Staff Columnist

Iowa misses chance for more cannabis, fewer traffic cameras

Good bills left for dead as legislative session closes

Renovation work continues on the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, May. 24, 2017. A $10 million project has started to repair the dome. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Renovation work continues on the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, May. 24, 2017. A $10 million project has started to repair the dome. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Political leaders are tallying the score from the 2018 legislative session, which met its anticlimactic end this past weekend.

Heading into campaign season for legislative races across the state, majority Republicans and minority Democrats will try to convince voters they were right about our new laws, ranging from tax cuts and abortion restrictions to opioid addiction worker training.

Just as important are all the bills the Legislature left to die this year in Des Moines, a far longer list than the ones they passed. Several important proposals which would have made Iowans more free will not make their way to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk.

Lawmakers ignored the calls of patients and caretakers to fix Iowa’s medical marijuana program. The state’s one licensed cannabis producer is set to have products available to a small number of approved patients later this year, but advocates say hardly anyone will benefit.

Proposals to cover more conditions under the law and increase the allowable level of tetrahydrocannabinol earned some support among both Republicans and Democrats, but ultimately were squashed by legislative leaders.

With medical marijuana dispensaries limited to just five facilities statewide, patients in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City will have to travel to Waterloo or Davenport to get their medicine. On the way, they may be tracked by automated traffic enforcement devices, which the Legislature opted not to regulate this year.

Local governments and their corporate partners have issued millions of dollars in speeding tickets through cameras. Conservative critics complain that’s a revenue-generating scheme rather than a safety precaution, and also worry about privacy and due process.

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The Iowa Supreme Court last month ruled in a case involving Cedar Rapids that the Iowa Department of Transportation doesn’t have broad power to regulate a city’s use of traffic cameras. Even after that, lawmakers did not finalize either a bill to ban traffic cameras or another one to restrict their use.

Speaking of traffic surveillance, we are keeping our front license plates. A bill to require just one license plate on most vehicles failed to advance. The Iowa Automobile Dealers Association was for it, but law enforcement lobbyists were opposed.

How about sports betting, school choice, marijuana decriminalization or a bill to wipe out thousands of state regulations? Not this year, legislative leaders tell us.

If you’re frustrated at legislative inaction on injustices big and small, I’m sorry to say you may be stuck with your representatives and senators for a while longer. There was no interest this year in a bill to place term limits on state officials, 16 years for lawmakers and two terms for governors.

And don’t forget, if you’re a felon who has served your time, you may not get a say in your representation at all. Felons who complete their sentences have to get approval from the governor in order to vote. Lawmakers didn’t bite on a compromise to automatically restore felons’ voting rights, and also create a process for felons to get their firearm rights back.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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