Iowa Senate passes major gun bill: what changed, plus debate highlights

Legislation to make sweeping changes to Iowa’s gun laws is headed back to the state House, after the Senate approved an amended version of House File 517 on Tuesday.

All 29 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, joined by Democrats Chaz Allen, Tod Bowman, Rich Taylor, and Wally Horn. The other sixteen Democratic senators and independent David Johnson voted against it. (Taylor and fellow Democrat Kevin Kinney had backed the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Kinney voted against final passage on the floor.)

Follow me after the jump for details on what changed and stayed the same in the omnibus gun bill, as well as highlights from the Senate debate.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa legislative news roundup

The Iowa legislature’s second “funnel” deadline passed on March 31. In theory, aside from appropriations bills, any legislation that hasn’t yet cleared one chamber and at least one committee in the other chamber is no longer eligible for consideration for this year. However, leaders can resurrect “dead” bills late in the session or include their provisions in appropriations bills. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel reviewed important bills that did or did not make it through the funnel. James Q. Lynch and Rod Boshart published a longer list in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

This paragraph caught my eye from the Register’s story.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said everything that lawmakers are doing is a reflection of learning from states where prosperity is occurring as a result of business-friendly policies. That formula includes low-cost government, innovative public services, and easing regulatory burdens on businesses to spur job creation and to allow Iowa companies to compete in a global marketplace, he added.

Not so much: Republicans following a similar playbook drove Kansas and Louisiana into the ground. Wisconsin has performed poorly in employment growth, poverty reduction, household income, and wages compared to neighboring Minnesota, where corporate interests didn’t capture state government.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I enclose below links and clips about bills I haven’t had time to write about yet. Two are “business-friendly” policies that will hurt Iowans suffering because of exposure to asbestos or medical malpractice. One would make local governments and first responders less accountable by excluding all “audio, video and transcripts of 911 calls involving injured victims of crimes or accidents” from Iowa’s open records law.

Quick update on House File 484, the bill to dismantle the Des Moines Water Works: once seen as almost a sure thing due to covert support from the Iowa Farm Bureau, the bill was on the House debate calendar for many days in March but never brought to the floor. Majority Leader Chris Hagenow put House File 484 on the “unfinished business” calendar on March 30, after House Republicans voted down a Democratic motion to exclude it from that list.

Opponents of the Water Works bill have become more confident lately, as several GOP representatives and senators have said privately they oppose the legislation. In addition, a Harper Polling survey commissioned by the Water Works showed that 68 percent of respondents oppose disbanding independent water works boards in Des Moines, West Des Moines, and Urbandale in order to give city councils control over the water utility. The same poll indicated that by a 55 percent to 23 percent margin, respondents said an independent board of trustees rather than the city council is “best qualified to manage your local water utility.” By an 88 percent to 5 percent margin, respondents said “people who live in the community” and not the state legislature should have “the final say” on municipal utilities. No one should be complacent, because powerful forces are behind this legislation. Republican leaders could attach Water Works language to must-pass budget bills.

P.S.- The legislature is supposed to wrap up its business this month and adjourn for the year before the end of April. I suspect that even with unified Republican control, the session will go into overtime. Lawmakers haven’t finalized budget targets for the 2018 fiscal year yet. With less money to go around following the recent downgrade in revenue forecasts, and legislators of both parties calling for a review of increasingly expensive tax credits and exemptions, I expect several more weeks of behind the scenes negotiations before the House and Senate are ready to approve appropriations bills.

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Former police officer comments on "Stand Your Ground" law

Gun owner and retired police officer David Grussing comments on House File 517, which cleared the Iowa House last week and the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m writing in response to the efforts by the Republicans in both chambers of the Iowa legislature to relax Iowa’s already limited common sense gun safety measures. Their efforts, if enacted, will result in new “Stand Your Ground” legislation and making the permit process for carrying a weapon virtually worthless.

I can almost see the Republican heads shaking and thinking, “Here’s another gun hating Democrat who wants to take our guns away and repeal the 2nd Amendment.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, I am a Democrat, but I own several handguns, a couple of rifles, and a shotgun. In addition, I served as a police officer for about 25 years, with about 17 of those years as a detective who carried a concealed weapon as part of my daily routine.

I also was a candidate for the District 7 seat in the Iowa House last year. During that campaign, I knocked on about 4,500 doors throughout the district and conducted dozens of public appearances, including about ten candidate forums with my opponent, State Representative Tedd Gassman. Not once, during any candidate forum, public appearance, or conversation on a door step, did anyone tell me that they thought Iowa’s gun laws were too strict and needed to be relaxed. It’s worth mentioning that District 7, which is comprised of Emmet, Winnebago, and parts of Kossuth counties, is exactly the kind of rural, conservative District that Democrats have had difficulty connecting with.

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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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What you need to know about the bill that will get more Iowans killed

Voting mostly along party lines, the Iowa House approved on March 7 a bill containing many items on the gun lobby’s wish list. House File 517 would make it easier for Iowans to acquire, carry, and use firearms, relaxing permitting rules, expanding where people can bring concealed weapons, and enacting “Stand Your Ground” language. The bill is certain to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate, due to the heavy involvement of pro-gun groups in defeating several Democratic incumbents last year. Governor Terry Branstad has never seen a gun bill he didn’t like, so will surely sign House File 517 when it reaches his desk.

The most important likely result will be more shootings of unarmed people by Iowans newly entitled to use deadly force, without having to demonstrate that any person was in danger, or that the shooter had valid reason to feel threatened. Other states that adopted “Stand Your Ground” legislation have experienced a documented increase in homicides, with no evidence of deterrence effects. After Florida enacted a law similar to what the Iowa House just passed, “there was an abrupt and sustained increase in the monthly homicide rate of 24.4% […] and in the rate of homicide by firearm of 31.6% […].”

As State Representative Ras Smith underscored by putting on a hoodie during the Iowa House debate, African-Americans will be at particular risk, since research indicates “Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings.”

More tragedies may also occur in Iowa municipal offices, thanks to provisions making it harder for cities and counties to ban weapons from government buildings.

I enclose below some highlights from yesterday’s debate and details on House File 517. Because gun advocates continue to spread misinformation in order to build a case for “Stand Your Ground,” I also included relevant language from current state law and an Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

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New Iowa Senate Republican gun bill is unconstitutional as well as unwise

Pro-gun advocates spent a lot of money to help Republicans gain control of the Iowa Senate in last year’s elections. The GOP majority will likely move several of the gun lobby’s legislative priorities soon, including so-called “Stand Your Ground,” an amendment to Iowa’s constitution establishing the right to keep and bear arms, and relaxed rules on concealed carry permits and youth firing of handguns.

If they are smart, Republicans who venerate the Second Amendment will steer clear of State Senator Jake Chapman’s new bill, which would trample on the First Amendment and prevent potentially life-saving conversations.

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