February 20, 2020
First Funnel Complete: A Look at What’s Alive and Dead
The first legislative deadline of the 2020 legislative session is complete and week seven begins on Monday. Hundreds of proposals have been considered by the legislature with many advancing for further consideration while others have met their fate. A bill, with some exceptions, must have passed through a full committee to survive the first funnel. Though this deadline helps narrow the focus of the Legislature, it’s important to note that nothing is ever truly dead until the legislature adjourns sine die . Below are some of the key bills ABI is tracking through week six.

HF2384 / SF2313  – Future Ready Iowa.  Gov. Reynolds' legislation has passed full committees in both the House and Senate. It creates a new apprenticeship program and initiates a child care challenge fund that incentivizes businesses to create child care facilities. It also increases computer science education in K-12 schools and expands the definition of eligible student under the Last-Dollar Scholarship program. Workforce is a top priority for ABI this year.  ABI position: Support.

HF2459 / SF2262  – Empower Rural Iowa.  Gov. Reynolds' bill makes technical changes to the state’s broadband program while enhancing the percentage of matching grants from the state to deploy higher speeds of broadband in underserved areas. The legislation passed Commerce Committees in both chambers. The House bill has been referred to Appropriations, and the Senate bill is likely to be referred there as well.  ABI position: Support.

HF2470  – Licensing Reform.   Another one of Gov. Reynolds’ bills is her effort to streamline occupational licensing to make it easier for skilled workers to practice their trade in Iowa. The bill also has some criminal justice pieces related to making it easier for those who have been convicted of a crime in the past to know whether or not they can receive a particular license. It also eliminates application fees for those below a particular income level. It passed House Commerce and has been referred to Ways & Means for further consideration.  ABI position: Support.

HF2309  – Criminal Background Check Local Ordinances.  ABI maintains the law passed in 2017 prevents cities and counties from passing local ordinances affecting hiring practices or the setting of minimum wages and other business practices. Nonetheless, the city of Waterloo passed an ordinance that would prohibit businesses from asking about an applicant's criminal history or conducting background checks until individuals are well into the hiring process. HF2309 puts teeth into the 2017 law by awarding attorney fees to parties that successfully challenge such ordinances. The bill has passed the House Judiciary Committee and is eligible for debate on the House floor.  ABI position: Support.

SF2273 / HF2473  – Synthetic Urine Prohibition.  The bill creates criminal penalties for those who would use synthetic urine to defraud an alcohol or drug screening test. The purpose of the legislation is to deter individuals from attempting this activity. Both bills have passed committees in the House and Senate. They’re now eligible for floor debate.  ABI position: Support.

SF2325  – Employer Protections for Marijuana Usage.  The bill explicitly spells out that employers have a right to maintain a zero tolerance drug-free workplace. The legislation ensures that employers cannot face a cause of action for discrimination if they dismiss someone for violating that policy. The bill passed the full Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.  ABI position: Support. 

SF2359  – Evidence of Past Medical Expenses.  ABI has been working with the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and the Iowa Motor Truck Association (IMTA) to bring legislation that will limit evidence of past medical costs to actual amounts paid rather than amounts that have been billed by providers. Insurers often negotiate lower payments to providers on behalf of employer health plans. The bill ensures that any economic recovery in a civil action will be based on actual costs and not on amounts that were never paid. The bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and could see Senate floor action as soon as next week.  ABI position: Support.

SF2296 / HF2479  – Independent Contractors Operating Certain Vehicles.  This preserves a current business model in Iowa relating to independent contractors as truck drivers. Actions in other states have sought to make categories of worker that perform as independent contractors reclassified as employees for the purposes of unemployment insurance and workers' compensation. This preserves the current business model enjoyed by trucking business owners and their independent contractor drivers. The bills are eligible for floor debate in both chambers.  ABI position: Support.

HSB600 / SF2337  – Asbestos Over-Naming.  ABI, in conjunction with member insurers, is supporting legislation that will end the practice whereby companies are named as defendants in asbestos cases where there is no link between the company and the individual bringing the action. Rather than being named in a lawsuit and having to fight their way out of the court action, the bill would require a party bringing suit to show some connection to the named defendants. SF2337 is ready for Senate floor action.  ABI position: Support.

SF2333 / HF2462  – Unemployment Benefits.  This Iowa Workforce Development legislation repeals the provisions of the code that automatically increase wage credits to 50% versus 33% when a business closing is involved. It also repeals the additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits under this scenario. Both bills are eligible for floor debate.  ABI position: Support.

SF2338  – Noneconomic Damages Cap & Evidence of Past Medical Expenses.  ABI is part of a large coalition supporting legislation that places a hard cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. This bill sets the cap at $750,000. The legislation also contains similar language to that of SSB3135, which we commented on above.  ABI position: Support.

SF2332  – Low Wage Noncompetes.  The bill prohibits employers from using non-competes with low wage employees. Low wage employee is defined as someone who makes 200% of the federal minimum wage or less. ABI is undecided on this version of the bill, but there is talk of expanding it further with an amendment, which would give us pause for concern. The bill passed Senate Labor and Business Relations yesterday.  ABI position: Undecided.

HF2417 / SF2165  – Adoption.  The legislation mandates that an employer must treat an employee who chooses to adopt in the same manner as an employee who is the biological parent of a newborn child for purposes of employment policies, benefits and protections for the first year of adoption. The Senate version explicitly states that an employee is not entitled to disability leave unless they have a condition that qualifies under the employer’s policies. Both bills are eligible for floor debate.  ABI position: Undecided.

HF2423 / SSB3117  – Prohibition of Non-Medical Switching of Drug Formularies by Health Plans.  The bill would freeze drug formularies in health plans offered by employers and freeze copays and cost-sharing paid by employees. The bill would not freeze pharmaceutical pricing. The House version passed the Human Resources Committee and is eligible for floor debate. The Senate version will be amended to create a study of the issue so that the effects of the bill can be better understood.  ABI position: Opposed to HF2423, Neutral on SSB3117.

HF2192  – Telehealth Reimbursement Rates.  The bill would require that in-person health care and telehealth services be reimbursed at the same rate. An amendment was adopted during committee consideration that could potentially allow full reimbursement even if no health care professional is available for live consultation while providing a fully reimbursable service. ABI staff is continuing to seek clarity in the language. HF2192 is available for House floor action. There is no Senate companion.  ABI position: Undecided.

SF459 / HF636  – Guns in Employer Parking Lots.  Both bills mandate that employers are prohibited from having a company policy that disallows employees from having weapons on the company’s parking lot. The legislation violated employers’ private property rights and would have increased risks at workplaces. Neither bill passed out of a full committee.  ABI position: Opposed.

HSB555  – Election Leave.  The bill mandates that an employer must give 30 days of unpaid leave to an employee prior to a special, primary or general election if the employee requests so to run for office. The legislation also prohibits an employer from having a policy preventing an employee from running for office and also states that an employer may not take an adverse action against an employee if they choose to run for office. The bill was approved in House State Government late today. ABI position: Opposed.

SF2074  – Election Leave.  Similar to HSB555, but does not require an employer to give 30 days of unpaid leave to an employee prior to that timeframe before a special, primary or general election. The bill, like the House legislation, erodes Iowa’s status as an at-will state and removes the rights of the employer in this situation.  ABI position: Opposed.

SF2003  – Work Comp Prosthetic Devices.  Under the workers’ compensation chapter, this bill would result in an employee being eligible for subsequent prosthetic devices if the device is needed as a result of a compensable injury. Under current law, an employer is only required to furnish one set of prosthetic devices. The bill passed a subcommittee, but was not considered in full committee.  ABI position: Opposed.

HSB608  – Reasonable Pregnancy Accommodations.  The bill mandates that an employer provide reasonable accommodations to an employee based on medical conditions related to the employee’s pregnancy of childbirth. The definition of reasonable accommodations is very broad and the term undue hardship is also undefined, which will lead to increased litigation by plaintiff attorneys. The bill passed House State Government today. The bill passed House State Government today. ABI position: Opposed.

HF298  – Temporary Employment Agencies.  Prohibits certain fees from being charged, increases reporting requirements and hinders ability for temporary employment agencies to operate in the nursing industry.  ABI position: Opposed.

SF508  – Religious Freedom.  Legislation enacts strict scrutiny when businesses use religion as a reason for not doing business with a customer. It passed a Senate subcommittee, but was not taken up in full committee.  ABI position: Opposed.

Register for Iowa Business Day on the Hill Today
We’re less than three weeks away from the annual Iowa Business Day on the Hill, which will take place on Wednesday, March 11. ABI is partnering with the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Taxpayers Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Women Business Owners to put on this event. The day begins at ABI where participants will receive a breakdown of the key business issues by ABI staff and others. We’ll then head to the Capitol to lobby legislators on the bills that matter most to your companies. This is a great way to get involved and to have your voice heard. Register  here .

Governor Selects Marler to Lead DOT
Gov. Reynolds appointed Scott Marler to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Transportation this week. His service was effective as of Monday. Marler previously served as director of the operations division at the DOT. He’s been with the agency for 22 years and has experience in traffic operations, highway project development, regulatory compliance and the natural environment. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation, which requires a ⅔ vote. Read the  news release .

Federal Spotlight: House Passes Anti-business PRO Act
The U.S. House recently approved the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO). The anti-jobs legislation, which passed 224-191 mostly along party lines, rewrites several of the nation’s labor laws to favor unions. It would make it practically impossible for states to enforce right-to-work laws, make it easier for workers to join unions, implement “card check,” make it more challenging for employers to classify workers as independent contractors, allow the National Labor Relations Board to impose significant fines on employers and  more . The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, of which ABI is a partner, and several other business groups lobbied heavily against the legislation. Though the bill was approved by the lower chamber, the U.S. Senate is highly unlikely to consider this bill this year. 
Conference Registration Now Open
ABI will shine a spotlight on Cedar Rapids at its 2020 Taking Care of Business Conference on June 9-11. Conference registration opens today at www.ABITakingCareOfBusiness.com .

“Cedar Rapids is full of energy, and we want to be a part of that excitement,” said ABI President Mike Ralston. “This year’s conference will be bigger and better than ever.”

The Taking Care of Business Conference is Iowa’s premiere statewide business conference. It brings together the state’s most influential industry leaders to learn, network and share ideas on growing Iowa’s business climate.

“We’re proud to bring the Taking Care of Business Conference to Cedar Rapids,” said ABI Board Chair Cindy Dietz, associate director, state government relations for Collins Aerospace. “Cedar Rapids is the second largest industrial and commercial center in Iowa and is vital to the state’s economy. And the city’s revitalization following the historic flood of 2008 is nothing short of amazing.”

The conference will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex with additional activities throughout the city. Read the full news release . Share the excitement on social media by using the hashtag #abicon20.
Building Business Value Seminar Set for Muscatine
The Building Business Value seminar is coming to Muscatine on March 5 at 1 p.m. It focuses on how to build value in your business, ways to position your business for sustained success, and how to transition it to the next generation of ownership. Speakers will include Kevin Lentz, president, Performance Marketing; Jim Nalley, VP, BCC Advisers; Mark Wyzgowski, managing principal, CliftonLarsonAllen; and Brian Crotty, managing director, HDH Advisors.  Register now .
Plan for Iowa Real Property Tax Reductions
Josh Malancuk, CPA, CMI
JM Tax Associates

If you've seen an Iowa property tax bill recently, you might have wondered if your taxes are too high. Well, your business sense is right on point. Odds are, they probably are too high because about 80% of the time, we find that companies are paying inaccurate property tax levels by as much as 20%-30%!

As an Iowa business manager, Iowa’s property tax likely represents one of your largest tax burdens and it is highly likely that you are paying far above the fair, accurate and equitable amount. So, what’s the best approach to tackle the issue head-on? We will start by discussing some basics about the state’s property tax, then how a proactive planning process looks for reducing overages, and conclude with our suggestions about how you can best manage your ongoing business property tax levels starting with this year’s assessment cycle. Read more .
BrownWinick Launches New Branding and Website
BrownWinick is proud to announce the launch of a new brand and new website ( BrownWinick.com ). A company statement said: "Today, nearly 70 years since we first opened our doors, the nature of our work is rapidly evolving, as are the challenges our clients face. In response to a changing world, we’ve created a brand that serves as an anchor—focused on the timeless values of wisdom, boldness, creativity, practicality and courage. As the rest of the world changes, these values hold strong. These principles have formed our identity since the very beginning. They’re the values our clients know and trust. And now, as we guide our clients and our firm into the future, these principles—embodied in our new brand—are showing the way forward." Read the full news release .
Monte Wyatt Wins Most Influential Business Guru/Best Business Author Award
Monte Wyatt (pictured) , CEO of AddingZEROS, announced Tuesday that he was named the winner of Most Influential Business Guru and Best Business Author at the 2020 BIZ X Awards, an annual event that honors the best of the best small- and medium-sized businesses around the world. The event, which was held in Nashville, Tennessee, showcases exceptional results for business owners, entrepreneurs and their teams. BIZ 2020 Conference and Awards are powered by ActionCOACH, the largest business coaching franchise in the world. Read the full news release .
Secretary Pate Partners with IN the BAG to Promote Resources Available for Survivors of Violence
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is working with IN the BAG Corporate Cuisine to promote resources available for survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Throughout February, IN the BAG customers will see a brochure about Iowa’s Safe at Home program and Dorothy’s House included in their lunch bag. The initiatives will also be featured in the Charity of the Month section of IN the BAG’s newsletter. Read the full news release . The brochure that will appear inside IN the BAG lunches this month is available  at this link .
CLA to Host "Opportunity Zones: Debriefing the Final Regulations" Webinar on Feb. 25
The Opportunity Zone program has been one of the most talked about pieces of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. On Dec. 19, 2019 the treasury issued final regulations on the Opportunity Zone program. These final regulations have provided much needed guidance for investors, developers and business owners to move forward and make investments into the designated Opportunity Zones. This program will break down the various aspects of the final regulations and the impact they’ll have on investors, developers and business owners. Register now for the webinar, which takes place on Feb. 25 at 11 a.m.

"It's Never About Price" Sales Workshop is Feb. 25
Join Sandler Sales Training and ABI for a sobering discussion about the incredible cost of embedded sales mediocrity and the impact it can have on your bottom line. This no-holds-barred session will challenge your core beliefs about sales performance. Designed for owners, CEOs, presidents and selling professionals, learn how to change the "behavior dynamics" of your sales team, and build a high performing sales culture within your company that will get results. The workshop is Feb. 25, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at the ABI office. Admission is $29 and includes lunch.  Learn more and register .

ACS to Host "C-Suite Discussions: Leading Through Chaos" Event
Join ACS and Renaissance Executive Forums for a panel discussion examining successful strategies in crisis management on Feb. 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m., at the Des Moines Golf & Country Club. Experts will share proven tactics for remaining calm and overcoming unexpected business challenges such as legal and public relations issues, natural disasters, data breaches, economic difficulties and more. Panelists will include Vince Newendorp, vice president–facilities and rebuild, Vermeer Corporation; Dawn Buzynski, director of public relations, Strategic America; and Brian McCormac, attorney, BrownWinick Law Firm. Register now .

Iowa Employment Conference Coming to Altoona
The Iowa Employment Conference will be April 8-9 at The Meadows Events and Conference Center in Altoona. The conference focuses on employment, training, benefits and wellness. Choose from over 40 educational sessions to enhance your career potential. The keynote speaker, human capital management thought leader Dr. Jarik Conrad, will present "Understanding Your Emotional Intelligence: The Art and Science of Human Performance." Learn more and register .

CEC Receives National Excellence in Business Award from National Systems Contractors Association
Communications Engineering Company (CEC), a nationally recognized technology systems integrator, is pleased to announce that it has been recognized by National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) with an Excellence in Business award in the category of Differentiating Strategies. The company has aligned the sales organization to concentrate on customer-driven initiatives allowing CEC’s sales professionals to focus on one-on-one support across technology suites. Read the full news release .