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Ban on COVID Vaccine Passports – The issue of COVID vaccine passports was explained in more depth in a previous newsletter. The bill we passed prohibits state, city, and county governments, schools, retailers, nonprofits, and public venues from implementing COVID vaccine passports for their customers, clients, or patrons. This means your local school, county courthouse, city hall, grocery store, retail store, restaurant, movie theater, concert venue, sports arena or stadium, airport, or bus terminal, etc. cannot require proof of a COVID-19 shot before you enter. Businesses that use COVID vaccine passports can stand to lose grants or contracts funded by the state. Also prohibited is putting vaccination status on a driver’s license or other government-issued ID card. These governments and businesses are all still allowed under the pandemic to use any of the other COVID screening protocols recommended, such as temperature checks, etc. as they wish.

Through the course of handling this bill we were made aware of a school district’s plans to use the IRIS vaccine registry as a “de facto” COVID vaccine passport. So we asked the Dept. of Public Health to make changes to the IRIS system so that those health care records would not be accessible to the public to be used in this manner and they are working on that now.

We were unable to get support to include health care and long-term care facilities as also being prohibited from implementing COVID vaccine passports for their visitors and patients. This means hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, etc. are left alone to make their own decisions about how to handle visitors and patients regarding this issue. However, they, too, can continue to use other COVID screening protocols as they have been doing if they wish. This does not mean any health or long-term care facility can deny anyone care or entry as it is currently. The Iowa Health Care Association does not expect facilities will implement COVID vaccine passports. However, if this occurs I will work to address the issue.

We were also unable to get support to put into state law to prohibit employers from subjecting employees to COVID vaccine passports. However, employees and employers should know this is already federal law for non-health care settings.

While this bill did not go as far as I would have liked and worked for, it did put some protections in place for Iowans in a great number of places we must go as we do the business of everyday life. Getting a vaccination is a very personal medical decision as each person weighs the risks and benefits for himself and must make a decision based upon that. People should be left alone to make that decision without the pressure of losing normal access to public and commercial places in society. Iowans want their medical freedoms protected and their health care information to remain private.

Agricultural Tourism – This would limit the liability of a farm owner, farm manager or farm worker when visitors are touring the farm, whether it’s a paid tour or a volunteer tour. This would be in the case of an injury, loss or death to a visitor during the tour. The limitation on liability would apply if the loss occurred due to any of these—(a) an inherent risk of farming associated with a farming activity; (b) the failure of the agricultural tourist to comply with instruction while visiting the farm; or (c) the injury, loss or death occurred at a place a reasonable person would not enter.

To have this limitation from liability apply, a notice must be posted in  a conspicuous place where the agricultural tourist first enters the premises.

There will be no shield from liability if the injury, loss or death was caused by: (1) an act or omission that was illegal or intentional; (2) willful misconduct, gross negligence, incompetence, or recklessness due to—intoxication or the failure to notify an agricultural tourist of a dangerous latent condition of a farm, or (3) a condition or event existing at the agricultural tourism premise that was not reasonably foreseeable to person generally familiar with farming, but would be foreseeable at another type of agricultural tourism farm.

For more detail, please see SF 356 on the Iowa legislature website.

Fertility Fraud:  This prohibits a person from providing false reproductive material (sperm) for assisted reproductive (fertility) medical procedures; applies to cases where the sperm donor the woman believed she had was not the actual one; Violators are subject to a criminal charge and can be sued.
Redistricting Update: Census Bureau Releases Apportionment Numbers 

This past week the U.S. Census Bureau released its first round of data for the decennial census of population. The Census Bureau reported that the population of Iowa for the 2020 Census was 3,190,369 residents, an increase of 144,014 residents (4.7%) since 2010. Iowa ranks 28th in the country for percentage change from 2010, enough to ensure that Iowa will continue to have four elected representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Texas will pick up 2 Congressional seats and Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon each will add one. For the first time in history, the state of California will lose a congressional seat, along with Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Based on these 2020 numbers, the “ideal population” for a congressional district will be 797,592, a state senate district would be 63,807, and a state house district would be 31,904. Ideal population is a guide when the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency and the bipartisan Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission work on drafting a proposed redistricting plan. Other factors apply when drawing districts beyond ideal population. Respect for political subdivisions (cities, counties, townships), contiguousness (all subdivisions touch each other), compactness of districts, and interrelationship of districts need to be considered when drawing districts.

Next the Census Bureau is projecting to release raw data in more detailed format to the states by mid-to-late August. Once this data is received, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency can begin inputting the data into pre-established geographic areas and begin forming the new districts for a proposed plan.

After that the legislature will re-convene in a special session to decide on the proposed plan. The legislature gets 3 tries at a plan. This will not happen until the fall.

The redistricting process in Iowa is unique among the states in its non-partisan approach to drawing new district maps and legal requirements to consider the shape and boundaries of districts. Very little “gerrymandering” (trying to draw districts to benefit one party or the other and have them look like crazy shapes on the map) can be done. Iowa is considered a model for the states in the non-partisan and fair way we draw up our re-districting plans.

Author: Sandy Salmon