A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday, April 16, 2019:
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: Legislation making female genital mutilation a Class D felony is on its way to the governor’s desk.
Senate File 346 would make it a Class D felony to carry out the procedure on a minor if it is not medically necessary. It also makes it a crime to transport a minor to or from Iowa to have the procedure done. Iowa is one of 22 states without a law that addresses female genital mutilation.
The House approved the bill, 95-4, after amending it to direct the Crime Victims Assistance Division of the Attorney General’s Office, working with community insiders and culturally specific victims’ services programs, to develop an education campaign to increase awareness regarding the health risks of female genital mutilation and the criminal penalty. The Senate approved the change, 49-0.
‘VAPING EPIDEMIC’: Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Tuesday she is willing to consider a Senate bill that would raise the age from 18 to 21 for buying tobacco and other nicotine products.
Members of a Senate subcommittee last week began work on legislation seeking to raise the legal age to 21 years for buying, possessing or using tobacco, as well as vapor or alternative nicotine products, as a way to head off what they called a “vaping epidemic” among Iowa high school students.
The governor said she, too, has met with middle-school and high-school students who have told her they have seen a “significant increase” in “vaping,” or the use of battery-operated electronic cigarettes, which use flavored liquids to deliver nicotine.
“We do need to pay attention to this,” Reynolds said. “We need to continue to do everything we can to fight addiction in any form. I’ll wait and see what (legislation) looks like in its final form, but I think it’s a conversation we need to have.”
Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, who authored Senate File 607, said momentum is building nationally to keep highly addictive nicotine products out of the hands of young people. At least 11 states have raised the tobacco age to 21, four of them in recent months.
TAX PROPOSAL: A sweeping tax bill that would expand tax credits for low-income parents, families with private-school students, and research companies was approved Tuesday by a Senate subcommittee.
The tax bill increases state School Tuition Organization tax credits and opens the Research Activities tax credit to agricultural companies. It also raises the income threshold for the Child and Dependent Care and Early Childhood Development tax credits, making them available to more low-income Iowa families.
Senate Study Bill 1249 is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate Tax Policy Committee on Wednesday.
ELECTION ASSISTANCE: Three Iowans — Iowa Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe, Office of the Chief Information Officer Director Jeff Franklin and Iowa National Guard Maj. General Timothy Orr — will receive National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Awards from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
The medallions are in recognition of their assistance with Iowa’s voter registration and election cybersecurity efforts.
The presentation will be at noon Wednesday in the Secretary of State Office at the Capitol.
VOLUNTEERS HONORED: Five people, including Jane Hagedorn of Iowa City and John McDonough of Cedar Rapids, were inducted into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame on Wednesday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Also, four people, including Fayette County Deputy Sheriff Chris Schveiger, received the 2019 Excellence in Mentoring Award.
Hagedorn founded Bea Day Plumbers with an almost all-female staff and used her expertise and connections in the building trades to promote affordable housing.
McDonough is a volunteer as a Senior Health Insurance Information Program counselor at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, serves on several boards and helped found two volunteer organizations.
Schveiger, who is a substitute teacher on his days off, volunteers with North Fayette Valley Mentoring.
ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERS: Iowans are invited to nominate families in their communities for the Farm Environmental Leader Award. Farmers who take voluntary actions such as planting cover crops or installing conservation infrastructure in their fields are eligible for the award.
Farmers who are nominated should have made environmental stewardship a priority on their farm and incorporate best management practices in their farming operations.
Nominations are due June 15. Information can be found at iowaagriculture.gov/farm-environmental-leader-awards.
Winners will be recognized Aug. 14 at the Iowa State Fair.
Since the creation of the award in 2012, more than 500 farm families have been recognized.
—Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau