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Capitol highlights

March 27, 2015
By Rep. Tedd Gassman - Representing Iowa House District 7 , Estherville News

Several important bills were brought up and debated on the House floor this week.

HF 549 adjusts the collective bargaining procedures for school employees by allowing the arbitrator to find a compromise between the employer's offer and employee's offer. Currently the arbitrator is limited to choosing one offer or the other. This bill will help level the playing field in the bargaining process. HF 549 also allows the arbitrator to compare teacher salaries with other salaries. This bill passed the House by a vote of 56 to 41, and is now eligible to be considered in the Senate.

The House also debated and passed HJR 8, which calls for a convention of the states, as outlined in Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the convention would be to pass amendments to the Constitution that would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit the federal government's power and jurisdiction. HJR 8 was amended to explicitly indicate that the Iowa delegates to the proposed convention would be limited to consideration and support of amendments that impose fiscal restraints and limitations to the federal government's power and jurisdiction.

This week the House considered HF 346 which deals with dropout and at-risk funding uses in public schools. A supplementary weighing system is used to determine the level of funding. Under this bill, funds determined for at-risk funding will also be available to be used for dropout prevention, and vice versa. HF 346 will improve education in our state by combining these two programs to give schools more flexibility with their funds.

The issue of the school start date came before the House on March 24. SF 227 was amended to require schools to start no earlier than Aug. 23. Under this bill, elementary schools that choose to follow a year-round calendar are exempt. SF 227 was a compromise with the Governor, who desires the state to follow the law which requires schools to start no sooner than a day during the week in which Sept. 1 falls. Although many members of the House would prefer local control, the Governor does not support local control on this issue so we have chosen this compromise route. The bill passed by a vote of 71-29.

The House also debated and passed HF 550 this week. The bill requires elected public officials to provide their phone number and email address on the internet site of the government entity which they serve.

This year, I have continued my efforts to change the no-fault divorce laws of our state by authoring HF 442. The first portion of the bill establishes a covenant marriage option and requires the certificate of marriage to include a place to allow the parties to designate the marriage as a covenant marriage if they so choose. The bill requires the parties to a covenant marriage to complete at least 12 hours of premarital education, and details the exclusive grounds for obtaining a dissolution of a covenant marriage including: adultery, felony, abandonment for at least 1 year, and physical or sexual abuse. The bill provides that a party to a covenant marriage may obtain dissolution if the parties agree and there are no children of the marriage. The second portion of the bill outlines the procedure for dissolution of a marriage, including requiring children to be examined by a child psychologist and requiring joint custody of children unless clear and convincing evidence suggests that it is in the best interests of the child for ties with a parent to be severed. My hope is to encourage more couples to work through their disagreements and preserve their marriages for the betterment of themselves and their children.



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