Bergan Report

By: News Release
Mar 15th, 2019

March 14th, 2019
Greetings from the State House,
Following last week’s first funnel, floor debate has gone on throughout the week.  Of particular local interest is the passage of HF 692, requiring auditors to utilize the postal barcode tracking system on absentee ballots.  While there has been unanimous support in the House to adopt the process statewide, the process is not foolproof.  The seven counties using the system have had ballots that were not counted due to postal service irregularities.  I am hopeful that this will help overcome the lack of postmarks on ballot envelopes.
The house passed the SAVE extension, allowing for the continuation of a one cent sales tax until 2050 to be utilized by schools for infrastructure.  Both chambers have passed measures to address threats to biosecurity in agriculture.
Both chambers have adopted a resolution to amend the state constitution.  The proposed amendment is simple and easy to understand.  It reads:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

This amendment recognizes that Iowans have a fundamental, individual right to protect themselves, their families, and their liberty.  It requires that the highest level of judicial review be applied to any government restriction on that right, just like other fundamental rights.  Contrary to arguments made, this amendment would not nullify existing firearm laws that are already on the books.  

In order for this amendment to become part of the Iowa Constitution, it must pass both chambers in the next General Assembly, and would then be put on the ballot for voters to decide.  Ultimately, Iowa voters will have the final say.

While the press likes to focus on divisive issues and controversial topics, the truth is that the vast majority of the Legislature’s work is either unanimous or bipartisan. Through the first funnel, 91% of the bills passed out of House committees had bipartisan support (217 out of 238).

This figure is not out of the norm either. During the two year 87th General Assembly, nearly 89% of the bills passed by the Iowa House were done so with votes from both parties.

Iowa is not Washington DC. We understand that after an election is over, it is time to put political games aside and govern. Republicans and Democrats in the Iowa House are known for working together and frequently collaborating on shared priorities like education, health care, and public safety.

Here are a few examples of bipartisan bills that that flew under the radar and passed this week but weren’t covered by the press:

Keeping roads safe from drunk drivers: Senate File 113 holds repeat drunk drivers accountable and keeps them off the roads to make our highways safer. This bill clarifies that a person convicted with three or more OWIs can be charged as a habitual offender and face stiffer penalties. Drunk driving is not only irresponsible, but it puts those who wish to travel safely on our roads and highways at risk.

Combatting opioid dependence: House File 623 requires the Iowa Medicaid program to offer at least one form of medication-assisted treatment without prior authorization. This legislation increases access to medication-assisted treatment which has shown to be an effective way to reduce opioid abuse and dependence.

Training and retaining rural Iowa doctors: House File 532 requires taxpayer-funded medical residency programs to give priority to applicants with an Iowa connection. Those that have an Iowa connection, especially to rural Iowa, are more likely to live and practice in Iowa after their training. This bill also requires those residencies to provide an opportunity to participate in a rural rotation to expose those physicians to our rural areas.
This week it was great to see the 4-H kids from Northeast Iowa.  I spoke with youth from Winneshiek and Chickasaw counties.  We talked about legislation and the process.  I met with Dennis Mashek and Gary Kregel from the Iowa State Dairy Council on their trip to the Capitol.  I met with Larry Leliefeld to talk about Iowa energy policy and geothermal applications along with tax credits.
Iowa Association of Counties had their Day on the Hill on Wednesday. I talked to them about mental health issues, election issues, recorder fees, county conservation, and other local governance issues.

Very truly yours,
Representative Michael Bergan