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A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Thursday, Feb. 27, 2017:
BILL WITH LICENSURE PROPOSALS DIES:
A bill that would have brought significant changes to the state's health care system died in the Iowa House on Monday, with all three state representatives voting against moving it to a full committee. The 82-page bill put forth by Gov. Terry Branstad would have weakened the Certificate of Need program for hospitals as well as eliminate licensing requirements for a wide number of professions, from social work to mental health counselors, and their boards and commissions. The Monday subcommittee brought out funeral directors, barbers, contractors, social workers, audiologists, dietitians, mental health counselors and hospital administrators, who all spoke out against the bill. State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who chaired the committee, said he received more than 3,600 emails over the weekend in opposition of the bill. 'When I was home this weekend, I was stopped at WalMart, at McDonald's and when I was getting my hair cut,” he said. However, there is additional legislation floating around the Iowa House that could again try to weaken the Certificate of Need program, a regulatory review process in which hospitals and other medical providers must go before a state board for approval to offer new services or purchase medical equipment costing more than $1.5 million.
LAW OFFICERS AS A PROTECTED CLASS:
A Senate subcommittee agreed Monday to add peace officers to a protected class of Iowans who would be covered by enhanced hate crime penalties if they are the victim of an offense committed against them because of their employment as a law enforcement officer. Coverage under Iowa's civil rights law also would be extended to jailers and correctional staff under Senate Study Bill 1007. Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale where a recent shooting attack claimed the lives of two peace officers, said the bill would give officers another tool to protect them in the line of duty if perpetrators know they could face up to a Class B felony. 'I think this is just a little extension to make people think twice before they want to assault a peace officer,” he said. Critics of the bill said peace officers already are protected against unlawful attacks like every other citizen. Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, a former correctional officer, said he always felt he had this kind of protection but he agreed to support the bill although he observed it appeared to be 'piling on more laws that really aren't necessary.” Susan Cameron, a lobbyist for the Iowa Sheriffs & Deputies Association, said her group supported the enhancement, saying 'police officers are being targeted in this day and age. It's a tough job already.” The bill now goes to the full Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
GUN BILL OPPOSITION:
A suburban Des Moines mayor and law enforcement officials spoke out Monday against proposed legislation they say will result in higher public safety budgets, more gun-related investigations and more difficult prosecutions. Pleasant Hill Mayor Susan Kurovski, who described herself as a mother, weapons carry permit holder and Republican, said passage of HF 133, especially the stand-you-ground provisions, will make it difficult to prosecute gun-related crime because perpetrators could claim they were defending themselves. She estimated the city would need to spend another $720,000 on law enforcement to provide more coverage to more areas more frequently if more people are going armed. She asked lawmakers not to forget the 1986 shooting of the Mount Pleasant mayor at a council meeting by a man upset over a sewer backup when they consider allowing weapons at the Capitol. Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert expects his officers would have to respond to more gun-related incidents if the HF 133 is enacted. 'What we're looking for is less gun trips, less gun violence, not more,” he said at a Statehouse news conference.
IOWA BIODIESEL CAPACITY EXPANDS:
Iowa's capacity to produce biodiesel is on the rise by nearly 20 percent - from 334 million gallons a year to almost 400 million gallons. That according to the Iowa Biodiesel Board - which attributed the boost to projects currently underway or that were recently completed. Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director, said proactive state policies have played a pivotal role in keeping the state's title as the national leading producer - including the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, which provides grants to help fuel distributors and retailers modernize equipment to include biofuels. On Wednesday, biodiesel supporters will be at the Statehouse to meet with state legislators to ask for funding for the program for another year. The program has resulted in 261 new biodiesel retail pumps and 55 terminal locations throughout the state since 2006, giving all Iowans greater access to the American fuel.
Iowa schools would be required to have a security plan establishing protocol in case of an active shooter situation under a bill approved by the House Education Committee Monday.
HF 353 would not tell local school boards and administrators what to include in the plan, but Rep. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, said a security plan is important, especially for rural school districts where law enforcement might not be nearby.
The plans would be available to school employees and parents would be notified of its existence, but Carlin said details would not be a public record.
Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, a law enforcement officer supported the bill, but said he may offer amendments 'to make sure the right individual are involved in the plan.”
HSB 107 to require the state Board of Education to adopt computer science education standards for elementary, middle and high schools that receive money from a computer science professional development incentive fund was approved by the House Education Committee 22-0.
The goal is for each high school to offer at least one high-quality computer science course, each middle school to offer instruction in exploratory computer science and each elementary school to offer instruction in the basics of computer science.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'This is really an invitation to a lot of lawsuits.”
– Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, in discussing a bill supported by education groups to seek a constitutional amendment giving school districts home rule authority similar to a constitutional change for cities and counties in the 1970s.
- Gazette Des Moines Bureau