A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Jan. 27, 2014:
Military gun permits
Active military members could purchase a handgun without obtaining a permit under a bill that received bipartisan support from members in the Iowa House Monday.
House Study Bill 513 would exempt active members of the military from getting a permit to purchase a pistol or revolver. Two House Republicans and a Democrat supported and approved the legislation in subcommittee and is on its way to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Iowa law requires anyone wanting to purchase a gun obtain a permit through the sheriff's office. Law enforcement, gun dealers and some others are exempted from the required permit.
State Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull, said the bill would level the playing field for military members living or serving in Iowa. He said 35 states have similar exemptions for active-duty members. A similar bill that included veterans from having to obtain the permit failed last year. Alons said he thinks dropping the exemption for retired military members will help the legislation go further this session.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is urging U.S. trade representative Michael Froman to ensure that states can continue to enforce tobacco products under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement the United States currently is negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim countries. Miller joined attorneys general from 44 other U.S. states and territories in a letter to Froman requesting that "any such agreement explicitly provide that it does not apply to trade or investment in tobacco or tobacco products."
Tile that was laid on the Iowa Capitol first floor rotunda nearly 60 years ago has buckled, but officials say it doesn't indicate any structural problems in the 128-year-old Statehouse.
"There's nothing to worry about," according to Mark Willemsen, the Capitol facilities manager.
An inspection last week concluded the damage is limited to the tile itself. Willemsen isn't sure why the tile buckled, but pointed out the tile, which was laid in 1956, apparently was not adhered to the floor in the same was as other tile in the rotunda. The buckling was not caused by the installation of glass flooring two years ago that closed an opening in the rotunda floor that allowed a person in the basement to look up at the interior of the dome, Willemsen said. He believes there is enough tile on hand to patch the floor.
The Iowa Tourism Office is encouraging travelers to "Cozy Up in Iowa" this winter through a promotion that started Monday and runs through Feb. 9. Travel Iowa Facebook fans (21 and older) can enter to win a prize package that contains a $200 gift certificate to any Bed & Breakfast Guild of Iowa member, as well as Iowa-made items that include Fox River Mills socks, Jolly Time popcorn, an Amana Woolen Mill blanket, Chocolate Storybook chocolates and Fireside Winery glasses and corkscrew.
"Tourism in Iowa doesn't hibernate for the winter," said Shawna Lode, manager of the Iowa Tourism Office. "We want to inspire people to get out and explore the state whether that means spending time outdoors cross-country skiing at a state park, attending one of our many wonderful winter festivals or staying warm inside a fabulous museum, bookstore or coffee shop."
Lode noted that tourism in Iowa generates more than $7.6 billion in expenditures, employs 64,400 people statewide and generates $328 million in state taxes.
Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he was pleased and encouraged by the turnout and excitement generated by last week's mid-term Republicans precinct caucuses. The five-term governor said he believes his party is revitalized and Republicans are enthused about the current election cycle that culminate will the election this November.
Branstad and his 2014 re-election campaign invested considerable effort in encouraging rank-and-file Republicans, independents and political newcomers to participate in the caucuses. But he said it will be up to delegates selected at last week's meeting to decide the future leadership of the Republican Party of Iowa going forward.