Review of the 2009 Iowa legislative session (good lobbyist edition)

first in a series on the legislative session that ended on April 26

Last week I planned to highlight this editorial from the Des Moines Business Record, but I didn’t get around to it. Fortunately, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement jogged my memory today by linking to the same piece on the Iowa CCI Twitter feed.

The Business Record’s unsigned editorial advises readers to check “the list of exemptions in House File 712” if you want to know who has the best lobbyists in Iowa:

After a 19-year struggle by Attorney General Tom Miller, after all of the other 49 states took care of this issue, Iowa’s citizens are being granted the right to sue anyone who defrauds them. With some exceptions:

Insurance companies. Attorneys. Financial institutions. Doctors. Veterinarians. Architects. Banks. Retailers that advertise a product with advertising prepared by a supplier. Print publications and broadcast outlets, in connection with the ads they run. Telephone companies. Cable TV providers. Public utilities. Funeral directors. Real estate agents. Charity volunteers. Physical therapists. Optometrists. Anyone whose conduct is permitted by government. And more.

With exemptions like these, who needs the phone number of a lawyer?

Here’s a hint for Democratic legislative leaders: it’s not a good sign when even a business publication is mocking you for protecting businesses at the expense of consumers.

Seriously, what public interest is served by exempting so many industries and businesses from fraud lawsuits filed by individuals? I doubt “frivolous lawsuits” are a big problem in the 49 other states that allow consumers to seek legal remedy for alleged fraud.

The Business Record notes that the bill prevents class action lawsuits from being filed unless the Attorney General’s Office approves. It quotes the bill manager, House Representative Kurt Swaim, as saying the bill will help reduce the backlog of approximately 4,000 and 5,000 fraud complaints Iowans file with the Attorney General’s Office each year.

Swaim said he wished the bill didn’t have so many exemptions. But he said it still would allow consumers to act in the areas that draw the most complaints, such as car repair, home remodeling, debt collection and mortgage brokering.

Sorry, that’s not good enough in my opinion. I know business lobbyists spent a lot of time with Democrats at the statehouse this year, but next session legislators should listen to them a bit more skeptically.

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