IOWA LEGISLATURE

Bill requiring disaster preparedness study of Iowa, Iowa State stadiums fails to advance

'I don't think we necessarily need a law to tell them to do what they're already doing,' legislator says

Kinnick Stadium is seen in July 2016 in an aerial photograph in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
Kinnick Stadium is seen in July 2016 in an aerial photograph in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

Legislation that would have required the state Board of Regents to conduct a study of emergency preparedness and response at outdoor stadiums at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa has been shelved for the time being.

The stated goal of House Study Bill 585 was to formulate safety plans for each outdoor stadium under the control of the state Board of Regents to minimize any liability to the state in the event of a weather-related or other emergency at the stadium.

Carolann Jensen, a regents’ liaison to the Legislature, told a House State Government subcommittee this week that regent universities each have overall safety plans and “a plethora of information” on dealing with emergency situations. They also conduct game-day preparation that includes weather decisions — such as a delay that took place last fall during an Iowa State football game. Some of that information is public but some is confidential, she said, because “there are things we don’t want the public to know for obvious reasons.”

She said the universities work with other state agencies and travel to other venues to adopt “best practices” and keep updated on safety concerns. They also operate emergency centers on game day.

“They all believe that they are attempting to do what we can do. They’re always willing to improve,” Jensen said. “It is paramount that we keep everybody safe.”

Under the bill, the regents were to conduct a study and then develop and implement the plan for each outdoor stadium by Sept. 1. The findings and recommendations then would be submitted to the Legislature and governor by Jan. 1.

“We have concerns about filing a report,” Jensen said. “We don’t want to skirt the requirements of this legislation, but we also don’t want to provide people a playbook on how best to circumvent the security we have at all three institutions.”

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Subcommittee members did not proceed with the bill, with Rep. Michael Bergen, R-Dorchester, noting “I don’t think we necessarily need a law to tell them to do what they’re already doing.”

Subcommittee chairman Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, said the bill was filed by a lawmaker with a particular concern, and he felt it was appropriate to “shine a light on these things,” but he did not plan to advance the bill.

Chips with that job?

Legislation seeking to prevent private companies and government agencies in Iowa from forcing employees to be “microchipped” for entry and tracking purposes got its first swipe of approval Wednesday from a House Judiciary subcommittee.

Backers of such implantation say it’s about convenience and security in allowing employees to use the microchip in their hands to enter work spaces or as a way to keep workers out of restricted areas. But opponents worried the chips could be used to track employees when they’re not at work.

Rep. Joe Mitchell, R-Wayland told Wednesday’s subcommittee meeting that no employee should be forced to get a chip implanted.

“I think it’s creepy,” he noted. “I think it’s a good bill.”

House Study Bill 580 advanced for consideration by the full House Judiciary Committee.

‘Fly Our Colors’ plate takes flight

Members of the Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to give Iowa motorists another license plate option for their vehicles. The “Fly Our Colors” plate design is modeled after the Iowa flag’s red, white and blue color scheme.

State officials actually revealed the design in 2017 at the Iowa State Fair, where people could vote on one of three designs. The Fly Our Colors plate was one of two designs not selected by Iowans who voted on the new plates, but Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, said Iowans like more license plate choices. He said the Fly Our Colors plate would serve two purposes by directing proceeds from the sale of the plate to the Flood Mitigation Board to support flood recovery across the state.

“It’s an attractive plate,” said Shipley, but he conceded “it may not be as popular as the blackout plates.”

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Senate File 2026 now moves to the debate calendar for consideration by the full Iowa Senate.

Split decision on salary bills

Legislation seeking to limit salaries for county supervisors to no more than the median income in the county got a 2-1 vote of approval Wednesday by a House State Government subcommittee.

Rep. Louie Zumbach, R-Coggon, who sponsored House File 2035, told the panel he thinks the statewide legislation is needed to slow the growth in salaries. Opponents argued against capping pay levels recommended by local compensation boards and said voters have the power to remove supervisors from office if they think their compensation is too much.

“We think the current process works,” said Lucas Beenken of the Iowa State Association of Counties. Rep. Karin Derry, D-Johnston, opposed the measure while GOP Reps. Mike Sexton of Rockwell City and Jon Jacobsen of Council Bluffs voted to advance the bill — although Jacobsen said he would prefer a “salary value threshold” instead of a hard cap. In the Senate, a Local Government subcommittee balked at legislation that sought to require each political subdivision within Iowa to issue a salary report for their employees each year by Nov. 1, similar to the state salary book that is issued on a yearly basis.

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