Bob Kressig Newsletter May 15, 2023

Bob Kressig Newsletter
Greetings to you all!

The Iowa Legislature adjourned for the year on May 4th, at 12:34 PM. The session was supposed to adjourn on April 28th, but the majority parties, in both the House and Senate, could not come to an early agreement on the state’s budgets. Thankfully, the legislature is now adjourned for the year and hopefully, in the next session, we will begin to focus more on the issues impacting Iowans.

The House majority party is claiming that they are improving mental health services here in Iowa. After a decade of underfunding mental health services, the problem won’t be solved by a paltry 1.2% increase in state funding. The real problem with mental health services is making sure that critical care access and early intervention are available to all Iowans. We have issues with suicide, depression, and stress in Iowa and we are not working to address the shortage of services to all Iowans, so they can improve their lives.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, Cedar Heights Elementary in Cedar Falls students visited the Capitol.  It was great to visit with the students and teachers about what goes on at the Capitol. The students also had a lot of questions. Special thanks to the teachers for all they do for our students and our community.

In the Statehouse Newsletter, you will find information about:

  1. Legislature Adjourns for the Year.
  2. Vouchers Plan Passes; Will Divert Funding to Private Schools
  3. Taking Food Away from Iowa’s Kids & Seniors Is Wrong
  4. Majority of Parents Against Statewide Book Banning
  5. Majority Party Budget Focuses on Politics Not People

Please share your comments!

Going forward, I will be listening and working closely with local leaders and community members, to make sure the state is partnering with those in our community who need help and assistance. I’m available by email, phone, and social media, to answer questions and listen to your concerns. You can always reach me by email or call me at home at 319-266-9021. We can also stay connected through social media, including FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. I appreciate hearing from you and I thank you for your continued support.

Thank you for taking the time to read the Statehouse News. Please keep in touch!

Upcoming Community Events 

May 16 Panther Caravan
SingleSpeed Brewing, Waterloo, 6-7:30pm

May 17, 24, 31 College Hill Farmers Market
College Hill 22nd Street, 4-6pm

May 17 CVC Ride of Silence
Overman Park, 6pm

May 18 SingleSpeed Pint Night Ride
Bike Tech, 5:30pm

May 19 EPI’s Ninth Annual More Than You See
River Place Plaza, 6-9:30pm

May 20 Cedar Falls Farmers Market
Overman Park, 8:30am-12pm

May 20 Furry 5K
Big Woods Lake South Shelter, 9am

May 20 Ephemeral Art in Seerley Park
Seerley Park, 11am

May 20 UNI’s Spectrum JamFest
River Place Plaza, 2-6pm

May 20 Jazz at the Black Hawk: Simon Harding & Bob Washut
Black Hawk Hotel, 7:30pm

May 20-21 Death by 5K
George Wyth State Park, Sat 8am

May 25 War Bonds: The Songs and Letters of WWII
Hawkeye Community College, 1:30pm & 7pm

May 25 Cedar Falls Live Music Series: Jacob Lampman
SingleSpeed, Cedar Falls, 7pm

May 26 GBPAC Block Party: Milk and Honey
River Place Plaza, 6pm

May 28 Cedar Falls High School Commencement
UNI McCleod Center, 2pm

Legislature Adjourns for the Year – Focus on People Over Politics

When the 2023 Iowa Legislature began in January, Democratic lawmakers focused on putting people over politics by acknowledging that Iowans are tired of politics as usual and vowed to listen to Iowans. While there may not be agreement on every issue, their goal was to keep their commitment to voters and continue moving the state forward.

Democratic legislators worked on a host of bills this session that received overwhelming support from across the state, including lowering costs for Iowans, investing in public schools, protecting reproductive freedom, and legalizing marijuana. Here are just a few highlights of bipartisan work that got done this session:

  • Property tax relief for seniors, vets, middle-class Iowans, and those on a fixed income (HF 718)
  • Suicide hotline number on student ID cards (HF 602)
  • Expand access to healthcare in rural areas by designating facilities as Rural Emergency Hospitals (SF 75)
  • Expand mental health services via a multi-state counselor compact (HF 671)
  • Ensure patients get discounts on prescriptions, not out-of-state companies (HF 423)
  • Increased penalties for human trafficking crimes and sexual exploitation of a minor (SF 84HF 630)
  • Cutting red tape in juvenile courts (HF 216, HF 113, HF 359)

However, Democrats heard from many Iowans this session who were frustrated by the Governor and Majority Party lawmakers continuously playing politics with people’s lives. Here are a few of the bills approved on party-line votes this session despite strong opposition from Iowans:

  • Vouchers to shift money from public schools to private schools (HF 68)
  • Take away food from kids and seniors (SF 494)
  • Roll back child labor laws, and allow minors to serve alcohol (SF 542)
  • Strips power from state auditor to allow waste, fraud, and abuse of state taxpayer dollars (SF 478)
  • Ban books in public schools & instruction on AIDS/HIV and HPV vaccine (SF 496)
  • Consolidate Governor’s power while eliminating workplace & retirement protections for some workers (SF 514)
  • Write LGBTQ+ Iowans and families out of history and public schools (SF 496)
  • Freezes funds for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices at state universities, which also support Iowa businesses (SF 560)
  • Ban parents from deciding on healthcare for LGBTQ+ kids (SF 538)

Before session begins next January, Democratic lawmakers will be touring the state to continue listening to Iowans about what’s important to them.

Vouchers Plan Passes; Will Divert Funding to Private Schools

Despite strong, bipartisan opposition from Iowans and state lawmakers, the Governor’s voucher bill to take resources away from public schools and give them to private schools was signed into law in January.

Over 10,000 Iowans signed a petition before the bill came up for a vote, citing various reasons for opposition – most of which centered around kids being left behind. The opposition was especially strong in rural areas because 75 % of public schools are located in rural areas without any access to private schools.

According to fiscal estimates, the voucher bill, House File 68, costs $108 million in the first year and almost $1 billion over the next four years. To put that in perspective, the state’s annual total budget is $9.4 billion.

In regards to the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, vouchers are available for any kindergartner enrolling for the first time, any public school student switching to attend a nonpublic school, and currently enrolled private school students below 300% of the federal poverty level ($83,250 for a family of four).

In the second year, vouchers will be available for kindergartners enrolling for the first time, any public school student switching to attend a nonpublic school, and currently enrolled nonpublic school students at 400% Federal Poverty Level ($111,000 for a family of four).  In the third year, vouchers are available for every child in a private school.

The bill specifically states that the vouchers will not place any undue burden on the private schools for accountability or standards. Local elected citizen volunteers oversee public schools, whereas private schools do not have the same mandated requirements for accountability and transparency.

House Democrats continue to support an Iowa where every kid in Iowa deserves a world-class education regardless of their zip code, and public money belongs in public schools where all kids are accepted, as opposed to private schools that pick and choose the kids they want to take.

Taking Food Away from Iowa’s Kids & Seniors Is Wrong

This session, Republican lawmakers approved spending millions of taxpayer dollars to take away food and healthcare from some Iowa kids and seniors.

Senate File 494 restricts access to food and medical services by creating a new asset test, including cash, college savings accounts, or a car. When implemented, it will automatically kick off at least 8,000 adults on Medicaid, 600 kids on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and thousands of children on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Rather than saving the state money, as Republicans claim, this bill will cost the state almost $7.5 million to implement in the first two fiscal years. Once fully implemented, the state will lose over $42 million annually in federal money. That means our tax dollars will be used to feed kids in other states, but not in our communities.

House Democrats offered several changes to the bill that would ensure Iowa’s kids, seniors, and persons with disabilities would still have access to food. Our changes would have adjusted the federal poverty level for SNAP from 160% to 200% and proposed that money be allocated to food banks across the state that are experiencing record numbers of Iowans walking through their doors. All 18 Democratic proposals were voted down by the Republican party.

House Democrats Fight to Protect Youth Workforce

This session, Iowa House Democrats worked across the aisle to protect the state’s youth workforce against majority-backed legislation that drastically weakens Iowa’s current child labor protections.

Originally, Senate File 542 allowed 14-and-15-year olds to work six-hour nightly shifts in industrial laundries, meat freezers, or on light manufacturing lines; allowed 16-and-17-year olds to bartend unsupervised at restaurants; and employers could recruit 14-18-year olds for a “work-based learning” program that could have potentially included hazardous job requirements under relaxed supervision.

Based on concerns over workforce safety for minors, Iowa House Democrats won the approval of several common sense ideas to balance learning opportunities with a safe work environment by removing 14-and-15-year old’ ability to work in dangerous occupations under a waiver; enhancing parental involvement in youth employment; requiring adult supervision for 16-and-17-year olds bartending at restaurants; and prohibiting sex offenders from hiring minors.

There are still many points of concern because employers may still recruit 14 to 18-year-olds through a “work-based learning” program for hazardous jobs with relaxed supervision; the Iowa Labor Director’s authority to require work permits for minors when requested by parents is repealed; and the state’s new discretion to waive, reduce, or delay civil penalties, if an employer violates any child labor law, remains in place.

Iowa’s business industry has experienced a massive labor shortage due to low wages and hazardous working environments over the past three years. Rather than address Iowa’s persisting labor shortage by offering fair wages and a safe working environment, the Iowa Majority Party relaxed child labor laws for younger Iowans to fill the state’s employment gap and appease special interests.

SF 542 passed both chambers with bipartisan opposition and awaits the Governor’s signature. Iowa House Democrats will continue to fight for fair wages, benefits, and a safe working environment.

Special Interests Push Record 33 Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills; Make Iowa Unwelcoming

Instead of working to protect kids and make Iowa a welcoming place for all, the Governor and Republican lawmakers approved several bills this session to take away the rights of parents and make Iowa unwelcoming.

In total, GOP lawmakers offered 33 bills this session aimed at targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The bills are one part of a national anti-LGBTQ+ movement directed or authored by out-of-state special interest groups.

Despite multiple rallies, over 75,000 petition signatures supporting marriage equality, and thousands of emails opposed to these harmful bills, the Governor signed the following into law this session:

  • Bans parents from making medically necessary care for their own LGBTQ+ kid (SF 538)
  • Writes LGBTQ+ Iowans and families out of history and public schools (SF 496)
  • Prohibits students from using restrooms of their choice at school (SF 482)
  • Eliminating books and other materials that include LGBTQ+ topics (HF 597)
  • Freezes funds for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices at state universities, which also support Iowa businesses (SF 560)

Democrats in the House did not waver in our firm opposition to this extremist agenda and we will continue to fight for our LGBTQ+ community.

Iowa Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Reproductive Freedom

Access to reproductive care in Iowa continues to hang in the fate of the Iowa Supreme Court.

In June of 2022, the federal Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the case in 1973 that established a constitutional right for an individual to get an abortion. Because Roe was overturned, the question of abortion rights is now up to each state.

In Iowa, abortion is still legal for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the Iowa Supreme Court held a hearing to determine if the 6-week abortion ban passed in 2018 and then ruled unconstitutional by the courts should now be allowed to take effect.

While some supporters of the bill claim there are exceptions to the legislation, experts agree the language implements a total ban, as the exceptions listed are too narrowly defined. A ruling is expected sometime in June.

This extreme action is out of step with what Iowans want. A recent Des Moines Register poll found that 60% of Iowans believe that abortion should be legal in most cases, which is up 11% from 2020.

House Democrats introduced measures to expand access by extending Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months, making birth control pills accessible through pharmacists without a prescription, and guaranteeing reproductive freedom by adding it to Iowa’s Constitution, as part of their People Over Politics agenda. We will never stop fighting for the rights of Iowans to make their own healthcare decisions.

Majority of Parents Against Statewide Book Banning 

School library book bans continue to be at the forefront of the Republican agenda as conservative parents and lawmakers pushed to censor books this session, claiming the material they find inappropriate for children should be removed from all schools.

Despite a majority of Iowans opposing parental consent for books banned in other schools, Republican lawmakers passed legislation to ban books from school libraries and classrooms that contain content regarding sexual orientation, certain sexual acts, and gender identity.

Book bans are a form of censorship, suppressing ideas and information. Each parent deserves the right to decide which books their child gets to read or not. Iowa’s public schools already have a process in place that allows any parent to request a book be removed from school.

Under the bill Senate File 496, age-appropriate books would apply limitations to literature assignments and library books, not to human growth and development textbooks in grades 7-12. If the Department of Education determines that an employee of a school has allowed a book that is not age appropriate to be placed in the library after January 1, 2024, a first violation will be a warning. A second violation will have the superintendent subject to a disciplinary hearing by the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE). A third violation will have the school employee subject to a disciplinary hearing by the BOEE.

The book bans are part of a national movement to censor books that discuss race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. More than 1600 book titles across 32 states were banned from public schools during the 2021-22 school year.

Majority Party Budget Focuses on Politics Not People

Passing the state budget is one of the last items of business before the legislative sessions come to an end, and the 2023 session was no different. After weeks of closed-door negotiations with no public or bipartisan input, the Governor and Republican leaders finalized a budget that put politics over the needs of everyday Iowans.

One of the final actions of Republican lawmakers this session was to cut nearly $30 million in vital services to students, including mental health care. The state will also spend taxpayer dollars to kick Iowa children off of food benefits. The approved budget appropriates just over 80% of available resources, leaving more than a billion dollars on the table as state funding for public schools and mental health services are still well below what’s needed for Iowans.

The new state fiscal year begins on July 1, 2023.

House Democrats Introduce Legislation Legalizing Marijuana

This session, Iowa House Democrats proposed comprehensive marijuana legislation that expands the state’s medical marijuana program, while safely legalizing adult marijuana use as part of their People Over Politics agenda.

Specifically, the plan allows Iowans over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana for recreational use from a licensed retail store. The bill includes a 10% excise tax and a 1% local option surcharge with the revenue going to public schools, mental health services, and local public safety. The proposal would also regulate a safe product that many Iowans already use. According to the American Addiction Centers, unregulated marijuana can be laced with a multitude of psychoactive drugs with varied effects.

Other provisions include decreasing penalties for marijuana possession and expunging records for non-violent marijuana convictions. Iowa ranked 5th in the nation for having the largest racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession in 2018, with black people 7.3 times more likely than white people to be arrested for possession. The bill also expands Iowa’s medical cannabis program to get relief to more Iowans with chronic pain.

Almost all states have passed some form of medical marijuana program, and 21 states have adopted both medical and adult recreational programs. Neighboring states such as Illinois (2019) and Missouri (2022) have recently legalized adult recreational use. Last month, Minnesota’s House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow adults 21 and older to buy, sell, and use recreational marijuana. Since enactment, Missouri’s nearly 200 dispensaries made nearly $72 million in recreational marijuana sales in less than 30 days.

majority of adult Iowans support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Legalizing marijuana will keep Iowans safe through regulation, stop our tax dollars from going to neighboring states, improve the quality of life for Iowans suffering from chronic illnesses, and stop wasting state resources to unfairly punish Iowans. House File 442 was referred to the House Public Safety Committee but was never raised for consideration.

New Property Tax Relief for Iowans

House Democrats supported property tax reform this session to provide relief to everyday Iowans. Recognizing that the state has a housing shortage, assuring that Iowans can stay in their homes and can afford their property taxes is essential.

House File 718 will assure that increases in property taxes are kept under control over the next several years. The bill allows local governments to get small increases in the amount of property taxes that can be collected to continue providing services but prevents huge increases in property tax bills. The bill also provides additional transparency in property taxes that are being paid by residents.

Seniors will receive a new property tax exemption to help offset some of the current costs of property taxes. For property owners over 65 years of age, starting with taxes paid in spring 2024, the first $3,250 of the value of a home will be exempt from taxes. This increase is to the first $6,500 the next year. A similar tax exemption is also created for veterans in the state. This is in addition to any other property tax credits or exemptions, such as the Homestead Tax Credit and the current senior and veteran credits.

House Democrats understand this is just a small step to providing more affordable housing. Lawmakers have also drafted plans to address the need for more affordable housing units, in addition to all other housing, by creating more incentives to build housing. Other housing ideas offered by Democratic lawmakers this session included expanding the first-time homebuyer saving program to allow more Iowans to have a home of their own and a grant program to help homeowners make necessary improvements to their homes.

More Work Must be Done to Grow Iowa’s Economy

Over the last decade, Iowa’s worker shortage has turned into a workforce crisis. Iowa employers continue to struggle with filing positions. Iowa’s labor force participation rate remains down compared with January 2020, before the pandemic. Despite Iowa’s gross domestic product growth, the state ranks 30th nationally.

This session, the legislature passed several bills aimed at helping Iowa’s small businesses. House File 700 creates a Dairy Innovation Fund which will provide grants to small-scale Iowa dairy farmers and dairies. Grants can be used to expand, renovate, or buy new equipment for businesses with 50 employees or less. More help for small businesses comes from the newly expanded Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund that was created in 2021.

Iowa meat processors with 75 full-time employees or less will be eligible for a grant under House File 185. These two programs expand opportunities for small businesses while helping Iowans buy local products.

The Family Business Center at the University of Northern Iowa will be receiving more funding under Senate File 559. The Center offers networking opportunities, succession planning, and a variety of other services aimed at sustaining family businesses.

While these bills are steps in the right direction to help small businesses, the biggest challenges Iowa faces in the workforce shortage were not addressed, including rising childcare costs and low wages.

Iowans Deserve a Government that Works for Them

At the beginning of this legislative session, the Governor highlighted the importance of reorganizing state government. When her 1,600-page bill, Senate File 514, was introduced, it was clear GOP leaders did not listen to Iowans about how to make state government work better for them.

Instead of working with people across the state, Governor Kim Reynolds gave $1 million of taxpayer money to an out-of-state consulting firm to develop a plan to “consolidate” state government. The Governor titled this a “realignment,” but in reality, the change was all politics and a consolidation of her power. Here are just a few examples of what her bill does:

  • Gives the Governor control over currently independent offices and agencies, and provides her more power to appoint friends who are not required to have experience or expertise.
  • Allows the Governor to set up sweetheart salary deals for her cabinet-level directors, while at the same time eliminating certain workplace and retirement protections for other employees.
  • Grants the Iowa Attorney General expanded powers to pursue political lawsuits over the top of local county attorneys.

If this past legislative session shows us anything, it’s that Iowans deserve a government that works for them, and not special interests.

Other News from the Legislative Session

SUICIDE HOTLINE NUMBER TO BE PLACED ON STUDENT ID CARDS: A survey found that nationally, 57% of teenage girls and 29% of teenage boys had persistent feelings of sadness and suicidal thoughts. One simple way that may save lives is to provide Iowa’s suicide hotline number on student ID cards. Thanks to a group of students from Waterloo and Democratic Representatives, House File 602 will now require student ID cards in grades 7-12 to include the crisis hotline’s telephone, text number, and internet address. If a school has ID cards for fifth and sixth graders, they are allowed to do this, and schools are allowed to use up their current ID card stock before complying with the law.

BETTER ACCESS TO MEDICAL SERVICES FOR RURAL AREAS: For years, Iowa has been losing rural hospitals and healthcare facilities due to the consistent underfunding of healthcare.  A found that 22 hospitals across the state are in danger of permanently closing, while two facilities are at immediate risk of closure. To keep more rural hospitals open, a new law gives these facilities a designation of Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs). These facilities will only provide outpatient and emergency services but will be able to transfer patients to other hospitals across the state if more treatment is needed. REHs will be open 24 hours a day and will help preserve access to medical services in rural areas. Iowa is currently ranked 45th in the nation in the number of total active physicians per capita, 32nd for medical specialists per capita, and is ranked dead last for the number of OB-GYN providers in the country.

MULTI-STATE COMPACT TO BRING MORE MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS TO IOWA: In an attempt to expand mental health access to Iowans, the Iowa Legislature voted to join a Counselors Compact. This compact is a contract among states, allowing professional counselors licensed and residing in a compact member state to practice in other compact member states without the need for multiple licenses. Currently, 21 states have passed compact language, and 18 states have introduced legislation that would increase the compact to provide more options to Iowans seeking mental health services. While this is a positive step forward, much more work remains to be done for the mental health crisis in the state. Before Iowa becomes a member of the compact, House File 671 must be signed by the Governor.

IOWA BEER & WINE INDUSTRY CHANGES FIND BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT: Each year the legislative session attempts to address the changing business models in the alcohol industry and this year was no different.  Similar to a growler of beer, Iowa wineries will now be able to allow native wine in a container other than the original container. The creation of a new license in House File 677 will allow native Iowa wineries to sell native wine purchased from a native winery as well as beer. House File 478 also passed that allows Iowa breweries to brew their beer at other Iowa breweries while maintaining the ownership of their recipe, this will expand production opportunities for smaller breweries in the state.

EMINENT DOMAIN REFORMS FOR CARBON PIPELINES CLEARS HOUSE, STALLS IN SENATE: Significant changes to how eminent domain can be used for hazardous liquid pipeline projects cleared the House this session, however, the bill was not considered by the Senate this year. House File 565 would require a carbon pipeline company to receive voluntary agreements for at least 90% of the miles affected by a carbon pipeline route before being able to use eminent domain, or the ability to condemn land for just compensation, to complete the project. The bill would also require all pipeline rules for safety to be updated and a pipeline company obtains all other applicable federal, state, and local permits before the state can issue a permit for the pipeline project. Landowners could receive additional damages if a pipeline company damages a property owner’s land. Proponents of the bill believe these protections will help assure that landowners have control over their land and are not forced to enter into an easement on their land against their wishes to a private company that will operate the pipeline for profit. Proponents also point to the number of jobs that will be created in constructing these pipelines. Critics of the bill are concerned that the bill still does not have sufficient protections for the environment from these pipeline projects. Pipeline companies expressed problems with the bill because some of these projects have already started the permitting process under the current law.

SUPPORTING IOWA’S VETERANS: This year, the Iowa Legislature continued to thank and support Iowa’s veterans and their families for their services and sacrifices for our state and country. Several bills were passed and sent to the Governor that will assist veterans across Iowa including giving 99 Veteran County Commission Offices extra financial support (SF 561). Additional assistance was also given to the Veteran Home Ownership Program, which provides $5,000 to veterans to be used for down payments and closing costs to purchase a house (SF561). Members of the Iowa National Guard will now have greater flexibility to take a day off work that encompasses the entire 24 hours to perform Guard duty. This allows members to only take one day off, even if their workday extends into one or two calendar days (SF329). Finally, veterans received new property tax exemptions in a bill passed this year. Starting with taxes paid in spring 2024, the first $4,000 of the value of a residential property of a veteran will be exempt from local property taxes (HF718). This is in addition to any other property tax exemptions already available for veterans. Iowa House Democrats will continue to support our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our state and nation.

BILL THAT ALLOWS GUNS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY STALLS IN SENATE: House Republicans passed legislation allowing firearms in vehicles on school property; permits authorized school bus drivers to keep weapons or ammunition in the school’s vehicle’s passenger compartment while transporting students; and prohibits community colleges and state universities from banning dangerous weapons in locked vehicles on campus property. House File 654 passed the House with bipartisan opposition but was never raised for full Senate floor consideration. Iowa House Democrats will continue to fight against allowing guns in schools, support background checks, red flag laws, and other common-sense gun safety measures supported by a majority of Iowans.

GOVERNOR WORKS TO LIMIT STATE AUDITING: Instead of preventing fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars, the Governor and Republican lawmakers passed a bill to take away the power of Iowa’s State Auditor to investigate wasteful spending and potential abuse. Senate File 478 denies access to vital information needed to uncover corruption, waste, and abuse in state government. The legislation had bi-partisan opposition from the National State Auditors Association (NSAA). The NSAA states that access to records necessary to conduct an independent audit is essential to properly oversee public funds. The Governor spent most of the legislative session consolidating her power and protecting a system that protects her friends and supporters while punishing working Iowans.

BILL PASSES TO MAKE CHANGES TO STATEWIDE CAUCUSES: As the Presidential selection process picks up here in Iowa, voters may want to think about who and how they will select their choice for President. Presidential caucuses are functions of the state parties, and the Iowa legislature has historically stayed out of the process. That all changed this session after Republican lawmakers put in place certain requirements for those wishing to participate in the caucuses. The changes, in House File 716 were authored by the Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign, who is also an Iowa lawmaker and son of the Chair of the Republican Party of Iowa. The changes will allow the state central committee of each political party to set the rules for participating in their caucus including, but not limited to, voter registration requirements. This could eliminate the ability for a voter to register for the caucuses the day of as they are currently allowed to for elections.  The changes also will require a person attending the caucus to be physically present, and attempt to prevent mail-in presidential preferences. Iowa law requires that precinct caucuses for political parties in the state be held no later than the fourth Monday in February and must be 8 days earlier than the scheduled date of any other state who is holding any meeting, caucus, or primary for the selection of delegates for the nomination of president. The political parties determine the dates of the caucuses.

GOVERNMENT MANDATES PRICE OF HUMAN LIFE: New limits on Iowans being able to sue when they are injured passed the Iowa Legislature with bi-partisan opposition this year. House File 161 creates new caps for patients that are injured in medical malpractice cases including limits for patients that are injured by medical mistakes. The bill caps so-called noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, physical impairment, and mental anguish at $1 million against individual doctors and $2 million against hospitals. Senate File 228 creates protections for commercial truckers that injure other drivers in accidents and places a cap of $5 million on noneconomic damages that can be recovered for accidents involving commercial vehicles.

LEGISLATURE MOVES TO ENSURE CYBERSECURITY: Many Iowans continue to be concerned about their personal information and data being sold, breached, or stolen and ransomware attacks are becoming more common. This session, the legislature acted to protect consumers and public entities. Senate File 262 allows consumers to opt out of companies selling their data. This bill applies to companies that control and process the personal data of 100,000 or more customers and businesses that derive most of their revenue from the sale of personal data. To protect public entities and healthcare organizations from cybersecurity attacks, the legislature passed a bill creating penalties for people committing these attacks. Under House File 143 people are prohibited from accessing computer networks and data, causing systems to malfunction, and possessing computer access codes without permission.

KEEPING IOWANS SAFE: In an effort to keep Iowans safe, the legislature passed several proposals to keep Iowans safer. This included increasing penalties on certain crimes such as sex offenses, human trafficking, eluding peace officers, and criminal offenses involving fentanyl. In addition, the legislature provided more options for addressing human trafficking in the state. Greater protections for minors that are victims of sexual crimes were enacted this year. In the most expansive effort to combat the ongoing fentanyl problems in Iowa, the legislature created new penalties and increased penalties for the possession of fentanyl in House File 595. The longest prison sentence for possession of fentanyl will now be the second longest possible prison sentence in the state – 50 years for possession of 50 grams or more of fentanyl or a mixture including fentanyl.

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