From Rep. Sandy Salmon’s newsletter:

The 2019 legislative session adjourned last Saturday. Because we had an extra long week, we had an extra number of important pieces of legislation passed. I will highlight them in this newsletter and then in the next newsletter. After that I will recap the whole session in the following newsletter. I supported these unless specifically noted:

Sports Betting – We legalized and regulated betting on professional and college sports through the casinos of the racing and gaming commission, to include online access.  This will amount to the biggest expansion of gambling in Iowa’s history, especially with access via computer and smartphone. I did not vote for this bill. Any statistics or studies you can look at reveal alarming numbers in terms of gambling addiction, mental health issues, suicide and other social fallout.

This appeals to the basest and worst instincts of us as human beings, that of the tendency toward greed, wasting what we have, and the desire to make an easy dollar or “get rich quick”. It preys upon the weak and vulnerable, sometimes damages and destroys marriages and families leading to divorce, child abuse, and domestic violence, and sometimes drives them into poverty and financial ruin. No doubt this will bring a heavier weight and draw upon our already overstrained budget in the areas of Medicaid, mental health care, substance abuse, children and family services, and our court system.

Absentee Ballots – This bill stems from a contested House District election in which the law did not allow 29 ballots to be counted because they did not have the proper bar code on them. The bill requires that all counties utilize the Intelligent Mail Barcode system to be able to verify that an absentee ballot is mailed before the deadline.

Industrial Hemp – In 2018 the federal Farm Bill authorized states to legalize and regulate the production of industrial hemp. We legalized its production and authorized the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to regulate it. Hemp is a species of marijuana but its THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes a “high”) content is less than .3%, so it does not contain enough THC to produce a “high”.  License fees will be collected from those who grow it and they will be used to administer the program and to conduct inspections. For those considering raising hemp:

  1. The program will not be ready until Crop Year 2020.
  2. It is a very labor-intensive crop.
  3. There are no guarantees of making money.
  4. Farmers with conservation plans need to talk to NRCS or FSA before deciding to grow hemp
  5. Although hemp was grown during WW2 and used to make rope, the market for it now is still being developed

This is not to discourage any farmer who wants to do it, but just to lay out some factors to consider.

Procedures for Constitutional Amendments – This bill came out of the Secretary of State failing to make proper publication of the “2nd Amendment” to the Iowa Constitution passed last year. That one “didn’t count” so this year we had to “do it over”. We have changed the law so the legislature is in charge of publication of proposed constitutional amendments. The removes the ability of the Secretary of State to have an
“accidental veto” or pocket veto of any constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature.

Sales Tax Exemption-Nonprofit Blood Centers – This provides a sales tax exemption for non-profit blood centers for materials and testing services used in the processing of human blood. (This is for blood donation.)

Public Employee Whistleblower Law – This allows employees of school districts, cities, counties, and the state to report complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman and prevents recrimination against employees by their supervisor or public employer.

Logan’s Law – The DNR will be required to include on a hunting license if the licensee requests, a symbol indicating that person is an organ donor. This is the same as what is required on a driver’s license for an organ donor.

Nonprofit Emergency Response Services – Immunity from tort liability to granted to cities for claims related to nonprofit emergency responders contracted with a city, county, or township. This protects the emergency responders from lawsuits if they are acting within the scope of their duties.

Concurrent Enrollment Changes – For required “offer and teach” courses, public school districts can offer one math or one science course through concurrent enrollment with a community college. Districts under 600 student enrollment generate weighted funding which increases from .46 to .5. Districts over 600 enrollment do not generate weighted funding. It also allows private accredited schools to contract directly with community colleges to provide concurrent enrollment classes. Again, for required “offer and teach” courses, private accredited high schools under 200 enrollment generate weighted funding. Those over 200 enrollment do not.

Attorney General Actions – The Attorney General’s duties are not outlined in the Constitution but are defined by law, thus his duties are subject to the legislature. His primary duties are defending the laws of the state of Iowa and prosecuting criminal and civil cases that fall within his jurisdiction. The Attorney General can still participate in out-of-state lawsuits; he just must get approval from the governor, legislature or executive council.