DES MOINES — Autonomous vehicles are one turn of the wheel closer to rolling down Iowa highways.
The Iowa House joined the Senate in approving legislation paving the way for driverless-capable vehicles without a human driver to operate on Iowa roads if it meets certain conditions.
Although it may be years before fully autonomous vehicles are in use, lawmakers said Senate File 302 would create basic regulations for automated vehicles, including rules on operation, insurance, and a driver or owner liability in the event of a collision.
SF 302 would require that there be minimal risk if the automated driving system malfunctions. It also requires vehicles to comply with Iowa’s traffic laws and regulations unless the Department of Transportation has granted an exception, and the vehicle must be certified by a manufacturer to be in compliance with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards unless an exemption has been granted.
The legislation also authorizes a transportation service network to use software to dispatch driverless-capable vehicles to transport people or goods, including transportation for hire and public transportation.
Also Tuesday, the House voted 100-0 to approve SF 563 to allow the state insurance commissioner more oversight to ensure prescription drug rebates negotiated by pharmacy benefit managers are applied to health care insurance plans.
Pharmacy benefit managers are companies that handle the prescription drug benefit component of health care insurance plans.
The problem, said Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, is no one knows where the money goes when a pharmacy benefit manager gets a rebate from a drug company. It’s unclear if the money goes to the insurance company or to reduce the patient’s cost, he said.
The bill would require pharmacy benefit managers to annually report all rebate information and fees received from a health carrier to the Iowa insurance commissioner. The commissioner would be required to post non-confidential information on a publicly accessible website.
It also would require health carriers to reduce cost-sharing requirements for covered prescription drugs using a statutory formula.
SF 563 goes back to the Senate because the House amended it.
The House approved and sent to the governor SF 265 to allow for the sale of the wild golden oyster mushroom at farmers markets. The bill would require people who sell the mushrooms to successfully complete a course similar to the three-hour morel mushroom identification expert course, according to Rep. Thomas Gerhold, R-Atkins. It will be developed by the Department of Inspection and Appeals and Iowa State University.
A $41.1 million general fund agriculture and natural resources budget was approved 53-45. It would be an increase of $1.8 million and would increase the departments’ full-time equivalent positions 149.7 to 1,369. It also would appropriate $90.6 million from other funds.
Democrats sought to amend the budget to direct the ag department to evaluate the use and value of the master matrix for confinement animal feeding operations. It was ruled not germane to the budget bill.
A minority party amendment to transfer $12 million from the Environment First Fund to the Resource Enhancement and Protection program was defeated and another $1 million for mental health assistance for farm families affected by low commodity prices was not germane.