2019 Legislative Recap
WEEK #15: April 22nd-26th
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
On April 23rd, Representative Andy McKean left the Republican caucus and joined the Democratic caucus. He was allowed a point of privilege at the end of the day, which was when he announced his move publicly. He noted, “The legislature is considerably more partisan and regimented than it used to be. I have found that difficult to adjust to and believe it often stands in the way of good legislation. I’m also concerned by the increasing influence big money is having on the legislative process.” He also explained, “With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party. Unfortunately, that is something I’m unable to do.” This move tightens the balance in the House to R’s 53 to D’s 47.
The 88th General Assembly came to a close midafternoon on Saturday, April 27th. They tried to power through on Friday but the House stood at ease for 10 hours, into Saturday morning and then adjourned. There were a few major bills that were bouncing back and forth that were preventing a Sine Die. (adjourn) There were also many bills that were thrown overboard that were not allowed to complete the process. The legislators could be paid until May 3rd so for those who had bills that did not make it, it was frustrating to see an early close.
Here is a final wrap up of the bills of interest to IFA:
BILLS GOING TO THE GOVERNOR:
HF 694 EMS COMPACT
Establishes an EMS licensure compact. Includes various provisions on EMS licensing, use of fees and for states to recognize licensing from another state. Makes the Department of Public Health the lead agency. Becomes effective when ten states have approved the compact.
The House PASSED the bill 96-0
The Senate PASSED the bill 50-0
HF 779 TAX MATTERS, DIVISION IIIV
Extending the firefighter tax check-off was added to this bill for two more years. We hope you are all using this check-off when filing your taxes. They evaluate the use of these check-offs every year as they only allow a small number of them. If they are not being used, they will remove your check-off and let another organization have it.
SF 377-TORT LIABILITY FOR NON-PROFITS
This bill now gives tort liability immunity coverage to all non-profit fire and ambulance service departments in Iowa. Other departments that have city or county contracts are currently covered through their contracts or 28E agreements, but non-profits did not have this coverage. There are many of these in our state and we feel ALL first responders should be covered equally. Please thank Senator Schultz (Jason.email@example.com) and Representative Bergan Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org) for pushing this legislation through. It could have easily been set aside from the final step in the HOUSE like many bills were at the end but with our gentle persuasion they agreed to get it to the floor. Now we need the Governor to sign it. We have requested a bill signing in her office but have not heard if that will happen. The Senate PASSED the bill 49-0.
The House PASSED the bill 98-0
SSB1052 ALL IOWA SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SURVIVING FIREFIGHTER CHILDREN
This bill modified the age requirements for eligibility for this scholarship program. The bill changed stating the surviving child of a peace officer, firefighter, sheriff or deputy sheriff be under the age of 26 or under 30 if the child is a veteran to be eligible. The current law was 23 years to be eligible.
SF 615 JUSTICE APPROPRIATIONS-Public Safety Survivor Benefits Fund (Division VII)
- b A public safety survivor benefits fund will be established in the state treasury under the control of the department. The department will deliver 50% in the form of grants to nonprofit organizations that provide resources to assist surviving families of eligible firefighters killed in the line of duty for paying costs associated with accident or health care coverage.
The Senate started the Justice Appropriations process by approving SF 615 and sent it to the House. In addition to the $825,520 allocated for the training we asked for additional funding of $50,000 to help close the gap for the firefighter training bureau that was caused by the unforeseen increase of rent at Iowa State. ISU raised the rent from $60,000 annually to $112,000 in one year. When the House received this bill, the House did a complete “strike after” basically throwing the entire bill away and inserting their version. Their version did not include a line item for additional dollars for the training bureau to help with the rent variation. When this bill made it back to the Senate, we approached the Justice Appropriations committee chairs (Garrett, Nunn, and Hogg) with an amendment to add the $50,000-line item back into the bill. We were told a deal had been struck and there was nothing they could do. The amendment was brought up anyway on the floor by Ranking Member, Senator Hogg (who may be reached at email@example.com). He gave heartfelt comments about helping the firefighters, but the amendment to add the $50,000 failed. A big thanks to all of you who acted to the CALL TO ACTION response when you were notified that this funding was voted out. Constituents notified all Senators who voted NO to the amendment to put it back in the Justice Appropriations bill SF 615. Your voice was heard. This action helped us to get the funding into another bill before the session was over. See STANDINGS BILL SF 638 below.
SF 638 STANDINGS APPROPRIATIONS
Senator Kapucian (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Senator Brietbach (Michael.email@example.com) were instrumental in attaching the $50,000 line item into the Standings bill. Getting action on this will ensure that more dollars will be used for firefighter training and not for rent and infrastructure needs.
We have been helping the Bureau Chief identify potential options for other
locations in order to find a more cost-effective site for the training bureau.
BILLS PLACED ON UNFINISHED BUSINESS CALENDAR:
SF 442 EMERGENCY RESPONDER
Relates to uses of authorized emergency vehicles
SF 478 USE OF LIGHTS ON EMERGENCY VEHICLES
Relates to the proper use of lights on emergency vehicles.
BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS
HF 558 and SF 55 are bills that dealt with expanding EMS service in either a county or a township. The new bill that limits the way communities can raise taxes SF 634 unfortunately replaced these bills.
SSB 1171/HSB 190 PEACE OFFICERS BILL OF RIGHTS
This is an act relating to the peace officer, public safety, and emergency personnel bill of rights.
HF 711 LENGTH OF SERVICE AWARD
This bill relates to establishing a length of service award program for volunteer firefighters who complete a number of years of service. This legislation needs lots of work to figure out how the funds can be collected and managed. We are researching other states and talking with a variety of resources to find a solution to make it work.
To read these bills go to:
Click on: LEGISLATION
Under BILLS on the right-hand side, enter the number of the bill, click GO
and you will see the bill.
REMEMBER: As an Iowa Firefighter you still get the $100 tax credit you can claim when you file your taxes, and DON’T FORGET the firefighter check off. Your family and friends can check the “firefighter check-off” too!
We look forward to working with you over the off-session to plan the legislative agenda for next year. Please connect with your legislators over the summer to ask for their support, not only at local fundraisers for your department but also at the Capitol for important legislation that is needed for the work you do!
John & Cyndi Pederson