Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 26, 2018

Guest commentary

By Mark D. Lowe

April 1, 2013
Des Moines, Iowa

To the Editor:
Mr. Brock’s guest commentary of Feb. 6, 2013, regarding Washington County bus stop arm violations recently came to my attention. Within that commentary are assertions regarding the administrative rules established by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) that are not accurate.
The commentary correctly notes the Iowa Legislature in 2012 increased the penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus. The bill that established these penalties was Senate File 2218, commonly known as “Kadyn’s Law.” The bill is called Kadyn’s Law in honor of Kadyn Halverson of rural Kensett, Iowa, a 7-year-old girl who was tragically killed on May 20, 2011, by a driver that illegally passed a stopped school bus.
Through Kadyn’s Law, the Legislature emphasized the seriousness of these violations and attempted to deter drivers from passing stopped school buses and prevent future tragedies like the one that befell Kadyn Halverson and her family. One way in which the Legislature did this was to increase the criminal penalties for illegally passing a school bus, as [the] commentary suggests.
Another specific way in which the Legislature did this, however, was by specifically directing the DOT to establish rules for suspending the driver’s license of a person convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus. Section 5, paragraph 2 of Kadyn’s Law specifically states: “By July 1, 2012, the department of transportation shall initiate rulemaking to establish a violation of section 321.372, subsection 3, as a serious violation. The rules may provide for an increasing tier of driver’s license suspensions for conviction of a first, second, or subsequent violation.”
As directed by the Legislature through section 5 of Kadyn’s Law, the DOT amended its administrative rules (761 Iowa Administrative Code 615.17) to add illegally passing a stopped school bus to the violations deemed to be serious, and through the amended rules established a 30-day suspension for a first offense, a 90-day suspension for a second offense, and a 180-day suspension for a third or subsequent offense. (The $200 civil penalty referenced in the commentary was not established in this rule-making or by Kadyn’s Law, but is instead required by section 321.218A of the Iowa Code.) The DOT did initiate these rules through an emergency process permitted by Chapter 17A of the Iowa Code, but it is incorrect to say that this was done without oversight by the Legislature or approval of the Governor’s office, as the commentary suggests.
The DOT constructed the rules as directed by section 5 of Kadyn’s Law, and originally initiated the rules on a non-emergency basis. At the request of Sen. Merlin Bartz, a member of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee and a chief architect of Kadyn’s Law, the DOT switched to the emergency process so the rules would be effective before children returned to school. This was done with the approval of the Governor’s office, and the rules were presented and approved in a public forum by the Iowa DOT’s Transportation Commission before they became effective. To allow for public comment and full review by the Administrative Rules Review Committee, the Iowa DOT also submitted these rules through a regular rule-making process. No contrary public comments were received during this parallel process and the Administrative Rules Review Committee took no action against them.
The DOT understands and respects the discretion county attorneys must exercise in determining the cases to prosecute and the charges to be pursued, and does not presume to direct the exercise of that discretion. The DOT also believes, however, that the exercise of that discretion should not be based on incorrect assumptions or perceptions; and the assumption that the DOT’s rules were adopted arbitrarily, without authority, or without adequate legislative or public oversight or comment is incorrect. Please recognize the DOT’s rules are a part of a comprehensive safety scheme intended by the Legislature to deter drivers from the singularly unsafe act of illegally passing a stopped school bus and to prevent future injuries and deaths to Iowa children. Attempting to avoid administrative suspension of the driver’s license of a person that illegally passes a stopped school bus diminishes the intended effect of the Legislature’s comprehensive safety scheme.

Mark D. Lowe, J.D.
Director, Motor Vehicle Division
Iowa Department of Transportation