Raccoon Hunting Season Again
Several years ago, a bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate that would allow an adolescent to go raccoon hunting with a grandfather. It passed the Senate and was sent to the Natural Resources Committee in the House. The House NR Committee passed it out on to the floor for debate. When the bill was brought up for debate a phenomenal event occurred. The subject of the bill, raccoons, became doves. Lo and behold, legislation allowing for the hunting of mourning doves emerged from the raccoon hunting bill. The bill went back to the Senate for its approval and hit the governor’s desk within 24 hours, where he signed it into law.
The Iowa House is at it again. It’s trying to change apples into oranges. The first bill introduced in the Senate during the 2015 Legislative Session, Senate File 1, passed the Senate last year 31-19 and was sent to the House. SF 1 is a bill which states:
If the lowest responsive bid received by the state for products or other purchases is from an out-of-state business and totals less than five hundred thousand dollars, and an Iowa-based business submitted a bid which is within five percent or then thousand dollars of the price of the lowest bid, whichever is less, the Iowa-based business which submitted the lowest responsive bid shall be notified and shall be allowed to match the lowest bid before a contract is awarded.
The House didn’t take up the bill last year, but the House State Government Committee brought it up recently and amended it by striking everything the Senate approved and inserting language that a “department or agency is not required to comply with” Iowa Code sections requiring “any department or agency of state government” to purchase goods manufactured by Iowa State Industries (often called “Prison Industries’).
Iowa State Industries teaches offenders within the Iowa Department of Corrections skills compatible with jobs outside the prison walls. The IPI provides instruction and hands-on skills in areas of furniture-making, textiles and apparel, manufacturing and specialty printing. It teaches offenders to be on-time, productive, and respectful of the workplace setting. It’s a valuable program producing quality manufactured goods and future successful citizens upon inmate releases.
Destroying this program has often been a goal of some legislators that believe the private sector should be the sole source of goods and services provided by the IPI. Contrary to some remarks, Prison Industries does not compete with outside sources. “Employment of inmates in private industry shall not displace employed workers, apply to skills, crafts, or trades in which there is a local surplus of labor, or impair existing contracts for employment or services.” Iowa Code Section 904.809(1)(d). Diluting the program or eliminating it will do nothing positive.
Some facts about Iowa Prison Industries:
- “Iowa Prison Industries is a self-supporting division of the Department of Corrections. Revenue from the sale of products pays for all cost of operation, including civilian salaries, offender allowances, raw materials, and equipment. No tax dollars are appropriated by the legislature.”
- IPI helps to “develop within those inmates willing to accept and persevere in such work:
- Positive attitudes which will enable them to eventually function as law-abiding, self-supporting members of the community;
- Good work habits that will assist them in eventually securing and holding gainful employment outside the correctional system; and
- To the extent feasible, marketable skills that can lead directly to gainful employment upon release from a correctional institution.”
- IPI enables inmates to:
- Provide or assist in providing for their dependents, thus tending to strengthen the inmates’ family ties while reducing the likelihood that inmates’ families will have to rely upon public assistance for subsistence;
- Make restitution, as the opportunity to do so becomes available, to the victims of the offenses for which the inmates were incarcerated, so as to assist the inmates in accepting responsibility for the consequences of their acts;
- Make it feasible to require that such inmates pay some portion of the cost of board and maintenance in a correctional institution, in a manner similar to what would be necessary if they were employed in the community; and
- Accumulate savings so that such inmates will have funds for necessities upon their eventual return to the community.
A record roll call was taken in the House State Government Committee and SF 1, as amended, passed 12-10. Those voting “No” included: Reps. Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City), Deborah Berry (D-Waterloo), Dennis Cohoon (D-Burlington), Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines), Dan Kelley (D-Newton), Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City), Todd Prichard (D-Charles City), Sally Stutsman (D-Riverside), Todd Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids, and Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport).
Legislators often receive messages to vote for this; oppose this; do or don’t amend a particular bill; etc. They seldom receive a kind message of appreciation. Thank them – Please!
Alice’s Restaurant – Live! At the Capitol
“You can get anything you like at Alice’s Restaurant.”
The song – Alice’s Restaurant – and later, the movie by the same name, came to life at the Iowa Capitol last week. Arlo Guthrie, son of noted folk singer Woody Guthrie, recorded a song back in the late 1960s (over 18 minutes long) based upon an actual event. It dealt with “littering”, or as we like to call it at the Iowa Capitol, “illegal dumping.”
The satirical song is a staple of many radio stations across the country on Thanksgiving Day. At least, it has been. Guthrie and a friend cleaned out an old church for some friends and took the garbage to a dump. Being Thanksgiving Day, the dump was closed. So Guthrie, familiar with the territory, took the garbage to a common dumping ground and added the church junk to the eyesore. Within a day, the sheriff had arrested the two and threw them in jail.
The sheriff had 27 colored photos as proof of the incident and provided them at trial. However, the presiding judge was blind, which rendered the photos useless. Nonetheless, Guthrie and friend were fined $50 and ordered to clean up the mess. (The sheriff and judge play themselves in the movie.)
The whole point of the song and movie is that the crime prevented Guthrie from being drafted because he had no moral character. He couldn’t believe it! Littering (or illegal dumping) was cause for him to be rejected from the Army; the same Army that was – according to Guthrie – responsible for burning women, children and villages. And he was declared not moral enough because of his crime.
House File 2385’s original intent was to enhance the penalty for littering from a simple misdemeanor to a serious misdemeanor [simple misdemeanor = Up to 30 days in jail and $625 in fines; serious misdemeanor = Up to 1 year in jail and $1875 in fines]. Also, the original bill allowed the court to order the litterbug to pay for the cost of cleaning up the litter. But the House amended the bill by eliminating the reference to littering and making it a bill about illegal dumping. Currently, the act of illegal dumping is punished with a civil fine of not more than $1,000. The bill removes the punishment of the civil fine and turns it into a criminal act with the penalty being a serious misdemeanor. On March 8, the bill was returned to the Committee, which effectively choked its chances of being enacted this year.
We’re not sure, but supposedly proof of illegal dumping would have to include: “twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.”
It’s just one of those bills that seem to bring back memories of the sixties and seventies.
JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016
The following bills remain alive and are eligible for debate at any time from now through the end of the session:
SF 2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill. We’re going to see one of these bills every session as long as chemists can determine which molecule to alter/delete/add so that the ban on one specific combination of molecules provides the same unrealistic adventure as its grandfather, without being specifically banned. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0.
SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of person charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24.
SF 2115 – JRC wrote about this bill last Jan. 31st. At the time, we referred to the bill as
Senate Study Bill 3007. We also mentioned this bill in the most recent newsletter, also. The legislation will add “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”. We “OPPOSE” this measure. It disproportionately punishes the mentally ill and intoxicated. Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd.
SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.) In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.” Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.
SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, also. We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law. SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.
HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian. JRC “OPPOSES” this bill. We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures. What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000. Lumping $9,990 with $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing.
HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.
The following bills have failed to make it out of a committee in both chambers and are considered dead for this year (caution – a bill may be dead, but an issue lives forever):
Senate File 84 – A bill leftover from last year, this is a version of “Ban the Box”. JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of the bill.
SF 2267 – The Racial Profiling bill. A few amendments were proffered to help acquire votes for the bill, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough support. JRC is declared in “SUPPORT” of the bill. According to the Des Moines Register article of March 13, 2016, Second funnel: What survived in the Iowa Legislature, by William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel, Senator Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) said “she still hopes to advance the data collection provisions of the proposal by including them in a budget bill later this session.”
HF 2309 – A bill for an act relating to controlled substances, including by modifying the penalties for controlled substances containing cocaine base, enhancing the penalties for imitation controlled substances, modifying the controlled substances listed in schedules I, III, and IV, and temporarily designating substances as controlled substances, and providing penalties. Equalizing the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine is a priority of JRC. This bill makes an attempt to bring the threshold amount of each closer to each other, but fails in equalizing the penalties for possessing similar amounts of these two pharmacologically identical substances. JRC “OPPOSES” this bill for several different reasons.
HF 2323 – A bill that would enhance the penalty for the commission of sexual misconduct with offenders and juveniles. This is one of those rare occasions in which JRC believes that the current penalty does not coincide with the crime that has been committed and “SUPPORTS” this legislation.
HF 2334 – This bill would allow certain psychologists to prescribe particular medicines under special conditions. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.
HF 2367 – Establishes a prearrest diversion program. The overall concept is okay, but JRC has some problems with this bill. JRC is declared as “UNDECIDED” on this bill.
HF 2379 – A bill that requires the impoundment of a vehicle when the driver has been charged with operating while license is revoked, suspended, denied or canceled. JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.
SF 2289 – A bill that criminalizes the mistreatment of animals that are not livestock or game, and enhances penalties under certain circumstances. JRC is registered as “UNDECIDED” on the bill because it is estimated that animal abuse crimes “will result in an estimated increase of 26 convictions annually.” The estimated result of convictions is not significant enough for JRC to justify working against this issue. The bill passed the Senate 32-16 on February 25.
SF 2183 – A bill extending the statute of limitations from 3 to 10 years in child endangerment cases. Although JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill, we have grave concerns about extending the statute of limitations beyond 3 years, except in cases involving murder. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 23.
HF 2064 – Penalty enhancements. This bill enhances the penalty for child endangerment when the act results in the death of a child. JRC consistently opposes legislation that enhances penalties without empirical evidence, but this bill has more than just the “we oppose all enhanced penalties” argument.
HF 2399 – This bill is an attempt to solve problems of assault in relationships. The provisions of the bill go far beyond what is consistent with other Iowa law regarding criminal acts. The bill also combines criminal with civil remedies, a combination that should not get started in statutory law. JRC is “OPPOSED” to this bill.
HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor. Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000. Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position. JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons. See Alice’s Restaurant above.
The following bills have passed both chambers and have been signed into law by the governor:
House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill. We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided. HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24. Passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 28. Signed by the governor on March 11.
SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings. JRC has declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill. It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25.
It passed the House 97-1 on March 1. Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in the 1st floor rotunda on Wednesday, March 9.
Find out who your legislators are here.