116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A roundup of items of interest from Thursday, March 23.
FREEDOM TO BINGE:
A House Judiciary subcommittee delayed action in a 'medical amnesty” bill that would provide legal protection to 911 callers who are under the legal drinking age of 21 but need help in an emergency when underage drinking has taken place.
'No one should have to think about the legal implications of calling for help,” Cole Staudt, an Iowa State University student from Rockford, told the subcommittee considering SF 415.
The bill was approved 49-0 in the Senate.
The immunity, similar to laws in 36 other states, Staudt said, would not extend to anyone already the subject of a criminal investigation or under correctional supervision and would not extend to emergencies where illegal drugs were involved. The caller must remain on the scene and cooperate with law enforcement.
Lawmakers are waiting to learn whether the law would put Iowa out of compliance with federal laws regarding the legal drinking age and open containers. If Iowa is not in compliance, it could jeopardize $82 million in transportation funding, said Renee Jerman of the Iowa Department of Transportation.
'That's not a huge concern for us,” Staudt said.
Similar amnesty for people who call for emergency assistance in the case of an opioid overdose was stripped out in the Senate. Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, said she hoped that could be added in the future.
Rep. Megan Jones, R-Spencer, said the subcommittee will wait to hear from the DOT on the federal funds before deciding whether to send the bill to the full committee.
Republicans, who hold majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, say they are on track to end the 2017 session close to the April 18 adjournment target.
Normally the first session of a General Assembly is scheduled for 110 days of expense money for legislators, but budget cutbacks prompted lawmakers to scale that back by 10 days this year to save money.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said there still is significant work left to do, which includes crafting a fiscal 2018 state budget. But he expects things to wind down after lawmakers get back the session's second funnel deadline next week
That deadline requires bills to clear one chamber and a committee of the other to remain eligible for consideration this year.
'We want to continue to accomplish the agenda we set out to do and I have the expectation that that can be done within the time frame of the 100 days that have been set out. I would expect us to adjourn some time very near to that 100th day,” he said.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said she is 'building my calendar to be done” around the April 18 adjournment target.
HOUSE TRAFFIC ISSUES:
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, was non-committal Thursday on two transportation-related bills approved by the Iowa Senate because her GOP majority members have not discussed them. But she said she expected legislation to further restrict texting while driving would get passed this session.
'We absolutely want to move forward with safety,” she told reporters. 'I think there's an appetite to move something forward.”
Drivers would be able to use their hand-held devices to make phone calls or check GPS directions but could be pulled over by law officers for using them to write, send or view an electronic message under Senate File 234, which cleared the Senate by a 43-6 margin Wednesday.
A House committee has approved a tougher bill that also would make texting a primary offense like the Senate approved. But the House version would ban the use of hand-held devices while driving and would allow a one-year transition period before law officers would switch from issuing warnings to ticketing violators.
Upmeyer said she expected the House GOP caucus to discuss both approaches and choose one or come up with 'something different.”
Senators also approved a separate measure to bring traffic cameras under stricter state regulation but not ban them.
Upmeyer said the Senate bill would get committee consideration before next week's second funnel deadline for bills to pass one chamber and a committee of the other to remain eligible for action this year.
Iowa senators voted 48-0 Thursday to send Gov. Terry Branstad legislation that would require insurance companies to cover a treatment for autism that parents believe can help improve the quality of life for their kids.
House File 215 would require insurance providers to cover applied behavior analysis for children with autism in group coverage plans exceeding 50 employees.
'It will help a lot of people. This is a big day,” said Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, the bill's floor manager.
He said the legislation was a positive result of collaboration by many people over a number of years to reach Thursday's legislative approval.
'This is about more than passing legislation,” said Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City. 'This will impact people's lives. This will have a huge impact.”
Under the bill, insurance coverage would become available for families with dependents younger than 19 who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
SIGNED INTO LAW: Gov. Terry Branstad signed the following seven bills into law Thursday: '
House File 303, relating to notifications made by the commissioner of insurance about the need for a receivership for certain preened sellers and cemeteries.
House File 372,allowing turns against red lights.
' House File 203, authorizing the use of primary road fund moneys for the secondary road and municipal street systems.
' House File 577, relating to the treatment of Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases
' Senate File 409, relating to state credit union examinations and boards meetings.
' Senate File 376, relating to disclosure of asbestos bankruptcy trust claims.
' Senate File 357 modifying licensing provisions applicable to electricians and electrical contractors.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
'The public realizes that they have to show their photo ID to get on an airplane, buy a beer or open a checking account. This legislation is common sense.” - Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, in promoting an 'election integrity” bill with a provision that would require every voter to present government-issued identification at the poll on Election Day - with four eligible forms that included a photo.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau