The first year of the 87th Iowa General Assembly ended early on Saturday morning, April 22. The session was historic, not only in what was accomplished but also with the efficiency of getting it done. The 2017 Session concluded in only 103 days, with Governor Terry Branstad remarking, “As a former legislator, former Lt. Governor and chief executive of the state, I’ve worked with the Legislature for 33 years. When you look at the volume and diversity of policy issues that were addressed this year, I am proud to say this has been one of the most significant and productive sessions in our history.”
When I ran for office, I promised to represent you based on four basic priorities:
- Smaller, Smarter Government;
- Protection of 2nd Amendment Rights and the unborn;
- Improving Care for Veterans;
- Encourage risk takers and renew the entrepreneurial spirit in Iowa through reform and tax incentives.
A number of these priorities were advanced this year. I will highlight some of the most important legislation, under the priorities I established when I ran for office.
Smaller, Smarter Government:
- COLLECTIVE BARGAINING REFORM: Changes to the 40-year-old collective bargaining laws create the opportunity for innovation and greater efficiency on behalf of the Iowa taxpayer.
- MEDICAL MALPRACTICE REFORM: The changes will ensure patients are protected, while reducing abuse in the system, making Iowa more attractive for physicians to set up practice. This legislation passed with bipartisan support after amendments were made to ensure patient protections.
- VOTER INTEGRITY: Improvements to the voting system in Iowa, to protect the integrity of our most sacred right.
- CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE: Tightens civil asset forfeiture law, in order to provide more protection to property owners when their property has been seized and is going through the forfeiture process.
- LIMITS ON LIVESTOCK LAWSUITS: Limits lawsuit damages in cases filed by disgruntled neighbors against livestock producers.
- WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REFORMS: Needed changes to ensure workers are protected while keeping the system affordable and sustainable for businesses that must pay for it. I worked to improve the legislation by increasing compensation for shoulder injuries, eliminating the age requirement, and removing the predominant factor standard that many felt would put workers at a disadvantage.
- BALANCED BUDGETS & ELIMINATION OF REDUNDANT PROGRAMS: In spite of lower than predicted revenue, Iowa’s budget for 2017 & 2018 will be balanced. Tough decisions were made to ensure that we live within our means while meeting important priorities. K-12 Education will see a $40 million increase in FY18, and great priority was given to protecting Community College funding. Money was also approved for a State Trooper Academy in FY18, to help replace troopers retiring soon. Redundant programs were eliminated, and Welfare Reform was initiated through a Verification System for food stamps that could save $600,000 in two years. More reforms are under review.
Protection of 2nd Amendment Rights & the Unborn:
- 2nd AMENDMENT PROTECTIONS: In the most comprehensive 2nd Amendment legislation in memory, extensive changes were made to Iowa law. Stand Your Ground protections were increased; citizens with Permits To Carry may possess concealed handguns in the Iowa Capitol after going through security screening; restrictions on firearms sales during a declared emergency were prohibited; parental authority was returned to parents in the determination of when a child can possess a handgun while under their direct supervision; a uniform permit to carry card was established, and permits to acquire were extended to five years.
- DEER RIFLES: Straight wall cartridge rifles will be permitted for deer hunting.
- STOPPING TAXPAYER FUNDING FOR ABORTION: After years of failed attempts, Iowa will now create its own family planning program. This prevents taxpayer money going to abortion providers while expanding access to care through a myriad of providers throughout the state.
- 20 WEEK ABORTION BAN: In the most comprehensive legislation to protect the unborn ever enacted in Iowa, abortions will be banned after 20 weeks, a three-day waiting period will be required prior to abortion, and the requirement for a doctor to offer a woman the opportunity to see an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of her unborn child has been strengthened.
Improving Care for Veterans:
- KIDNEY PAIRED DONOR PROGRAM: I worked with veteran Gary Schroer for three years to get this program implemented in the VA to reduce the time that veterans must wait for kidney transplants. This program was finally initiated in the VA a few months ago.
- CHAIR OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Being the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee gives me a unique opportunity to work on behalf of Iowa’s veterans. Much work remains, and I will continue to coordinate with our Congressional delegation to improve care for our warriors.
Encouraging Risk Takers & Entrepreneurs:
- DRINKS AT CRAFT DISTILLERIES: Iowa’s craft liquor distillers will be allowed to serve their product by the glass at their manufacturing facilities, a great step forward for economic development in District 18.
- FIREWORKS: Fireworks will now be legal to sell year round, and use during the period of 4th of July and New Year’s Day. Local cities and counties may opt out if they choose.
- SCHOOL FUNDING FLEXIBILITY: Some bills passed this year will give greater control to our school boards in how they run their school districts, creating the opportunity for “outside the box” creativity.
- COMPREHENSIVE TAX REFORM: In work. Stay tuned.
- WATER QUALITY: Almost got there but failed to reach an agreement with the Senate in the final hours of the session. I expect this to be passed early on in the 2018 session.
Promises were kept as we worked to advance freedom and opportunity for Iowans, based on our founding values. In my final newsletter of the session, I will discuss other important legislation passed during this historic session.