2015 Legislative Session

Photo by John Pemble

  

Legislators remain at odds over the main function of the Iowa General Assembly -- coming up with a state spending plan. For example, the two parties have been wrangling since January over how much state aid to forward to Iowa's public schools for the school year that begins in August

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is currently in his sixth term as governor. As the 2015 legislative session nears a close, he says that legislation on the gas tax and broadband access for rural communities are the biggest accomplishments of this session.

In this River to River interview, IPR statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell talks with the governor about his views on medical marijuana, granting felons voter rights, and how he plans to deal with the budget impasse.

Clay Masters / IPR

Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize parts of the state’s Medicaid system is moving forward. Medicaid is the healthcare program for low income Iowans; that represents $4.2 billion in state and federal spending.

Joyce Russell / IPR

Democrats in the Iowa Senate heard from employees and former employees at the state’s mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda on Wednesday, after the institutes continue to be targeted by Governor Branstad for closing.

Nurses and other staff say patients and their families are still calling and asking for placements, even though the institutions are not accepting new patients. Ann Davison is a nurse at Clarinda who still has her job, "We've received over 120 calls from across the state, from 66 of the 99 counties."

Green Fire Productions / flickr

During the 2014 legislative session, lawmakers approved full funding for Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) for the first time in the program’s 25 year history, but Governor Branstad line item vetoed some of that funding when he went to sign the budget.

Will lawmakers fully fund the program again this year, and what are other environmental priorities for this year’s legislature?

John Pemble

Governor Terry Branstad’s administration is proposing a $2 million dollar plan to help ease student debt. It involves giving Iowans a generous tax credit to contribute to charities, who in turn give out grants to students who volunteer for the Iowa based nonprofits. Contributors will get 65% of their contributions back in the form of tax credits.

Student debt is a growing concern for recent graduates in Iowa. Michael Bousselout, legal counsel for Branstad says that while this plan isn’t a “silver bullet,” it’s a start.

John Pemble / IPR

Democrats who control the Iowa Senate and Republicans who control the Iowa House are at still at odds over their budget targets. But there has been a little bit of movement. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checks in with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell to talk about this little bit of movement and about other issues before the statehouse in the coming week. 

Phil Romans / Flickr

Current Iowa law requires absentee ballots to be postmarked by the day before the election and received by noon on the following Monday. But what if the ballots aren't postmarked at all?

That's the question facing Iowa lawmakers. Some ballots aren't being postmarked and thus aren't being counted by county auditors. Wapello County was sued in 2010 over absentee ballots. County Auditor Kelly Spurgeon says the problem originates at the post office.

John Pemble / IPR

    

Republicans who control the Iowa House and Democrats who control the Iowa Senate continue to be pretty far apart when it comes to state aid for school funding.  Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checks in with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the difference in opinions of the two chambers and discusses a number of other issues facing the legislature in the week ahead. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Deborah Maynard, leader of the Cedar Rapids Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, became the first Wiccan Priestess to give a blessing before the Iowa House of Representatives yesterday. She says her goal was to show that freedom of religion exists in Iowa and in the United States.

Daniel Silliman / flickr

In 2012, a landlord in Iowa City was arrested for spying on tenants through peepholes he created in his apartment complex. The landlord, Elwyn Gene Miller, spent a couple weeks in jail, paid fines, and is still a landlord in Iowa City.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, a victim of that peeping landlord, Ruth Lapointe, talks about why invasion of privacy laws need to be strengthened.

"The code currently requires that a perpetrator be aroused by spying on their victim and that their victim be at least partially nude," says Lapointe.

John Pemble / IPR

Last week was the second self-imposed deadline for the Iowa legislature to get bills through committee. That means if they didn’t clear committee on Friday… they’re dead for the year. IPR's Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about what died and what's left for Iowa lawmakers to debate. 

John Pemble

Iowa has a law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers, but this law is deemed unconstitutional by both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts.

A proposal moving through Iowa’s legislature would modify the state’s current law mandating life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder. The legislation gives judges three sentencing options. One of those options is still life in prison without parole.

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa lawmakers are facing another funnel deadline this week at the statehouse. Bills must have cleared one chamber and a committee in the other chamber in order to continue to be eligible for consideration. IPR's Julie Englander spoke with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about some of the bills facing this deadline. One would make it a primary offense to use your cell phone while driving. Another would make speeding tickets issued by traffic cameras more detailed.

Photo by John Pemble

Lawmakers in the Iowa Republican House last week passed legislation that would weaken bargaining rights for teachers unions. It’s unlikely to even be taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It’s just another part of the fights over education at the Iowa statehouse. IPR's Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the week ahead at the capitol. 

John Pemble / IPR

    There were some controversial bills passed in the legislature over the last couple weeks, but conversations about the state budget are stalled because of a disagreement over education funding between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate. IPR's Clay Masters talks with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the week ahead at the capitol. 

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa public employees would have more privacy while forming a union under proposed legislation in the Iowa House.  

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa lawmakers pushed a hike to the state’s gas tax even further along last week. A bill to raise the state's gas tax by ten cents a gallon is on the fast track at the statehouse.   IPR's Clay Masters talks with Joyce Russell about the actions by House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) as well as the grim possibilities of lawmakers passing a hike to the state's minimum wage.

John Pemble / IPR

Talks about an increase of ten cents a gallon to the state’s gas tax have really been the dominant topic to come out the statehouse this session.  IPR's Clay Masters speaks with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the gas tax and other issues being discussed at the statehouse. 

States Propose Legalizing Raw Milk to Limit Sales

Feb 10, 2015
Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The federal government banned raw milk sales across state lines nearly three decades ago because it poses a threat to public health.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter denies that there’s a political agenda behind a new proposed funding formula for Iowa's three state universities.

John Pemble / IPR

Democrats who control the Iowa Senate are proposing a big push for school funding. But it could be a tough sell. It’s just one of the issues being discussed up at the statehouse. IPR's Clay Masters talks with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about that as well as challenges in the overall proposed state budget and continued talks about a hike in the state's gas tax to pay for the state's deficient roads and bridges. 

Photo by John Pemble

Today Governor Terry Branstad announced the details of a bill to toughen penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders.

Photo by John Pemble

Lawmakers gained ground on a method to pay for the state’s deficient roads and bridges last week. It was one of the many issues likely to be an issue this week. 

Frank Guido

Iowa has a shortage of skilled workers, leaving jobs in some of the most thriving industries unfilled.

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

Governor Branstad outlined his priorities for this year’s legislative session in a thirty minute Condition of the State speech Tuesday.

John Pemble / IPR

Legislative leaders agree a tight budget will sharpen the focus on priorities this session. Identifying those priorities may be the sticking point.

John Pemble / IPR

Clay Masters: It's Morning Edition on Iowa Public Radio. I'm Clay Masters. Governor Terry Branstad delivers his condition of the state speech this morning where he'll lay out his priorities in 2015. We sat down with the governor in his formal office at this capitol yesterday to get a bit of a preview. I start by asking the governor if this is the year a funding method will be approved to fix the state's deficent roads and bridges. 

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