Capitol Report: Week Three Update

February 3, 2020

By: Paula S. Dierenfeld, Katie Graham

2020 Iowa Legislative Recap, Week Three


Dead Means Dead.  A bill defining a "life sentence" as a person’s natural life, regardless of any life-sustaining procedures used on the person while serving a life sentence, found its way to the Senate Debate Calendar last week.  SF 2093 was introduced in response to a case brought by an Iowa inmate claiming he had served his time because he "momentarily died" due to septic poisoning and was resescitated...five times, no less. 

The Iowa Court of Appeals didn’t buy it and said the inmate “is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.” In the court’s ruling, Judge Amanda Potterfield wrote that because “life” is not defined in the Iowa Code, the court would give the term its plain meaning and that the inmate must spend the reset of his natural life incarcerated, regardless of whether he had been revived.


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Speaking of Dead.  HF 2164, a bill that would remove gender identity protections from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, appears to be DOA. Representative Steven Holt, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters last Wednesday, "It's dead." 


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Don’t Ask, Won’t Tell. Legislation introduced in both chambers would prohibit cities and counties from adopting local ordinances to ban employers from asking job applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime. On Tuesday, a House Judiciary subcommittee recommended passage of HSB 519, the House’s version of the bill. An identical bill, SSB 3034, is awaiting consideration in the Senate. The legislation stems from the controversy surrounding a “ban the box” ordinance adopted by the Waterloo City Council last July.


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In the Weeds. A healthy crop of cannabis bills is growing in the legislature again this year. SF 2124 would exempt from sales tax the sales price of cannabidiol products sold by a medical cannabidiol manufacturer or dispensary. HF 2208 would eliminate most criminal penalties relating to the use, possession, manufacture, and delivery of marijuana. HSB 527 would make smokable hemp illegal.




Even though the first funnel is still three weeks away (February 21), this week’s calendar is expected to be busy with subcommittee meetings on dozens of bills given the short workweek with the Iowa caucuses.


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.