Capitol Update

April 17, 2023

Week Fourteen Recap

Fairfield Legislative Forum

Thank you to the folks at Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce for hosting the legislative forum last weekend. I appreciated the thoughtful questions of the audience and the opportunity to connect with some of you!

I enjoyed chatting with Pastor Darren Melton of Gateway Nazarene Church in Oskaloosa while he was at the Capitol for a prayer gathering. Pictured with him are two young men from my area who were at the Capitol for Iowa's TeenPact Leadership Schools class.

Through dynamic leadership experiences, TeenPact seeks to inspire youth in their relationship with Christ and train them to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend the Christian faith, and engage the culture around them.

This week, they experienced prayer walks in the Capitol, mock legislature sessions, discussions about current issues, a mock subcommittee with legislators, and more- all with a focus on Christ and making an impact for His kingdom.

Learn more about TeenPact here.

Visit with Iowa's Treasurer

Representative Brad Sherman and I had the opportunity to visit with Iowa's State Treasurer, Roby Smith, and learn more about what his office does for our state.

The Treasurer is the State’s chief financial officer, depositing and investing State funds while also ensuring they are available when needed. The Treasurer serves as trustee and custodian of Iowa’s three state pension funds and invests billions of dollars in State operating funds. Additionally, the Treasurer is also responsible for administering various consumer programs such as College Savings Iowa (CSI), the IAdvisor 529 Plan, the State’s Achieving a Better Life Experience (IABLE) plan, and the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt unclaimed property program. Learn more at  

Iowa Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Heartbeat Law

This past Tuesday morning the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides of the issue on the abortion debate. Iowa’s “Heartbeat Law” was originally passed in 2018, but was blocked when the Iowa Supreme Court placed a “strict scrutiny” standard on laws limiting abortion. “Strict scrutiny” is the highest standard of review which a court will use to evaluate the constitutionality of governmental discrimination. The Heartbeat Law would protect preborn babies from abortion when their heartbeats can be detected. 

In 2022, the Court overturned the strict scrutiny standard, opening the door to reconsider the Heartbeat Law decision. The oral arguments heard this week were just part of the process of reviewing this case and eventually a decision. 

What the Court ultimately decides will not only determine the future enforcement of this particular law, but will also serve to set a judicial precedent for how the Court will handle future cases along this same vein. We know this is not the first case of its kind, nor will it be the last. The right to life in the womb will continue to be challenged. 

I was honored to sign on to The Family Leader’s legal brief defending the Heartbeat Law and life inside the womb along with over 70 other legislators. I will always stand on the side of life at all ages and stages- from conception to natural death. Please continue to stay engaged and involved in this issue, it is of utmost importance! 

Read The Family Leader’s article here. 

Watch the full oral arguments here. 

I was able to snap a photo with Alan Ostergren, one of the attorneys who presented oral arguments in support of the Heartbeat Law. Alan is the President and Chief Counsel of the Kirkwood Institute.

What are Administrative Rules?

What is an administrative rule, and how is it different from a bill, law, or code? 

Administrative rules are often written to define and describe how legislation will be implemented and enforced. They essentially “flesh out” the policies and procedures needed to carry out the intent of a piece of legislation that has been signed into law. Administrative Rules also determine some practices or procedures for state agencies. 

The rulemaking process includes four main steps, and requires: 

• Public notice from agencies regarding their intent to adopt rules, including the proposed text of the rules.

• An opportunity for the public to offer comments on proposed rules. 

• A limited opportunity for both the Governor and the General Assembly to exercise oversight over the rulemaking process. 

• A publication process to widely distribute final rules and to provide for the codification of the rules.

Administrative rules are mostly proposed by agencies of the Executive Branch of the state and others, such as the Department on Aging, Corrections Department, Natural Resources Department, etc. These rules govern their specific agencies and the jurisdiction of those agencies. 

In contrast, a bill is a proposed law presented by an individual legislator or group of legislators. A law is legislation that has been passed by both the House and Senate and has been signed by the Governor. The Iowa Code refers to the compiled document of all current laws. 

What can administrative rules cover? 

According to the Legislative Services Agency, the Iowa Supreme Court has stated that “an administrative agency does not have any independent lawmaking power. An agency has only that authority which is either expressly or by necessary implication delegated to that agency by statute.” An agency also cannot use its rulemaking authority to expand its scope of authority. 

Oversight of the rulemaking process: 

The rulemaking process is overseen by multiple government entities including the General Assembly, Governor, and Attorney General. 

General Assembly (Legislature). Agencies do not have independent rulemaking authority, they only have the authority which is delegated to them by an act of the General Assembly. The General Assembly can modify or restrict an agency’s rulemaking authority in general or as it relates to a particular subject by

enactment of regular legislation. The General Assembly can also nullify any rule through a joint resolution approved by both chambers.

Governor. The Governor holds the "supreme executive power" in Iowa under the Iowa Constitution and has a constitutional mandate to direct the operations of the executive branch.

Administrative Rules Coordinator (ARC). The ARC is established in the Governor’s office and provides the Governor with direct control and oversight of the rulemaking process. The ARC generally advises the Governor on rulemaking matters, assigns ARC numbers to all rule filings for tracking purposes, and facilitates the Governor’s review of rule filings. Notices of intended action are approved by the ARC before publication in the Iowa Administrative Bulletin (IAB).

Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC). This legislative committee provides general oversight of the rulemaking process on behalf of the whole General Assembly.

Attorney General. The Attorney General maintains an attorney-client relationship with agencies and advises them on rulemaking matters. In addition to providing legal advice, the Attorney General can object to rules and object to the use of certain emergency rulemaking procedures.

Read more about rulemaking oversight here. 

Read more about administrative rules here.

Large Animal Veterinarians

House File 670, which passed the House this week, proposes some changes to Iowa’s regulations on the practice of veterinary medicine. In the wake of a shortage of large animal veterinarians in our agriculturally focused state, this legislation seeks to address some key points of the issue. 

Why does Iowa lack large animal veterinarians, especially in rural areas? Based on research from Iowa State University, some factors could include long hours, emergency duties, or lack of time off. Large animal veterinary work includes much more intense physical labor than a regular clinical practice, and many students who grew up on Iowa farms want to try something new and different when they graduate college. There is also a perception that rural veterinary practice will pay significantly less, but the data from this research shows that, at the time of writing, close to 80% of Iowa veterinary clinics were offering a starting salary of at least $70,000 a year. Another factor considered was the draw of a city or suburb lifestyle as opposed to a rural lifestyle. 

Under current law, a person may not practice veterinary medicine in the State unless the person is a licensed veterinarian or has a valid temporary permit issued by the Board of Veterinary Medicine. The Board issues certificates to veterinary medicine students who have been certified by an instructor to practice veterinary medicine. In addition, a veterinary assistant employed by a licensed veterinarian may be certified to practice veterinary medicine, except for diagnosing,

prescribing, or performing surgery, if the veterinary assistant has met educational, experience, and testing requirements established by the Board. 

The bill proposes that a licensed veterinarian may act as a supervising veterinarian exercising differing levels of supervision according to rules determined by the Board based on the situation and personnel. The veterinary auxiliary personnel category would include (1) a registered veterinary technician who has graduated from an accredited veterinary technology program, received a passing score on a national veterinarian technician examination, and is issued a certificate of registration by the board; (2) a veterinary technician student attending an accredited technology program; (3) a veterinary assistant subject to qualifications established by the board; (4) a veterinary student attending an accredited college of veterinary medicine; and (5) a graduate of a foreign college of veterinary medicine. 

HF670 also proposes a few language changes, including changes to the definition of “practice of veterinary medicine” to include veterinary acupuncture, acutherapy, acupressure, manipulative therapy based on techniques of osteopathy and chiropractic medicine, or other similar therapies as specified by the Board of Veterinary Medicine. This definition excludes any form of animal massage. It also expands the definition of “livestock” to include flocks of poultry. 

In conclusion, this legislation seeks to fill some of the gaps in the need for large animal vets in rural Iowa by expanding the scope of those allowed to practice under the supervision of a licensed veterinary professional. As always, I welcome comments, questions, and feedback from my constituents. You are welcome to email me at or leave a message for me on the Capitol switchboard at 515.281.3221.

House Page Appreciation Day

On Wednesday we recognized the House Pages, who have faithfully served our chamber through their work! Thank you to all the wonderful young people who have taken a part of their school year to be here with us.

Welfare Reform Legislation Passes

This week, the Iowa House passed Senate File 494 to implement reasonable accountability measures to Iowa’s public assistance programs. This bill has taken many forms throughout the legislative process as we’ve sought feedback from Iowans. Here’s what is in the final bill, now headed to the Governor’s desk.

  1. Requires welfare applicants to complete a computerized identity authentication process to confirm their identity prior to receiving benefits.
  2. Requires applicants’ assets to be reviewed prior to enrollment in SNAP. Specifically, this bill sets those asset limits at $15,000 liquid assets for the household, and allows for one vehicle to have unlimited value, and a second vehicle to be up to $10,000 of value. Household items like clothes or TVs don’t count toward someone’s liquid assets. To be clear, this portion of the bill only applies to SNAP, not to Medicaid.
  3. Requires the state to check all income, employment, and financial institutions to ensure that applicants for welfare programs meet all eligibility criteria for those programs.
  4. Requires a more efficient, user-friendly eligibility system to be in place by July 1, 2025. This very necessary IT upgrade will benefit all those who apply for assistance.
  5. Makes cooperation with child support services a condition of eligibility for Medicaid.
  6. This is estimated to save the state $8 million and the federal government $42 million annually beginning in FY2027. There are initial costs to implement the IT upgrades and for more workers to ensure Iowans receive the child support they are due.
  7. Opponents of this legislation say there is no fraud in the system, however, Iowa has been penalized $1.8 million by the federal government for having an error rate 3.2% higher than the national average. Additionally, in FY2022, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals found 2,761 founded investigations of SNAP overpayment.

The state still faces significant workforce challenges. Our goal is always to strike a balance - provide assistance to those truly in need without incentivizing able-bodied, working age Iowans to remain on government assistance rather than re-enter the workforce.

Firearms in Vehicles

This week, the Iowa House passed the “Parking Lot Carry Bill.” This bill, if made law, would allow law-abiding citizens to carry a loaded firearm in their vehicle on most publicly owned property. Let’s break down the sections of this bill along with who and what it applies to: 

Division 1- Firearms in locked vehicles 

  • Allows anyone who can legally carry a firearm to keep that firearm in their locked vehicle on any public property. The firearm must be out of sight and the vehicle must be locked. 
  • If a firearm is left in a vehicle at a prison or jail the vehicle must be in a non-secure parking lot of the facility. 
  • Public parking areas include those operated by the state, county, city, or township. 
  • This division does not apply to a parking lot at a facility owned or operated by the National Guard. 

Division 2- Firearms in vehicles transporting foster children 

  • The Department of Health & Human Services currently does not permit foster families to carry firearms in their vehicle unless they are unloaded and the firearm and ammunition are locked separately. This is not a federal requirement. 
  • The Department DOES currently allow families to carry loaded firearms when out with foster children. 
  • The bill strikes the DHHS rule and ensures that foster families can legally carry firearms inside their vehicles. 

Division 3- Firearms on School Property 

  • Would allow a person to possess a firearm in their vehicle if they are dropping off or picking up someone from a school building. 
  • A person driving a school vehicle cannot have a firearm in the passenger compartment unless authorized by the school. 
  • This bill would allow a qualified retired law enforcement officer to carry a firearm on school grounds. This is allowed for current law enforcement officers already. 

Division 4- Regents Universities and College Campuses 

  • Would allow a person to keep a firearm in their vehicle on a community college campus or a regents university campus. The vehicle must be locked and the firearm stored out of sight. 
  • Law enforcement officers and those authorized by the school (such as competitive shooting sports teams, campus security, criminal justice classes, etc) would still be able to carry firearms on the campus as before. 

Division 5- Insurance Coverage 

  • Requires commissioner of insurance to adopt rules to prohibit an authorized insurer from denying property and casualty insurance to a school based solely on the school authorizing a person to carry a firearm on school grounds. 

Division 6- Guns in Vehicles on Public Highways 

  • The bill clarifies any confusion on the issue of firearms in vehicles on public highways and ensures that law-abiding citizens can have a loaded firearm in their vehicle on public highways. 

Division 7- Carrying Firearms on Snowmobiles and ATVs 

  • Under current law, a person cannot carry a loaded firearm on their snowmobile or ATV. 
  • This bill strikes that law, but specifies that no one can shoot from either machine. 
  • There is an exception for non-ambulatory persons (someone with a condition that significantly impacts their mobility). These folks would be able to fire a gun while lawfully hunting from their snowmobile or ATV as long as they are not operating or riding the machine. 

Division 8- Casinos and Gambling Facilities 

  • Strikes rules that ban firearms in casinos statewide. Casinos still have the freedom to prohibit firearms but each business must make their own policy. 

Division 9- Eligibility to Carry Weapons 

  • This section addresses some consistency issues in the current Iowa Code surrounding this issue. 
  • Clarifies the definitions of “carry” and “possess” in relation to firearms and who is allowed to carry vs. possess. 
  • Returns the power of removing people from the National Criminal Background Check System to the Department of Public Safety. This power has previously only been held by the courts. 
  • Makes it clear that a person can possess a firearm on their own property even if they do not qualify for a permit to carry. 

Iowans just passed a constitutional amendment to protect their right to bear arms by over 65%. Iowans have spoken loud and clear. With this bill, we are listening to Iowans and eliminating needless regulations on law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms.

Raw Milk Bill Passes

The bill to legalize the sale of raw milk by small farms in Iowa has passed both the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk to be signed. Here is an outline of what the bill does:

 *  Raw milk may be distributed by a dairy with 10 cows or less.

 *  Dairy farmers would have to test cows on a monthly basis for coliform and standard plate counts, and have yearly vet visits on each cow including a blood test.

 *  Raw milk producers would only be able to take orders from individuals (not businesses or stores) and the order must be made at the dairy.

 *  Health records of the dairy animals must be public and maintained for 3 years.

 *  Raw milk producers may deliver raw milk to the individual.

 *  The consumer may not resell the raw milk.

 *  The raw milk must be in a container that is labeled with the words "raw milk"

 *  If made law, any person who violates the bill's provisions would be guilty of a simple misdemeanor.

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