The Driscoll Dispatch, March 12, 2021

This week was the ninth week of the legislative session, and much of our time was focused on floor debate in the Senate chamber. Some exciting news was released this week. Iowa ranked number one in the country for opportunity according to US News & World Report. This rating specifically measures affordability, economic opportunity and equality.

Personally, I started out Week 9 with a very busy Monday. Session started at 1:00 PM but I arrived at the Capitol at 8:30 AM. This was because we had floor debate that day where I ran not one, but two bills on the floor! This was my first experience running a bill in floor debate and I was very nervous. To ensure that I was as prepared as possible for debate, I met with the research analysts on the bills to prep me for what running these bills on the floor was going to look like. While debate started around 1:00, I didn’t get to run my bills until about 5:00, so you can imagine how my nerves continued to build as I sat in the chamber.

Although I was anxious, it ended up going very well. Both of the bills I ran, SF 482 and SF 494, passed. SF 482 was a bill for an act regulating the application of pesticides, including by providing for the certification of applicators, and certain actions taken by the department of agriculture and land stewardship against private applicators, and providing penalties. SF 494 is the famous Barber Bill I have been talking so much about! This was the bill I had drafted so it was the first bill I actually have been a part of throughout the whole process. It authorizes an Iowa licensed barbershop to provide an apprenticeship training program. The supervising apprentice shall be a licensed barber with at least three years of experience. Currently, the only way for an Iowan to gain apprenticeship experience as a barber is if they go to prison. The Iowa Department of Corrections is the only operating barbering apprenticeship program. Inmates can sit for the licensing exam upon completion of the program. This bill fixes that obvious problem, creates more work opportunities for Iowans and allows expansion for new recruits to gain on-the-job experience while pursuing licensure. Now that I have ran a couple of bills on the floor, I am feeling a lot better about the whole process. I am sure that I will continue to get nervous to run bills on the floor but I am happy to have my first couple of bills under my belt.

Running my first bill in floor debate Monday evening.

Every Iowa family has experienced hardship and heartbreak throughout this pandemic, and it has been made even more difficult by not being able to see loved ones in nursing homes. Family members have gone months and months without seeing parents, grandparents or friends, gathering for special occasions, or celebrating the holidays. These rules and regulations have protected many from the spread of COVID-19 but it has had detrimental effects on the emotional wellbeing of long-term care residents. However, Iowa facilities have had limited recourse to change them. Many of the long-term facilities in Iowa receive payment under Medicaid or Medicare and must have certification from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which requires they follow all the rules, regulations and guidance given. If nursing homes decided to allow any type of visitations, they risked losing their certification.

During tough times, seeing loved ones can bring comfort. The only way visitation rules could be changed in Iowa is if Congress approves legislation to give states more flexibility with visitation parameters and guidance. This week the Senate unanimously passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, urging Congress to give states more flexibility in visitation parameters in Iowa’s long-term care facilities. I was proud to support this resolution and see it receive unanimous support in the Iowa Senate.

Only one day after our resolution passed, CMS updated guidance on nursing home visitation. It is being reviewed by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and the Department of Human Services. While we are waiting to receive more updates, we are hopeful this updated guidance includes lifting a number of the restrictions on nursing homes and soon we’ll be able to see parents and grandparents in these facilities again soon.

The First Role of Government

The first function of government is to protect the people it governs and their property. It is the principal rationale for individuals to organize themselves into governments. If the government breaks that agreement, it violates the social compact and comes with major consequences to the government itself and the population it governs. Furthermore, protection of the life and property are fundamental tenets of economic growth. People are hesitant to work and invest in communities without protection of those fundamental rights. These concepts are not new and are outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Protecting the lives of Iowans and their pursuits of happiness are the reason Senate Republicans advanced a number of bills this week commonly referred to as “Back the Blue” bills.

SF 479 would deny state funding to cities that defund their police. This bill provides justifications for cities with one-time expenditures, decreases in population, or other possible routine reductions in a law enforcement budget.

Another bill, SF 476 codified a concept known as qualified immunity. This concept, initially established by the US Supreme Court, gives law enforcement officers certain legal protections as they work in completely uncontrolled and frequently dangerous environments. It does not give them total immunity to act with disregard for the law or behave in a punitive manner. The bill also expands the Peace Officer Bill of Rights and protects personal information of law enforcement and officials on certain records.

Supporting our law enforcement is crucial to keeping our communities safe and ensuring they can do their jobs to the best of their ability. These bills protect Iowans exercising their First Amendment right to protest, Iowa law enforcement officers doing job, and the community from property destruction.

Outside the Legislature:

Last Saturday, I toured Amana Society Farms in High Amana. This was an interesting tour and I found it to be fitting as I was assigned to be the chair for HF 522, a bill to regarding anaerobic digester systems to treat manure. On this tour, I learned a lot about what Amana Society Farms does and we specifically talked about their energy digester because I really wanted to know more about what it is. I learned that Amana Farms secured funding from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence to construct a 1.6 million gallon anaerobic digester that currently produces green energy and quality fertilizer for Amana’s large crop production. Using cattle manure, they are able to produce methane using combustion engines and turn it into electricity. I found this process to be shocking! Also, Amana Farms produces approximately 75 tons of manure per day. The waste product after it has been used to produce energy is applied to the fields as fertilizer without releasing methane gas into the atmosphere. The non-methane waste is an even and fluid application which produces exceptional yields with the use of very little commercial fertilizers. Much of the crop is then fed back to the cattle and the cycle circles around again. This tour was very interesting and beneficial for me as this definitely applies to the piece of legislation I was assigned. Coming into this session, I knew I would learn some new things but never realized how much interesting information I would be learning with my role as a state legislator.

Smiling with some of my women colleagues for International Women’s Day after a very long day in the Senate Chamber!

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