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From the Desk of Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer,March 9, 2012

It’s hard to believe that we have completed the ninth week of the 2012 legislative session. The House was busy debating in preparation for the second legislative “funnel week” next week. As you may recall, the first funnel week occurred toward the end of February, and in order for a bill to remain eligible for debate it needed to pass either a Senate or House policy committee, depending on where the bill originated. The second funnel requires policy bills to have cleared either the House or Senate and a committee of the other chamber to remain eligible for consideration. Appropriations, Ways & Means, and Government Oversight bills are exempt from the funnel rules.

On Thursday, the House passed HF 2367, a bill that is designed to better protect all classes of property owners in Iowa. The bill prevents trespassers from suing a property owner if the trespasser is somehow injured on the property owner’s land. The legislation is intended to help prevent frivolous lawsuits on behalf of hardworking Iowans. The bill passed with bi-partisan support and has been sent to the Senate for its consideration.

We also passed legislation aimed at strengthening Iowa’s human trafficking and child pornography laws.

HF 2390 addresses growing concerns across the country about human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors and others, by making it a Class “D” felony to engage in commercial sexual activity. The bill also closes a loophole and updates Iowa law to recognize today’s electronic media in regards to child pornography. This bill will give law enforcement improved tools to capture predators in our communities. HF 2390 passed unanimously and is now in the Senate.

This week we continued discussion on reforming Iowa’s education system. On Monday evening, the House held a public hearing on HF 2380, the House education reform bill. The hearing was yet another chapter in what has been a very open and public process in working toward reforming Iowa’s education system. We heard from an overflow of speakers, including teachers, students, parents, and business leaders, who provided us with their input on how to best improve Iowa’s education system. After gathering feedback from across the state and working hard to craft legislation with the best interests of our students in mind, the House will soon consider HF 2380 on the Floor.

On Monday, during a touching ceremony in the House, we passed House Resolution 108 to remember the 30 Iowans who perished and three Iowans who survived the 1945 USS Indianapolis tragedy. On July 30, 1945 the Navy ship was struck by two torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarine. The torpedo attack caused the ship to rapidly sink into shark-infested waters off the coast of Guam. Children, siblings, other family members, and friends of the fallen sailors and marines joined us in the House Chamber to honor these heroic Iowans.

You may recall a previous newsletter asking if anyone had information regarding the family of one of the 30 Iowans killed in the attack- a serviceman named Cecil Duane Foell from Swaledale. Due to a tip from Dave Klang from Clear Lake, we were able to connect with Katheryn Foell who now resides in Mason City. Katheryn was the sister-in-law of Cecil and was able to make the trip to Des Moines to honor him.

For more information about the tragedy surrounding the USS Indianapolis, please visit the official site of the USS Indianapolis Survivor’s Organization, http://www.ussindianapolis.org/.

In the coming weeks we will continue to work hard on passing a robust education reform package that will ensure our kids have the skills they need to compete in a global economy. We will also continue to work on redesigning Iowa’s mental health system in order to more fairly meet the needs of those served, while protecting the property taxpayer. Finally, we will remain focused on passing a budget that stays true to our core principles by not using one-time funding for ongoing expenses, and not spending more than we take in.

As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns. If you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact me at linda.upmeyer@legis.state.ia.us or 515-281-4618.

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