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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 19, 2017

Iowa House protects electronic communication

By James Q. Lynch, The Gazette | Mar 16, 2017

DES MOINES — The Iowa House tackled constitutional issues Wednesday with measures to amend the Iowa Constitution to protect Iowans’ data on electronic devices and another calling for a convention of the states to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government.

The first, House Joint Resolution 1, would protect Iowans against search and seizure of electronic communications and devices without a warrant.

“Just as the government shouldn’t be able to go through your personal files without a warrant, it shouldn’t be able to access your electronic files either,” said Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids. Iowa would be the fourth state to create such a protection. The amendment would update citizens’ search and seizure protections, “protecting our right to private communications and our right to data privacy,” Rizer said.

The resolution passed 94-0.

The other resolution, HJR 12, calls for a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution to rein in federal spending, according to Rep. Zack Nunn, R-Bondurant. It passed on a party-line vote, 58-38.

Referring to the $20 trillion federal deficit, Nunn said it’s time for states to impose the fiscal limits Congress won’t impose on itself.

“If not us, who?” he asked.

Given Iowa’s fiscal situation, however, Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, said Iowa legislators are in no position to advise the federal government on spending.

He was referring to the Revenue Estimating Conference report Tuesday that lowered its estimate for revenues this year by $105 million, creating a projected shortfall for the current state budget of $131.1 million, and lowered the estimate for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The Republican majority “has spent us into a quarter of a billion hole,” Hunter said, leaving lawmakers with “no room to lecture the federal government on how to keep its house in order.”

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, suggested Nunn’s inflammatory language about Congress and federal spending was merely intended to “uneducate” the public on the issue.

Nunn explained that 34 states must call for a convention before Congress would act. Iowa would be the eighth. Each state legislature would determine how to select delegates to the convention. Regardless of the number of delegates, each state would have one vote.

A constitutional amendment proposed by the convention would have to be ratified by 34 or three-quarters of the states, a higher threshold than the two-thirds needed to ratify an amendment proposed by Congress.

A similar resolution passed by the New Mexico Legislature in 1979 was rescinded Wednesday. That leaves convention backers just six states away from reaching the constitutionally required 34 states to call a convention. Republicans control eight of the 21 state legislatures that do not have an existing application for a convention.

The House also approved:

HF 563 requires high school coaches to know how to perform CPR and direct the boys’ and girls’ high school athletic unions to establish concussion protocols.

HF 564 removes restrictions in law and administrative rules on the use of various school funds, such as professional development, preschool, dropout prevention and physical plant and equipment levy money, according to Education Committee Chairman Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls.

“If you campaigned on local control, today is your day,” Rogers said.

HF 565 was approved 94-0 to complement HF 564 by giving school districts authority to create a flexible fund account. It would be used to transfer and spend certain unspent and unobligated funds.

An amendment sought by Davenport area legislators to allow school districts to spend existing funds, such as cash reserves, to address per-pupil equity was defeated 41-54.

HF 215 to require certain individual and group health insurance policies covering public employees provide coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorder. State employees already have that coverage.

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