underground Dakota Access pipeline, which cuts across 18 Iowa counties.

“It’s about legitimizing the Dakota Access pipeline as critical infrastructure,” said Bold Iowa Director Ed Fallon. “ ... It’s a slippery slope greased with oil and campaign donations that will only lead to further erosion of Iowans’ property rights and put our land, water and climate at even greater risk.”

Also Wednesday, senators voted 29-20 to cap the “dram shop” liability for Iowa restaurants and taverns that serve alcoholic beverages to a patron who overindulges and is involved in a traffic crash that results in injuries to an “innocent third party” due to drunken driving.

Senate File 2169 would strike language that attaches liability to state alcohol license or permit holders for all damages in circumstances where the purveyor of alcohol knew or should have known a patron was intoxicated or would become intoxicated before a subsequent alcohol-related mishap.

The change would narrow the law’s application to any “innocent third party” rather than any person who incurred damages in cases where a restaurant or bar sold alcohol “directly” to a person who was “visibly intoxicated” at the time of the sale.

The bill would require that the injury be “proximately” caused by intoxication. Proximate causation is where a court will deem the intoxication was sufficiently related to the injury that it is deemed to be the cause.

“We don’t just let people off the hook,” said Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, the bill’s floor manager.

In such cases, the judgment or recovery would be limited to $75,000 for each person injured; but that could be increased to $100,000 in more severe cases.

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“It’s about going soft on drunk driving,” countered Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, who opposed t.

But Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, said the dram shop law is dated and should be eliminated.

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