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Medical Marijuana

THE LAW: Iowa parents with children suffering from severe epilepsy will be able to access cannabis oil as a treatment option.

WHAT IT DOES: The law legalizes the possession and medical use under certain conditions of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that backers say possesses a wide range of therapeutic benefits. The measure gives prosecutorial immunity to people who possess cannabidiol, a non-smokable oil extract of marijuana with a low THC level to treat seizures. Patients or their caregivers are required to obtain a state-issued registration card to possess the drug and to have a neurologist’s recommendation to obtain the license.

Infectious diseases

THE LAW: Amends a 1998 statute to lessen the penalties for people who unknowingly expose someone to HIV or other infectious diseases.

WHAT IT DOES: The modified law imposes a 25-year prison sentences only when someone intends to transmit a disease without a partner's knowledge. It establishes a tiered penalty system which takes into account whether a person took precautions, whether transmission of HIV actually occurred and whether or not the person intended to transmit HIV. The revised law also adds other infectious diseases to the bill such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and meningococcal disease, which causes meningitis — so the law is no longer HIV-specific.

E-cigarettes

THE LAW: The sale or possession of electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products is banned in Iowa for minors under the age of 18.

WHAT IT DOES: The law applies to the battery-operated products that heat liquid nicotine and produce a vapor users can inhale — including the sale of fruit-flavored, nicotine-free e-cigarettes to children. The new law also requires that any person offering these products for sale to consumers hold a valid tobacco permit. Backers say it goes beyond recent FDA guidelines with an enforceable state law, but it does not curtail the marketing, promotion and widespread sale of what some view as potentially harmful products or give local governments authority to enact stricter regulations than the state law.

DNA samples

THE LAW: Lawbreakers convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor will have to submit a DNA sample to authorities.

WHAT IT DOES: Currently, offenders convicted of felonies are required to provide a DNA sample to be entered into the national databank. Law enforcement officials wanted the changes — passed in 2013 for implementation July 1, 2014 — to enhance public safety given that some offenders who commit serious crimes may get lesser sentences through plea bargains. Civil libertarian and social justice advocates opposed the changes as government intrusion into Iowans’ personal lives and unnecessary additions to the criminal code.

Veterans’ incentives

THE LAW: The Home Base Iowa initiative is designed to encourage military veterans to return or move to Iowa.

WHAT IT DOES: The multi-pronged action plan exempts military pensions (including surviving spouses) from state income tax; directs Iowa’s occupational licensing boards to adopt rules allowing credit for military training and experience in the licensing process; allows private-sector employers to grant a preference in hiring and promoting veterans; eliminates the special plate issuance fees charged for plates associated with military service; and requires community colleges and universities to file reports on the amount of credits they are giving veterans for their service in the military.

Regulating drones

THE LAW: Parameters are created for the use of drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles that generally are remote-controlled flying machines outfitted with cameras and other surveillance equipment that have become strikingly cheaper and more prevalent in recent years.

WHAT IT DOES: The law prohibits state or local law enforcement authorities from using unmanned aerial vehicles for traffic enforcement. The bill also states that evidence obtained by law enforcement using an unmanned aerial vehicle is not admissible in a criminal or civil trial unless it was obtained legally pursuant to a search warrant or in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law. A provision state officials to examine whether the Iowa criminal code should be modified to regulate misuse of unmanned aerial vehicles and report findings to the Legislature by Dec. 31.

Other laws of note

  • Compromise legislation was hammered out that will dramatically reduce the number of greyhound races run in Iowa over a phased period. Dog races in Council Bluffs will end by the close of 2015. Dog racing could continue at the track in Dubuque, but it would be conducted by the greyhound industry under a lease arrangement rather than being bankrolled by the casino there. As part of the deal, casinos that currently finance dog races in Iowa would pay $72 million over the next seven years — with half going to pay greyhound owners and breeders who intend to get out of the business and the other $36 million to assist efforts to continue racing in Dubuque.
  • A new law designed to promote the development of bio-butanol and bio-butanol blended gasoline modifies the rate of the E-15 promotion tax credit and extends provisions for the biodiesel production refund tax credit for five years. Also extended are the three existing retail tax credits for renewable energy to Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Judges will have the discretion to include pets or companion animals in a protective order covering victims of domestic violence and their minor children beginning July 1. The new law provides for temporary or permanent orders to forbid an accused abuser from harming, attacking or taking other threatening action against a pet as a way for a perpetrator to psychologically control others. A judge could issue a contempt citation for violating the order.
  • Penalties are increased for people who knowingly allow minors under the age of 18 to consume alcohol. Violation of the social hosting law could mean a $200 misdemeanor fine for social hosts who provide minors with alcohol and a place to drink it.
  • New provisions to curtail human trafficking and other crimes involving minors are taking effect. The penalty for pimping an underage prostitute increases from a class D to a class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Also increased is the penalty for purchasing the services of an underage prostitute from a misdemeanor to a felony and the statute of limitations to report a crime is extended to 10 years after the victim turns majority age or three years after the discovery of the crime by DNA.
  • Resident undergraduate students attending one of Iowa’s three state universities will have their tuition frozen for a second straight year under a $986 million education budget bill signed into law.
  • Iowa’s “power of attorney” law is strengthened and other steps are in place to protect Iowa seniors against abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by providing for the filing of a civil petition for a protective order or temporary emergency orders for vulnerable Iowans aged 60 or older.
  • New law changes the instructional time requirement for school districts from to allow the count to be calculated either in days or hours. Current law requires 5.5 hours minimum instruction time and 180 days beginning on or around Sept. 1; the change allows the year to be counted as 1,080 hours instead — equal to six hours of instructional time per day (excluding lunch or parent-teacher conferences).
  • New two-stage increase in the maximum check-off assessment cap that corn producer can vote to apply to their corn purchases from the current one-penny per bushel to no more than three cents between Sept. 1 and Aug. 31, 2019, and no more than three cents on and after Sept. 1, 2019.
  • New law eliminates the presumption that certain unused gift certificates are abandoned property, allowing the consumer to use them indefinitely; also ends requirement that businesses issuing the gift certificates keep track of the unspent balance and forfeit the proceeds to the state treasurer.
  • Peace officers are allowed to apply for warrants to place GPS monitoring devices. Current law only allows special state agents the ability to apply for such warrants.

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