Safe haven and fireworks laws see update



District 11, R-Storm Lake

Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

We are winding down the second funnel week of the session. To remain alive, a bill must have passed one chamber of the Legislature and been approved in a standing policy committee in the opposite chamber. As a result, the first part of the week concentrated on floor debate in order to get a few bills approved and sent to the Senate in order for them to have time to pass them through a standing policy committee. The last half of the week has focused on committee work here in the House as we received a few final bills from the Senate and moved them through the committee process.

One of the bills that the House approved this week was the Governor’s “Future Ready Iowa”. Future Ready Iowa is the Governor’s initiative where the goal is to have 70% of Iowans in the workforce in possession of a post-secondary degree by 2025. After some initial concerns from our community colleges that the bill might move resources away from current job training programs, we amended the bill to address those concerns. Our community colleges, regents’ institutions and other job training programs will be able to access programs to train Iowa’s workforce for the technical and high-skill jobs of the 21st century.

We approved a bill that will require one hour of yearly training for school employees in the area of suicide awareness. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in our school age children and this will train teachers, counselors and others to recognize the indicators of suicidal tendencies, and make them aware of the resources available to them to intervene with students showing those tendencies.

We also modified the newborn safe haven law. A few years ago we passed a law that allowed a person to surrender a baby that is less than 14-days-old to a hospital or emergency room with no consequences or any questions asked. Since its inception, there have been 30 babies surrendered in Iowa. With the new modifications, any baby less than 30-days-old can be surrendered at a hospital, to any first responder, firefighter or peace officer. They can also surrender the child to any first responder that answers a 911 call. There will be no questions asked and no consequences unless there is abuse or neglect involved.

Fireworks are still a contentious issue in many communities. In the original bill approved last year, we granted home rule to cities and counties to ban the use of fireworks within their boundaries. We upgraded the law this year to allow cities and counties to pass ordinances that would make the use of fireworks in a prohibited jurisdiction a simple misdemeanor and assess a fine of $250. Between this and the novelty of the first year of fireworks sales wearing off, I hope to see less conflict.

The most controversial subject we took up this week was traffic cameras. The Legislature has vacillated between an outright ban on the devices and regulations that would be uniform statewide. A bill was brought to the floor this morning that would install uniform regulations. This includes measures that would require a city or county to document the need for each individual camera for reasons of high accident or violation rates, require signage that states a traffic camera is in use, and require a certified peace officer to view the video and approve a ticket. Traffic cameras are automatically allowed in school zones and construction zones as well as any area that would put a peace officer in danger when issuing citations. The cameras and radar must be calibrated on a regular basis and proven to be accurate. The Iowa Department of Transportation is prohibited from using traffic cameras. The first amendment up on the floor struck the entire bill and would put in place a complete ban in the use of any red light camera or unmanned radar. After some spirited debate, the amendment to ban traffic cameras was defeated by a vote of 43 to 55. The original bill went on to be approved by a vote of 77 to 21.