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Iowa Legislature 2019

A bill to give customers “freedom of choice” in choosing where they have prescriptions filled was approved by the House Commerce Committee, 22-0, despite objections from insurance companies, health care providers and pharmacy chains.

Many customers prefer to do business face-to-face with a pharmacist they know rather than order medications from an out-of-state mail order pharmacy, Rep. John Forbes, D-Des Moines, a pharmacist, said Tuesday.

During recent cold weather, he said, his pharmacy has replaced insulin that froze during shipment.

However, Mike Triplett, representing Cigna Healthcare, and Scott Sundstrom, speaking for Wellmark, said expanding the pool of providers likely would reduce savings, especially on specialty drugs.

The bill now goes to the full committee.

Fake tickets

The Office of Iowa Attorney General is warning Iowans to use caution when buying tickets to sports and entertainment events, especially as March Madness and other events come to Des Moines.

Theatergoers can be fooled too.

Fake tickets are often sold on online classified sites like Craigslist, according to the attorney general. That’s as risky as buying tickets from a scalper on the street.

The Better Business Bureau warns scammers have become adept at designing tickets to look like the real thing and selling the same ticket, with the same bar code, repeatedly.

Animal abuse

A bill to make a person’s first instance of torture of a companion animal a felony cleared the House Judiciary Committee.

Torture would be a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $7,500. It could be enhanced to a Class C felony punishable by no more than 10 years in prison and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000.

Iowa was one of two states that didn’t make first offense torture a felony.

Electric vehicle fee

The House Commerce Committee unanimously approved legislation to phase in a $130-a-year supplemental registration fee on electric vehicles to offset the loss of motor fuel tax revenue from their use.

The Iowa Department of Transportation estimates the impact of electric vehicles — about 800 battery-operated and 1,900 plug-in hybrids — on the fund is about $300,000 and could grow to nearly a quarter-billion dollars by 2040.

The bill would phase in the supplemental fee over three years. It would be $65 the first year, $97.50 the second and $130 the third year.

The bill was approved 21-0, making it eligible for consideration by the full House.

Religious freedom

Iowans would be granted broader legal protection to take actions guided by their religious beliefs under a proposal advanced by a Senate committee.

The so-called “religious freedom” bill would require courts to give heightened scrutiny to any legal claim brought against an individual who claims their actions were guided by their religion.

Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, said the legislation is needed because of “a methodical and deliberate attack on religious freedom” that he says has been taking place “across the nation and in Iowa.” Critics say such a law would give individuals and businesses license to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against minority populations.

The business community has been almost unanimous in its opposition to the legislation. Business leaders said they want to have welcoming, inclusive policies for workers.

The Senate’s local government committee passed the bill along party lines, which keeps it alive beyond this week’s “funnel” legislative deadline.

Anti-abortion bill

The Iowa Constitution would be amended to clearly state the right to an abortion is not guaranteed under legislation that advanced out of a Senate committee.

The move is a response to recent Iowa Supreme Court rulings striking down Republican-written anti-abortion measures.

Critics say the proposal would cripple women’s reproductive health care choices and amounts to a Republican-led attempt to ban abortions.

The proposed amendment passed the Senate’s state government committee along party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. The passage of the resolution keeps the measure alive past this week’s legislative deadline.

An amendment to the Iowa Constitution must be approved by consecutive two-year General Assemblies and then a public vote.

Medicaid work rules

The state would ask for a federal waiver to require able-bodied Iowans covered by Medicaid expansion to work or volunteer at least 20 hours per week under legislation approved by a Senate panel.

Iowa’s Medicaid population includes roughly 172,000 individuals, roughly 60,000 of whom would be subject to the proposed legislation, according to the state’s Medicaid director.

The bill would require those individuals to work or volunteer 20 hours per week, pending federal approval.

The bill must be passed out of full committee this week to remain eligible for the remainder of the session.

E-Verify

Iowa businesses would be required to use the federal program that verifies the legal status of job applicants under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The E-Verify mandate passed with Republicans supporting and some Democrats registering their opposition. Businesses convicted of hiring an individual not eligible to work in the United States would be put on probation for three years on a first offense. A second offense would result in the permanent loss of the business’ state licenses and permits.

Supporters say the use of E-Verify would protect businesses who are hiring only legal residents and punish those that do not.

The bill is now eligible past this week’s legislative deadline.

Cannabidiol

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions would be covered by the state’s medical cannabis program under legislation approved by a Senate committee.

The bill also would allow a physician assistant or nurse practitioner to approve a patient’s use of medical cannabidiol and add two patients to the state board that oversees the program.

In the House, majority Republicans have been more hesitant to embrace the program. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, keeping it eligible past this week’s legislative deadline. Four Republicans on the 15-member committee voted against the proposal.

Needle exchange

A state needle exchange pilot program would be created under legislation advanced by a Senate committee.

The program would offer free, clean syringes to intravenous drug users in an effort to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, particularly HIV and hepatitis C.

Needle exchange sites also would include areas for the disposal of used syringes and information directing drug users to medical services and rehabilitation programs.

The bill previously would have established a statewide program. The proposal was amended to instead make it a pilot program, in which five jurisdictions would operate programs for five years and report on the results.

The proposal passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, making it eligible past this week’s legislative deadline.

Statute of limitations

Sexual crimes against minors could be tried at any time in the future under legislation advanced in the Senate.

Currently, sexual assault charges must be brought within 10 years after victims turn 18 or within three years of an alleged perpetrator being identified by DNA evidence.

The Judiciary Committee approved the bill, which eliminates the statute of limitations on charges of sexual crimes against children under the age of 16.

The Senate has passed similar proposals before, but they have not been taken up in the Iowa House.

Bottle bill

Grocery stores would no longer be required to accept recyclable beverage containers under legislation approved by a Senate committee.

The so-called bottle bill also would increase the fees paid by distributors from 1 cent per bottle to 2 cents per bottle.

The bill’s passage keeps the bill eligible for further consideration after this week’s legislative deadline.

Democrats who voted against the proposal said they appreciate the attempt to help redemption centers but expressed concern eliminating grocery and convenience stores as locations for bottle redemption would undermine the program.

Obscene material

A bill has advanced in the Iowa Senate to close a loophole allowing parents who are convicted sex offenders to show obscene material to their children.

Iowa Code Section 728.2 says it’s illegal to “disseminate or exhibit obscene material” to a minor, but parents and guardians are exempted for sex education purposes.

The bill would prohibit parents convicted of child sex abuse from showing sexual images to their children.

The goal is to prevent sex offenders from grooming their own children for future sex acts. If the bill is implemented, violators would be charged with a serious misdemeanor.

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