Government

Iowa stand-your-ground legislation on way to governor

The dome of the Iowa State Capitol building from the rotunda in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Suspended across the dome is the emblem of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). The emblem, painted on canvas and suspended on wire, was placed there as a reminder of Iowa’s efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The dome of the Iowa State Capitol building from the rotunda in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Suspended across the dome is the emblem of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). The emblem, painted on canvas and suspended on wire, was placed there as a reminder of Iowa’s efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Legislation making significant changes to expand firearm rights that supporters said would protect Iowans and their constitutional rights, but opponents worried would escalate gun violence, is on its way to the governor.

The Iowa House accepted a Senate amendment clarifying House File 517 that includes a controversial “stand your ground” provision that states a law-abiding citizen does not have a duty to retreat in a public place before using deadly force when confronted with danger to life or property.

“All-in-all I believe this a good addition to the bill,” Rep. Matt Windschitl. R-Missouri Valley. “It enhances Iowans freedoms. It does not remove anything of the major provisions we were pushing for. I think, this is an advancement of Iowans’ freedoms, restores their individual responsibility and allows them to make decisions for themselves.

However, opponents argued Iowans already have protections for defending themselves in deadly situations that balances the rights of gun owners with public safety.

The bill, with the Senate amendment, was approved 57-35. The Senate passed HF 517 33-17 after the House passed the original version 58-39.

In other legislation, the House also approved a change in state law that allows problems gamblers to enter into a voluntary lifetime exclusion from gaming areas. Under Senate File 442, as amended by the House, a person could choose either a lifetime ban or a five-year exclusion, Rep. Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny, said. A five-year exclusion could be renewed for another five years or for life.

Rep. Mary Mascher. D-Iowa City, offered amendments to provide more information and require problems gamblers who decided they are ready to return to the gaming area to attend a session on gambling treatment to identify whether they still need help.

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There are more than 29,000 problem gamblers in Iowa, Mascher said, but only 8,500 on the lifetime ban. Of those, 693 sought treatment for gambling addiction and 299 were admitted to treatment programs.

“This is an enormous issue,” she said. “If they want to go back to gambling, let’s have them go through a session to determine whether they can handle that.”

However, her amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

The bill was approved 74-20 and will return to the Senate.

Representatives also voted 94-0 to approve SF 51, which aims to prevent the harmful effects of Cytomegalovirus (CMV). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CMV afflicts one in every 150 children born in America and is passed onto a child from the mother during pregnancy. In Iowa, that works out to 260 babies per year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can cause premature birth, liver, lung and spleen problems, small body size at birth, small head size, and seizures.

The bill would create a public education and awareness campaign. Parents could opt out of the screening when it is recommended.

The bill now goes to the governor.

The House amended and sent back to the Senate a bill addressing problems associated with drunken, drugged and distracted driving.

Representatives approved SF 444 90-3 to require drivers arrested or convicted of driving impaired to participate in twice-daily sobriety monitoring, as well as require some drivers to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles. The sobriety monitoring program is modeled after initiatives in South Dakota and other states.

The legislation puts in place an evidence-based, innovative criminal justice concept with a non-traditional approach to treat crimes involving alcohol or drug abuse with the goal of preventing repeat occurrences, according to Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant. An offender could be placed in the opt-in program as a condition of bond, pretrial release, sentence probation, parole or a temporary restricted license and be allowed to function in a job free from incarceration if he or she abstains from the use of alcohol and/or drugs for the term of the sanction, he added.

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Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, warned that the broad wording of the bill could be applied to someone convicted of public intoxication and they would not be allowed to consume alcohol in the privacy of their home for 90 days. Despite that, she supported the bill.

A separate provision of the bill would provide that cellphone use while driving would be considered evidence of reckless driving “with willful or wanton disregard” for public safety. A driver who struck and killed someone would commit a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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