News

Legislature limits liabilities for serving alcohol to people who cause crashes

DES MOINES --- A proposal to reduce the legal and financial liabilities of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to individuals who later become involved in vehicle crashes was approved Monday by state legislators.


Businesses would have to directly serve the intoxicated person, and the person would have to be visibly intoxicated at the time of the sale; and damages would be limited to $250,000 in a civil suit unless a jury determines there was a substantial or permanent loss of a bodily function, according to House Democrats? analysis of Senate File 2169.


The legislation passed, 61-36, on a largely party-line vote with most Republicans supporting and most Democrats opposing.


Rep. Brian Best, a Republican from Glidden, said the proposal would help lower insurance rates for business that are required to carry dram shop insurance to cover potential damages. He said some such businesses pay roughly $40,000 per year for dram shop insurance.


?This gives small business owners certainty with rising costs,? Best said. ?(The proposal) positively impacts thousands of small business owners throughout the state.?


Opponents questioned whether the proposal would lower insurance rates, and expressed concern it would lessen the state?s ability to punish businesses that do not take steps to stop potential drunk drivers.


?I?ve seen so much drunken death on the highways in 32 years as a trooper, and I don?t think this is going to do anything to reduce drunk driving. Might even make it easier for drunk driving,? said Rep. Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield and a retired state trooper.


Because the House amended the proposal, it heads back to the Iowa Senate, which had approved it with lower financial caps.


 


ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE


A proposal intended to ensure home security systems do not run afoul of privacy laws passed the House, but not before a debate that included concerns that the legislation is too broad and could have unintended consequences.


House File 2392 passed, 60-38, largely along party lines with most Republicans supporting and most Democrats opposing. Many Democrats expressed concern the language in the bill is too broad and legalizes electronic snooping and voyeuristic behavior.


Rep. Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton and an attorney, said she appreciates the bill?s intention but expressed concern with the possibility for unintended consequences.


?It is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, but this bill does what we so often do here: you write a bill that fixes one issue but it opens up others,? Wolfe said. ?Anybody out there who believes in privacy and liberty and not having people record private conversations when you are in an apartment building or a hotel ... we are making it legal for that to happen.?


Rep. Chip Baltimore, a Republican from Boone and an attorney, supported the bill but conceded Wolfe?s concerns could have some merit. He said as technology increases, it is increasingly difficult to craft legislation that achieves admirable goals without creating the possibility of other issues.


?I think it?s one of those difficult situations to try to legislate when there are very creative criminal minds out there,? Baltimore said.


The amended proposal returns to the Iowa Senate.


 


BOILER INSPECTIONS


Roughly 7,600 boilers in public places would no longer be subject to state inspections under a proposal that passed the House on a 58-40 vote that was largely along party lines, with most Republicans supporting and most Democrats opposing.


Boilers of more than 100 gallons and more than 200,000 British thermal units would no longer be required to receive an inspection. That doubles the gallons threshold and quadruples the BTU threshold in current law, and surpasses federal safety recommendations for both.


Democrats said the proposal, House File 2297, creates dangerously lax regulations.


Having been previously approved by the Senate, the proposal heads to the governor.