Capitol Report - Week Seven 2021
March 1, 2021
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld
Winnowing Begins. With the temperatures rising, this week will bring not only the first signs of spring but also the first funnel of the 2021 legislative session. For bills to remain “alive”, they must be reported out of their originating committees by March 5. In other words, Senate bills must be reported out of their Senate Committees, and House bills must be reported out of their House Committees. Exempt from the funnel are Appropriations bills, Ways and Means bills, and Government Oversight bills. The Senate Daily Debate Calendar is already 18 pages long and the House Calendar is 16 pages, so frankly legislators don’t need many more bills to keep them busy the rest of the session.
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In Case You’re Wondering. Among the more interesting bills that have made it through the funnel so far are:
- Daylight Saving Time (SF 335) Makes daylight saving time the official time year round.
- College Athletes (SF 386) Allows college athletes to receive compensation for use of their name, image or likeliness rights, or athletic reputation .
- Wounded Deer (SF 457) Removes a requirement that both the person and dog used to track a wounded deer be trained in deer blood tracking. The bill would require only dogs to be trained.
- Pledge of Allegiance (HF 415) Requires public and private schools to offer recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and to display the American flag in classrooms where the pledge is recited.
- Littering Penalties (SF 465) Makes littering grounds for suspending a person’s hunting and fishing license, as well as camping privileges at state parks.
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Eye in the Sky. Back again this year is legislation that would ban the use of automated traffic enforcement devices, A.K. A. speed and red light cameras. The bill, SSB 1176, introduced by long time traffic camera critic, Senator Brad Zaun, would prohibit the use of the cameras everywhere in the state except along the S curve on Interstate 380 near downtown Cedar Rapids. At a subcommittee meeting this past week, Zaun said he “could at least tolerate” the Cedar Rapids S curve exception because it is prone to crashes and does not allow for stationing of squad cares for traffic enforcement. The use of all other cameras would be outlawed beginning July 1 but cities could still collect on traffic tickets issued before then. Eleven Iowa communities use automated traffic enforcement systems.
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For Those Who Drive. You should also know, there is a bill, HF 652, that would prohibit a driver from intentionally avoiding a traffic signal by cutting through private property or public property that is not a street. And another one, HF 494, that would require a driver in the left-most lane of a multi-lane highway to move to the lane on their immediate right when they know or should know that a vehicle behind them is about to overtake them.
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And For Those Who Text. A bill, HF 633, is being considered in the House Judiciary Committee that would prohibit a “dominant social media company” from restricting constitutionally protected speech on its social networking website or users’ access to it. And a pair of bills, SF 402 and HSB 235, would make it illegal for the state or any county or city government to provide tax incentives to “massive” social networking companies that censor online content. Proponents of the bills acknowledge the bills, as currently written, require a lot of work but they say something needs to be done to protect the free speech rights of users of social media.
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What Do We Do Now? Every ten years following a new census, the legislature goes through a process of redistricting, a redrawing of the Congressional and state legislative districts based on changes in population. The task of drawing the new maps was scheduled to begin on April 1, the day after the U.S. Census Bureau was expected to deliver the new census data. This past Monday, the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Committee, a citizen group appointed by Democrat and Republican leaders, was told by Legislative Service Bureau staff that the Census Bureau is now saying the new population numbers won’t be delivered until September 30. This creates a real problem in Iowa since our constitution requires the legislature to complete the redistricting process by September 1. If the legislature is not done by then, the Iowa Supreme Court takes over. The Temporary Redistricting Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet again this coming Monday to discuss further the census issue and to select a fifth member to chair the committee. Picking a fifth member may prove to be more challenging that wrestling the population numbers from the Census Bureau.
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.