House debates gun control, voter ID
This week was light on committee meetings and heavy on debate, while also including several public hearings on a number of controversial bills.
On Tuesday we debated House File 517, a bill that ultimately rewrites Iowa’s current gun laws. I recall the murder that occurred at a Mt. Pleasant City Council meeting in 1986. I also recall the assault that occurred in the United States Congress in 1954 that wounded an Iowa Congressman. While there are some things I agree with in this massive bill, many are of concern to me.
After listening to the debate, I learned Iowa’s present laws are time-tested in court and have worked well. I am not sure I wish to replace those laws with something that is not clearly spelled out and offers many judicial uncertainties. This bill makes things much more complicated; however, HF 517 passed on a largely party line vote.
We also began debate on another controversial bill – House File 516. This bill suppresses the rights of voters by requiring voter identification. The Legislature should be focusing on removing existing barriers for voting access, not creating more. Iowa is now second in voter integrity, so why are we attempting to design an expensive solution for a problem that doesn’t exist? This bill could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible Iowa voters and make it more difficult to register and vote on Election Day.
I have not heard any support for this bill from my county auditors and voted “no” on HF 516; however, after the majority party suspended debate for a final vote at 11:00 am on Thursday after twelve hours of debate, the bill passed on a party line vote. I’m disappointed the bill we passed does not address security upgrades badly needed by our ancient voter database computer systems. In a day of computer hacking and cybercrime, this is a critical issue that could disrupt our elections.
A third bill of discussion this week is House File 295 – a bill that prevents any local government from increasing the minimum wage or having stronger civil rights protections. It would preempt any city or county from enacting a higher minimum wage than what is authorized by the state. Stronger civil rights protections would also be preempted. If the Legislature were to take away some current civil rights protections in state law, a local government under this bill could not put those protections back in. In addition, this bill would prevent cities and counties from banning certain products such as those normally associated with litter or waste. This is another bill that is likely to be debated for many hours, and I am not in support of this legislation.
A fourth controversial bill gaining attention in the House is House File 518 – a bill that makes numerous changes regarding Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws. This bill cuts benefits available to injured Iowa workers, reduces the employers’ liability to provide benefits to workers injured on the job, and further tilts the claims procedures in favor of employers avoiding payment of benefits. To me, this is a bad bill.
The message it sends is if you are a worker, you are dispensable. Employers should not be allowed to walk away from on-the-job injuries. I have no plans to support this legislation.
– State Rep. Curt Hanson represents Iowa House District 82, which includes most of Jefferson County and Davis and Van Buren counties, in the state Legislature.