Overview / Major Events
This week the General Assembly held a Memorial Service to honor all the former members of the Iowa Legislature who passed from this life over the last two years. It is a sober reminder of the debts we owe to those who made these institutions great and the responsibility on all of us who work in this building to continue to build on their legacies.
Notable members who passed in the last two years include former House Speaker, Don Avenson, former State Senator and Lt. Governor, Joy Corning, former Senate President and US Congressman Leonard Boswell, and former State Senator and Senate Majority Leader, Cal Hultman. May they all rest in peace.
Second Funnel in One Week
April 5 with mark the arrival of the second funnel and a further winnowing of policy legislation that remains eligible for continued consideration. Bills that have not passed in one Chamber and cleared committee in the opposite Chamber are dead for the year.
The second funnel also serves as the unofficial start of budget and tax season. To this point most tax and spending legislation has taken a back seat to policy bills. Now, however, begins the six week sprint to adjournment and serious floor work will begin on the 10 budget bills that constitute the state’s general fund and a host of bills that have tax consequences.
Restoration of Felon Voting Rights
A key piece of Governor Reynolds’ criminal justice reform agenda cleared the Iowa House today as HJR 14, a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights of felons who have discharged their sentence, passed the House on a 95-2 vote. It will need to pass in either the Senate Judiciary or State Government committee by the end of next week to remain eligible for further consideration.
Raising the Age of Purchase for Tobacco Products
Today Senate President Charles Schneider introduced legislation to raise the legal age of purchase for all tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21 (SF 607). This bill mirrors a national trend in the states in response to concerns about epidemic levels of teen use of vapor products. The FDA has already instituted a flavor ban on vapor products and the tobacco industry is aggressively taking steps in the states to address teen use issues through promotion of legislation to increase the minimum age of purchase to 21.
It is unusual for the Senate President to individually sponsor legislation, thus, he is clearly making a statement regarding the priority he places on raising the age of purchase to 21.
Traffic Camera Ban Legislation
The use of automated traffic cameras has been an on-going debate in the Iowa General Assembly for the last couple of years, but has never made it completely through the process.
Senator Jake Chapman this week began that effort again this year with passage of SF 343 in the Iowa Senate. On a 30-19 vote the Senate moved to ban the use of automated traffic cameras and sent the bill to the Iowa House (where it once again faces an uncertain future).
Senate is Back at Full Strength
On Monday the Senate welcomed Eric Giddens as its newest member. Senator Giddens took the oath of office and immediately joined the Democrat caucus as its 18th member. He was elected in a Special Election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Senator Jeff Danielson.