April 7, 2017

    House Majority Limits Medical Decisions for Women
    Capitol Dome to Undergo Repairs
    Autism Coverage Signed into Law
    Ban on Project Labor Agreements Advances to Governor
    Good Samaritan Bill for Calling 911 Advances to House Floor
    House Passes New Student Assessment Approval Process
    Iowa Natural Resources Update
    Teacher of the Year Nominations Open
    Electronic Application for Search Warrants

    House Majority Limits Medical Decisions for Women

    Iowa women will likely face new restrictions on difficult medical decisions next year, despite opposition from several lawmakers who believe those decisions are best left to a woman and her doctor.

    Republicans, who control the majority in the Iowa House, approved Senate File 471 this week to restrict a woman’s right to choose and states that life begins at fertilization. In addition, the bill requires a pregnant woman to continue her pregnancy to full term, even if a physician determines that the fetus has a congenital defect and will not survive after being born. The bill does include very narrow exceptions for the health and life of the mother, but does not allow for any exceptions in the cases of rape or incest.

    Under the legislation, the spouse of a woman, current or former health care provider, county attorney, or the Iowa Attorney General has the ability to prevent a woman from having an abortion or stopping a physician from continuing to perform abortions. If a lawsuit is filed, the woman who had an abortion, or had an attempted abortion performed, must justify to the Court why her identity should be kept secret.

    The last main aspect of the bill requires a woman to wait at least seventy-two hours to obtain an abortion service in Iowa. The physician must also provide her with specific information that may not be applicable to her health or situation.

    The bill, which was approved on a party line vote, now goes back to the Iowa Senate for consideration.

    Capitol Dome to Undergo Repairs

    Visitors to the Iowa Capitol could notice some exterior changes to the iconic golden dome. The dome will soon be covered in scaffolding as major renovations have begun this past week.

    The project, which has a $10 million budget, will include the repainting of windows, replacement of bricks, stone resurfacing, and sheet metal for structural integrity of the dome. Renovations will also address the moisture that accumulates in the dome which has caused some structural damage over the years.

    The project, which should be finished next summer, received funding last year and was paid for with gambling revenue.

    Autism Coverage Signed into Law

    There are limited resources for coverage of autism services for minors provided by the state of Iowa. The Autism Support Program provides payments for applied behavioral analysis treatment for autism spectrum disorder. However, there are strict age, income, duration, and maximum amount of coverage limitations.

    After years of work, the Iowa Legislature has finally passed legislation requiring any state regulated insurance plans for large employers, which employ more than 50 employees, and non-state public employers to cover applied behavioral analysis treatment for autism services. However, the new law does not apply to individual health insurance plans, or small employer group plans.

    The coverage does have limitations based upon the age of the child, but there are no income limitations like the current Autism Support Program. Periodically, a child may have their treatment plan reviewed to ensure they are receiving the appropriate services.

    The new law will take effect January 1, 2018.

    Ban on Project Labor Agreements Advances to Governor

    The ability of local governments to screen contractors and control costs on large projects has been banned under legislation passed by the Iowa House and Senate.

    Under SF 438, government entities are no longer allowed to have bidders for public contracts fill out a contractor qualification questionnaire as a requirement for projects. It also bans all government agencies (state, cities, counties, schools, community colleges) from entering into project labor agreements.

    A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement used to set the terms under which a contractor proceeds in all labor relations connected to its subsequent work on the project. PLAs are discretionary tools available to both public and private entities to manage complex or time-sensitive construction projects. PLAs determine wage rates, benefits and working conditions for all labor on a project. Many agreements contain provisions for the use of local labor and preventing work stoppages due to strikes or lockouts.

    SF 438 also strips a local government’s ability to ask simple questions of bidders for projects using public money. Examples of questions include:

    • Has your contractor registration ever been suspended or revoked in any jurisdiction?
    • Have you been debarred by any federal, state or local entity from bidding on projects?
    • Has your company been cited by any governmental regulatory agency in the past 3 years?
    • Does your firm have any outstanding demands, liens or judgements against it?

    • List construction projects participated in for the last five years.

    The questions allow governments to assess safety records, tax compliance history, past bidding history and pending litigation. All of this information helps local governments protect taxpayer dollars.

    The bill now goes to the Governor for his approval.

    Good Samaritan Bill for Calling 911 Advances to House Floor

    The House is considering a bill to provide immunity from certain alcohol related offenses if someone calls 911 to get help. A person cannot be charged or prosecuted for public intoxication, possession of alcohol under the legal age, using a fake ID to buy alcohol, or having an open container in a vehicle if the person sought emergency assistance because of an alcohol overdose or someone being the victim of a violent crime.

    Senate File 415 was advocated for by a coalition of Iowa State students that spoke at the subcommittee on the bill. The bill is also supported by the Iowa School Counselors Association, Iowa Association of Community Providers, the Iowa School Nurses Organization, and the Iowa Behavioral Health Association, among other groups.

    Someone is only eligible for the immunity if the he or she is the first person to seek emergency assistance, remains on the scene, and cooperates with law enforcement and emergency assistance personnel. The bill also provides immunity for the person whom assistance was sought for.

    SF 415 now moves to the House floor to be considered by the full Legislature.

    House Passes New Student Assessment Approval Process

    With the passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that replaces No Child Left Behind, there is less emphasis on a nationwide assessment, and more emphasis on providing increased flexibility to the states. After a bill was introduced to redo the test that Iowa will use to assess students, the Governor ordered the Department of Education (DE) to delay the “Smarter Balanced” vendor selection until after Legislative action.

    Under the legislation passed by the House, DE would issue a new bid process for the assessment that Iowa will use, and the State Board of Education will evaluate and make a decision on which test to implement. SF 240 requires a new assessment to be approved by the State Board of Education by July 1, 2018 which would be put in place for the 2018-19 school year.

    A taskforce previously selected the “Smarter Balanced” assessment, but Legislators grew concerned over the potential costs of the new assessment. Currently, Iowa uses the “Iowa Test” developed by Iowa Testing Programs which costs the state less than “Smarter Balanced.”

    The House made adjustments to the date for the bid deadline and other technical changes. The bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration.

    Iowa Natural Resources Update

    Wild Turtle Harvesting Season

    Iowa has joined surrounding states by instituting a wild turtle harvesting season with bag limits. The season, set by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, is July 16 to May 14 for both recreational and commercial harvesters. The daily catch limit is four common snapping turtles, one spiny softshell or smooth softshell turtle, and one painted turtle.

    The season and limits were determined using biological data, such as when turtles lay their eggs, and the current population. The season and bag limits will not affect those in aquaculture, because aquaculture involves cultivating turtles from domestic stock, not wild turtles.

    These new rules were implemented in response to HF 2357, a bill that was signed by the Governor last year. The season took effect on March 22, 2017.

    State Bass Fishing Tournaments

    A bill that passed both chambers of the Iowa Legislature makes changes to state bass fishing tournaments. The bill, SF 257, increases the number of bass you can submit for weigh-in from three to five. It also erases the minimum fish length requirement that most tournaments enforce for weigh-in.

    These new rules will only apply to those bass tournaments held by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

    Teacher of the Year Nominations Open

    The deadline to nominate the 2018 Iowa Teacher of the Year is April 28. Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

    The award is an opportunity to recognize an exceptional Iowa teacher who is helping to redefine education. Nominations will be accepted from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members, and associations. The annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.

    Shelly Vroegh, fifth-grade teacher and instructional coach from the Norwalk Community School District, was named the 2017 Teacher of the Year. The 2018 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall.

    Electronic Application for Search Warrants

    Both the House and the Senate have approved language that will require the Courts to adopt language that establishes a procedure for electronic application for a search warrant. Currently, these warrants are all done by paper, while the rest of the work by the courts is done electronically through the Court’s electronic document management system (EDMS). Moving to an electronic application system will save time and resources of all entities involved.

    Senate File 358 has passed both chambers and is expected to be signed by the Governor. Once signed, the Courts will be able to pass rules to allow for the electronic application of search warrants. While all entities are excited for this technological upgrade, the Courts have been forthcoming in stating that they won’t be able to set up this electronic application until they receive additional funds to support their information technology needs.