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Cornfileds, Common Sense and Community
March 19, 2017

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This was the ninth week of the legislative session. Last week was our first funnel week, meaning this week was full of debate on the Senate floor as we come up on more deadlines for bills.

On Monday, we passed SF 258, SF 260, SF 296, SF 357, and SF 385 out of the Senate. All of these bills had bipartisan support.

SF 357 modifies licensing provisions applicable to electricians and electrical contractors. This bill codified an executive order. SF 385 is an update to Iowa law governing agents for athletes and deal with attempts by agents to skirt our law by contacting young athletes through third-parties and proxies. This bill helps protect our students and assists parents during this process.

On Tuesday, we passed SF 197, SF 238, SF 274, and SF 374. Again, all of these bills had bipartisan support.

SF 197 was the first bill I have managed on the floor. This bill authorizes public buildings to display the POW/MIA flag on POW/MIA Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. The bill also states that the POW/MIA flag, when displayed, shall be no larger than the U.S. flag and flown second in the order of precedence immediately below or adjacent to the U.S. flag in accordance with federal guidelines.

SF 238 expands the current definition of a "school employee" in cases of sexual exploitation of a student from just professionals licensed by the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) to include all licensed employees, non-licensed public school employees, public school volunteers with direct supervisory authority over the student, and public school contractors with direct supervisory authority over the student.

SF 274, the computer science education bill, also passed through the Senate unanimously on Tuesday. This bill establishes a requirement for computer science education standards. The goal is for each high school to offer at least one computer science course, each middle school to offer instruction in exploratory computer science, and each elementary school to offer instruction on the basics of computer science, all by Fiscal Year 2020.

On Wednesday, we debated and passed HF 311, HF 312, SF 237, SF 240, SF 275, SF 362, SF 373, SF 376, SF 401, and SF 413.

SF 240 relates to statewide assessments of student progress utilizing core academic indicators. This bill passed the floor with a bipartisan, 39-10, vote.

On Thursday, we debated and passed SF 331, SF 355, SF 358, SF 409, SF 410, SF 438, SF 444, SF 455, and SF 462.

The Governor also issued a disaster proclamation for Appanoose, Muscatine, Scott and Wayne counties due to the severe weather earlier this week. This means state resources can be used to help these counties recover from the storms.

Project Labor Agreements

Project labor agreements, otherwise known as PLAs, are pre-hiring agreements between employers and employees that establish the terms and conditions of employment for specific construction projects. Recently, several local governments have passed requirements that contractors enter into PLAs as a condition of performing work on taxpayer funded construction projects.

PLA requirements make it nearly impossible for the 85 percent of Iowa's construction workforce that chooses not to join a union to compete for projects funded by their own tax dollars.

These mandates increase cost to taxpayers because fewer bidders mean less competition for the project. A lack of competition drives up the costs of these projects for taxpayers. Several recent studies have repeatedly shown that PLA mandates can increase construction costs by up to twenty percent. Taxpayers deserve the best value when they are paying for public buildings.

The Iowa Senate Republicans are addressing this growing prevalence of PLA mandates by passing SF 438. The bill says government organizations shall neither prohibit nor require a PLA for projects for performing work on public construction jobs. However, this bill does not stop a government organization from choosing a contractor's bid that includes a PLA when it is in the best interest of taxpayers.

Ensuring Resources Are Available for Asbestos-Related Injuries

The Senate took measures Wednesday to give future victims suffering from asbestos-related injuries a voice in the future. Protecting their voice in the conversation today is important so that funds relating to their asbestos-related claims in the future are available, if needed.

Iowa would join more than 20 states, which have passed similar legislation, if Senate File 376 becomes law.

In some cases, plaintiffs have filed claims against multiple trusts set up by companies with asbestos-related liabilities. This bill would provide a mechanism to require plaintiffs to file and disclose their trust claims before trial against existing non-trust businesses. If this bill becomes law, it would not add new burdens on plaintiffs; it changes the timing of when trust claims are filed. Presently, trust claims are routinely filed after trial thus hiding trust claims from the jury in the trial. Senate File 376 calls for those claims to be filed before trial.

Bill Would Change Statute of Repose to Standard Held by Majority of States

A statute of repose differs from a statute of limitations in that a statute of repose establishes a time period after which a lawsuit based upon negligence in an improvement to real property cannot be filed regardless of whether an injury to a person or to property has occurred. A statute of limitations period begins at the date of injury or upon discovery of the deficiency.

Senate File 413 was passed Wednesday with bipartisan support, and if it becomes law would change the repose for property from 15 years to 8 years. The bill addresses the statute that covers cases resulting in the unsafe or defective condition of an improvement to real property.

However, the bill would not change the repose of nuclear power plants and interstate pipelines, which would remain at 15 years. Residential construction will be 10 years. Intentional misconduct or fraudulent concealment would remain at 15 years.

I attended the Iowa Agricultural Leaders Supper on Monday, where I got to meet many local FFA members, including Sam Dixon of East Marshall.

On Tuesday, I ran my first bill, SF 197.

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