Iowa Legislature 2019

DES MOINES --- Democratic Sens. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids and Jackie Smith of Sioux City have proposed a $50 million disaster relief and recovery package to help Iowans hurt by 2019 flooding.

It would include $10 million for small business and farm disaster grants to keep those enterprises operating; an additional $5 million for the state Economic Development Authority to help disaster-affected businesses preserve jobs; a $10 million revolving loan fund for local governments and nonprofits for uses not covered by federal disaster recovery money; $24 million for the Iowa Flood Mitigation Program for hazard mitigation; $443,000 to restore cuts in the Department of Natural Resources flood plain management program; and a one-time $500,000 appropriation to the Iowa Flood Center/DNR to assess causes of the 2019 Missouri River flooding.

Smith and Hogg propose funding the $50 million from the projected $190 million fiscal 2019 ending balance.

Telephone scams

Iowans are invited to join a telephone town hall focusing on protecting their savings from scammers and fraudulent investment schemes. Iowans are encouraged to participate in the telephone town hall and ask questions.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen will join AARP Iowa for the statewide telephone town hall at 10 a.m. April 10.

To register, go to https://vekeo.com/event/aarpiowa-44608/ or join the telephone town hall by calling (866) 757-0607 or via Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/AARPIowa.

Felon voting rights

A proposal to amend the Iowa Constitution to reinstate the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentence passed a Senate subcommittee but with tepid support.

Iowa is one of just two states that requires felons to petition the governor to have their voting rights restored upon completing their sentence.

Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed the constitutional amendment, but many of Reynolds’ fellow Republicans in the Legislature have resisted without adding stipulations that felons complete some forms of restitution before getting their voting rights back.

The proposed constitutional amendment, without stipulations, passed the Senate subcommittee with Democrat Rob Hogg and Republican Dan Dawson supporting and Republican Jake Chapman opposing.

Even Dawson, after supporting the advancement, said eventually there must be a debate over restitution before the amendment can advance.

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Republicans in the House expressed similar thoughts even after it passed that chamber with a landslide 95-2 vote.

The proposal must be approved yet this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee or it will be ineligible for consideration for the remainder of this year’s session.

A proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution requires the approval of consecutive two-year General Assemblies and a public vote.

Animal cruelty

Penalties for animal cruelty would be strengthened under legislation approved by a Senate subcommittee.

The proposal would make animal torture a felony offense; currently, Iowa is one of just two states that does not.

The bill also removes language from current law that animal welfare advocates say makes it nearly impossible to convict an individual of animal torture and gives judges the option of requiring an individual convicted of torture to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

House File 737, which passed the House on a unanimous 96-0 vote, was advanced out of a Senate subcommittee and is likely to be considered later this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It must be approved by that committee in order to remain eligible for consideration during this year’s session.

Student loan rates

A House Education subcommittee quickly approved SCR 1 calling for federal legislation to cap student loan interest rates at no more than 2 percentage points over the federal primate rate.

“It sure would be great if (the federal government) did that,” Rep. Tedd Gassman, R-Scarville, said. “It’s a problem, and if we can keep those costs down, it would be a good thing.”

Already approved by the Senate, the resolution is scheduled to be taken up by the full Education Committee today.

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