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New Laws Address A Variety Of Activities

July 13, 2017
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

The second half of the year is upon us and as always, new laws went into effect on July 1 that will end up affecting all citizens in the state.

Among the high profile laws that went into effect in the State of Iowa on July 1 was Senate File 234, which made texting while driving a moving violation under Iowa Law. The measure allows law enforcement officers to conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle to cite a driver who is texting or distracted by their electronic devices. While the fine for such an offense is $80, court costs and surcharges bring the total fine for such an offense to over $150.

Several other motor vehicle laws also went into effect, including a provision requiring motorists to change lanes, if possible, when approaching stationary emergency vehicles. Now, motorists must also "move over" when approaching vehicles operated by electric or natural gas utilities, as well as water, telephone and cable businesses. The law also applies to garbage and recycling trucks that have safety lights flashing. If you can't change lanes, you are required to slow down. Otherwise, a driver may be ticketed for not moving over.

Longer straight trucks will also be legal in the state, as a truck can now be 45-feet in length, four feet longer than previously allowed by law.

Other new laws will provide limitations to medical malpractice litigation, by capping limits on non-economic damages at $250,000 for cases such as pain and suffering. The legislation will allow for the cap to be waived in cases involving permanent impairment, disfigurement or death.

Another piece of legislation that went into effect on July 1 addressed litigation for asbestos-related liability lawsuits. The measure requires plaintiffs to meet deadlines within 90 days of filing an asbestos claim for disclosing certain information, including the disposition of each asbestos trust claim. Those filing such claims can have their claims dismissed if they do not comply with the provisions of the new law.

A new law expands the definition of stalking to include the unauthorized placement of a global positioning device and provides tougher criminal penalties for repeated incidents of domestic violence. The measure also reduces the standard for prosecutors to meet in order to bring stalking charges against an individual. Previously, a victim would have to fear bodily harm or death. Under the new legislation, a "reasonable person" would, more generally, have to feel terrorized, frightened or threatened, or fear bodily harm or death. The new law also provides that if an offender is convicted of a third or subsequent domestic abuse assault, they are required to serve at least one-fifth of the maximum term, a 20 percent mandatory minimum sentence.

New laws for education call for school districts to offer more computer science classes at all levels, in order to help develop more high-tech workers in the future. Certain computer science standards are set forth in the new law, as well as creating a computer science professional development incentive fund for districts and teachers.

Another new piece of legislation addresses schoolteachers who are disciplined for being intoxicated at school and requires they be reported to Iowa's licensing agency. The measure requires school districts to report any licensed employee disciplined for possessing or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs at school or school events.

A new law also reduced Iowa's Workers' Compensation laws after lawmakers debated the importance of Iowa's business climate as opposed to the interests of workers who are injured on the job. The new law will cut workers' compensation benefits, as well as changing the qualifications for benefits and reduces an interest rate.

Iowa deer hunters will be able to move a deer carcass before they tag it under a new law. The measure was designed to provide hunters a safer environment to place the tag on a harvested deer as soon as is safely possible and prior to transportation of the carcass.

And, the Legislature also adopted a new law addressing the spread of Palmer amaranth, a so-called "super weed" that is gradually becoming more common in the state. Originating in the Southern states, the Palmer Amaranthis a species of edible flowering plant that is very aggressive and invasive and will crowd out corn, soybeans and other cash crops. The plant, which can grow up to seven feet tall, has been identified in at least 49 Iowa counties and has been officially declared noxious weed to be eradicated in the state.

Other new laws address occupancy of residential rental properties, theft of rental equipment, and increased opportunities for businesses that make and sell Iowa wine, beer and spirits and creation of an Iowa First Time Homebuyer Savings Account Act.



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