With session deadlines closing in, the House has been hard at work this week debating various pieces of legislation.
Workers Compensation Reform- HF 518
Iowa’s workers compensation system was designed to provide benefits to injured workers without the need to hire an attorney. Worker’s compensation is supposed to be a system which would help replace an injured worker’s weekly paycheck while that employee is recovering from their injuries in order to return to work. Over the last decade, a number of administrative interpretations and court decisions have knocked Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation off-balance. This has made our system very unpredictable for Iowa businesses and workers. Iowa’s current workers compensation system is easily exploited by folks who want to take advantage of the system. Iowa’s worker’s compensation system was never meant to put an injured worker in a better financial situation than they had prior to the injury. The purpose of House File 518 is to re-balance the system back to the original intent of the law, which will provide the certainty, stability and predictability that workers and employers need. HF 518 passed the House on March 16th and the Senate on March 27th.
Other Bills of Interest
This bill allows peace officers to teach driver’s education in a classroom setting, so long as they meet the standards set by the Board of Educational Examiners which includes 15 hours of instruction in classroom management, strategies for learning, diversity and ethics. These standards are equivalent to the standards for obtaining a substitute teacher authorization. HF 562 also states that a school board must make a good faith effort to find a licensed teacher with a valid endorsement before hiring a peace officer for the position. The goal of this bill is to provide additional teacher resources for driver’s education classes in areas where a licensed teacher is unavailable for the position. HF 562 passed the House on March 27th.
HF 263 relates to sentences for domestic abuse and stalking. The bill increases the penalty and mandatory minimum sentencing for some crimes associated with domestic violence, such as requiring a person convicted for a third time of domestic abuse assault to serve between one fifth and the maximum term of the sentence for a class “D” felony. This bill also states that a person can be convicted of stalking if they purposefully engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, or threatened. In addition, HF 263 states that a person who places a GPS device with the intent to intimidate, annoy or alarm another person, without consent, commits a serious misdemeanor. HF 263 creates solid improvements in domestic abuse and stalking cases which will provide greater safety to the people of Iowa.
Last year, the legislature passed and the governor signed SF 2304 which created a new code section that establishes and governs the operations of “Children’s Residential Facilities” in the state. This law was created in part to respond to allegations of abuse at the Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa. The intent of the law was to give oversight authority to state agencies that was not previously given to them in the case of the Midwest Academy. Currently there is a facility operating in the state that falls under the definition of children’s residential facility which has been in operation for decades using the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum (ACE). ACE is not currently accepted as a curriculum verified by the Iowa Department of Education and because of this, the facility cannot be considered certified under the code section that was created last year. HF 602 seeks to repair this unintended consequence by creating an exemption for the ACE curriculum. The bill states that a facility must still be considered accredited if they use the ACE curriculum, and still abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Inspections and Appeals. HF 602 passed the House on March 28th.
This bill places Palmer Amaranth on the primary noxious weed list and the list of invasive plants that are prohibited to import, sell, or distribute in Iowa. Palmer Amaranth is a flowering plant that crowds out crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton. Under this bill, persons selling Palmer Amaranth seeds shall be guilty of a simple misdemeanor and may be subject to criminal or civil proceedings including a fine not to exceed $100. HF 410 passed the House on March 28th.
HF 573 gives school districts in Iowa statutory Home Rule. Iowa currently operates under Dillon’s Law which states that local government entities have no powers separate from those granted by the state. Dillon’s Law has been challenged on the basis of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which provides the state and the people the powers not expressly given to the federal government. HF 573 establishes that school districts have the ability to exercise their discretion on issues and subjects that the state has not ruled on. This bill is a good step towards local control for the school districts in Iowa. HF 573 passed the House on March 22nd and was messaged to the Senate for consideration.