Week 14 of the 87th Iowa General Assembly was busy and productive, highlighted by the annual Iowa Prayer Breakfast, significant progress on completing budgets, the passage of necessary legislation, and a House Resolution unanimously passed designating May 26th as John Wayne Day in Iowa.
Relevant legislation passed includes:
- SF 446, creating greater protections for citizens in the civil asset forfeiture process;
- SF 404, which allows manufacturers of investigational drugs to make them available to eligible patients with terminal illness;
- HF 20/SF 238, increasing protections for our students against sexual exploitation by a school employee; and
- HF 410, which places Palmer Amaranth on the noxious weed list of invasive plants that are prohibited to import, sell or distribute in Iowa.
SF 234 also passed the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk. The bill makes texting and driving a primary offense. I voted against this legislation, but not because I believe that texting while driving is OK. Having spent four years in law enforcement, I have several requirements to be met related to public safety legislation before I can support adding new laws to the books. This bill did not meet those benchmarks for several reasons.
In the late 1990s, while I was serving as a Deputy Sheriff, I was hit from behind by someone distracted by tuning his radio while driving. I was in my new patrol car. Distractions that can cause a driver to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, including eating, adjusting radios, interactions with other passengers, putting on makeup; the list goes on and on. I believe that while texting is a relatively new distraction, it is one of many, and attempting to legislate fixes to the myriad of distractions that can occur while operating a vehicle is problematic. Additionally, the phone can still be used as a GPS device and for phone calls, making the law virtually unenforceable.
I believe that the Iowa Code, already filling six large volumes, will become onerous indeed if we continue to attempt to legislate away every unwise decision that can be made by our citizens. It is for these reasons that I did not support SF 234.
I anticipate we will complete our work next week and adjourn for the year. While issues can always arise unexpectedly, we made considerable progress in setting budgets that ensure we spend within our means. The budgets will be tight, and challenging cuts are necessary, but Iowa will meet its most important priorities while maintaining a balanced budget that is in the best interest of all our citizens. Funding for K-12 Education, Community Colleges, and State Troopers were a high priority for many members of the Republican caucus and me. We have fought for the best possible funding for these critical areas.
As I write this newsletter, I have just attended the yearly Iowa Prayer Breakfast, a time of reflection and prayers for our state and nation. Yesterday, all Democrats and Republicans came together in passing a Resolution recognizing May 26th, the birthday of John Wayne, as John Wayne Day in Iowa. The bill recognizes his embodiment of patriotism and strength. As a co-sponsor of this resolution, I am personally gratified to be a part of this brief bi-partisan moment, in recognition of a great American whose influence in my life resulted in a 20-year career in the Marine Corps. Iowa is a great place to live, and our citizens continue to reflect the values that produced a great nation.