A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest from Tuesday:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IOWA: As Iowa commemorates its 175th anniversary of statehood this year, the State Historical Society of Iowa is taking a deeper dive into the state’s past during Iowa History Month, beginning March 1.
Gov. Kim Reynolds kicked off the month with an official proclamation, noting key milestones dating back to Iowa’s entry into the Union in 1846.
Highlights of the monthlong celebration include a new museum exhibition, a statewide book club, at-home activities for children and families, and an array of online presentations about Iowa history.
The new exhibition, “Iowa’s People & Places,” will open March 5 at the State Historical Museum of Iowa and explore more than 13,000 years of history with artifacts that cover a broad range of experiences. Native American settlements, statehood, court rulings, legislation, immigration and elections set the course for Iowa and still affect Iowans today.
The exhibition’s statewide mix of artifacts represents a mosaic of Iowa’s cultural diversity, including stone tools made by some of the earliest inhabitants of the land that would become Iowa, handcrafted Meskwaki beadwork, an embroidered story cloth made by a Hmong immigrant, and several items from the life of astronaut Peggy Whitson.
The State Historical Society of Iowa also has organized a new Iowa History Book Club, which kicks off March 11 with a discussion about “Iowa: The Middle Land,” written by historian Dorothy Schwieder. Additional book club discussions are scheduled quarterly throughout the year.
More information about the celebration can be found at iowaculture.gov.
DIRECT CARE WORKFORCE: House File 402, which calls for expansion of the federally required direct-care worker registry to include all certified nurse assistants regardless of their employment setting, was approved unanimously by the House Human Resources Committee.
Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, explained the current law was written more than 40 years ago. Today, nursing homes aren’t the only option for care.
Direct care workers, he said, deserve a place where their training and certification records are maintained and can follow them from one job to another. Now, they often have to repeat training when they change jobs
HF 402 is the result of discussions over several years with groups representing direct-care workers, care providers and people receiving care.
IPERS INVESTMENT UPDATE: At its February meeting, the IPERS Benefits Advisory Committee heard from Chief Investment Officer Karl Koch that the estimated market value of the IPERS Trust Fund was $39 billion as of Dec. 31, 2020.
Investment returns for the current quarter were reported at 9.62 percent and year-to-date for fiscal 2021 were reported at 16.45 percent.
FLAGS LOWERED: Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all flags on state buildings to be lowered to half-staff until sunset Friday in conjunction with President Joe Biden’s proclamation honoring the 500,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in the United States.
Flags will be at half-staff on the State Capitol Building and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex. Flags also will be at half-staff on all public buildings, grounds and facilities throughout the state.
Individuals and businesses are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.
LITTERING CONSEQUENCES: Iowans who are convicted of littering for discarding their garbage along public highways, lands or waters could temporarily lose some of their privileges to legally hunt, fish or engage in other activities under the control of the state Natural Resource Commission.
On top of any fine imposed, Senate File 375 provides that the commission would immediately be required to suspend any hunting, fishing, or trapping license, tag, permit or stamp issued to a person convicted of a littering offense for one year from the date of the conviction.
The bill also would require the commission to prohibit the person convicted of littering from camping or using rental facilities or other special privileges at state parks and recreation areas under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources for a year — with violation of that provision being a simple misdemeanor punishable by confinement for no more than 30 days and a fine of at least $105 but not more than $855.
“As someone who cleans up litter in the ditches by my house all of the time, I think anything we can do to deter that behavior I’m on board with,” said Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, chairwoman of a Senate Natural Resources and Environment subcommittee.
Before forwarding the bill to the full committee Tuesday, lawmakers agreed to make the language more discretionary in its application rather than a mandatory penalty.
LOOKING GOOD: Members of a House State Government subcommittee liked the spirit of a proposal to allow licensed cosmetologists and barbers to ply their trade at wedding venues on the day of a wedding.
“Hair and makeup is a big deal at wedding venues,” said Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge.
There was support for HSB 215 from the lobby.
Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, wanted to make sure that wedding venues such as churches and hotels, did not create facilities for stylists and barbers that would not be held to the same standards as salons and barbershops.
HSB 215 would require the Department of Public Health to adopt rules for the practice of cosmetology at such locations and create a database for the reporting and recording complaints about services performed at those locations.
The bill now goes to the full committee.
DEER DISEASE NOTED: Officials with the Department of Natural Resources say their 2020 surveillance of Iowa’s wild deer herd for the presence of chronic wasting disease has yielded 21 new positive deer and has added two new counties — Jackson and Appanoose — to the list where positive deer have been found.
The new positive deer were all from either an existing chronic wasting disease zone or adjacent to an existing zone, according to the DNR. A positive deer was taken in Jackson County just south of the existing Dubuque disease management zone, and a positive deer was taken in Appanoose County just northeast of the existing Corydon disease management zone.
To date, 111 wild Iowa deer have tested positive for the disease since 2013, when it was first discovered in the state.
A DNR map showing where the positive deer have been taken is available at iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Deer-Hunting/Deer-Disease-Information.
HYSTERECTOMY CONSENT: The House Human Resources Committee unanimously approved HF 413, which would allow women to receive a hysterectomy without spousal approval.
Rep. Eddie Andrews, R-Johnston, said he was shocked when two women said they were advised to have hysterectomies, but learned Iowa law required spousal approval.
While that might not be a problem if a woman was in a healthy marriage, Andrews said that in abusive relationships or if there were control issues the current law could prevent or delay a woman from getting the health care she needs. Hysterectomies are among the most common surgical procedures, he added.
PRISONER DIES: Kevin John McDonnell, 63, died, likely due to complications related to COVID-19 and preexisting medical conditions, on Tuesday at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
He had been incarcerated at the Newton Correctional Facility, where he was 13 years into a 25-year sentence for second-degree sexual abuse from Muscatine County. His sentence began April 25, 2008.
CONSTITUTIONAL HUNTING: A resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to guarantee Iowans’ right to hunt, fish and enjoy Iowa’s outdoors cleared a House Judiciary subcommittee.
Lawmakers are proposing constitutional protection for Iowans to “hunt, fish, trap and harvest wildlife ... subject to reasonable laws ... (and) rules adopted by the Natural Resource Commission that promote wildlife conservation and management, that maintain natural resources in trust for public use, and that preserve the future of hunting, fishing, trapping, and harvesting wildlife.”
Groups supporting conservation, hunting, fishing and trapping supported the bill. The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Iowa Sierra Club were the only groups registered in opposition. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources was “undecided.”
The Humane Society said the amendment could open up the state to frivolous lawsuits. Pheasants Forever suggested looking at the wording of Minnesota’s amendment.
If approved by the current Legislature and again in the 2023-24 session, it will be submitted to voters for ratification.
Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, filed HJR 8 to “protect our sporting traditions as well as protect the proper management of our wildlife.” An amendment is needed because “sporting traditions have been under attack for decades by various organizations that lack the knowledge of how to properly utilize and manage our wildlife resources,” he said.