With less than two weeks left in the 2017 legislative session, attention is turning to finalizing the budget. I have heard from many organizations and individuals that are saying, “I know this is a tight year, but please don’t cut my budget. Cut someone else’s.” Of course, that is impossible. Think of your own family budget when you have to go back the second or third time to make cuts in different areas. You’ve already cut the entertainment and a new car. Now, in order to pay the mortgage, you scale down your vacation at the beach to a weekend camping in the backyard. You eat more economically. However, after all that you still have a comfortable house, a reliable car, and time with your family.
That is essentially where your state is right now. We have already cut the extras and we are making lifestyle changes on the government level. Now we make decisions on what to cut, reduce or keep the same. Do we cut college or workforce funding in order to keep our judicial system whole? Is it more important to have our nursing homes and restaurants inspected regularly than to keep processing business information in a timely fashion at the Secretary of State? Please pray that your legislature uses wisdom as we balance the budget and work out a method to replace the $130 million we are taking from the emergency fund to finish the 2017 fiscal year.
The Senate has been passing about 10 bills a day this past week, most of which passed 50-0. I ran HF 485 on the floor and made the mistake of mentioning it was non-controversial. The bill allows city council members to serve on a volunteer fire department without pay. Evidently, in the early 1900s, a law was passed prohibiting that. I was surprised when several Democrats questioned me, worrying that we might exclude volunteer firefighters from worker’s compensation benefits if injured. While I don’t think that would have been a problem with how the bill was worded, we deferred on the bill until the next day. After consulting with a Democrat senator who is also a workers’ compensation lawyer, we came up with a simple amendment to fix the problem. That is how we make good legislation.
A bill that should interest farmers is HF 410 which puts Palmer amaranth on the noxious weed list. This weed is very aggressive and difficult to control. It has been discovered in at least 48 counties. This classification prohibits import, sale or distribution of the plant or its seeds, and gives authority to county weed commissioners to order a landowner to destroy noxious weeds on his property. It also requires county officials to cooperate with FSA on CRP ground.
The most hotly debated bill this week was the gun omnibus bill HF 517. Many interested groups, constituents, and legislators have worked on this piece of legislation. The bill makes changes to a variety of firearms laws in Iowa. These changes include: striking the state prohibition on short-barreled rifles and shotguns; allowing private investigators and security officers who are licensed and have a permit to carry to do so on school property while performing duties (similar to peace officers who are allowed to do this); Iowans with a conceal carry permit will be allowed to carry pistols and revolvers in the Capitol building and surrounding grounds and parking lots.
This bill also makes it a serious misdemeanor to carry a dangerous weapon while under the influence as well as stating a permit to acquire weapons will be valid for five years and striking the minimum age for a person to possess a handgun while under the supervision of a parent or guardian. The bill also put into Iowa Code a ‘Stand Your Ground’ provision. Many have contacted me on this point. This policy says a person may use reasonable force, including deadly force, if they have a reasonable belief the force is necessary to avoid injury or death to themselves or others. There is no duty to retreat. This provision also includes immunity from criminal and civil liability. This bill passed the Senate 33-17. Passing this bill was very significant for Iowa.
Liberty has never come from Government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it. –Woodrow Wilson