SF 279 – Legalizing industrial hemp
SF 279 creates an industrial hemp commodity within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). The Department will oversee production, regulation and enforcement of industrial hemp, along with establishing fees and an appropriation. The department must conduct an annual inspection of crop sites to ensure hemp tests register less than 0.3 percent THC.
The 2018 federal farm bill removed industrial hemp from the national list of controlled substances and allows states to regulate industrial hemp production. Previously, the 2014 federal farm bill allowed the possession of industrial hemp in states that had applied to the United States Department of Agriculture to run a pilot program that would have allowed the state to regulate industrial hemp production.
The fees collected will depend on the number of acres planted. However, the bill specifies that a licensed grower can only grow a maximum of 40 acres. IDALS will collect these fees:
- $500 plus $5 per acre for a person growing five acres or fewer.
- $750 plus $5 per acre for a person growing more than five acres but fewer than 10 acres.
- $1,000 plus $5 per acre for a site that grows more than 10 acres.
- An inspection fee of not more than $1,000 can be charged by the DALS.
The bill appropriates $303,750 to IDALS for FY20 and $208,500 for FY21. The money will be deposited into the Hemp Fund. The funds will be used to pay for administrative costs and equipment to implement the Iowa Industrial Hemp Act. The bill specifies that IDALS can assess a civil penalty for disposing a licensee’s crop. The civil penalty will be between $500 and $2,500. Any funds collected from civil penalties will be deposited into the General Fund.
The bill was amended in committee to make a number of technical corrections. It also removes the appropriations language from the bill because funding for the program will be provided in the budget-making process.
[3/19: Short Form]
SF 321 – Investment tax credits
SF 321 is a departmental proposal that allows the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to allocate as much as $4 million for Investment Tax Credits, otherwise known as Angel Tax Credits. This is an increase of $2 million from current law. The bill allows IEDA to allocate at least $6 million and not more than $8 million for Innovation Fund Investment Tax Credits. This means IEDA can allocate as much as $2 million less for Innovation Tax Credits than under current law. These allocations must be determined on or before June 30 of each year. The bill keeps the overall cap on these types of credits at $10 million. The bill is effective upon enactment. These changes are estimated to cost $1.4 million in FY20 and $1.9 million in FY21 and after. The companion bill, HF 339 by Ways and Means, is on the House Calendar.
[3/19: Short Form]
SF 208 – Increased length for car haulers
SF 208 allows stinger-steered transporters (car hauls) to have an overall length of 80 feet, which brings Iowa into compliance with federal code. Current Iowa law is 75 feet.
[3/18: 48-1 (Absent: Dawson; Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 592 – Expanded scope of practice for physician assistants
SF 592 expands the practice and licensure of physician assistants (PAs) to allow them to practice at the top of their license. The bill allows PAs to practice under their own national provider identification number in the Medicaid program, which will expand access to health care across the state. The bill codifies several provisions currently in administrative rules relating to services performed by physician assistants.
[3/20: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 511 – Maintenance requirements for septic systems using secondary filters
SF 511 would prohibit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from adopting rules to require a person who owns a secondary bio-filter system to have a maintenance contract. The owner of such a system would instead be required to have the system inspected every five years.
Current administrative rules require the owner of such a system to have a maintenance agreement with a manufacturer-certified technician. The service contracts can become prohibitively expensive, which has led the DNR to issue variances from the service contract requirement. Three types of systems would be exempt from the service-contract requirement: peat moss biofilters, recirculating textile filters and aerobic treatment units.
An amendment requires the systems be inspected every three years, instead of the five under the original bill.
[3/19: 47-2 (No: Celsi, R. Taylor; Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 548 – Prohibition on use of revolving loan funds to acquire land
SF 548 prohibits the use of non-point source water pollution control projects that receive funding through the state’s revolving loan fund to be used to acquire property for future donation or sale to the state, a political subdivision or the federal government. It also prohibits the state or political subdivisions from acquiring land that was purchased using assistance from the state’s revolving loan fund. Non-point source water quality projects can include:
- Restoration of wildlife habitat
- Stream bank stabilization
- Wetland flood prevention areas
- Detention basins
- Grassed waterways
- Ponds or wetland systems
- Soil quality restoration
- Other practices that are shown to improve or protect water quality
The second portion placing restrictions on projects that use state revolving loan fund assistance is meant to address concerns that these types of purchases make it more expensive or more difficult for famers to acquire farmland. Farmers wishing to buy the land get loans through a financial institution at rates higher than those offered under the state’s revolving loan fund.
The belief is that private entities use government-subsidized loans to purchase the land. Farm interests say this raises their costs of operation. However, the private entities that use the revolving loan fund generally work with willing landowners to acquire the property and put restrictions in place on the future development of the land.
This bill does not include the much more wide-ranging prohibitions on the acquisition of land by the state or its political subdivisions that was included in HF 542, which did not advance out of subcommittee in the House.
[3/20: 32-17 (Yes: Republicans and Kinney; No: Democrats and Zaun)]
SF 93 – Abandoned structures and nuisance properties
SF 93 makes changes to the abandoned structures and abatement law. The bill removes the length of time needed to consider a structure abandoned, along with evidence of financial responsibility, if the property is in need of abatement. A hearing is eliminated if those interested show intent and responsibility to restore the property in good faith. The bill’s aim is to motivate current owners to restore nuisance properties with local option.
[3/19: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson]
SF 538-Medicaid work reporting requirements
SF 538 requires the Department of Human Services to submit a request to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) by March 1, 2020, to implement “community engagement activities” (aka “work requirements”) as a requirement for eligibility for the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan (Iowa’s version of the ACA Medicaid expansion). The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is for adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Community Engagement Activities are defined as working 20 hours per week; complying with a work program for 20 hours a week; volunteering 20 hours per week; meeting a combination of work and work program participation requirements; complying with PROMISE JOBS; being enrolled in the Future Ready Iowa program; or participating in other activities identified by DHS and CMS. Some Health and Wellness Plan members are exempt, including those who are mentally unable to fulfill the requirements; pregnant; caretakers of a child under six years of age; caretakers of a dependent child with medical conditions or a disability; receiving unemployment benefits; in drug or alcohol treatment; enrolled full time in an educational institution; homeschooling their children; caring for an elderly person who is disabled or seriously ill; or an individual who meets other criteria identified by DHS and CMS. If a Health and Wellness Plan member does not comply with the requirements of this bill, the member’s eligibility will be terminated for the remainder of the individual’s benefit year.
[3/19: 32-17, party-line (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 567-Professional licensing and criminal convictions
SF 567 relates to professional licensing and the ability for licensing boards to deny, revoke or suspend a license because of a felony conviction. The Electrical Examining Board and the Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board will adopt rules to identify which felonies are violent or sexual in nature. Those convictions will be grounds for denial, revocation or suspension of a license. The bill does allow the boards to grant an exception for a person who would otherwise be denied a license because of a conviction of the felony provided that there is an extenuating circumstance that justifies the exemption. The bill also strikes current Code sections allowing the boards to revoke, deny or suspend a license on convictions of any felonies. The bill forbids the Iowa Department of Corrections to enroll an inmate in an apprenticeship program if the inmate is unable to obtain a necessary license to practice due to a felony conviction that is violent or sexual in nature. Prior to enrolling an inmate in an apprenticeship program, the Department of Corrections must receive written confirmation from the appropriate licensing board that the inmate could receive the necessary license to practice the profession if it appears that inmate may be disqualified from receiving such a license.
[3/18: 48-0 (Absent: Dawson; Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 158 – Post-conviction relief and underlying trial court record
Senate File 158 is an Iowa Bar Association proposal that addresses access to underlying criminal court files in applications for post-conviction relief (PCR). The bill deletes current Code language, which reads that if an “application for post-conviction relief is not accompanied by the record of the proceedings, then the respondent shall file with its answer the record or portions thereof that are material to the questions raised in the application.”
The bill inserts new Code language requiring the underlying trial court record and any previous application for post-conviction relief to automatically become part of the record in a PCR claim. The bill further requires clerks of court to make the underlying trial court record accessible to the applicant’s attorney, the county attorney and the Attorney General. If the court record is not available in electronic format, the clerk must convert it to electronic format and make it available. In addition, any previous application for PCR must be converted to electronic format if necessary and made available.
In PCR cases, no court order will be required for the applicant’s attorney, the county attorney and the Attorney General to get access to the underlying trial court record. In addition, the bill prohibits the Judicial Branch from charging applicants, county attorneys and the Attorney General for access to the court record.
[3/20: 49-0 (Vacancy: Danielson)]
SF 273 – Sexual misconduct with offenders
SF 273 increases the penalty from an aggravated misdemeanor to a “D” felony when any peace officer or Department of Corrections employee, contractor, vendor, volunteer or any agent of the Department engages in a sex act with an offender if the peace officer or employee has knowledge that the person is committed to the Department’s custody.
The increased penalty will also apply to officers, employees or agents of a Judicial District Department of Correctional Services (community based corrections), a juvenile detention facility or a county jail. A “D” felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of at least $750 but not more than $7,500. An aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine.
The Department of Corrections has tried for years to increase penalties.
[3/18: 48-0 (Excused: Dawson; Vacancy: Danielson)]
SF 275 – Assault by threat of a targeted attack and cyber-harassment
SF 275 establishes the criminal offense of assault by threat of a targeted attack. It will be a “D” felony when a person threatens to cause serious injury or death to people assembled in a public place, a school building or any occupied structure other than a single-family residence when the people threatened reasonably believe there is a possibility of death or serious injury, or have a reasonable expectation that the threat will be carried out. A “D” felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of at least $750 up to $7,500. “Public place” is defined as an indoor area, privately or publicly owned, where the public has access by right or by invitation, express or implied, regardless of whether or not payment is required.
The bill also adds a behavior that would be considered criminal harassment: cyber-harassment. It will be considered cyber-harassment when a person makes an online communication using an electronic device or through social media with the intent to threaten, intimidate or alarm another person. The person must knowingly send or post comments, requests, suggestions or threats of physical harm to or about another or the other person’s property without legitimate purpose and in a manner that a reasonable person would fear physical or emotional harm. Cyber-harassment will be second-degree harassment, a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of at least $315 but not to more than $1,875.
[3/19: 47-2 (No: Hogg, R. Taylor; Vacancy: Danielson)]
SF 339 – State employee defense and indemnification
SF 339 makes changes to the State Tort Claims Act. This change is necessary to ensure that any state employee in an action against an employee is defended and indemnified. According to the Attorney General’s office, this Code language change is needed because of an Iowa Supreme Court ruling in the Godfrey case. This language will also ensure that victims of state employee behavior may be awarded damages.
[3/18: 48-0 (Excused: Dawson; Vacancy: Danielson)]
SF 532 – Notice and opportunity to repair construction defects
SF 532 sets up a required process to help resolve construction disputes before any class-action lawsuit is filed relating to construction defects. It sets out time limits for the process and conditions to be met before a claimant goes to court. No court action can proceed until a claimant complies with the requirements set of the bill. This will apply only to new construction and class actions. This required process relating to an opportunity to repair constructions defects will only apply to a claim for injury to property and will not apply when there is a personal injury or a wrongful death claim.
[3/20: 42-7 (No: Bisignano, Bolkcom, Boulton, Celsi, Dotzler, Jochum, Petersen; Vacancy: Danielson)]
SF 160 – School safety plan technical bill
SF 160 requires public and nonpublic schools to consider recommendations from the Department of Public Safety when developing high-quality emergency operations plans.
[3/18: 48-0 (Excused: Dawson; Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 246 – Eligibility for All Iowa Opportunity Scholarships
SF 246 strikes the age provisions to ensure all applicants are held to the same eligibility criteria under the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship. Over the course of the past two years, two new student populations have been granted access to the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship: House File 642 granted eligible foster care students first priority for funding; and House File 2502 granted students whose parent was a public safety worker killed in the line of duty second priority for funding. The defining language for each of these student populations contains an age threshold that would cause them to lose eligibility prior to receiving the maximum benefit under the program. There is no such age threshold for the general student population.
[3/18: 48-0 (Excused: Dawson; Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 245 – Eligibility and reporting for Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant
SF 245 contains a technical correction to eliminate the Iowa Workforce Development reference in the Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant and ensures that students enrolled in programs of study aligned with statewide high-demand jobs continue to qualify for funding. In addition, the bill amends the program to grandfather in students receiving grants who are enrolled in a program of study that later on is removed from eligibility.
[3/20: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 438 – Omnibus education and requirement elimination bill
SF 438 removes the requirement for schools to confirm and record that students have had blood lead, vision and dental screenings before entering school. It removes requirements for schools to provide certain resource information on health screenings to parents and to help coordinate testing services if needed. The bill strikes a provision requiring that every parent registering their child for school be provided with a student vision card from the Iowa Optometric Association. It also removes the requirement for schools to provide that information to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), effective July 2020. The bill keeps the school nurse and teacher librarian requirements for each school district, but eliminates the goal of having one school nurse for every 750 students.
Other provisions in the bill include:
- Removing requirements that AEA boards give notice on the agency’s proposed budget by publication in a newspaper in each county in which a school district is located. Instead, notice can be posted on the AEA Internet site.
- Allowing a school district to charge an employee for pre-employment and regular background checks.
- Striking requirements that school districts, community colleges and public universities conduct an evaluation regarding implementation of an environmentally preferable cleaning policy and the use of less harmful cleaning products.
- Providing an exception to the requirement for a school district to deposit funds from the condemnation, sale or other disposition of schoolhouses into the PPEL fund.
SF 412 – Insurance assignment of rights to contractors
SF 412 relates to post-loss assignment of rights to residential contractors for repair or services performed on residential real estate covered by property and casualty insurance. The Attorney General strongly opposed the original proposals but worked with legislators and stakeholders to craft legislation that included the recommended consumer protections.
The legislation allows the insured to cancel the contract at the later date of either the execution date or the date on which the insured receives the assignment; adds one additional notice provision that must be included in the contract/assignment (notice of the right to cancel and the process to do so); and makes a violation an unlawful practice under 714.16 – Consumer Frauds. The contract between the insured and the contractors is void if a contractor violates any requirement related to the post-loss assignment of rights or benefits by the insured to the contractor.
The post-loss assignment must include an itemized description of, and the materials, labor and fees for, the work to be performed, including a total itemized amount. It also requires that the post-loss assignment include a statement and a notice, in 14-point type, that the contractor has not represented that the claimed loss will be fully covered by insurance. After the post-loss assignment is executed, a copy must be provided to the insurer of the real estate within five business days. The insured has the right to cancel the assignment for any reason within those five business days. If the insured cancels, the contractor must return any payments made by the insured, the landowner or the possessor of the real estate.
Any written contract, estimate or work order prepared by the contractor must include a notice advising the insured that the insured is responsible for payment to the contractor for any goods or services provided by the contractor, even if the insured does not receive payment from the insurance policy. The notice also advises the insured that if the contractor advertises or promises to rebate the insured’s deductible, or represents or negotiates, or offers to represent or negotiate with the insured’s property and casualty insurer on behalf of the insured, the insured is not responsible for payment to the contractor under the contract, estimate or work order. A copy of the document, signed by the insured, must be sent to the insured’s insurance company prior to the contractor being paid from the proceeds of the insurance.
[3/18: 48-0: (Absent: Dawson; Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 506 – Notification requirements for credit union mergers
SF 506 is a recommendation by the Credit Union Division. Currently, a merging credit union must provide notice of balloting for voting members at least 20 days prior to the scheduled vote. It requires that at least 15 days before that notice is sent to members, a merging credit must submit to the Superintendent of Credit Unions all materials that will be included in the notice. The Superintendent must review and approve those materials at least 10 days before the notice is sent to the members, and may direct other materials to be included in the notice.
[3/19: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 507 – Workers’ compensation idiopathic falls
SF 507 changes the definition of personal injuries arising out of and in the course of employment for purposes of workers’ compensation. As amended, it creates a blanket rule that personal injuries due to idiopathic or unexplained falls from a level surface onto the same level surface would not be compensable under workers’ compensation, rather than looking at it on a case-by-case basis requiring the claimant to show proof that the condition of a floor, just like any other workplace condition, poses an increased risk of injury and should be compensated.
[3/19: 32-17, party line (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 556 – Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association membership
SF 556 updates Iowa Code relating to the membership of the Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association (LHIGA) and assessments to member insurers for insurance written by impaired or insolvent member insurers. It more closely conforms Chapter 508C to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) model act, including provisions recently adopted by NAIC. Regardless of the state in which an insurance company is located, there are policyholders across the country. The bill provides that assessments to member insurers of the LHIGA for long-term care insurance written by an impaired or insolvent insurer must be allocated by the methodology included in the association’s plan of operation and must provide for 50 percent of the assessment to accident and health member insurers and 50 percent to life and annuity member insurers. Current law does not provide for life and annuity members to be included in the assessment for long-term care insurance. The 50/50 offers parity in those long-term care policies that may be categorized as a type of “life insurance” and/or “health insurance.” The bill takes effect upon enactment.
[3/20: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 558 – Domestic surplus lines insurance
SF 558 allows insurers of surplus lines to be based in Iowa. It establishes requirements and defines “domestic surplus lines insurer” as an insurer that is domiciled in this state and authorized by the Insurance Commissioner to do business as such. Currently, a company with its main office in Iowa can write surplus lines insurance in every state except Iowa. The bill also specifies requirements that a non-admitted insurer domiciled in Iowa must meet to be considered a domestic surplus lines insurer. Surplus lines insurance (a.k.a. excess lines insurance) helps provide coverage of an unconventional nature (e.g., Ninja Gyms, underground storage tanks, long-haul trucking of high-value, hazardous or perishable cargo) when what needs to be insured makes it difficult to get insurance through regular lines because the insurance companies are unable or unwilling to accept the risk. The proposal, based on recommendations by the Iowa Insurance Institute working with the Iowa Insurance Division and other stakeholders, should enhance Iowa’s reputation as an insurance industry leader and could bring more jobs to the state. Similar legislation has been enacted in 18 other states.
[3/19: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 559 – Portable electronic insurance notifications
SF 559 allows insurance carriers to electronically send notifications and documents to customers who purchased portable electronics insurance policies in a retail transaction. Prior to or at the point of sale, the consumer must provide an e-mail address and must be advised in a conspicuous disclosure that by providing the e-mail address, the consumer is giving affirmative consent for insurance notices and correspondence to be delivered by electronic means. The consumer must also be provided a conspicuous disclosure advising the consumer of the consumer’s right to have the notice or document in paper form, and of the right to cancel the consumer’s consent.
[3/20: 49-0 (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 561 – Unemployment benefits disqualification for misconduct
SF 561 relates to the disqualification from eligibility for unemployment benefits due to discharge for misconduct. Currently, Iowa Code does not define “misconduct.” Instead, it is defined in administrative rules and case law. The bill defines misconduct in the Code using similar (but not exact) language as is in administrative rules. In addition, the bill enumerates a list (“including to but not limited to” list) of what is considered “misconduct.”
[3/20: 32-17, party line (Vacant: Danielson)]
SF 583 – Electric utility rates for private generation (“Sunshine Tax”)
SF 583 allows investor-owned utilities to set minimum infrastructure charges for private net-metered customer generation. Rate-regulated utilities’ tariff rates for customer-owned generation. The bill:
- States the Legislature’s desire to ensure that all customers are paying their fair share of the costs of electric utility infrastructure, thereby eliminating “cross-subsidization.”
- Expresses the Legislature’s intent to provide rate options to customers with their own generation.
- Defines customer owned generation as “private generation” and it defines “avoided cost” in terms of the rate paid to private generators in compliance with PURPA (Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act).
- Allows rate-regulated electric utilities to file tariffs applicable to private generation facilities that are installed on or after the date such tariffs are approved.
- Requires that all such tariffs must recover the full cost of providing service to private generation customers.
- Requires that all such tariffs require a private generation customer to choose from four different rate structures.
- “Grandfathers in” existing private generation facilities so that the new tariffs do not alter the existing power purchase agreements and other financing.
- One rate structure creates a minimum infrastructure charge but also allows full retail credit rate on the bill as well as annual cash out with an energy credit carry forward to future billing periods.
- One rate structure is a multi-part rate that includes at a minimum, a fixed basic service charge, an energy charge to recover variable costs, and a monthly demand charge that ensures the private generation customers pays the full cost of infrastructure. The rate allows an annual excess credit cash out at the utility’s avoided cost.
- One rate structure is a “buy all and sell all” rate under which the generation is separately metered and the customer buys all power at retail and sells all power at avoided cost.
- The fourth rate structure allows future structures to be filed and approved at the board without having to amend the statute in order to file future, as yet undefined tariffs.
The bill exempts certain large renewable energy producers from the bill’s requirements regarding the utility infrastructure charges: (1) a cogeneration facility, including without limitation combined heat and power facilities; (2) a facility that produces renewable fuel registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a manufacturer; (3) a facility that uses a de minimus amount of biomass in its operations (less than 10 percent of all fuel used in the generation processes); and (4) a private generation facility with a nameplate generating capacity greater than one megawatt.
[3/18: 28-19 (No: Democrats, Kapucian, Nunn; Absent: Dawson, Sinclair; Vacant: Danielson)]
HF 487– Installation of wireless communications infrastructure
HF 487 (SF 560), the Iowa Cell Siting Act, provides uniform rules and limitations and requires authorities to approve an application for a tower in compliance with the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network in counties with populations of less than 15,000 people. An authority or governing body authorized to make decisions relative to a cell siting cannot reject an application for the installation of a tower or transmission equipment in the unincorporated area of a county with a population of less than 15,000 (except on property zoned as single-family residential or property of historic significance). It requires written confirmation from the Statewide Interoperable Communications System Board that the tower or equipment is intended to be installed and used as part of the state plan approved under the federal law for the deployment of the public safety broadband and radio access networks. The State of Iowa opted in to “FirstNet,” and it is in the first year of a five-year build-out that will cover 99.5 percent of the population, including 99.2 percent of our rural areas. FirstNet’s public safety mission is to build and deploy a high-speed nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to first responders to give them the technology to better communicate and collaborate across local, state, tribal and national jurisdictions. The bill, which is designed to address a controversial plan to construct a cell phone tower in Allamakee County, takes effect upon enactment and sunsets in two years.
[3/14: 38-10 (No: Bisignano, Bolkcom, Celsi, Dotzler, Hogg, Jochum, Quirmbach, J. Smith, R. Taylor, Wahls; Absent: Miller-Meeks; Vacant: Danielson)]