With subcommittee and committee work underway, moves to regulate vaping products are gaining steam on both sides of the aisle. In response to a new federal law raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 years old, Iowa lawmakers are working toward codifying the change at the state level. Senate State Government Committee Chair Roby Smith (R-Davenport) introduced the proposal, SSB 3016. It passed subcommittee in the Senate Tuesday, and now goes to the full committee for consideration.
Another measure, SSB 3052, would put vaping on par with smoking cigarettes under Iowa’s Clean Air Act. The bill would ban vaping in many public places where smoking tobacco products is already prohibited, such as work sites, bars, restaurants, and certain outdoor settings. The legislation, proposed by the Iowa Department of Public Health, passed a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. It is now eligible for consideration by the full Human Resources Committee.
Bipartisan interest is also coalescing around protecting insurance coverage for Iowans with pre-existing conditions. The move comes in response to a federal appellate court ruling that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandate that all Americans carry health insurance is unconstitutional. In light of the ruling, federal district courts are now considering which aspects of the law, commonly called “Obamacare” remain constitutional. With that in mind, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) introduced a bill that would require small group and individual insurance plans to maintain ACA pre-existing condition protections for covered Iowans. The bill would not affect the vast majority of Iowans. That’s because Iowa’s state-level regulatory authority only extends to small group and individual plans. The measure would not go into effect unless federal courts overturn the ACA’s pre-existing condition protections. Zaun’s bill, SSB 3033 passed subcommittee Wednesday, and is now eligible for consideration by the Judiciary Committee. Senate Democrats introduced a broader bill on the same issue, SF 2064. It is sponsored by the chamber’s full caucus.
On the House side, Democrats slightly changed their leadership team. Rep. Charlie McConkey (D-Council Bluffs) will take over as Assistant Minority Leader, serving alongside assistant leaders Jennifer Konfrst (D-Windsor Heights), Brian Meyer (D-Des Moines), and Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City). This is McConkey’s third term in the House. Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton), a retired police officer, previously held the post. He has now taken over as ranking member of the Public Safety Committee.
Meanwhile, this week Governor Kim Reynolds announced plans to establish a new Iowa Governor’s School Safety Bureau. It would operate under the umbrella of the state’s Department of Public Safety, and focus on addressing school security threats. Its work would include training school personnel in responding to events such as active shooter situations; creating an anonymous system for students to report their security concerns; and dedicating officers to investigate digital threats related to school security. Reynolds said creating the bureau would cost $2 million, and after that it would require $1.5 million in annual funding.
In other news, Attorney General Tom Miller is now officially the longest-serving Attorney General in U.S. history. He won his first election for the post in 1978, and remained in the job until 1991. He returned to the position in 1995, and has won every election since. Miller, a Democrat, is now serving his tenth term, which expires in 2023. Although he has indicated he might not seek reelection, he hasn’t publicly closed the door on running again. Miller holds Iowa’s second longevity record for public service. In 2015 Republican Governor Terry Branstad became the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.