Legislative session approaches end


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Iowa legislators enter the 102nd day of the 85th legislative session today. Their stipends for stay in Des Moines ended on Monday, but some bills still need to be sorted out, particularly ones related to budgetary concerns.

Over the course of the session, the legislature has two “funnel” deadlines, which kill bills that do not meet certain procedural requirements. Many bills that survived past the first funnel in February died last month.


Medical marijuana

A narrow medical marijuana bill advanced in the Senate on Wednesday. It passed a three-member subcommittee of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and then the full committee. It is now ready for floor debate.

Senate Study Bill 3222 revives an issue believed to be dead in the Legislature not long ago. It would allow patients with severe epilepsy and their caregivers to apply for a license for cannabidiol under approval of a neurologist. Cannabidiol is a low-THC oil derived from cannabis that has been shown to lower the amount of seizure in patients.

Earlier this month, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, drafted the bill, which would not allow patients or caregivers to manufacture the substance themselves. They would instead have to obtain it in states with less restrictive marijuana laws, such as Colorado.

The bill notes a neurologist would provide a recommendation for cannabidiol “if no other satisfactory treatment options exist for the patient.”

Gov. Terry Branstad has met with parents with children with epilepsy during the legislative session. The families have spent the session lobbying for such a bill to pass.


A bill to regulate the use of unmanned aerial drones is still alive.

House File 2289 passed the House 87 votes to 12 in February and moved onto the Senate judiciary committee. It would consider use by a drone to capture images of private property to be trespassing.

The proposal has passed committee twice, including once with an amendment, but has sat as unfinished business since March. It would also prevent drone use by law enforcement until July pending further study.


Texting and driving

A proposal to tighten texting and driving laws died in March after failing to make it past the House Transportation Committee in time for the second legislative “funnel” deadline. Senate File 2289 was passed by the Senate in March, 41-7.

The bill would have made texting while driving a primary offense, which would allow police officers to pull drivers over solely for texting. Currently, it is a secondary offense, so officers can cite drivers for texting only if they have been pulled over for violating another law.

Minimum wage

A bill to raise the minimum wage also lost the race to make the second funnel.  Senate File 2260 would have increased the minimum hourly wage in Iowa to $10.10 by 2016. It was approved by Senate committee, but it did not advance.

House Democrats introduced the proposal, which was modeled after a similar federal proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-California.

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