The following is a legislative update from Republican State Rep. Shannon Latham, representing portions of Franklin, Hamilton, Story and Wright counties in Iowa House District 55:
Sea of Blue during FFA Legislative Day
The Iowa FFA held its annual legislative day during Week 4 of the 90th General Assembly. As a charter member of the North Butler FFA, I always enjoy welcoming “blue jackets” to the Capitol. I gained so many life skills from my involvement in FFA and am glad this organization is strong and growing.
Week 4 also was another busy week of subcommittee and committee meetings, as well as floor debate. Below is a summary of a few bills making their way through the lawmaking process.
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3
The Iowa House on Feb. 2 passed a resolution that would amend the Iowa Constitution by creating a line of succession for the Office of the Governor should the Governor suffer a disability, die, resign or be removed from office. Like all proposed amendments to our state’s constitution, it must pass at a general election before the constitutional change would be adopted.
HF 30 – Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Program
The Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund, administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), was created in 2021. This fund provides grants for small-scale meat processing, licensed custom lockers and mobile slaughter units.
Twelve lockers came online in 2022 thanks to this program. Another 12 are expected to come online within the next 18 months. In addition, grant money is used by existing lockers to innovate. For example, one locker reported the purchase of a $50,000 bacon slicer allows the same amount of bacon to be processed by one person in a half day rather than two people in one full day.
To help create even more efficiencies and locker capacity, the Economic Growth and Technology Committee on Feb. 1 passed HF 30. I proudly voted “yes” to increase the number of individuals a business can employ to qualify for a grant. This bill will soon be ready for floor debate.
HF 102 – Medical Malpractice Noneconomic Damages
This bill limits the total amount of noneconomic damages for a medical malpractice claim at $1 million. Noneconomic damages include: pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of chance, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary damages.
This bill passed out of committee and is expected to be debated soon on the House floor. Massive awards for noneconomic damages have caused several healthcare providers to practice in other states or close their practices. Massive awards also can close smaller hospitals. This loss of medical facilities and doctors especially hurts rural Iowa’s access to healthcare.
Key points of this bill:
HF 102 allows for a jury trial.
HF 102 does not limit economic damages, including lost wages and loss of future earning capacity, as well as past and future medical bills.
HF 102 does not limit punitive damages, including willful and wanton disregard for the rights or safety of the plaintiff. Additionally, this bill does not apply if the defendant’s actions constitute actual malice.
Constituents in the Capitol
I always enjoy welcoming constituents to the Capitol. Legislative receptions – which are literally held morning, noon and night – provide an opportunity to learn about worthwhile causes, helpful nonprofit organizations and legislative priorities of the people I represent.
This week I met with members of the Roland-Story FFA. I welcomed members of the Iowa Volunteer Firefighters Association, including second and third-generation firefighters from Iowa Falls. I spoke with Melissa Schoneberg, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of North Central Iowa. I also met with Krista Ditsworth, Volunteer Center Coordinator, and Alison Mason, Director of Volunteer Services, from North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC).