March 6, 2020
On Tuesday the House and Senate announced an agreement on a K-12 education funding package for the next school year. Investing almost $100 million in new funding for schools, this money will include $7.65 million for transportation equity and $5.8 million for per pupil equity. The bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to the governor for her signature.
Floor debate was the main focus of the week as we work on sending Senate bills to the House for consideration. We discussed a wide range of topics, including bills on insurance, hunting, animal cruelty, dentistry, and optometry.
One of the bills the Senate passed is Senate File 2268, which conforms to federal law changing the minimum age to purchase, possess, or use tobacco or vaping products to 21 years old. Congress passed a bill in December to change the age to 21 and required states to comply in order to continue eligibility for federal block grants. This bill passed 43-6 and now goes to the House.
Over a year ago, Iowa started having the conversation about restoring voting rights to felons in our state after a national push for reform. A priority of Governor Kim Reynolds, the legislature started discussions on a constitutional amendment, HJR 14, to automatically restore the voting rights of felons once they complete their sentence.
While it passed the House last year, there were concerns about the bill, one of which was to avoid a mess similar to the one happening in Florida. After voters in Florida changed their constitution to give felons their voting rights back, the legislature passed a law to implement those changes. That law caused several legal battles and uncertainty continues as that state’s primary election nears. Additionally, the Senate believed a big part of the discussion was missing – the victims.
To address these concerns, the Senate passed Senate File 2348, putting certain restrictions on automatic restoration of voting rights for felons and requiring all victim restitution be paid. Under this legislation, which would go into effect only if the constitutional amendment is adopted by the people of Iowa, a majority of felons who have completed their sentence would have their voting rights automatically restored. It puts restrictions only on those felons who have committed terrible crimes, like murder and rape, and requires them to still contact the governor’s office to have their voting rights restored. This requirement does not include any court fees or fines. It only applies to restitution paid to the victim.
Victims are people who have a crime committed against them and they must be part of this process. The goal of requiring victim restitution be paid is to ensure victims are getting the justice they deserve, before felons gets their constitutional rights restored.
In Transportation we passed HF 2360 to allow drivers older than 72 to renew their license for more than two years. Also I have an amendment to add an autism notification on the driver’s license of an individual with autism. This could be beneficial to the individual as well as a law enforcement officer.
Passed out of committee was a bill, HF 2310, dealing with the transportation of hay across the state.
I was honored as a member of the International Relations Committee to take part in reading a portion of a resolution honoring Taiwan as a strong trading partner and friend of Iowa. We have strong relations with that country and they play an integral role in our foreign trade.
Also Iowa State was in the first floor rotunda on Thursday. It is always good to see what new and exciting things are being worked on and it is always good to see old friends!
As the thermometer rises we all become more anxious to close in on the home stretch here in Des Moines.
See you out and about the district.