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The Iowa Legislative Session reconvened on Wednesday, June 3rd and ended on Sunday afternoon, June 14th. The session normally runs from January – April, but this year we were forced to suspend the session due to the Coronavirus. In this newsletter, I will highlight some of the great things we accomplished during this shortened session, as well as what we did not do.

Great Legislation Passed:

  • Balanced Budgets – Thanks to sound budgeting principles and fiscally responsible budgets demanded by House Republicans for the last decade, Iowa stands strong in its ability to weather the economic storm ahead. We passed a status quo budget, with cuts in a few areas. Our reserve and emergency funds of almost $800 million remain full. This is in stark comparison to those states that do not spend wisely and are now crying out to the federal government for assistance.
  • Occupational Licensing Reform (HF2470) – Iowa has an onerous licensing system that deters economic growth, particularly when it comes to reciprocity with other states. It also denies licenses for those with a criminal conviction in need of a second chance. This legislation mandates more reciprocity with other states and allows individuals to petition a licensing board to have a determination if their criminal conviction would disqualify them from receiving a license.
  • School Telehealth (SF2261) – This bill allows Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to contract with a mental health professional to provide behavioral health screening to students, in person or through telehealth, in a school setting, but only with the parent’s permission.
  • Empower Rural Iowa (SF2400 & HF2459) – This legislation improves upon what was passed last year to help bring high speed internet to all parts of Iowa.
  • Justice Reform (HF2647) – This legislation gives law enforcement more tools to maintain high professional standards. It creates a process to ensure that those officers convicted of wrongdoing in other states cannot come to Iowa and be hired as a police officer; clarifies that the Iowa Attorney General can investigate cases involving law enforcement and the death of a citizen; mandates additional training related to recognition of bias; and prohibits the use of a chokehold except in life threatening situations, codifying in law what is already standard practice for most law enforcement agencies. I appreciate the conversations I had with law enforcement officials in my district regarding this legislation.
  • Criminal Surcharge Reform (SF457) – Senator Dan Dawson and I have worked on this legislation for two years, and it will make Iowa’s criminal fees and fines structure far better than it currently is. These reforms are the largest overhaul of the fees and fines system in the history of Iowa. It lowers the Criminal Services Surcharge from 35% to 15% by moving these costs to the actual fines; creates an Agricultural Theft surcharge of $500 that is given to food banks in Iowa; provides an extra $2 million per year to the Court Technology Fund; eliminates the adoption filing fee; allows judges to establish a payment plan for fines over $100 as opposed to $300; streamlines filing fees for divorce cases; provides $1.1 million for Emergency Medical Services; gives an additional $2 million to the Crime Lab to help reduce the sexual assault kit backlog; eliminates the onerous $200 civil penalty for driver’s license reinstatements; and eliminates the need for over 1,600 Magistrate Court appearances a year. A collaborative effort between Republicans and Democrats, this legislation is a win for smaller, smarter government.
  • Jail Medical Costs (HF2547) – This legislation was requested a year ago by Crawford County Sheriff James Steinkuehler to address the problem with county jails (taxpayers) being the first resort for payment of the medical costs of prisoners. This created a situation in which individuals were getting arrested on purpose so they could have a medical procedure at taxpayer expense. After working with hospitals and law enforcement, a solution was crafted that identifies a procedure for payment of medical costs that does not begin with county taxpayers.
  • 2nd Amendment Protections (HF2502) – This legislation strengthens preemption, mandating that cities and counties cannot creates laws or ordinances stricter than state law. Without preemption, it would be impossible for law-abiding citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. This legislation also establishes protections for gun ranges.
  • Tracking Wounded Deer with a Dog (HF2455) – This legislation allows hunters to track wounded deer with a dog, a humane practice allowed in many states that reduces the suffering of the animal. Thanks Cody Friedrichsen, for years of hard work to get this done.
  • Coronavirus Liability Protections (SF2338) – Our small businesses have been profoundly damaged by government mandates in reaction to the Coronavirus. One of the most consequential bills we did this session was in passing this legislation, which helps protect our small businesses acting in good faith from frivolous Coronavirus lawsuits that could put them out of business. Thanks to my dear friend Representative Gary Carlson for his hard work in getting this done.
  • Alfie’s Law & 24-Hour Waiting Period (HF594) – This profoundly important legislation mandates that parents, not government or hospitals, must make the decision on the removal of a life sustaining procedure for a child. Additionally, Republicans amended this bill to also include a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed. We added this amendment because the data shows that a waiting period will save lives; that some women contemplating an abortion will reconsider during that 24 hours and choose to have their baby. We also took this action to provide an opportunity for the newly constituted Iowa Supreme Court to reconsider the egregious ruling of the Cady Court a few years ago, when they engaged in judicial activism and struck down our 72-hour waiting period, thus creating a fundamental right to abortion that simply did not exist in the Iowa Constitution. Thanks to Judicial Nomination Reform that I successfully floor-managed into law, Governor Reynolds has placed constructionist judges on the bench. This will have a positive impact on the judiciary for decades to come. Unborn lives matter, and we must continue to fight for our precious unborn children.

What we did not do: We did not vote to defund our heroic men and women in law enforcement, nor will we. We did not vote to “de-prioritize” law and order, nor will we. These demands were made by some of the protestors and rioters. We must look for meaningful and impactful ways to foster positive change, but we must also remember that there can be no justice and peace without law and order, and there can be no law and order without the brave men and women in blue. Those who understand that this concept is fundamental to the survival of our Republic must stand up and vocally support law enforcement and the rule of law. Our men and women in blue get up every day, regardless of the social and political climate, put on their uniform and head into harms way to protect and to serve. God bless them.

Author: Steven Holt