Government

Wrongful Birth, the Value of Capitol Bricks, Student Speech and Student Standardized Testing: Iowa Capitol Digest, March 7

Bill Dikis of Des Moines, chairman of the Capitol Planning Commission, writes a check Wednesday to buy a commemorative brick from the 1880s construction of the Iowa Capitol dome, as Joni Arnett, supervisor of the Capitol tour guides, looks on. Money from the fundraiser will go toward maintenance of monuments on the Statehouse grounds. (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
Bill Dikis of Des Moines, chairman of the Capitol Planning Commission, writes a check Wednesday to buy a commemorative brick from the 1880s construction of the Iowa Capitol dome, as Joni Arnett, supervisor of the Capitol tour guides, looks on. Money from the fundraiser will go toward maintenance of monuments on the Statehouse grounds. (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
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A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, March 7, 2018:

CAPITOL BRICKS: The bricks are flying off the shelves at the Capitol.

Historic bricks from the Capitol dome, being sold for $100 each, are proving popular with Iowans, according to Carol Grant of the Capitol Planning Commission.

Capitol bricks for sale


As many as 1,200 of the 12,000 or so bricks being removed from the dome will be sold to raise money for the commission’s maintenance of 44 monuments and pieces of art on the Capitol grounds, Grant said Wednesday. Although the commission would like to sell more, few of the bricks are coming out intact. The Legislature will add $50 for each brick sold.

Each brick will include a 3-inch medallion that is sequentially numbered and a certificate to authenticate the brick. They will be sold wrapped in Bubble Wrap and placed in a cardboard box. Bricks can be shipped for $15.

Orders are being taken at the tour desk in the Capitol basement and at legis.iowa.gov/store.

TAIWAN RESOLUTION: The Iowa Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution that supports the strengthening and deepening of the relationship between Taiwan and the state of Iowa and their sister-state relationship since 1989.

Senators said the relationship has been marked by strong bilateral trade, education and cultural exchanges and tourism.

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Taiwan is Iowa’s fifth-largest export destination in Asia, with $171 million in trade activity.

Edward Chen, deputy director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, was on hand in Senate chambers to accept Senate Resolution 111 and declare his country’s relations with Iowa have “never been better.”

FREE SPEECH: Legislation that supporters say would foster the “vibrant exchange of ideas” on college campuses is moving forward in the Iowa House, but “there’s definitely room for compromise,” according to Rep. Megan Jones, R-Spencer, who chaired an Education Committee hearing on Senate File 2344.

The bill, approved 29-20 in the Senate, seeks to regulate how public universities and community colleges handle free speech.

“College campuses should be a place for the vibrant exchange of ideas across the spectrum, not simply religious, but also political and whatever issue that may be encountered,” said Drew Klein of Americans for Prosperity.

Taiwan agreement renewed


It would be shortsighted to think the proposed legislation is just about protecting Christians, said Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference.

“This bill protects all viewpoints,” he said, adding the group specifically supports language that would allow student groups to choose their own leaders.

However, Daniel Zeno of the America Civil Liberties Union Iowa said that language would allow student groups to discriminate against members who don’t adhere to the group’s beliefs, while continuing to benefit from student fees and tax-funded resources.

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The bill now goes to the full Education Committee, which must approve it before March 16 for it to remain eligible for consideration this year.

STUDENT ASSESSMENTS: The Senate Education Committee voted 12-3 Wednesday to advance a House-passed bill that would award the state’s standardized testing contract to Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa, a move that would override a yearslong process that awarded the deal to an out-of-state vendor.

House File 2235 would have the UI develop assessments taken by some 360,000 Iowa students each school year.

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, said he is working on an amendment that would spell out parameters for the testing program to align the standards with Iowa curriculum and meet federal requirements.

The legislation movement comes after years of delays in replacing tests students now take, the Iowa Assessments, with tests more aligned to what they learn in the classroom under the Iowa Core curriculum standards.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, took issue with the process that has spanned five years and predicted the matter could be the subject of litigation if the state passes over the American Institutes of Research in Washington, D.C., which was the previous bid winner.

WRONGFUL BIRTH: A Senate subcommittee voted 2-1 Wednesday to approve a House-passed bill that would prohibit claims for wrongful birth and wrongful life.

House File 2405 stems from a 2017 Iowa Supreme Court case in which the justices joined a majority of other state courts in allowing parents of a child born with severe disabilities to bring a wrongful birth lawsuit if prenatal doctors fail to inform the parents of abnormalities found on an ultrasound before the child’s birth.

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In that case, the woman said she would have aborted the unborn child had she been told of the abnormalities.

“We’re trying to balance some moral issues,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who chaired the Senate Judiciary subcommittee. He said there was a “50-50” chance senators would make changes to the bill if they come up with a better option than the House approach.

The House bill would ban a person from bringing a wrongful birth lawsuit but does not stop a lawsuit for intentional or gross negligence or omission on the part of medical professionals. A doctor cannot willingly hide information from a mother to prevent her from having an abortion.

The bill also prevents a wrongful life lawsuit brought by a disabled child who alleges that if it were not for the wrongful conduct of a doctor or other medical professionals, the child would never have been born. Most courts have been unwilling to grant a wrongful life lawsuit because of serious ethical and moral considerations.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m trying to shine a bright light on a dirty mess. We’ve got a complete rats’ nest at the ICN, and it’s time to clean the rat’ nest out of the barn, and I’m ready to do it.” — Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, in discussing recent financial mismanagement at the Iowa Communications Network during debate on a bill to sell the ICN.

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