Overview / Major Events
During the 2018 General Assembly two proposed amendments to the Iowa Constitution received initial approval in both chambers: 1) Right to Bear Arms (an Iowa version of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, and 2) Gubernatorial Succession (making clear the process for gubernatorial succession should a governor resign, die, or become incapacitated).
Iowa has a difficult process for amending the state constitution. A measure must first be approved by a General Assembly (which both of these proposals did in 2018). Then, it must be passed again in the next General Assembly and then placed on the ballot for a final decision by Iowans in a statewide election.
Lost in all this conversation is a little known requirement that once a proposed amendment has been adopted by the first General Assembly, and before the election at which the next General Assembly will be chosen, the text of the proposed amendment must be published to give the public official notice of the proposed amendment (in case a candidate’s position on the proposed amendment might impact a voters’ decision).
Unfortunately, our Secretary of State failed to publish such notices before the 2018 election and thus the two proposed amendments that were approved in the last General Assembly must now restart the process (as if they were never passed in 2018). As you might imagine, there are some very angry legislators and interested groups who are VERY unhappy.
So, this week we started to see action on both of these proposed amendments (HJR 3 & SJR 10 – Right to Bear Arms and HSB 55 & SSB 1082 – Gubernatorial Succession) in the House and Senate when the House State Government Committee approved HSB 55 and sent it to the floor.
Judicial Nominating Process under Review
For years Iowa Republicans have questioned the current method for nominating judges for our District, Appeals, and Supreme Courts. And, recent decisions on gay marriage and abortion rights have only intensified efforts by some Republicans to change the method by which judges are nominated for consideration by the Governor.
Currently, panels that consist of an equal number of members selected by the Governor (which require Senate confirmation) and members elected by members of the Iowa Bar (which do NOT require Senate confirmation) make up the various nominating commissions.
Now, House and Senate Republicans have started legislation that would change this process and allow the Governor to appoint half of each commission, with each of the four legislative leaders getting to also make picks that total the other half:
Section 179 Expensing
Senator Randy Feenstra, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is taking quick action to give Iowans an opportunity to take advantage of a larger state allowance deduction for Section 179 expensing. His bill (SF 220) cleared Senate Ways and Means Committee this week and could see action by the full Senate, next week.
Industrial Hemp Production
Legislators in both the House and Senate are working on legislation to allow the farming of industrial hemp in Iowa. The US Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was passed at the federal level late last year and agricultural states are looking to align with those federal provisions to allow farmers to raise industrial hemp. Expect bills in both chambers in the next week to 10 days.