We continue with committee work as we run bills through subcommittee and committee, and we have debated a few bills on the floor of the House. The first bill that we sent to the governor for signature was what is known as the “Tax Coupling Bill”, which couples the state tax code with changes in the federal code. Included in this bill was a provision that allows small businesses to deduct the cost of equipment they buy as an expense. This provision will save Iowa small businesses money. I am glad to be able to enact this change which will strengthen our small town businesses and help create jobs.
HF 136 - Protective Order for Minors - This bill is aimed at giving parents and law enforcement a tool to protect children from sexual predators that “groom” children over a period of time to gain their trust for sexual contact. This is an insidious practice that is difficult to legislate against. The predators use what are normally considered positive contact with a child, giving them gifts, cell phones, inviting them over for a movie or pizza, and so on in order to gain the trust of the child. The behavior usually includes increasing levels of physical contact ultimately leading to the sexual offense. Often times this is done against the parents’ orders to the predator. In those cases law enforcement does not have an option to stop the unwanted behavior since none of it rises to the level of criminal activity until after the child has been sexually abused. This is of course much too late, the damage to the child’s emotional wellbeing is done.
This bill attempts to establish a form of Protective Order wherein a parent can go before a judge and ask for a restraining order against the predator. The judge has the option to write the restraining order to suit the situation, allowing flexibility in the process. This will not be an easy bill to pass. The order needs to be issued before a crime is committed, making it difficult to apply a strict standard of conduct, leaving it open to abuse by people trying to use the law for frivolous purposes. The bill was discussed in subcommittee on Feb. 11 with considerable opposition from groups such as the Iowa Bar Association and the ACLU. We will use these groups to help perfect the language in the bill.
Other Bills of Note
HF 13 - School Start Date - A bill to modify the school start date requirement has been in committee since early in the session. This has been a fairly hot topic. The initial bill was to allow the schools to start anytime they wish in August instead of the current requirement to start the week that includes Sept. 1st. This week the bill was amended to allow the schools to start after August 23rd, an acceptable alternative in my view because that puts the start date after the Iowa State Fair is over. The bill as amended passed the House Education Committee and now goes to the floor of the House for debate.
As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and concerns about our state government.