March 26th marks the end the eleventh week of the 89th General Assembly of Iowa.
The Revenue Estimating Conference met on March 19th noting continued fiscal health for the state of Iowa. Senate Republicans released their Fiscal Year 2022 targets with a total budget of $7.999 billion which represents 94 percent of available revenue. Included in the $195 million budget increase over 2021 are an additional $80 million for education, $98 million in health care and $13 million for public safety.
If property tax relief or mental health are important topics to you, you’ll want to keep your eyes on SF587. SF587 provides more state funding for mental health, simplifies the tax code and cuts property taxes for Iowans by over $100 million. In the first year, the bill provides $60 million in state funding for mental health and $125 million in the second year, while ensuring additional funding moving forward.
Bills passed unanimously last week
Nine of the eleven bills passed last week in the Iowa Senate passed with unanimous support including: SF578 relating to the powers and duties of the department of agriculture and land stewardship; SF336 relating to the blood, bone marrow, and living organ donation incentive program; SF567 relating to loans originated by mortgage bankers; HF761 relating to the local fire protection and emergency medical service providers grant program; HF655 prohibiting interference with the transportation of an agricultural animal; HF559 relating to financial assistance provided by the economic development authority; HF368 relating to the administration of the reimbursement for rent constituting property taxes paid; HF389 relating to exempting certain persons from the requirement to be licensed as a chauffeur; HF495 relating to certain reporting dates for cities which receive road use tax fund moneys.
My first bill
SF567 won’t make much difference in the lives of Iowans, but it was the first bill that I ran all the way through as a state senator. Several years ago, the legislature passed a law allowing mortgage lenders to avoid some disclosure requirements on mortgages below a certain threshold. Left out of the law were non-depository mortgage originators such as Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage. This bill simply corrects that oversight in Iowa law. It’s not exciting, but it allowed me to gain more experience in the process. It passed 48-0 in the Senate. In all likelihood, I’ll run SF566, the Banking Division Omnibus Bill, in the Senate soon.
Interference with animal transportation
Iowa is number one in pork production, number one in egg production, number one in chicken production and second in red meat production in the United States. Iowa is an ag state. Occasionally, opposers of animal agriculture will take it upon themselves to impede the transport of animals to market or between farms. Ironically, this can put the lives of the animals at significant risk. HF655 would make interference with transportation an aggravated misdemeanor and a second offense a felony. It passed with unanimous support.
Chauffeur license changes
HF389 removes ambulance and rescue drivers from the list of motor vehicle operators required to obtain a chauffeur’s license. Also removed, if signed by the governor, would be operators of motor vehicles with a GVWR greater than 16,000 pounds. These operators are already required to have a CDL.
Along party lines
Two additional bills passed through the Senate last week with votes along party lines: HF621 establishes which actions may be brought against distributors, manufacturers and others involved in the firearms trade and HF756 relates to the acquisition and possession of weapons.
Used inappropriately, a baseball bat, a motor vehicle, a brick and many other items can be dangerous weapons capable of inflicting immense harm on people. But you probably wouldn’t consider suing Louisville Slugger, Chevrolet or the foundry where the brick was made for the harm caused by the misuse of their product. HF621 codifies that those involved in gun and ammunition manufacturing and distribution are likewise not responsible for the misuse of their products. This bill does not protect a manufacturer of a defective product from product liability.
HF756 aligns Iowa law with federal law regarding the acquisition and carrying of a firearm. Like many bills, this one has an incredible amount of misinformation circulating. I highly recommend reading the actual bill, which is readily available on the www.legis.iowa.gov web site. Just click the “Legislation” tab, then type “HF756” on the right in the bills, click the magnifying glass and read.
As a gun owner myself, this change in Iowa law would actually give me even more pause, not less, on a private sale to another person. Transferring a firearm to someone I know, or should know, is not entitled to acquire (a felon, an intoxicated person, domestic violent offender, etc.), will become a class D felony which, among other things, forever forfeits my rights to own or acquire a firearm. This is not a trivial matter to law-abiding firearms owners.
Ultimately, the purpose of this bill was to reduce barriers for law-abiding Iowans to exercise their Constitutional rights. HF756 eliminated the requirement for lawful gun owners to seek a permission slip from the government to carry a firearm. As was demonstrated in Colorado last week, a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, criminals do not care about gun laws, and they will not follow them. Consequently, excessive gun laws only inhibit the law-abiding from exercising their Constitutional rights.
Both HF621 and HF756 passed in both chambers and are now before the Governor for her signature or veto.