Newsletter for Thursday, March 9, 2017
We have now moved to a period in the session where we spend considerable time in debate on bills that have passed committee. Most of the bills we pass are what we call "non con", meaning non-controversial. They normally pass unanimously, or very close to it. As of Thursday morning we had voted on 43 bills, 35 of which earned 90 or more Yes votes. These bills are wide ranging in topic, from trespassing to military records to vehicle laws to name a few. These bills get little notice in the media because conflict sells better than agreement, but these non-con's are the bulk of what we do in the legislature.
Tuesday of this week we debated House File 517, the Omnibus Firearms bill, and passed it to the Senate on a 58 to 41 vote. This bill had many provisions, I'll mention a few highlights. A youth handgun provision allows a parent to teach their children handgun safety under close supervision. Permitting changes allow a permit to carry holder to only take a training class once, renewals will not require a class. It also changes the permit to purchase to a five year permit. State of emergency changes prevent the government from confiscating weapons in times of an emergency, allowing Iowans to maintain the safety and protection of themselves and their families. Permit privacy changes keep the personal information of weapons permit holders confidential. The Stand Your Ground language allows Iowans to defend themselves in the event of danger and removes the duty to retreat. The Stand Your Ground section also includes civil immunity to protect Iowans from costly litigation. Preemption language clarifies current state law that no city, county, or township holds the authority to limit the use or possession of firearms.
Wednesday afternoon we also began debate on House File 516, the Voter Integrity and Modernization act. We debated until nearly midnight and then took the bill up again Thursday morning with a "Time Certain" limit of debate to 11:00 AM. The bill passed 58 to 41 on a party line vote. One of the highlights of this bill is that it implements a voter ID requirement for all voters, and provides a free ID from the Secretary of State's office for those that don't have an ID. This ID does not have a photo, but it does have a unique barcode that ensures voting integrity. This bill also calls for E-Poll books, electronic devices that will scan the barcodes on all permitted forms of ID and verify them against the registry. This will not only increase voting integrity, but should also speed the process. A revolving fund is created to help counties upgrade to E-Poll Books. The bill also implements a system that cancels the voter registration of those that swear on a jury questionnaire that they are not US citizens. This has been a problem highlighted by citizens bringing this data to the Secretary of State's office. The bill also eliminates straight party voting, a practice that puts third party candidates at a disadvantage.
The state budget will soon be coming to the forefront. The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet on March 14th and deliver a new revenue estimate. The legislature is bound to use the lower of the December and March estimates. Based on recent monthly revenue reports we anticipate that the March estimate will be lower, further limiting our budget opportunities.
This session promises to be a landmark session because of the significant reforms that we are passing. We've done a great deal already, and we have much more that we hope to accomplish this session.
As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 641-750-3594.