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Under the Golden Dome: Banning, Expanding & Broadening

Every year, the Herbert Hoover Foundation awards two members of the Iowa legislature the Uncommon Public Service Award.  Only a few people in the House and Senate chambers know who the recipient of the award will be until it is announced. Like previous winners, legislators Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, and Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, had no idea they were being honored until it was announced on the chamber floor.

In February Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, resigned. Now the Senate has 50 members as the winner of the special election for Senate District 30, Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, has taken the oath of office.

The Senate had what seems like its annual debate about banning traffic enforcement cameras. Camera opponents say they take away due process for those who are ticketed. Proponents say they keeps roadways safer and allow law enforcement to focus on other efforts.

Although Republicans control both chambers, they don’t always agree on bills.  A House Judiciary Subcommittee discusses a bill that passed in the Senate 47-2 about expanding what constitutes as threat to people gathered in a large space. That could be for people at work, school, or a concert. Right now it’s already illegal to make a bomb threat, but other kinds of threats are harder to pin down.

The original version of the bill is not in question, but a second section during the Senate debate was added.  It focuses on “cyber harassment” and considered too broad by members of the subcommittee. They don’t advance the bill, but the chair wants to keep it going by revising or removing the second section.

In 2017 the Medical Cannabidiol Act was passed.  It’s what made possible the opening of five dispensaries last December.  Cannabidiol is processed marijuana. It comes in the form of a capsule, oil, or a cream.  

The House passes a bill expanding portions of this act.  Some include allowing THC can be higher than 3 percent in a product but only allowing a person to receive 25 grams in a 90 day period.  There is an exception if a person has a debilitating disease with less than a year to live.

All who receive this product have to apply for a cannabidiol card. The application must include a note from a doctor. One change to the law allows that note to come from a nurse or physician's assistant. A patient must have one of about a dozen conditions to qualify. This bill adds “untreatable pain” as a condition, which means more individuals can qualify for medical marijuana in Iowa.

Earlier in the session, an anti-abortion bill defining someone as a person from the moment of conception until natural death did not make it through a committee. It would make it a crime to deliberately harm a zygote and is often referred to as a personhood bill.

This week, the Senate passed a bill increasing the penalty for action that results in the non-consensual termination of a pregnancy.  It also changes the word “human pregnancy” to “unborn person” and Democrats say this changes it to a personhood bill.

John Pemble is a reporter for IPR