Dems: Judiciary Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

April 12, 2019
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FLOOR ACTION:

SF 114 – Vehicular homicide while speeding

SF 329 – Expert witness testimony in child sex abuse and child endangerment cases

SF 379 – Qualifications to practice law in Iowa

HF 323 – Exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker

HF 591 – Juvenile court jurisdiction over minor guardianships

HF 610 – Adult guardianships and conservatorships and minor conservatorships

HF 650 – Immunity from civil liability for negligent hiring

HF 679 – Substantive Code Editor’s bill

COMMITTEE ACTION:

HF 566 – Criminal Trespass

HF 732 – Medical cannabidiol

HF 737 – Animal mistreatment

 

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 114 – Vehicular homicide while speeding

SF 114 adds a potential new criminal charge of “homicide by vehicle” when an individual exceeds a posted speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more and unintentionally kills another person, if the death is directly or indirectly attributable to the excessive speed. A conviction or guilty plea is punished as a Class “C” felony (up to 10 years in prison and a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000). Also under the bill, it will be a Class “D” felony if a person exceeds the speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more and, as a result, causes a serious injury. A “D” felony is punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of between $750 and $7,500. The bill excludes public safety officers if the death or injury occurs while performing official duties.
[4/2: 44-1 (No: R. Taylor; Absent:  Bisignano, Brown, Kinney, Mathis, Zaun)]

 

SF 329 – Expert witness testimony in child sex abuse and child endangerment cases

SF 329 is a county attorneys’ priority bill, which was filed because of inconsistent court decisions relating to expert witness testimony in child sex abuse, child abuse and endangerment cases. The bill provides that testimony from a qualified expert witness is admissible in child sexual abuse, child abuse and child endangerment cases. Allowed testimony includes testimony based upon the expert’s education, training and experience relating to the various reasons child victims delay disclosure or intermittently disclose details of sexual abuse and child endangerment; the process engaged in by perpetrators of sexual abuse to groom their victims, or grooming behaviors in general; various reasons that child victims recant allegations of sexual abuse or child endangerment; and possible symptoms or post-allegation behaviors of a child who is the victim of sexual abuse or child endangerment.
[4/9: 48-0 (Absent: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

 

SF 379 – Qualifications to practice law in Iowa

SF 379 is a Judicial Branch proposal that eliminates provisions in the Iowa Code that limit attorney admissions to applicants who are residents of Iowa. The U.S. Supreme Court says this requirement is unconstitutional. The bill also authorizes an attorney who has been admitted to practice law in a territory of the U.S. to be admitted to practice law in Iowa without an examination. Thus, an attorney from a U.S. territory would be treated just like an attorney from another state or the District of Columbia. The bill also says an out-of-state attorney from the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory may apply to appear pro hac vice (“for this event”) in an Iowa case with a local attorney. The local attorney does not need to be a resident of Iowa, but must be admitted to practice law in Iowa.
[4/9: 48-0 (Absent: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

 

HF 323 – Exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker

HF 323 changes the definition of exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker in Code Chapter 235B relating to Dependent Adult Abuse Services and Registry Information administered by the Department of Human Services. Current law requires that physical or financial exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker must be for “one’s own personal or pecuniary profit.” SF 153 removes the requirement that it be done for one’s own personal or pecuniary profit.
[4/10: 49-0 (Absent: Feenstra)]

 

HF 591 – Juvenile court jurisdiction over minor guardianships

HF 591 creates a new Code Chapter, 232D, the Iowa Minor Guardianship Proceedings Act, relating to minor guardianships requiring that they be under the jurisdiction of juvenile court. A minor is defined as anyone under the age of 18. Thus, all the current minor guardianships would be transferred from probate court to juvenile court and going forward, all new minor guardianships would be filed in juvenile court. The bill:

  • Sets out requirements for a minor guardianship with parental consent as well as for a minor guardianship without parental consent, including requirements for the petition for guardianship and the required notice to interested parties.
  • Guardianships with parental consent require an agreement between the parents and guardian to be filed with the court outlining the responsibilities of the guardian, the responsibilities of the parent or parents, and the expected duration of the guardianship.
  • Guardianships without parental consent must be evidenced by clear and convincing evidence that no parent is willing or able to care for the child and appointment of the guardian would be in the best interests of the child.
  • Authorizes minor guardianships in termination of parental rights cases and child in need of assistance cases.
  • Requires all proposed guardians have background checks, which would include a criminal history check, child abuse registry check, dependent adult abuse registry check and sex offender registry check.
  • Allows the court to appoint an attorney for the minor and an attorney for the parents, if the parents object to the appointment of a guardian, request an attorney and are unable to pay for an attorney.
  • The court may appoint a court visitor (formerly referred to as a guardian ad litem) who cannot be the same person as the attorney for the minor and who must file a report with the court after an investigation regarding the potential appointment of a guardian.
  • Sets out the responsibilities and duties of a guardian and requires the guardian to file reports, including an initial care plan for the minor and annual reports thereafter. The required reports may not be waived.
  • Sets out procedures for removal of a guardian, as well as for termination and modification of guardianships.
    [4/10: 49-0 (Absent: Feenstra)]

 

HF 610 – Adult guardianships and conservatorships and minor conservatorships

HF 610 proposes changes to Iowa’s adult guardianship and conservatorship laws, which will apply to minor conservatorships as well. The bill is based on recommendations from the Judicial Branch Guardianship and Conservatorship Task Force that met over a two-year period. More than 70 Iowans from multiple stakeholder groups participated. The bill:

  • Requires criminal background checks for proposed guardians and conservators, as well as checks of the dependent adult abuse, sex offender and child abuse registries.
  • Requires a conservator surety bond or a similar alternative to protect a person’s assets.
  • Requires stronger requirements for court monitoring of guardians and conservators to ensure they perform their duties and that those under guardianship receive needed care and protection.
  • Requires a hearing on the proposed guardianship or conservatorship and that a record of the hearing be made.
  • Authorizes a “court visitor” to provide the court with information on whether a conservatorship or guardianship is appropriate.
  • Requires the court to consider less drastic alternatives that might be appropriate, and requires the court to consider limited guardianships or conservatorships.
    [4/10: 49-0 (Absent: Feenstra)]

HF 650 – Immunity from civil liability for negligent hiring

HF 650 prohibits a cause of action for damages against a private employer, general contractor or premises owner for negligently hiring an employee, agent or independent contractor who has been convicted of a public offense. However, a cause of action for negligent hiring based on evidence that the employee, agent or independent contractor has been convicted of a public offense is not prohibited if all of these criteria are met:

  • The employer knew or should have known of the conviction.
  • The employee was convicted of any of these crimes:
  • A public offense that was committed while performing duties substantially similar to those to be performed taking into consideration these factors:
    • Nature and seriousness of the public offense.
    • Extent and nature of employee’s past criminal activity.
    • Age of employee when offense was committed.
    • Amount of time that has elapsed since the last criminal activity.
  • A sexually violent offense
  • Dependent adult abuse
  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Felony assault
  • Domestic abuse assault
  • First-degree kidnapping
  • Robbery first degree
  • Manufacture or possession of a controlled substance on school grounds and other public properties
  • A felony offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon

The protections provided in this bill will not apply in a suit concerning the misuse of funds or property of a person other than the employer by an employee if, on the date the employee was hired, the employee had been convicted of a public offense that included fraud or the misuse of funds or property as an element of the public offense, and it was foreseeable that the position for which the employee, agent or independent contractor was hired would involve discharging a fiduciary responsibility in the management of funds or property.
[4/8: 50-0]

 

HF 679 – Substantive Code Editor’s bill

HF 679 is commonly referred to as the Substantive Code Editor’s Bill and is submitted annually by the Iowa Code Editor to the Judiciary Committee pursuant to Iowa Code Section 2B.6 and Joint Rule 11. The substantive Code Editor’s bill makes various changes throughout the Code, including, but not limited to, correcting language to conform to other Code language or current practices, eliminating conflicting language or ambiguous language, and repealing or striking redundant language.
[4/9: 48-0 (Absent: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

 

COMMITTEE ACTION:

HF 566 – Criminal Trespass

HF 566 amends Iowa’s criminal trespass laws. During the 2017 legislative session, the law was changed to make trespass punishable as a scheduled violation, but if a person refused to leave the property or returns to the property, an officer could arrest the person. The Department of Public Safety sponsored HF 566 because the 2017 change was not practicable for law enforcement. It is particularly impractical when multiple people congregate and are trespassing.

HF 566 returns the penalty for trespass back to a simple misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of at least $65 but not more than $625, or both jail and a fine. However, if a person commits trespass while hunting, fishing or trapping, it is a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled fine (citation) of $200 for the first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1000 for a third or subsequent violation. There is an exception: if a person is hunting deer other than farm deer or preserve whitetail and is issued a citation but refuses to leave the property or returns to the property after receiving a citation, an officer may arrest the trespasser.
[4/4: 14-0 (Absent: Whiting)]

 

HF 732 – Medical cannabidiol

HF 732 makes these changes to the current medical cannabidiol program:

  • Amends “debilitating medical condition” under Code definitions by replacing “untreatable pain” with “severe or chronic pain.”
  • Allows licensed physician assistants and registered nurse practitioners to provide written certification attesting to patients’ eligibility for the medical cannabis program.
  • Removes the current 3% THC cap and replaces this with a 25 gram over 90-day period maximum disbursement.
  • Removes the prohibition on certain felons applying for medical cannabidiol registration card.
  • Allows medical cannabidiol dispensaries to employ licensed pharmacists or pharmacy technicians.
  • Creates a waiver process that allows a provider to certify a qualified patient to receive more than 25 grams of THC over a 90-day period if the health care practitioner determines 25 grams is not adequate or the patient’s debilitating condition is a terminal illness with life expectancy of less than one year.
  • Directs the Iowa Department of Public Health to adopt rules for collecting and evaluating data relating to patient demographics, effective treatment options, clinical outcomes and quality-of-life outcomes for reporting on benefits, risks and outcomes for patients participating in the program.

The committee adopted an amendment to the House File that keeps the 3% THC cap, rather than the 25 grams over 90-day period maximum disbursement.
[4/4: 13-1 (No: Garrett; Absent: Whiting)]

 

HF 737 – Animal mistreatment

HF 737 makes changes to Iowa’s current non-agricultural animal cruelty laws, which are considered weak. The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Iowa 48 among the 50 states for its lack of effective animal protection laws. The bill strengthens penalties for animal mistreatment and includes these elements:

  1. Creates the crime of tampering with a rabies vaccination tag when a person knowingly removes, damages or destroys a tag when it is attached to a collar worn by a dog.
    1. First offense is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Second or subsequent offense is a serious misdemeanor.
  2. Creates the crime of tampering with an electronic handling device when a person knowingly removes, disables or destroys an electric device designed and used to maintain custody or control of the dog or modify its behavior when the device is attached to or worn by the dog or attached to an item worn by the dog.
    1. First offense is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Second or subsequent offense is a serious misdemeanor.
  3. Section 3: Excludes preserve whitetail deer from the animal cruelty chapter.
  4. Section 4: Adds definitions to the 717B Chapter relating to injury to animals other than livestock.
  5. Section 5: Defines animal abuse and imposes penalties. Animal abuse is when a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly acts to inflict injury, serious injury or death on an animal by force, violence or poisoning. There are exclusions, but the law will apply to an owner of the animal.
    1. Animal abuse causing injury other than a serious injury or death is a serious misdemeanor.
    2. Animal abuse causing serious injury or death is an aggravated misdemeanor.
    3. It is a D felony if a person has been previously convicted of other animal mistreatment offenses.
  6. Section 6: Defines animal neglect and imposes penalties. It is animal neglect when a person owns or has custody of an animal, confines that animal and fails to provide the animal with access to food in an amount and quality reasonably sufficient to satisfy the basic nutrition level to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered; access to a supply of potable water in an amount reasonably sufficient to satisfy the animal’s basic hydration level; sanitary conditions free from excessive animal waste or the overcrowding of animals to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered; ventilated shelter to protect the animal from the elements and weather conditions to maintain the animal in a state of good health; necessary grooming; necessary veterinary care.
    1. Animal neglect that does not cause injury, serious injury or death is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Animal neglect causing serious injury or death is an aggravated misdemeanor.
    3. Animal neglect causing serious injury or death is a D felony if the person has previously been convicted of various animal mistreatment offenses.
  7. Section 7: Defines animal torture as intentionally or knowingly inflicting severe and prolonged or repeated physical pain that causes the animal’s serious injury or death. Juvenile court will have exclusive jurisdiction over a juvenile under 17 who is charged with animal torture.
    1. Animal torture is a class D felony.
    2. It’s a class C felony if the person was previously convicted of various animal mistreatment offenses.
  8. Section 8: Court orders for evaluation and treatment.
    1. A court may order psychological or psychiatric evaluation and treatment, if appropriate. However, the court must order evaluation and treatment if the convicted person is a juvenile or an adult convicted of animal abuse punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor or class D felony, animal neglect punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor of class D felony or animal torture.
  9. Section 9: Abandonment of cats and dogs. A person who owns or has custody of a cat or dog and relinquishes all rights in and duties to care for the cat or dog is guilty of abandonment. There are exclusions in the bill.
    1. Animal abandonment that does not cause injury or death to an animal is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Causing injury other than serious injury or death is a serious misdemeanor.

Causing serious injury or death is an aggravated misdemeanor.
[4/4: 12-2 (No: Sweeney, R. Taylor; Absent: Whiting)]

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