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State Rep. Dean Fisher shares insight into the 2019 Iowa legislative session now underway

January 16, 2019
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) is entering his 4th term representing Tama and portions of Marshall and the southeastern corner of Black Hawk County in the Iowa Legislature.

He was asked to reflect upon several issues including the future of the closed Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls property in Toledo, legalization of sports betting and legalization of hemp as a crop in the state.

In addition, Rep. Fisher was invited to present what he anticipates will be before lawmakers this year.

Article Photos

Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) is seen here taking the oath of office in the Iowa House chamber as the 88th General Assembly kicked off Monday at the Capitol. The swearing in ceremony of all 100 State Representatives begins a week full of ceremonies, including the Condition of the State address by the Governor, the Condition of the Judiciary address by the Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice, and the Condition of the Guard address by the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard. During the session, Rep. Fisher can be reached at or through the House switchboard at (515) 281-3221.
-Photo provided

I have been asked by editor Speer of the Tama and Toledo newspapers for comments on the upcoming legislative session. First, let me say that I anticipate another active session with considerable progress being made to move Iowa forward. We are anticipating further tax reform, a responsibly balanced budget, and additional reforms to our mental health system, particularly for children.

Right to Keep and Bear Arms

I also anticipate that the Legislature will take the next necessary step to amend our state constitution to include a right to keep and bear arms. Both chambers passed this resolution in 2018 and we must pass this resolution again in 2019 or 2020 so it can be placed on the ballot for a vote by the people in the 2020 general election.

Supreme Court Justice Selection

Another area of concern is the process Iowa uses to select Iowa Supreme Court justices. The current process, known as the "Missouri System," gives too much power and influence to lawyers rather than everyday Iowans. There is language in the Iowa constitution that allows the legislature to make changes to this system by law, and there may be movement in changing the Iowa constitution itself as well. I would prefer a system that gives the people of Iowa more of a voice in place of a select group of lawyers.

Beverage Container Redemption

There are of course many specific issues that I will be working on, in addition to the larger issues mentioned above. As Chair of the House Environmental Protection committee I will be pressing hard on updating our beverage container redemption program (the bottle bill) to reflect current economics. Each container returned to a distributor by a redemption center earns a one cent redemption fee from the distributor in addition to the five cent deposit, thus the nickel paid as the container is passed along washes out in that process. That one cent redemption fee has not changed since the program began in 1979, redemption centers cannot survive on 1979 economics in 2019. I hope to increase that fee to two or three cents in order to renew our redemption centers. Many redemption centers have gone out of business already, Iowa has gone from roughly 200 in past years to roughly 70 today.

Tracking of Sex Offenders

I will also be pressing for better tracking of sex offenders. The more severe sex offenses require the offender to register for life, so these offenders are already tracked closely. The less severe offenses carry a ten year registration requirement in Iowa, other states may vary slightly in the length of time.

There have been cases, particularly here in Tama County, where a sex offender has moved to Iowa or within Iowa after they have timed out for their offense. In those cases the offender is not currently required to notify law enforcement of their presence. have been pressing for several years to require these timed out offenders to simply register once when they move so that law enforcement knows their presence, and I will continue to do so.

Prior Iowa Supreme Court precedent has ruled that such registration requirements are not considered punishment, but merely regulation, so they do not violate the constitution when applied retroactively.

Sports Betting

I have also been asked about the legalization of sports betting in Iowa. I am opposed to further expanding gambling into these areas. We have plenty of opportunities for gambling already, and tainting our sporting events with gambling doesn't seem prudent or necessary. Nonetheless, I anticipate this topic to be discussed during the session and welcome your feedback on the topic.


The editor also asked about the legalization of Hemp for industrial purposes in Iowa. I would likely support legislation that allows growing hemp here in Iowa. A bill to that effect passed the Iowa Senate in 2018, but was not taken up by the House for lack of time.

However, I think the real challenges for Hemp cultivation in Iowa revolve around the infrastructure needed to plant, harvest, store and transport Hemp, as well as developing the market for its use. It will take time for that infrastructure and market to develop.

Iowa Juvenile Home

Finally, the editor asked about any further developments toward repurposing the Iowa Juvenile Home property in Toledo. At this time I am aware that Hobart Historic Restoration is still interested in pursuing their plan to develop the property, including repurposing the existing buildings for assisted living and memory care.

However, that plan requires additional funding that has not yet been identified.

Other options may be coming forth soon, I will continue to work with the city leaders and the department directors involved.

Editor Speer mentioned his idea for relocating a portion of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to Toledo.

While I think it would be fantastic to have that happen, such a development would require much more than simply a few existing buildings for offices.

Hundreds of new workers moving to Toledo would require a lot of additional housing in the area. Toledo and Tama have little opportunity for housing growth except on that IJH site. Until such time as the city addresses its housing needs it would be difficult to sell anyone on the idea of a large expansion of jobs in the area.



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