A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday, March 14, 2017:
FARM NUISANCE SUIT PROTECTION: The Republican-led Iowa Senate voted 31-18 to approve legislation that supporters hope will beef up protections to fend off what they consider to be “nuisance” lawsuits challenging the location of large-scale livestock operations. Senate File 447 allows for an affirmative defense to be raised in certain cause of actions in which an animal feeding operation is alleged to be a public or private nuisance or to otherwise interfere with a person’s comfortable use and enjoyment of life or property. Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, said the bill creates new legal protections for animal agriculture producers who are “prudent” and “reasonable” but not those considered to be “bad actors.” He said the law is needed due to “growing concern over new instability in the legal environment as nuisance lawsuits often brought with the backing of large, greedy out of state law firms and they’re targeting our producers.” Ocheyedan independent Sen. David Johnson joined 17 minority Democrats in trying to make changes to protect rural residents from having large-scale livestock locate in proximity in a way that infringes on their property rights and quality of life. Two Democrats voted for the bill. Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, compared the Senate debate to “a bad acid trip” at a time when Iowa is faced with deteriorating water quality and a master matrix for siting livestock operations that is not achieving its intended purpose. Zumbach called criticism of the bill a “verbal slaughter” of a major industry that provides 160,000 jobs for Iowa.
HARD TO SWALLOW: The Attorney General’s Office has filed suit in Polk County claiming the makers of “drinkable sunscreen” failed to prove their product provides the advertised protection against cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The lawsuit against Osmosis LLC and Harmonized Water LLC, and their owner, Benjamin Taylor Johnson, MD, all of Evergreen, Colorado, alleges the defendants initially marketed their “UV Neutralizer,” proclaimed as the “world’s first drinkable sunscreen,” without any valid testing to prove its claims. The lawsuit also alleges the defendants later conducted “seriously flawed” testing that “recklessly gave consumers hollow assurances that they were protected from known health hazards,” according to Attorney General Tom Miller.
“We allege that Johnson and his companies put consumers at considerable risk by claiming that spraying UV Neutralizer into their mouths will provide hours of sun protection,” Miller said. “These defendants admit that this product’s only ingredient is water, and we allege they can’t support their highly questionable claims that they can specially treat ordinary water to take on a wide range of health-enhancing properties.”
REGENT CONFIRMED: The Iowa Senate voted 49-0 to approve retired Des Moines physician Michael Richards as a member of the state Board of Regents — the panel that oversees three state universities and two special schools. Richards has served on the panel for nearly a year, having been appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad to replace Mary Andringa after she resigned in April 2016. Gubernatorial appointees must receive a two-thirds majority of the Iowa Senate, or at least 34 affirmative votes, to be confirmed to a state board or commission.
RIGHT TO TRY: The Iowa Senate voted 49-0 Tuesday to approve “right-to-try” legislation that would make it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs. Senate File 404 would permit manufacturers of investigative drugs, biological products or devices to make them available to eligible patients with terminal illnesses for use as a treatment so long as they provide written informed consent. “This gives patients hope,” said Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, floor manager for Senate File 404 which now goes to the Iowa House, which failed to approve the measure last session.
FOREIGN DIGNITARIES: The Iowa Capitol building will have an international flavor Wednesday with state officials hosting dignitaries from Canada. Wednesday has been designated as Canada day at the Capitol with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Andrew Leslie, Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, will meet Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s legislative leaders during events in Des Moines to celebrate Iowa’s top trade partnership. During the visit, the Canadian delegation will present the state of Iowa with an official gift commemorating Canada’s sesquicentennial.
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Anne Rabbitte, a member of Ireland’s Fianna Fail Party in the Irish Parliament, was slated to address both chambers of the Iowa Legislature Wednesday and meet with the governor before traveling to Emmetsburg to participate in St. Patrick’s Day observances in the northwest Iowa community. She had to cancel her Capitol visit due to an East Coast snowstorm but she still planned to keep her Emmetsburg commitments.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s flat-out dangerous to consumers to make them think without any proof that this water protects them from what we know is proven — potentially cancer-causing exposure to the sun,” Attorney General Tom Miller talking about water products sold as drinkable sunscreen and mosquito repellent
—Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau