Capitol Report: June 7
June 8, 2020
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld, Katie Graham
Not Your Grandpa’s Legislature. After a two-and-a-half month break, the legislature resumed its 2020 session on Wednesday, June 3. They’ve returned to finish work on several priority policy bills and to pass a fiscal year 2021 state budget. As legislators and lobbyists regrouped, it was anything but business as usual. Temperatures were checked prior to entering the Capitol. Face masks were worn by many but not all. Hand sanitizer and social distancing signs were everywhere. Access to policymakers was made even more difficult without doorkeepers, pages and clerks.
Not only has the coronavirus changed the look and feel of the legislature’s work, but the protests resulting from George Floyd’s death have had an impact at the Capitol as well. Capitol security officers are present at all times, and in greater numbers than before. The street west of the Capitol has been blocked off to restrict parking and provide a safe place for peaceful protests. Shortly after the Iowa House gaveled in on Wednesday, Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, who has mediated many of the exchanges between protestors and the Des Moines police, led his colleagues in prayer, which began “Dear God, we come to you in trying times… please give us strength to lead.”
* * *
With Rights Come Responsibilities. One of the first bills passed in the House on Wednesday would allow convicted felons to have their voting rights automatically restored if they have discharged their sentences and paid full restitution to their victims. Under the bill, Senate File 2348, persons convicted of murder, rape, child molestation, child endangerment resulting in death and election misconduct in the first degree would not be eligible for automatic restoration of their rights. These felons would still need to request clemency from the Governor to have their voting rights restored. Senate File 2348 becomes effective only if an Iowa constitutional amendment automatically restoring felons’ voting rights is ratified by January 1, 2023. The bill passed the Senate in March and was signed by Governor Reynolds on Thursday.
* * *
Grass is Greener. Also on Wednesday, the Senate debated and passed Senate File 2363, a bill that amends Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Program. The bill increases the amount of THC a patient can be prescribed to 4.5 grams in a 90-day period. SF 2362 allows the 4.5g cap to be exceeded if a patient has a terminal illness with less than one year to live or if a health care provider certifies that a patient who has participated in the program needs more to treat their debilitating medical condition. On Friday, the Senate passed a related bill, House File 2581, amending the Iowa Hemp Act to clarify what consumable hemp products (CBD) can be manufactured and sold in Iowa. Both bills are on their way to the Governor’s desk.
* * *
Final Word… from singer songwriter Bruce Springsteen “We have a choice between chaos or community, a spiritual, moral and democratic awakening or becoming a nation fallen to history as critical issues were refused or not addressed. Is our American system flexible enough to make, without violence, the humane, fundamental changes necessary for a just society?” Let’s all pray that it is.
* * *
The Nyemaster Goode Government Affairs team tracks and analyzes legislation as part of its full range of legislative services. At the statehouse, our public policy attorneys use experience, knowledge, and technical skills to achieve our clients’ goals.