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On Saturday, February 15 2020 I had the opportunity to participate in the Sigourney Listening Post hosted by Iowa State Rep Jarad Klein (a Republican) and Iowa State Senator Kevin Kinney (a Democrat.)
In order to prepare, I used the Iowa Legislature Tracker to identify all of the bills that Kinney and Klein had sponsored. The tracker has a handy tool that lets you filter the list of bills before the 88th General Assembly (GA) and then download it as an Excel sheet.
HF473, “a bill for an act relating to turtle harvesting season”, Klein states he got involved in this several years ago. Some Googling shows HF2357/Chapter 1024 that created the turtle harvesting season from the 2016 Iowa Acts was approved near-unanimously, with the exception of Klein.
I then marked up the bills with information ones I liked, ones I was neutral about, and ones I wanted to do more research on. Here’s a screenshot of what some of that data looked like:
I wasn’t sure if there would be a Q&A but I was looking forward to asking about at least one of these bills if I got the opportunity.
Senate File 7
SF7 modifies Section 742.2A and 742.4B (accessible at the same link) in the 2019 Iowa Code in order to insert an exemption to the rule that prohibits carrying firearms by peace officers. What is especially interesting is that this exemption applies to peace officers who are not certified by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) and whether or not it applies in the course of their jobs! If you’re not a peace officer and you carry a firearm on school grounds you’re committing a class “D” felony. As the bill explanation notes:
A class “D” felony is punishable by confinement for no more than five years and a 35 fine of at least $750 but not more than $7,500
Senator Kevin Kinney is a former law enforcement officer himself, so I was interested to see his take on this bill.
House File 473
Another bill I was curious about was HF473. This bill, introduced by House Rep Jarad Klein, eliminates the turtle harvesting season. Previously, you could only harvest snapping turtles year-round. Otherwise, there was a harvesting season and daily catch limits for other types of turtles.
HF473 eliminates those rules. A 2017 article by Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) explains the importance of the turtle harvest and also lays out the rules that season – I’m assuming they haven’t changed much but can’t guarantee that:
A harvest season and catch limits will help protect Iowa’s harvestable turtle breeding populations and the survival of these sensitive species.
The harvest season for spiny softshell, smooth softshell and painted turtles is open now until May 14. It will be closed after that date and reopen again on July 16, 2017.
The commercial common snapping turtle season is open now until May 14. It will be closed after that date and reopen again on July 16, 2017. The recreational common snapping turtle season is open all year.
[daily catch limit info removed]
Turtle eggs cannot be taken from wild nests. Turtles cannot be harvested from traps set before midnight on July 15. Turtle harvesters cannot sort, cull, high-grade, or replace any turtle in their possession.
When the DNR calls these sensitive species it makes sense to protect them. HF473 does include provisions “a review of the status of the turtle population in the state by 33 region, in cooperation with appropriate organizations and in 34 accordance with sound fish and wildlife management principles” by the Natural Resource Commission, but in 3 years the turtle population could be decimated by over-harvesting.
Other Bills in the Iowa Legislature
There were several bills that I was in favor of, sponsored by Klein and Kinney (among other legislators.)
These bills include:
- SF190 – Introduces a home modification grant program for seniors with disabilities and allocates $600,000 for it
- SF2064 – The Protect Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act – prevents insurers from denying people coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions
- SF2069 – Allows for electronic voter registration
- SF2083 – Allows property tax reductions for seniors who make under $8000 per year
- SF2098 – Creates a direct care database, tuition grant, loan repayment
- SF2099 – Allocates $180,000 to each Area Agency on Aging to explore congregate meal programs
- SF2110 – Increases child care assistance up to 200% FPL by 2025
- SF223 – Prohibits discrimination based on talking about salary, and allows employees to request salary information
- SF2238 – Protects tenants from unfair eviction and requires 6 month notice period for rent increases
- SF433 – Requires colleges to identify Open Educational Resources (OER) in colleges
- HF476 – Increases solar tax credits to $10m
- HF2065 – Sets out the schedule for awarding Iowa Economic Development Authority grants under Code section 15.335B
So there’s a lot to like about these bills that have been put forward.
Engaging with the Legislators
We were seated in the County Supervisor’s room at the Keokuk County Courthouse – a room I’d not actually been in before. There was seating for 15 people, and we needed every seat!
We went around one by one and each individual present raised issues. These included:
- EMS as an Essential Service (SF55)
- County responsibility for the medical bills of prisoners
- Guardian ad Litem (GAL) not being available to those 14 and over who are testifying in court
- Education funding – Sigourney will receive $164,000 more from the Supplemental State Aid (SSA) fund than previously
- The difficulty in recruiting police officers
- Early Childhood Iowa (ECI)’s plan to build a childcare center
- Increasing medical marijuana limits, currently at 4.5g THC every 90 days
- Tax equality between banks and credit unions
- Property tax relief
- A bill that would require hotel/motel staff receive training on recognizing and intervening in human trafficking
- A bill that would prohibit high schools from hosting athletic events on caucus nights, so that students can participate
I asked my question about HF473 (the turtle harvesting). Rep Jarad Klein explained that the DNR instituted the season a few years ago due to concerns about over-harvesting, but the local professional trappers have told him that the turtle population is fine. He requested DNR study the issue, but they refused. (Perhaps there was more to it, but these are the bullet points.)
The net result was that he brought the bill in to remove the harvesting season.
For reasons of time, I did not ask Senator Kinney about SF7, but since I understand that both Rep Jarad Klein and Senator Kevin Kinney email regularly with their constituents, I may ask this question then.