July 1, 2009 is a big day: the 4,800 residents of Windsor Heights are no longer divided by three zip codes. It couldn’t have happened without Congressman Leonard Boswell’s legislative efforts last year, and that probably wouldn’t have happened without Ed Fallon’s primary challenge. (Note: WHO’s Dave Price attended last night’s event celebrating our new zip code.)
Don’t feel left out if you’re among the 3 million Iowans who aren’t enjoying the good life in our state’s only inner-ring suburb. You too may be affected by one of the many laws that take effect today.
The Iowa House Democrats posted a partial list of these laws on their site, and Jason Hancock provided additional information at Iowa Independent, such as the margin by which these bills passed during the 2009 session. Many won unanimous approval or overwhelming bipartisan majorities in one or both chambers.
Most of the new laws are steps in the right direction for Iowa: increased foreclosure protections; $30 million in historic tax credits; expanded health care for children, low-income pregnant women and adult children under 25; broader eligibility for wind energy tax credits; more job protection for volunteer emergency providers, electronic logbooks to track pseudoephedrine sales. A few of the highlights on the House Democrats’ list deserve additional comment.
New rules for sex offenders: I’m glad that legislators replaced pointless sex offender residency restrictions that did nothing to protect children from predators, according to prosecutors as well as advocates for exploited children. Too bad nobody listened to State Representative Ed Fallon, who was the only legislator to vote against the 2002 law and got bashed for that vote during his primary challenge against Boswell (see also here). Speaking of campaigns, Chris Rants was one of only three state representatives to vote against the new sex offender law. Will he make this an issue in the gubernatorial race?
Manure application during winter: On principle I think it’s a bad idea for legislators to interfere with the rulemaking process at the Department of Natural Resources. However, amendments greatly improved this bill from the version that passed the Iowa Senate. In fact, the new law includes tougher restrictions on liquid manure application than the rules that the DNR would have eventually produced. It’s important to note that these restrictions only apply to manure from hogs. Cattle farmers face no new limits on what to do with solid manure during winter.
Consumer fraud protections: Iowans rightly no longer need permission from the Attorney General’s Office to sue some types of businesses for fraud. Unfortunately, this law contains an embarrassingly long list of exemptions.
Nursing home rules: It’s pure chutzpah for House Democrats to write, “Nursing homes will face higher fines for incidents resulting in death or severe injury.” More like, nursing homes will no longer be fined for the violations most likely to result in death or severe injury, but are subject to higher fines for offenses regulators never charge anyone with.
Let’s end this post on a positive note. The septic tank inspection law approved during the 2008 session also takes effect today. Over time these inspections will reduce water pollution produced by unsewered communities in Iowa. Credit goes to the legislators who approved this bill last year and to Governor Chet Culver. He wisely used his line-item veto to block State Senator Joe Seng’s attempt to sneak a one-year delay of the septic tank inspections into an appropriations bill.
This thread is for any thoughts about Iowa’s brand-new laws. Probably none of them will be as controversial as the public smoking ban that took effect on July 1, 2008.