In the ninth week of the legislative session, we continued our work debating bills and sending them to the House of Representatives. We passed a number of bills based on ideas from constituents and issues that came up over the summer and fall.
On September 11, 2019 a few county courthouses were broken into in central Iowa. It was soon discovered these break-ins were part of a security operation ordered by the Iowa Judicial Branch to test security procedures in these counties. After a Senate Government Oversight meeting, the Judicial Branch explained they had contracted with an out-of-state, third-party vendor to organize these break-ins without notifying anyone in those courthouses or law enforcement. The contract lacked specifics on how those break-ins would be handled and what they would entail. Those involved are fortunate nothing serious happened when law enforcement arrived.
Senate File 2394 clarifies the Iowa Judicial Branch does not have the authority to contract an invasion into county courthouses and ensures those buildings remain the responsibility of the counties and taxpayers who fund these courthouses. It makes the county auditor, subject to the direction of the county board of supervisors, the person with custody and control of a courthouse and state courthouses are under the exclusive control of the county or city.
The Senate also unanimously passed Senate File 2301 regarding pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS). These autoimmune disorders usually present themselves as an eating disorder or strep throat and can be difficult to diagnose with symptoms worsening in just days. The bill requires an insurance carrier offer coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of PANS and PANDAS. The cost of treatment can reach $25,000 for a single dose. In Iowa Wellmark and Medicaid already recognize this disease and it is covered.
Additionally, the Senate passed several bipartisan bills to help a workforce shortage in a few different areas in Iowa. The first, House File 2454, provides another option for an instructor to qualify to teach career and technical education courses at a community college. It allows someone to teach a class if they have an associate degree in the field they are teaching and they have at least 3,000 hours of recent and relevant work experience in that area. Also, someone can qualify if they have a baccalaureate degree in a similar field but completed at least 18 hours in the field they wish to teach.Another bill is Senate File 2298. It exempts certain peace officers authorized to teach the driving portion of driver’s education from having to be certified by the Department of Transportation. It also removes taking the driving instruction preparation requirement course. Last year we passed a bill allowing certain peace officers to teach that portion to help address an instructor shortage in this area, and this bill rolls back those requirements and takes down another hurdle they would have to jump before they could teach driver’s education. Peace officers have extensive training and experience in driving and the rules of the road, and these requirements were unnecessary.
The Senate passed two different bills relating to driver’s licenses in the state – one regarding a ‘school permit’ and another for driving farm equipment. Both of these bills are common-sense changes to make the everyday lives of rural Iowans easier. Senate File 2009 allows someone with a special minor’s driver’s license, often called a school permit, to operate a car to a site, facility or school within 50 miles for extracurricular activities. A bill like this is especially important for rural areas where schools often have sharing agreements for extracurricular activities. Senate File 2061 says a person is not required to have a driver’s license when operating a farm tractor or other type of husbandry equipment between a home farm building and farmland for the purpose of conducting farm operations.
Lastly, the Senate passed Senate File 537, a bill allowing a person to use an infrared light source to hunt coyotes. Coyotes can be troublesome for livestock owners or even pet owners, and this gives individuals, especially in rural Iowa, access to technology that provides for better target identification for safer, more effective hunting.
Staying in touch
As we work further into the session, your input becomes increasingly important because everything we do as a General Assembly affects you personally. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your support or concerns on upcoming legislation.