Mark Lofgren – District 48 Update

This week looked very similar to previous weeks, but with an increased pace and an urgency to find common ground on the issues at hand. This included a lot of debate by the whole Senate on important legislation. We worked our way through bills that have been amended by the House and Senate, worked to find an agreement on the budget for the year, and confirmed a number of appointees by the governor.

A Unique Job for the Senate
One of the duties unique to the Senate is the confirmation of governor appointees. Each year the governor appoints people as the head of departments or to various boards and commissions. These candidates are called by senators so they can discuss their qualifications, goals, and why they want these jobs, just like any other job interview. Governor appointments require a two-thirds majority vote in the Iowa Senate, meaning Iowans who are appointed need 34 votes of support in order to be confirmed. We have been holding these phone conversations with appointees for the past several weeks and this week were able to vote on whether to confirm these appointments or not.

Valuing and Protecting Farming in Iowa

Senate File 2401 is one of the bills we debated this week. This bill is designed to help support farmers and the agriculture industry in our state. In 1986, the Grain Indemnity Fund was created during the farm crisis and acts similar to an insurance policy for the grain that farmers store at grain elevators. Currently, all grain dealers and warehouse operators are required to participate in the Grain Indemnity Fund and pay fees on purchased or stored grain. If at the end of a fiscal year the fund exceeds $8 million, the fees are waived, but if the balance of the fund falls below $3 million, the Grain Indemnity Fund Board reinstates these fees. SF 2401 adjusts those amounts to $12 million and $5 million and also extends coverage to credit sale contracts. Last year, the Grain Indemnity Fund ran out of money due to a number of circumstances and the fee had to be reinstated. This bill updates these numbers to better reflect today’s economy and hopefully prevent additional fees on farmers in the future.

Proclamation to Honor University of Iowa Women Wrestlers

On Wednesday, the University of Iowa Women’s Wrestling Team visited the Capitol to be honored for their recent first place ranking at the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships in Cedar Rapids on March 9th. The governor signed a proclamation in their honor, SR 107, and the team visited both chambers of the Iowa legislature.
The University of Iowa Women’s Wrestling Team standing in the Northeast Gallery to be recognized by the Members of the Senate

On Tuesday the Senate passed HF 2487 with bipartisan support. This is an update to the law surrounding teacher-student relationships and adds a definition and prohibition against teachers grooming students. Unfortunately, these incidents do occur and the law must keep pace to ensure Iowa students are as safe as possible at school. This bill returns to the House for their approval of the updates made by the Senate.

Supporting the Perry Community

HF 2653 also passed this week in response to the tragedy in Perry earlier this year. This bill allows Perry schools to offer retention bonuses to help retain their employees for the upcoming school year. It also waives various state requirements, including required days and hours of instruction just for this year because students missed a month of school. During the opening days of session legislators expressed their support for the Perry community and this bill allows us to continue to assist this school district in their efforts to move forward from this devastation.

Stricter Fines for Trespassing in Iowa
HF 2310 raises the fines for knowingly trespassing upon the property of another, or trespassing while hunting deer. The fines will be increased as follows:
• First offense: from $260 to $500
• Second offense: from $645 to $1000
• Third or subsequent violations: from $285 to $1500
This bill passed the Senate with a vote of 38-9 and will be sent to the governor for signing.
Insurance Coverage for Breast Examinations

HF 2489 requires a health insurance plan to cover supplemental and diagnostic breast examinations on terms not less favorable than for screening mammograms. “Diagnostic breast examination” is defined as a medically necessary examination, using a diagnostic mammogram, breast magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, or other imaging, to evaluate an abnormality seen in screening or detected by another means. A “supplemental” examination is a medically necessary examination to screen for breast cancer when no abnormality is suspected, based instead on an individual’s personal or family medical history, or additional factors that may increase risk. As amended, the bill omits the original bill’s prohibition of cost-sharing requirements for these examinations. This bill passed the Senate with a 47-0 voice vote and will be sent to the governor for signing.

Faces Around the Capitol This Week
This week brought many Hawkeyes to the Capitol. As mentioned above, we were visited by the University of Iowa Women’s Wrestling Team as well as many representatives from the university. We also had visitors from the Association of Iowa Fairs this week to promote our 2024 county fairs. Click here and scroll down to see an interactive map of all county fairs with dates and locations.