Iowa GOP says most of its 'bold agenda' on track as bills live or die at first funnel deadline

Voter ID, workers' comp overhaul advance; licensing changes don't

The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House cupola on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Emotions ran high and in some cases raw Thursday as legislators frantically worked to save issues dear to them from falling victim to a self-imposed deadline that renders bills ineligible in the remaining weeks of the 2017 session.

The first “funnel” deadline, which required non-money bills to clear at least one standing committee of the House or Senate to stay active this year, claimed issues dealing with reinstating the death penalty, restricting abortion and raising the statewide minimum wage or interstate speed limits.

State troopers were stationed at several committee meetings where high-profile issues drew crowds of spectators and TV cameras.

Republicans who control both legislative chambers managed to push ahead with bills that would revamp Iowa’s workers’ compensation system, force local governments to enforce federal immigration laws and create new election verification requirements for voters that minority Democrats called punitive and nonsense.

“From what I can tell right now, we’re still on track with a lot of our priorities to continue moving them forward,” said Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny.

“We came into this session with a big, bold agenda to do major reforms and that’s tough. It takes a long time, but we’re looking at doing reforms that will impact this state in a positive way for decades to come,” he said. “We know this is a two-year process. We’re going to take our time and do it right.”

Democrats, already in the minority in the House but now in the Senate this year, too, have had little sway over that GOP agenda.


“There’s been so much nonsense coming at us this week,” said Senate Democratic Leader Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids. “This is just nonsense after nonsense after nonsense and we’re trying to sit here and say, hey, you said you were going to work on the economy and schools. Where is it? It’s not happening. In fact, they’re taking us in the wrong direction.”

House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown said Republicans who hold majorities of 59-41 in the House and 29-20-1 in the Senate were making “very egregious” changes to Iowa’s long-standing system of protecting injured workers, election law changes to suppress voting and bills that are “an all-out assault” on ordinary Iowans.

“Republicans have always run on the idea of local control. Their legislation this year is very much anti-local control,” he said.

A workers’ compensation bill, HSB 169 — which calls for reducing benefits for many common workplace injuries, considering an injured employees’ age in determining an employee’s loss of earning power and limiting benefits to older injured employees and cutting off payments for disabling workplace injuries when a person turns 67 — provoked sharp and emotional debate in the House Commerce Committee.

“What you’re doing today, if you pass this out of committee, is doing the wrong thing by those workers,” said Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque. “This is mean. This isn’t who we are as Iowans. I beg you, vote ‘no’ and let’s stop this right now.”

Her plea and another from Rep. Scott Ourth, D-Ackworth, that the bill would be “inhumane … un-American … flat-out wrong … a death sentence” did not stop the committee from approving the plan on 14-9 party-line vote.

“This is a slap in the face to me and my family and my colleagues,” said Ourth, a heavy equipment operator. “What you’re telling me, those of you who I have called friends all along the way, is that one day our friendship will end if I fall into this category of disability. You’re going to walk away. You’re going to turn your back.”

Rep. Gary Carlson, R-Muscatine, conceded the bill was not perfect.

“I do sincerely think we need to reset where we are,” he said.

A similar bill, SSB1170, won 9-6 support in the Senate Commerce Committee. There, bill manager Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, saying most Iowa businesses treat their employees “like family” in refuting Democratic critics. “They aren’t disposable, they are not throw away, we want them to get the best care they can.”


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Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said the workers’ compensation rewrite was designed to rebalance Iowa’s law to evaluate employee injuries in a fair and practical manner that “holds the promise of one of the biggest impacts” for addressing the “cost side” challenges for job creators.

But Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, called the changes disappointing and being rushed through with an immediate effective date like an earlier collective bargaining change.

“So if you’re going to get injured, you’d better get injured this week instead of next week,” he told committee members.

In the Senate Local Government Committee, Republicans approved an immigration bill 7-4 that would sanction state funding to cities and counties that didn’t enforce federal laws in detaining people in this country illegally.

The committee did accept changes offered by Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, who told GOP the amendments were needed so “you don’t pass something out of here that’s embarrassingly unconstitutional.”

The third time wasn’t the charm for an idea championed by Gov. Terry Branstad to eliminate licensing requirements for a wide number of professions, from social workers to mental health counselors.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, dramatically tore up the bill, declaring it dead earlier in the week.

However, on Thursday morning, a House State Government subcommittee amended it to a bill related to licensing master electricians. The reincarnation was short-lived. The attempt to keep it alive through the deadline died in caucus.

That’s unfortunate, but not surprising, Branstad said.

“We knew this was going to be tough,” he said. “You’re going up against all the organized special interest groups that want to protect their turf.


“This place is overrun with lobbyists to protect their special interests and that’s who the legislators have heard from,” Branstad said. “I’m just going to ask that they take another look and consider the people who don’t have the paid, professional lobbyist here representing them.”

For his part, Branstad said he generally was pleased that his priorities were advancing in the legislative process.

“I’m particularly encouraged about the public safety issues, the distracted and impaired driving, and those issues that really involve the safety of the citizens. We knew those were not going to be easy. We feel good about that,” the Republican governor said. “Generally, things are coming along.”

He also was encouraged that a water quality bill advanced Thursday in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, saying it’s important that lawmakers approve funding and policy provisions on that front this session.

Ban traffic cameras (SF220)

Legalize sale of consumer fireworks (SF236)

End public funding to Planned Parenthood clinics (SF2)

Make texting while driving a primary offense (SF234)

Ban use of hand-held electronic devices while driving (SF407/ HSB139)

Relax gun restrictions/authorize “stand your ground” (HSB133)

Bar abortion procedures after 20th week of pregnancy (SF53)

Expand water quality efforts to curb pollutants (HSB135/SSB1034)

Revamp workers’ compensation law (SSB1170/HSB169)

Ramp up election integrity/voter ID protections (SSB1163/HSB93)

Establish state regulation of traffic cameras (SF196)

Require local entities/colleges to enforce federal immigration laws (HF265/SSB1170)

Pre-empt local employment/civil rights provisions beyond state standard (HF295)

Repeal nickel bottle deposit/create recycle fund (HSB163)

Place financial caps on medical malpractice damages (SSB1075)

Enhance regulations for unmanned aerial drones (HSB88)

Prohibit sale/trafficking of fetal body parts (HF144)

Authorize DOT officers to issue traffic citations (HF463/SSB1036)

Extend access to marijuana-derived cannabis oil for treating epilepsy (HSB164)

Impose new crackdown on drunken/impaired drivers (SSB1101)
Grant “right to farm” protections against nuisance lawsuits (HF468)

Repeal prohibition on unattended vehicle with motor running (HF312/SSB1020)

Amend constitution to give schools home rule authority like cities/counties (SJR6)

Bar protesters from intentionally blocking major highways (HF226)

End election campaign income tax checkoff for 2017 tax year (HF242)

Establish first-time homebuyer savings accounts (SF426)

Grant immunity to 911 callers for underage drinking emergencies (SSB1088)

Abolish county compensation boards (HSB11)

Take steps to dismantle Des Moines Water Works (HF316/SSB1146)

Require job impact statement for administrative rules (SF1)

Require most Iowa businesses to use E-Verify to identify undocumented workers (SF412)

Ban mandated project labor agreements for public construction projects (SSB1145)

Legalize fantasy sports activities (HSB52)

Allow “right-to-try” medical treatments for terminally ill patients (SSB1115/SF40)

Enhance laws for safe biking on highways (HSB130)

Expand private-sector employee drug testing to include hair samples (SF32)

Create crime for using simulated firearm or explosive (SF414)

Increase flexibility for school district operations/powers (HF26)

Expand grounds for termination of parental rights (SF89)

Allow city council members to serve as volunteer firefighters (HF264)

Require security plans for school buildings (HF353)

Modify criminal sentences for crack cocaine convictions (HF377)

Prohibit the mistreatment of animals (SF421)

Amend constitution to require 99 percent state budget limitation (SJR1)

Remove $6,000 limit on tuition grants (SF349)

Require potential concussion/brain injury reporting for high school athlete (HF17)

Call for an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution (HJR11)

Modify high-school equivalency assessments (SF350)

Eliminate Iowa emergency response commission (SF351)

Strike future repeal of the property assessment appeal board (SF356)

Exempt state/county fairs from damage for pathogen transmission (SF362)

Require licensing of genetic counselors (HF444)

Protect utilities’ critical infrastructure from cyber attacks (HF445/SSB1045)

Reduce penalty for first-offense marijuana possession (SF280)

Switch judicial nominating commission appointments to governor only (SF327)

Protect Iowans from application of certain foreign laws (HF223)

Expand firearms on ATVs to hired hands/renters (SF227)

Allow use of straight wall cartridge rifles for deer hunting (HF210)

Allow straight wall rifles to hunt deer (HF475)

Allow permitted individual to carry firearm on school grounds (SF146)

Strengthen re-employment protections for Iowa National Guard soldiers (SF373)

Create state income tax credit for buying a qualified gun safe (HF461)

Shift burden of proof/make other changes to asset forfeiture (SSB1148)

Set primary runoff election when no one polls 35 percent of vote (SF33)

Allow ATV trails to cross highways (HF464/SF311)

Allow trucks traveling highways in a connected platoon (HF465)

Allow two of five soil conservation commissions to reside in same township (HF469)

Issue high school equivalency diploma based on demonstrated competence in core areas (HF473)

Strike repeal of property assessment board (HF478)

Study long-term care facility for elderly with aggressive/psychiatric behaviors (HF345/HR7)

Amend constitution to address electronic search/seizure (HJR1)

Transfer solid waste alternatives program to DNR (SF273)

Adopt computer science education standards for schools (SF274)

Enhance parental rights termination for safety/security concerns (SF275)

Expand crime victim compensation program (SF276)

Shield state/county fairs from damages for pathogen transmissions (SF210)

Enhance crime of sexual exploitation by a school employee (SF238)

Make confidential peace officer’s personnel records (SF241)

Transit to judicial nominating commission appointed solely by governor (SF327)

Increase health insurance premiums for legislators (SF230)

Enhance criminal penalties for using GPS to stalk/harass (HF263)

Allow renters/hired hands to carry firearm on ATV/snowmobile (SF296)

Allow drivers to make double turns against red lights (SF251/HF372)

Allow prescribing of natural “biological” medical products (HF305)

Bar extra academic credit for students who contribute school supplies (HF304)

Require vehicles involved in minor accidents to be removed from roadway (HF313)

Prohibit minors from using a tanning facility (HF395)

Set parameters for bass fishing tournaments in public waters (SF257)

Bar state restrictions for hunting on private property (SF258)

Allow boats with large motors on Lake Macbride at no-wake speed (SF259)

Provide landowner immunity for injury to a trespasser (SF260/HF251)

Set regular review/repeal for state programs/projects (HF1)

Allow certified peace officer to carry weapon on school grounds (SF218)

Extend maximum length for single trucks on highway to 41 feet (HF218)

Increase fishing /hunting license fees (HSB175)

Reinstate death penalty for kidnap, rape and murder (SF335)

Increase interstate speed limit to 75 mph (SF289)

Raise statewide minimum wage (HF282/SF156)

Establish “life begins at conception” anti-abortion standard (SF253/HF297)

Create end-of-life options for terminally ill Iowans (SF215)

Require motorcycle/motorized bike operators to wear a safety helmet (HF286)

Increase marriage license waiting period from 3 to 20 days (HF300)

Eliminate exemption to smoke-free air act at state-licensed casinos (SF249/SF261)

End tenure systems at public universities/community colleges (SF41)

Expand marijuana-derived cannabis oil access to Iowans with debilitating medical conditions (HSB132)

Establish civil damages for physical/emotional distress from abortion (SF26)

Set moratorium in issuing more state gambling licenses (SF46)

Authorize mandatory uniform policies at schools (SF31)

Establish year-round Central Standard Time in Iowa (HF206/SF168)

Repeal declaration that English is Iowa’s official language (HF81)

Require peace officers to wear/use body cameras (HF77)

Amend constitution to limit terms of all state-level elected officials (SJR3)

Impose constitutional term limits for state legislators (SJR7)

Allow catfish to be taken by hand fishing/noodling (SF161)

Require non-toxic shot to hunt mourning doves (HF193)

Bar sale/transfer of large capacity ammunition feeding devices (HF70)

Restrict donation solicitations from passing motorists (SF163)

Allow the establishment of education savings accounts (SF29/HF80)

Raise legal age to possess and use tobacco products from 18 to 21 years (SF5)

Require Senate confirmation of lieutenant governor appointee (SF50)

Eliminate state licensing requirements for a wide number of professions (HF229)

Reduce and eventually repeal state inheritance tax (SF82)

Require helmets for minors on motorcycles, ATVs and motor bikes (SF96)

Allow counties to adopt animal feeding operation siting ordinances (HF456)

Eliminate prohibition to possess machine guns and short-barrel guns (SF108)

Invalidate common law marriages contracted after July 2017 (HF399)

Allow Legislature to reorganize Iowa counties in 2021 (HFR7)

Eliminate state income tax/raise state sales tax (SF38)

Bar state university football games on Fridays (HF86)

Bar carbonated beverage purchases with food stamps (SF76)

Require political balance among university faculty (288)

Eliminate religious exemption for schoolchildren immunizations (HF261)

Establish drug court in each judicial district (HF338)

Enact prohibitions on firearm possession by criminal defendants (HF397)

Allow sale of unpasteurized/ungraded raw milk (SF287)

Require display of golden rule in public school classrooms (HF317)

Establish DPS cold case investigation unit (SF291)

Exempt people at least age 73 from jury service (SF173)

Extend statute of limitations for crimes committed on/with minors (SF243)

Increase members on Iowa Utilities Board from three to five (SF224)

Add reporting/visitation requirements for home-schooling situations (HF268)

Expand age-appropriate human growth/development standards (HF270)

Increase refundable beverage container deposit from 5 to 10 cents (HF272)

Require core academic indicators in math, reading and science (HF271)

Allow installment payments for delinquent court debt (HF280)

Issue temporary driver’s licenses to certain foreign nationals (HF287)

Require judicial nominating commissions to be elected by voters (SF263)

Establish procedures/requirements for a covenant marriage (HF387)

Require video/audio monitoring devices in public schools (SF294)

Establish an open season to hunt squirrels from August to January (HF360)

Require minimum hours of operation for clerk of court offices (SF268)

Exempt sanitary hygiene necessity products from state sales tax (HF374)

Set sanctions for filing frivolous lawsuits (SF71)

Require electronic publication of government notices (SF158)

Eliminate option of voting straight party ballot (SF60)

Bar willful employer misclassification of worker’s wages (HF74)

Eliminate deferred sentence as a criminal sentencing option (HF225)

Direct ISU to study effects of a living wage in Iowa (HF75)

Increase sales tax to fund natural resources/recreation projects (HF76)

Bar sale of products containing triclosan by 2019 (SF113)

Amend constitution to add right to hunt/fish/harvest wildlife (SJR4)

Set maximum interest rates for pawnbrokers (HF87)

Expand hate crimes to include gender expression (HF88)

Bar discrimination based upon employment status (HF99)

Require worker’s comp benefits to include overtime/COLA adjustment (HF98)

Allow choice of doctor for injured workers (HF97)

Require annual law enforcement reporting of forfeited/seized property (HF96)

Bar sexual orientation change efforts by health providers (HF93)

Create voluntary publicly funded campaign finance system (HF101/HF168/SF203)

Allow employees to be paid wages via debit card (SF141)

Require presidential candidates to provide federal tax returns to state (SF159)

Require notice of topsoil removal in real estate disclosure statements (SF320)

Provide fair share collective bargaining agreements (HF400)

Require consideration of project labor agreements for public projects (HF402)

Require employers to provide meal/rest periods for workers (HF401)

Nullify federal EPA regulations in Iowa (HF100)

Prohibit sale/transfer of semi-automatic assault weapons (HF157/HF398)

Create a misdemeanor offense for body piercings for minors other than earlobes (HF33)

Increase penalties for conviction of indecent exposure (HF159)

Create criminal offense of dating abuse assault (HF127)

Establish a criminal sentencing commission (HF128)

Limit administrative costs for school districts to 5 percent (SF314)

Exempt needle exchange program from drug paraphernalia crime (SF219)

Restore voting rights for felons who discharge sentence (HF79)

Allow qualified parent to teach driver’s education to child (HF84)

Set training and prohibitions for use of physical restrain/seclusion practices (SF204)

Sanction licenses of professionals who default on college loans (HF212)

Eliminate including fine arts elements in state buildings (HF246)

Exempt sale of honey bees from state sales tax (HF177)

Bar employers from seeking criminal record/history of applicant (HF192)

Bar sale/transfer of firearm without verified federal background check (HF145)

Allow petition for closure, vouchers or charters for lowest-achieving schools (HF9)

Reduce state camping fees and other special privileges for Iowans 60 years or older (HF10)

Provide reduced car insurance premiums for certified Iowans aged 55 or older (HF14)

Designate regal fritillary Iowa’s official state butterfly (HJR2)

Expunge DNA sample if accused is not convicted of any offense (SF86)

Require radon testing in public schools (SF7)

Provide proof of identification/residence to register to vote on Election Day (SF47)

Prohibit wage discrimination (HF129/SF340)

Authorize state lottery game to benefit multiple sclerosis fund (SF48)

Allow petition to expunge local ordinance violation after two years (SF44)

Develop a mandatory public employee defined contribution pension plan (SF45)

Exempt wine bottles from beverage container deposit law (SF39)

Eliminate common core curriculum standards for Iowa schools (SF30)

Give teachers more latitude in dealing with disruptive students (SF323)

Extend hate-crime to gender expression (SF73)

Establish lifetime ban from state parks for certain habitual offenders (SF55)

Expedite certain child custody decisions in marriage dissolution (HF15)

Allow small cities to conduct elections by absentee ballots (HF54)

Allow registered voters to apply for absentee ballots electronically (HF55)

Eliminate requirement to post no-smoking signs in public places (SF107)

Certify non-licensed professionals to apply eyelash extensions (SF106)

Require environmental impact assessment to build pipeline (SF63)

Establish world language education pilot project in elementary schools (HF65)

Create DNR inventory of state/local government use of carcinogens (HF67)

Require 30 straight months in Iowa to get in-state regent tuition (SF337)

Designate honey bee official state insect (HJR10)

Require donor identification for independent campaign expenditures (SF367)

Appoint special prosecutor for police shootings involving death/injuries (SF370)

Bar regents/executive director from business/financial relationship with university employee (SF372)

Require school breakfast programs through third grade (SF377)

Require suicide awareness/prevention training for school officials (SF378)

Create state licensure for midwives (HF453)

Bar manufacture/sale of products containing chemical flame retardants (HF457)

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