Statehouse News

Iowa House of Representatives: Statehouse News– March 20, 2008


By Mary Mascher

INSIDE THIS EDITION
Surface Water Protection Act
Quitline Iowa Calls Surpass 2007
Committee Approves Defibrillator Protections
Educational Assistance Program Approved
Equity for Injured Workers' Passes the House
Natural Resources Constitutional Amendment
Civil Rights Extension Passes House
IPERS Low Administrative Cost
Subpoena Power for Civil Rights Commission
Performing Roster Applications Due April 1
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SURFACE WATER PROTECTION ACT

This week, the Senate gave final approval to House File 2400,
sending the measure to Governor Culver for his signature. The Surface
Water Protection Act is the result of a two-year watershed planning
task force and will provide a coordinated effort to clean up our lakes,
rivers, and streams.

The bill creates a Water Resources Coordinating Council within the
Governor's Office to preserve and protect Iowa's water resources and
coordinate efforts throughout the state. The success of the council's
efforts will ultimately be measured by whether Iowa citizens can more
easily organize local watershed projects; can more easily access
available funds and water quality program resources; and whether the
funds, programs, and regulatory efforts coordinated by the council
eventually result in a long-term improvement to the quality of surface
water in Iowa.

The Surface Water Protection Act calls for 56 regional watershed
assessments to be completed in five years, providing a summary of the
overall condition of Iowa's watersheds. In addition, smaller
community-based subwatershed improvement plans are to be developed and
implemented, including monitoring plans.

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QUITLINE IOWA CALLS SURPASS 2007

This week, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced
that, so far in 2008, Quitline Iowa has taken 10,015 calls from Iowans
seeking help in overcoming tobacco addiction. In a matter of 11 weeks,
the total number of calls to Quitline Iowa has topped the 2007 total of
8,760 calls. The total calls for 2007 was itself a record following the
$1 increase in the tobacco tax last spring.

The dramatic increase in call volume this year is due to a new
service being offered by the IDPH. Starting January 1st of this year,
any Iowan age 18 or older who calls Quitline Iowa can receive a free
two-week course of nicotine patches and gum, also known as nicotine
replacement therapy. For more information, visit www.quitlineiowa.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

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COMMITTEE APPROVES DEFIBRILLATOR PROTECTIONS

The House Judiciary Committee passed Senate File 505 this past
week. Senate File 505 provides protections for individuals that use an
automated external defibrillator to render emergency care to someone
experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest. Essentially, Senate File 505
extends Iowa's Good Samaritan protections to individuals using an
automated external defibrillator.

The bill protects a person who responds to what he or she
reasonably believes is a sudden cardiac arrest emergency. The bill also
extends protections to persons or entities that own or are responsible
for the premises where an automated external defibrillator is located,
but the bill, as amended, requires maintenance of a defibrillator
according to rules developed by the Department of Public Health. The
bill is now eligible for debate in the Iowa House.

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EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM APPROVED

The House Veterans Affairs Committee amended and approved Senate
File 2289, which makes changes to the war orphan educational assistance
fund. The fund was setup several years ago to help pay for college
education expenses for the children of veterans who died while serving
their country. If the person died on or after September 11, 2001,
during active federal military service and has maintained a residence
in Iowa for at least six months immediately before entering into active
military service, then the person's children are entitled to this
educational assistance benefit.

The bill set the benefit equal to no more than the current
undergraduate tuition rate at the state universities. This change will
allow the benefit to improve as tuition is increased, rather the set at
a fixed $5,500 per year. The maximum benefit is also increased from
$27,500 to a lifetime amount of no more than five times the
undergraduate tuition rate at the state universities. The benefit is
adjusted for any other state or federal financial aid or scholarships
and the student's financial need.

The bill allows the student to attend any Iowa public or private
college. Under current law, the student is limited to the state
universities or community colleges. The bill requires the child to
begin their postsecondary education before they reach age 26 and the
benefit would no longer be available when he or she reaches age 31. The
bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

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EQUITY FOR INJURED WORKERS' PASSES THE HOUSE

The first of several bills to make workers' compensation more
equitable for injured workers has passed the House. The House has
passed House Files 2542 and 2568.

House File 2568 ends the practice of compensating an injured
worker for less than they are actually paid. Currently, a worker can
only receive benefits under workers' compensation at a regular shift
rate of pay even though they may have a “shift differential” such as
being paid more for working a graveyard shift.

House File 2542 would allow workers who are employed by a company
in Iowa, but are working out-of-state, to receive workers compensation.
An Iowa Supreme Court case five years ago ruled that an employee was
not entitled to compensation even though an employee is working for a
company headquartered in Iowa, and the company pays workers'
compensation benefits under Iowa law. The court said, because the
employee works throughout the country, the employee is not entitled to
compensation.

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NATURAL RESOURCES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

This week, by a vote of 47-2, the Senate adopted a resolution to
add an amendment to Iowa's constitution to protect natural resources
and outdoor recreation funding. The bill now goes to the House Natural
Resources Committee for consideration. Senate Joint Resolution 2002
would have to pass the House this year, and pass the House and Senate
again over the next two years, before it would go on the ballot for the
general public to vote on. At the earliest, it would be on the November
2010, ballot.

Senate Joint Resolution 2002 creates a natural resources and
outdoor recreation trust fund for the purpose of protecting and
enhancing water quality and natural areas in Iowa. This would include
parks, trails, fish and wildlife habitat, and conserving agricultural
soils. Moneys in this fund can only be used for these purposes. The
intent is to credit 3/8th of 1¢ to the fund when the sales tax is
increased, which generates approximately $150 million. The Legislature
is to establish the parameters for administration of the fund.

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CIVIL RIGHTS EXTENSION PASSES HOUSE

The Iowa House of Representatives approved House File 2157 this
week. House File 2157 extends the timeframe for filing civil rights
complaints with the Iowa civil rights commission from 180 days to 300
days. The bill brings the statute of limitations for civil rights
commission claims more into line with federal requirements for filing
similar claims.

It is believed that this legislation would have a practical effect
on a relatively small number of cases. According to the Iowa civil
rights commission, only two to three cases per month would be affected
by this change. The bill must now be considered in the Iowa Senate

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IPERS LOW ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS

CEM Benchmarking Inc. released the findings of their independent
study on costs to manage retirement systems during fiscal year 2007.
The study shows that the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System's
(IPERS) costs to manage the $23 billion retirement system are about
half the median cost, making IPERS the lowest-cost provider in the
comparison group. IPERS' administration costs are $35 less than half
the median cost of $73.

IPERS has more than 310,000 members and provides pensions to
teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other government
employees. About 85,000 retirees and their beneficiaries receive
benefits from IPERS. IPERS paid out more than $1 billion in retirement
benefits during the last fiscal year. Over 88 percent of that stayed in
Iowa.

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SUBPOENA POWER FOR CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION

The House Judiciary Committee has approved Senate File 199, which
extends the Iowa civil rights commission's authority to issue subpoenas
in any investigation the commission is pursuing. Current law allows the
civil rights commission to issue subpoenas only for investigations
involving housing or real property practices. The bill is now eligible
for consideration by the entire Iowa House.

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa civil rights
commission, indicated that out of approximately 2,000 cases per year,
subpoena power would only be needed in about 30 to 40 cases.
Additionally, Rosenberg noted that just referencing the commission's
subpoena power is often enough to get reluctant parties to participate
in the process. Finally, he noted that Iowa is one of only five states
that do not grant the civil rights commission subpoena power in all
cases.

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PERFORMING ROSTER APPLICATIONS DUE APRIL 1

The deadline for individuals and groups to apply to be on the Iowa
Arts Council (IAC) teaching and performing artists rosters is April 1,
2008.

Applications and all supporting materials should be mailed to the
Iowa Arts Council at 600 E. Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
Applications and guideline information are available at www.iowaartscouncil.org.
Individuals and groups on the performing roster are available to
communities, schools and other venues. Applicants for grants often look
first to this roster when seeking performing artists.

The roster lists individuals and groups who work in a number of
disciplines including folk and traditional arts, interdisciplinary and
performance art, literature, music, music theatre, opera and theatre.
IAC compiles the teaching roster to help sponsors identify artists who
are pre-approved to work in the Artists in Schools and Communities
(AISC) program. A peer panel evaluates each roster applicant for
artistic and instructional abilities and achievements.

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