Key senator confident Iowa Senate will pass bipartisan medical cannabis bill

Iowa’s current medical cannabis program sunsets on July 1, and no proposal to replace it advanced in a state House or Senate committee before the legislature’s first “funnel” deadline. However, appropriations bills are exempt from the funnel, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider confirmed today he is working with colleagues in both parties to make medical cannabis more available to Iowans suffering from a wider range of medical conditions.

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House Republican unable to answer questions about just-passed gun bill

Thanks to Matt Chapman for sharing his story. Bleeding Heartland welcomes first-person accounts of interactions with Iowa lawmakers. -promoted by desmoinesdem

At the March 11 legislative forum in Waukee with Senator Charles Schneider and Representative Rob Taylor, I wanted to talk about House File 517, as that gun bill had passed the Iowa House and been sent to the Senate.

Before the event started, I had written a more detailed version of my concerns and included an article from Michigan I had quoted to illustrate some flaws in the House version. I gave a copy of both of them to Mr. Taylor and Mr. Schneider and wanted to ask Mr. Taylor if the legislation would permit long guns to be present at political forums and polling places.

I also asked for him to explain the exemptions from the civil liabilities clause that was in the bill.

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Weekend open thread: Post-legislative funnel edition

It was a busy week in Iowa politics, as state lawmakers raced the clock before the first “funnel” deadline on Friday. With few exceptions, non-appropriations bills not yet approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee are no longer eligible for consideration during the 2017 legislative session. For roundups of which bills are alive and dead, see James Q. Lynch’s story for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register article by William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel. Bleeding Heartland covered the demise of the “personhood” bill here.

Some bills that didn’t clear the funnel may be attached to appropriations bills later. Republican State Senator Brad Zaun hopes to revive a medical cannabis proposal that way, Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register.

I enclose below Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg’s post-funnel list of the “dirty dozen” bills that Democrats are most focused on blocking during the remainder of the legislative session.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I’d especially appreciate tips on newsworthy comments from today’s legislative forums around the state. A Democrat in Muscatine asked State Representative Gary Carlson this morning whether he had any evidence of election fraud and whether he would acknowledge that the Republican voter ID proposal is a voter suppression bill. Carlson told her, “I just want the right people to vote.” Probably more honest than he meant to be. John Deeth explained the latest disenfranchising provisions House Republicans want to attach to Secretary of State Paul Pate’s bill, now named House File 516.

Final note: although it was sunny and unseasonably warm today in Des Moines, only about 100 people showed up for the “Spirit of America” rally by the Capitol building. A much larger crowd came to the Capitol on a very cold Thursday in February to march against President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” and immigration executive orders. An estimated 26,000 turned out for the Iowa Women’s March at the same venue on a Saturday morning in January.

UPDATE: Added after the jump side by side photos of the Women’s March and today’s event. SECOND UPDATE: A reader sent me his photo (taken by a drone) of the crowd at the Capitol for the “Day Without Immigrants” rally on Thursday, February 16. Added below.

Zaun was the first speaker to the pro-Trump audience today, and he noted (accurately) that he was the first Iowa Republican elected official to endorse Trump for president. He didn’t mention that he had previously declared himself “110 percent behind” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose campaign flamed out months before the Iowa caucuses. On caucus night, Trump finished third in the Senate district Zaun represents, behind Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

UPDATE: Past and future presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was back in central Iowa on March 4, attending a fundraiser for State Senator Nate Boulton, among other events. O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign had a strong organization on the east side of Des Moines, which is part of Boulton’s district. The former governor of Maryland has visited Iowa regularly since the election, including stops in Davenport to support the special election campaigns of Jim Lykam for the Iowa Senate and Monica Kurth for the Iowa House.

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"Personhood" in trouble as Iowa legislative deadline approaches

One of the anti-abortion community’s top legislative priorities, a bill declaring that life begins at conception, appears likely to perish in this week’s “funnel.” Social conservatives introduced companion “personhood” bills in the Iowa House and Senate two weeks ago. Under legislative rules, all non-appropriations bills must pass at least one committee in one chamber by March 3 in order to remain eligible for consideration this year.

However, House File 297 has not even been assigned to a House Human Resources subcommittee, and Senate File 253 appears not to have the votes to get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Key Iowa Senate Republican: "Loser pays" bill going nowhere

A Republican bill that would have made Iowa courts far less accessible to ordinary people will die in an Iowa Senate subcommittee, GOP State Senator Charles Schneider told Bleeding Heartland on February 25. Bill Brauch, former director of the Consumer Protection Division in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, explained here how the so-called “loser pays” bill “would in effect kill Iowa’s private consumer fraud law, and just about eliminate any other type of legal action by an individual against a defendant with money.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Zaun introduced Senate Study Bill 1008 during the first week of the legislative session, then assigned it to a subcommittee chaired by Schneider. Following a February 25 public forum in Clive, I asked Schneider about that bill’s status. He replied, “I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I haven’t held a subcommittee meeting for it, and I’m not planning to.”

I mentioned that Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix had named “loser pays” as one of his top four priorities in an interview with Radio Iowa. Schneider responded, “I’m not planning to hold a subcommittee meeting on it. I don’t think any other tort reform bills include a ‘loser pays’ section in them.”

Under Iowa legislative rules, most non-appropriations bills will be dead for the year if they have not cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by the first “funnel,” coming up on Friday, March 3. The leaders of subcommittees and committees have discretion on what bills to bring up for a vote.

I’m pleasantly surprised to learn Senate Study Bill 1008 will go down without a fight. Only a month and a half ago, Dix cited a “measure that ensures losers in those court cases pay for the cost associated with the case” as one of “four bills that I believe define us and give Iowans a clear indication of where we plan to go with policies for our state.” The Iowa Association of Business and Industry, a lobby group with substantial influence among statehouse Republicans, registered in favor of this bill almost immediately. Perhaps Schneider, who practices law as a day job, was able to convince non-attorneys Dix and Zaun that “loser pays” is unnecessary and unfair. Or perhaps Zaun miscalculated by putting Schneider in charge of this subcommittee.

Whatever caused this bill’s demise, any bit of good news from this dreadful legislative session is worth celebrating.

UPDATE: Reader Marian Kuper noticed that Senate Study Bill 1144 contains a “loser pays” clause for nuisance lawsuits against large livestock farms. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Dan Zumbach proposed that bill, which contains several provisions designed to shield confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from lawsuits. It has passed a subcommittee and appears likely to survive the funnel, with support from several Big Ag lobby groups.

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We all need to come together to make medical cannabis work in Iowa

Advocate Quinn Symonds shares his perspective on some medical cannabis proposals recently introduced in the state legislature. Iowa’s very limited current law, which is unworkable even for families of those suffering from seizure disorders, expires in July. Efforts to expand it failed in the Iowa House last year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’ve been asked to talk about the medical cannabis bills. There are basically two sides to watch right now. There are several bills introduced by Democrats and bills introduced by two Republicans, Iowa House Public Safety Committee Chair Clel Baudler and Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Zaun. I will be referring to Democratic State Senator Joe Bolkcom’s proposals. He has two out currently: a version of last year’s bill that failed to pass, and a “newer” version of the same bill. On the Republican side I will focus on Baudler’s bill. These bills aren’t exactly great: they are supposed to help patients, and neither would do much of that.

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