Iowa governor signs elder abuse penalties amid a flurry of new laws

By: and - June 15, 2022 5:36 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds signs new penalties for elder abuse June 15, 2022 at the Highland Ridge senior care facility in Willamsburg. (Photo courtesy of AARP)

Gov. Kim Reynolds sat down with a pile of pens Wednesday at Highland Ridge, a senior care facility in Williamsburg.

She signed Senate File 522, a bill establishing criminal penalties for elder abuse. It passed unanimously in both chambers of the Iowa Statehouse. Supporters of the bill gathered around the desk where she signed the legislation into law, and proclaimed the week as World Elder Abuse Awareness Week.

“The safety and well-being of older Iowans is so very important,” Reynolds said. “And this bill provides greater reassurance that there will be consequences for those that target and harm them.”

As is the custom of Iowa governors, Reynolds uses multiple pens to sign bills at public events and then gives them to supporters who attend.

The bill was one of Iowa’s many new laws approved by the governor in the days before the signing deadline.

Reynolds has 30 days from the end of the legislative session – June 24 – to sign remaining legislation into law. Among bills yet to be signed include the state budget, changes to the bottle bill, protections for mobile home residents and more.

New laws will be enacted July 1, unless otherwise specified.

Here are some of the notable bills signed so far this week:

Child care and education

Child care aid: Child care providers could receive additional private payments from families currently receiving state aid. The current state assistance program reimburses child care centers  50% to 75% the market rate for care, allowing children to attend at no cost to the family. House File 2127 would allow providers to charge families for the difference between the state assistance and the private pay rate.

Child care workers: Reynolds plans to sign House File 2198 at Thursday’s Iowa Association of Business and Industry conference, according to her public schedule. The bill would increase the amount of toddlers a child care staff member can care for: seven 2-year-olds per staff member, and up to 10 children who are 3 years old. The legislation also allows 16-year-olds to supervise school-age children without adult supervision. The previous age minimum for staff without supervision was 18.

Teacher licensing: This bill eliminates the standardized test required to obtain a teaching license in Iowa. Teachers in Iowa currently must pass a series of standardized tests, which are also used to certify teachers in states like Nebraska and Kansas. The legislation builds on previous efforts to fight Iowa’s educator shortage. Entrance exams for teaching courses were made optional, and required passing grades for the exit test were lowered.

Health care

COVID-19 vaccines: Child care centers, public K-12 schools and Regents universities cannot require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend school. House File 2298 stands until 2029 and will be in effect for the upcoming school year.

Mental health workers: Two new laws were signed Monday to address the shortage of mental health workers. House File 2549 establishes a loan repayment program for psychologists and non-prescribing mental health professionals who agree to practice in Iowa for five years or up to seven years if working part time. House File 2246 allows interns enrolled in a psychology doctoral degree program to seek a provisional license and work under a fully licensed supervisor.

Asthma medication in schools: House File 771, which Reynolds signed Wednesday, allows students with respiratory ailments such as asthma to keep and use an inhaler or other medication in school, with written parental permission and a doctor’s statement. Schools would be allowed to stock the medications and appropriate personnel may administer it to students reasonably believed to be in respiratory distress.

Commerce

Aircraft taxation: Aircraft owners in Iowa will no longer be required to pay sales tax on parts and labor under Senate File 2370. Aircraft owners could save up to $700,000 a year, according to legislative fiscal analysts.

Home food businesses: House File 2341 broadens the regulation of home-based food businesses from “home bakeries” to “home-based food establishments.” These businesses will be allowed to sell up to $50,000 in perishable food products per year, an increase from the previous limit of $35,000. These businesses can also sell non-perishable, shelf-stable foods online, and ship directly to the consumer.

Workforce

Unemployment benefits: Iowa workers will have 10 fewer weeks of unemployment benefits under legislation Reynolds plans to sign Thursday. The bill shortens the state’s maximum unemployment eligibility from 26 to 16 weeks, in addition to imposing a one-week waiting period before receiving benefits. It also requires workers to accept lower-paying jobs sooner or risk losing their benefits. Legislators said the bill will “update and repurpose” Iowa’s unemployment system amid the state worker shortage.

Workforce regulations: This “workforce omnibus” bill takes a range of actions, including changed requirements and fees for employment. It waives certain parking fees for veterans and inspection requirements for manufactured housing, and creates reporting requirements for workforce learning programs. Reynolds also plans to sign this at the Iowa ABI conference.

Criminal charges

Elder abuse: The bill Reynolds signed Wednesday enacts more protections for Iowans 60 years or older. The bill would heighten minimum penalties for people charged for assault or theft against older Iowans. The legislation also created new criminal penalties for “elder abuse” as defined by Iowa law, as well as a new criminal charge for financial exploitation of people in this category.

Reproductive fraud: Senate File 529 criminalizes fertility fraud – the use of human reproductive material that the patient did not consent to in writing. Nonconsensual insemination will considered be sexual abuse in the fourth degree, an aggravated misdemeanor. It also changes current law to allow any woman over 18 to consent to their own hysterectomy. Current law states a doctor can require spousal consent.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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Kate Kealey
Kate Kealey

Katherine Kealey is a senior majoring in journalism and political science at Iowa State University. Before interning at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, she interned at the Carroll Times Herald. She will serve as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily in the fall.

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