A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Feb. 10, 2020:
NO MICROCHIPPING: The House Judiciary Committee approved HSB 580 to prohibit private companies and government agencies in Iowa from forcing employees to be “microchipped” for entry and tracking purposes. Approved unanimously, the bill will move to the full House.
Microchipping may be a convenience and security benefit for employers in allowing employees to use the microchip in their hands to enter workspaces or as a way to keep workers out of restricted areas. However, opponents worried the chips could be used to track employees when they’re not at work.
Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, encouraged her minority party colleagues to support the bill. A supporter of women’s reproductive rights, Konfrst said she appreciated Republicans’ support for giving people control of their bodies and “hoped it’s extended to other parts of the body.”
FLOOD RECOVERY: The Iowa House voted 100-0 to approve a $21.003 million appropriation to get state matching funds to priority projects without jeopardizing federal money.
SF 2144 is a supplemental appropriation for flood recovery assistance to repair damaged levees and help struggling communities.
The Iowa Flood Mitigation Board has identified 35 projects totaling nearly $165 million. The board anticipates the federal share will be $47 million, the state’s share will be $117 million and local governments will contribute $350,000. That leaves a $36 million gap in state funds, said Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
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However, House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said the $21 million appropriation would go to “immediate needs” identified by the flood board.
The bill will go back to the Senate, which approved $20 million 48-0 last week. Assuming it concurs and Kim Reynolds signs the measure, the money will be deposited in an account that will be allocated by the state’s flood mitigation board in consultation with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Gary Mohr, R-Bettendorf, said the bill calls for monthly reports on how the money is being spent as well as future needs so lawmakers know funding needs. He expects more funds will be appropriated during the remainder of the legislative session.
“I can’t guarantee if more funding will be needed, but I can guarantee you we will be monitoring it,” Mohr said.
PUBLIC BIDDING: House Study Bill 586 to give public bodies alternatives to the traditional low-bid process on projects will advance to the full House State Government Committee.
The bill would give government entities two “alternative project delivery” options. The first would be a construction manager-at-risk contract. The other is the design-build contract.
A subcommittee heard extensive discussion on the merits of the alternatives as well as the current low-bid approach. Board of Regents lobbyist Keith Saunders spoke of the value the university system received by using the design-build process. In one case, he said, the University of Iowa was able to build a 1,000-bed residence hall for about the same cost as a 700-bed hall.
However, Doug Struyk of the Iowa Competitive Bidding Alliance presented the board with 25 pages of change orders on the improvements to the north end zone of Kinnick Stadium.
Supporters of the bill said the alternative processes will be “open and fair,” but others argued openness doesn’t guarantee fairness. Anything less than a public bidding process can lead to fraud and abuse, they said.