There are frequent pleasant surprises in the capitol. On Monday morning shortly after eight, with only four people in the chamber, we heard the sounds of a choir singing God Bless America wafting in. We followed it out to the Rotunda and found a high school choir singing from the floor below. The sound under the golden dome was beautiful. They sang three songs, concluding with America the Beautiful. There were but a handful of people there to hear the choir of about 25 students. It's moments like this that remind me of what a special and beautiful building this is, the People's House. I later found out that the choir director is the daughter of State Auditor Mary Mosiman.
This week has been marked by heavy subcommittee and committee activity as we work to get bills through committee before the "Funnel" date of Friday, Feb. 21. After that date bills that have not made it through committee will not be considered unless they are appropriations or ways and means bills. We also began debate on bills on the floor of the House this week, passing nine bills on to the Senate.
Sex Offender - I had two bills drafted that deal with sex offenders. One deals with making it a harassment charge if a person attempts to entice a child with gifts, etc. against the wishes of a parent. This bill was filed but after extended discussions with the Judiciary chair, it will not likely move through committee this year. The difficulty is in wording such a bill so as to not ensnare innocent persons. The second attempts to require convicted sex offenders from other states to register on the Sex Offender Registry whenever they move into the state or within the state for life. I will be attempting to amend this bill to another bill dealing with other requirements for sex offenders that another Representative is working on.
Lemon Law HF 2181 - My bill that increases the vehicles subject to the Lemon Law from those under 10,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) to 15,000 lbs. GVW has passed through the Transportation committee and is now eligible for debate and vote on the floor of the House next week.
Insurance Restitution HF 2050 - My bill from last year to allow judges to order a criminal to repay the full amount of loss even if it is covered by insurance has been assigned to the Judiciary committee and is in subcommittee.
Race Haulers as Non-Commercial Vehicles HF 2158 - My bill that specifies that a vehicle or vehicle/trailer combination that is under 26,001 lbs. GVW should not be defined as a commercial vehicle simply because there is prize money and sponsors involved will likely be amended to another bill that deals with a similar subject. It is common to combine bills for efficiency sake. This bill attempts to prevent the Department of Transportation from stopping racing hobbyists as they leave the racetrack and ticketing them unfairly.
Youth Turkey Season Extension HF 2067 - I managed this bill on the floor of the House during debate on Tuesday of this week. It passed 98 to 0 and goes to the Senate. This bill was filed by a colleague and then assigned to me in the Natural Resources committee to manage through committee and on the floor of the House.
E-Cigarette ban - We also passed a bill out of the House that will ban the sale of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine to minors. The E-cigarettes produce nicotine vapor rather than smoke, which can still result in nicotine addiction by children.
WebCam Abortion Ban
On Wednesday of this week the full House debated and passed a bill dealing with what has been termed "Web-Cam Abortions". This bill bans the practice of using an internet-based camera to conduct an interview remotely between a doctor and a patient seeking an abortion, then dispensing the powerful abortion drugs remotely. Planned Parenthood has been the primary provider of this service. This practice was banned by the state Board of Medicine because the drugs have led to complications. However, Planned Parenthood sued the board, winning an injunction against the ban. The bill passed the House 55 to 42 after lengthy and contentious debate and now goes to the Senate.
Iowa Juvenile Home
The issue of legislation dealing with the Iowa Juvenile Home has heated up in the legislature. I have attended several Senate meetings on the bill, and have been discussing the issue with my colleagues daily. This week the Senate bill was amended in subcommittee to remove the names Toledo and Iowa Juvenile Home from the Iowa code. I am disappointed in this move, but I also understand that it may fit into a larger strategy to work through the issues. I made the following statement in a press release earlier this week:
"I am disappointed in this decision by the Senate. It clouds the entire process with uncertainty. I will continue to fight for Toledo to remain the site of the Girls State Training School because we have the trained and experienced staff to handle these troubled teens, because we have a community that has demonstrated that they will fully embrace the mission of helping these troubled teens, and because we have a first class facility that the taxpayers have already paid tens of millions of dollars to build and improve for just that purpose. What this means for the House version of the bill is yet to be determined. It will be difficult for me to embrace legislation recreating a Girls State Training School that does not specify Toledo as the site without knowing what alternatives will be chosen for the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo."
One of the encouraging signs in the meetings are that several of the members of the governor's task force from last summer are engaging in the discussion to craft this bill. House members will work with the Senate as they draft the bill then when the Senate passes it out we will deal with that version in the House rather than work on two parallel paths in both chambers.
The Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a series of legislative forums again this year at the Fisher Community Center directly West across from the Hy-Vee main store in Marshalltown. These forums include the three legislators from the Marshall County area, Rep. Mark Smith, Sen. Steve Sodders, and me. The next will be held Friday, February 28 at noon. The forums are every other Friday during the session. These forums are a great way to get an update on what's happening in Des Moines and voice your concerns; I hope to see you there.
I would encourage you all to come down to the capitol for a visit. If you do, ask for a tour of the capitol dome, Diane will be ready to take you all the way up to the cupola. And of course you will want to take the tour of the rest of the capitol with the regular tour guides. As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns about our state government. My contact information is :