Local Government Committee – Week 6, 2022


SSB 3087 – Membership removal for city utility boards

SSB 3087 requires that municipal utility board members only be removed from office by the district court for willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of the office, willful misconduct or maladministration in office, corruption, extortion, conviction of a felony, intoxication or conviction for intoxication, campaign finance violations and failure to pay specified fines (66.1A). Previously, a city utility board member removal was governed like any other city office under 372.15. The bill takes effect upon enactment.

Concerns around this bill included the idea that city utilities are separate from the city. City utilities are wholly owned by the city. Their budgets are included on city annual budgets, and they are included in city audits. They often benefit financially through the use of a city’s general obligation bonds and other forms of support.

City utility board members are not elected. They are appointed by a mayor to serve a six-year term. Without removal power, these individuals are not accountable to residents who have no choice but to pay for the necessary and essential service. Removing city oversight and utility accountability is not in the best interest of tax and ratepayers. Elevating their removal to requiring a Courts involvement is an unreasonably high level for an unelected six-year term.
[2/10: Short Form]

SSB 3117 – Modifications for county compensation board

SSB 3117 – Currently, county compensation boards review the compensation paid to comparable officers in other counties, other states, private enterprise, federal government, and, in the case of the county sheriff’s salary, other law enforcement personnel, when determining the recommended compensation schedule. SSB 3117 requires the county compensation board to consider the current economic health of the county, state and country when recommending the compensation schedule, in addition to the other required considerations.
[2/15: 7-4, party-line]

SSB 3119 – Electronic submission of bids for public improvement contracts

SSB 3119 allows a government entity to accept bids for public improvement contract in an electronic format.
[2/15: Short Form]

SSB 3120 – Extends property assessment protest timeframes for disaster areas  

SSB 3120 extends the time to file a protest of property assessment for counties declared a federal disaster area. Currently, any property owner who is dissatisfied with their assessment may contact the assessor by April 25 to request an informal review of the assessment. The bill allows for a county that has been declared a disaster area after March 1 and prior to May 20 of the year of assessment to extend the date for an informal review to May 25 of that year. If a county has been declared a disaster area after March 1 and prior to May 20 during the assessment year, the board of review can remain in session until June 15, instead of May 31. The bill extends that time period from June 15 to July 15, and updates the period for filing a protest from May 25 through June 5 to be May 1 through June 5.
[2/15: Short Form]

SSB 3121 – County treasurer’s bill for tax sale flexibility

SSB 3121 modifies the ability of the county treasurer to reschedule a tax sale for good cause or by allowing the county treasurer to cancel the sale and offer such parcels for sale at the subsequent years’ annual tax sale. Currently, Iowa Code requires that every year on the third Monday in June, the county treasurer offers at public sale all parcels on which taxes are delinquent. If the treasurer cannot hold the annual tax sale on that date, they many pick a different date in June for the sale.
[2/15: Short Form]

SF 2096 – Annexation changes and agriculture member to city planning and zoning commission

SF 2096 adds agricultural land ownership as a requirement for additional members of a city planning and zoning commission and a board of adjustment when a city extends its zoning jurisdiction. Current law authorizes a city to extend its zoning jurisdiction into the unincorporated area up to two miles beyond the limits of the city, subject to limitations.

When a city extends its zoning jurisdiction in this manner, it must increase its planning and zoning commission and board of adjustment by two members on each board. One of the members appointed to the planning and zoning commission must be a member of the board of supervisors or the board’s designee. The bill adds the requirement that at least one of the appointees to the planning and zoning commission and at least one of the appointees to the board of adjustment own land that is actively used for an agricultural purpose.

The committee adopted an amendment allowing any property owner affected by the extended zoning to agree to annexation as a condition of receiving approval for a zoning classification, special or conditional use, variance, permit or division of land into two tracts. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that annexation is truly voluntary on the part of the property owner.
[2/15: Short Form]

SF 2099 – Establishment of emergency response districts

SF 2099 repeals the current pilot program and makes permanent authorization for a county to establish an emergency response district. The bill aims to help small voluntary fire departments by creating a district that can share resources. It’s fully decided on the local level and voluntary.

Specifically, the bill amends the definition of “commission” to mean a member or designee of each government entity participating in the emergency response district. The bill amends the process for changing district boundaries to require the approval of the commission and each governmental entity that is a member of the emergency response district. The bill requires incorporation documents of an emergency response district to include provisions for dissolution, the withdrawal of an individual member and the dispensing of property in either event. Finally, the bill repeals provisions relating to the engineer’s responsibilities and the appointment of assistant fire chiefs.
[2/10: Short Form]

SF 2153 – Emergency management commissions and duties of a joint 911 service board

SF 2153 authorizes local emergency management commissions to assume the duties of a joint 911 service board. The bill goes into the local emergency management commission code section and adds two new paragraphs that would allow these commissions to be substituted for a joint 911 service board. This will be done by the board of supervisors of the county in which the joint 911 service board is maintained. The commission must have all of the powers of a joint 911 service board if a commission is substituted. The bill modifies the duties of a local emergency management commission to be responsible for the activities of a joint 911 service board if substitution occurs. An amendment was adopted to improve the bill by requiring a two-thirds vote of each board to approve merging. 

[2/15: Short Form]

SF 2156 – Reporting certain vaccinations and providing penalties

SF 2156 deals with federal requirements for health care providers administering certain vaccines. The bill requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to ensure that all health care providers are aware of and comply with the requirements to administer vaccines, including providing the patient verbal information regarding the federal Food and Drug Administration Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program prior to the patient receiving the vaccine.

The bill also mandates recording certain required information about the vaccine administered in the patient’s medical record or a permanent office log or file; documenting and reporting to FAERS any adverse event the patient experiences within eight weeks following the vaccination and that becomes known to the health care provider; and providing a copy of the report. Finally, the bill requires disciplinary action by DPH or the respective health profession board and a minimum $1,000 fine for noncompliance with the federal requirements.

There was an amendment that does not improve the bill enough to protect health care workers and their ability to report the strongly encouraged items within 72 hours.
[2/10: 7-4, party-line]

SF 2170 – Exempting religion from existing laws 

SF 2170 reiterates the already illegal activity of a government entity infringing on a person’s free exercise of religion. The bill prohibits government entities from treating religious conduct more restrictively than secular conduct or activity because of alleged economic need or benefit. The bill requires local governments to not “substantially burden” a person’s free exercise of religion unless the government entity can demonstrate that the action is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

This bill also allows a person whose free exercise of religion has been burdened in violation of the bill to file a judicial or administrative claim in court. The government entity may be liable for actual damages, attorney fees, costs and other appropriate remedies. Iowa business and civil rights organizations are registered against this bill.

[2/10: 7-4, party-line]

SF 2223 – Modifying the disciplinary proceedings and keeping them secret for police and fire

SF 2223 revamps the procedures for the removal, discharge, demotion or suspension of a person holding civil service rights (police/fire). The first section of the bill expands rights for police and fire officers by prohibiting any discipline unless the civil service commission establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the person violated clearly established law or city policies. Current law does not establish a burden of proof and allows disciplinary action for violation of standard operating procedures that indicates the person is unfit to remain in employment. The bill uses “violation of clearly established law,” which is a reference to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine designed to protect law enforcement from liability and is an affirmative defense against a suit for violating civil rights.

The bill says “peremptorily” discipline can only be based on a “proven” act. Generally, it’s the hearing or trial’s result that makes an act “proven.” Before then, it’s just alleged. The bill inserts of “imminently detrimental to the public,” so it’s no longer adequate that the employee is “unsuitable or unfit;” they must be so egregiously incompetent that the public is harmed by their employment.

The bill allows the civil service commission deliberations to be done in private, if requested by the employee. The bill requires the civil service commission to reverse the decision and dismiss the charge with prejudice if the city fails to meet its burden of proof on any element of the charge. The bill allows the commission to hire its own contract attorney for advice or for the city to hire a contract attorney to litigate, which will increase costs to the city.
[2/15: 7-4, party-line]

SF 2227 – Elected official compensation and emergency services fund changes 

SF 2227 says that if a city has established an additional fund for police, fire or other emergency services, and has received funding for that account, the city must deposit the money into the fund rather than into their general fund. Additionally, if a city has established this fund, money remaining at the end of the year may be transferred into a reserve savings account to only be used for maintaining or acquiring major equipment. There is discussion around this section needing an amendment to make sure it doesn’t inhibit city council appropriation decision making.

Current law generally voids a contract entered into by a city officer or employee if the officer or employee has an interest in the contract, the profits thereof or services to be furnished or performed for the officer’s or employee’s city. SF 2227 says that this provision does not prohibit the lawful compensation, including nominal stipends, incentives and benefits, for a volunteer fire fighter or emergency medical care provider holding one or more city office if there is not a conflict, or it’s not otherwise prohibited by law. Finally, SF 2227 allows a city council member to serve as chief of the volunteer fire department upon a majority vote of the council.
[2/15: 9-2 (No: J. Smith, T. Taylor)]