2017 Legislative Session

John Pemble/IPR

Iowans with permits to carry handguns can now bring their weapons into the Iowa statehouse under a new state law that’s been in effect since July 1st.   

Statehouse security officers say so far enforcement has gone well.   

Only a few people have displayed their permits and been allowed to enter with a concealed pistol or revolver.   

Since shortly after the September 11 terror attacks, anyone entering the Iowa statehouse has been required to leave their guns or knives behind.  

Now with a permit to carry you can bring in a pistol or revolver.  

Huw Loaring/flickr

Officials in Cedar Rapids are evaluating Iowa’s new fireworks law that debuted in the just-completed 4th of July season, after many residents weighed in against it.  

“Out of Cedar Rapids we've had more complaints on fireworks than we had on potholes or even on the speed cameras combined,” said Mayor Ron Corbett.  “That's how many people complained about the fireworks.”

Russell/IPR

Governor Reynolds’s challenger for the Republican nomination for governor has harsh words for how statehouse Republicans are managing shortfalls in the state budget.  

After tax receipts fell short of projections, Republican lawmakers dipped into cash reserves to balance the budget this year.

Gov. Reynolds is expected to spend even more emergency funds to cover the shortfall, and may have to call lawmakers back into special session.

GOP gubernatorial candidate, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, says the shortfall was predictable and preventable.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa motorists are being warned of possible penalties under a new state law designed to protect utility crews working along Iowa roadways.  

The electric utilities of Iowa have launched a Move Over Slow Down campaign to promote the law, which requires drivers to either change lanes or reduce their speed when passing utility vehicles.

The original law was enacted in 2002 covering emergency vehicles with flashing lights. It was revised this year to include utility crews.

Officials say drivers are speeding by much too close to the workers. 

danIIIr/flickr

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has issued fireworks licenses to 664 retail dealers in Iowa in the first year of a new law authorizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks.

But officials say only about two-thirds of the required inspections were completed, due to a shortfall in time and resources.  

Department of Public Safety attorney Barbara Edmondson briefed state lawmakers on the Administrative Rules Review Committee on the new licensing program.  

Emily Woodbury

Firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles – class one and class two fireworks - are now legally for sale in Iowa for the first time in decades.

In this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with the state senator who spearheaded the new law, as well as Iowans in charge of implementing the new guidelines, including Janelle Rettig, chair of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

Wikimedia

Boards of Supervisors in two Iowa counties have voted to get rid of bans on weapons in their courthouses, ahead of a new firearms law going into effect July 1.   

The votes are in conflict with an order by Chief Justice Mark Cady banning weapons in courthouses in all 99 counties.  

Woodbury County has banned weapons in the courthouse since 2014.  

But the new state firearms law says local governments can be sued over weapons restrictions, so supervisors voted Tuesday 3 to 1 to lift the ban.    

marijuana
Tomas de Aquino/flickr

Iowa passed emergency rules Tuesday to expand the list of medical conditions that allow a patient to use medical marijuana. It's the first phase of implementing the new medical marijuana law signed last month.  

Iowans diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS and other severe or terminal illnesses can start applying for a registration card June 19.

When cards are issued in August, those patients still won't be able to legally obtain medical marijuana in the state.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is closing offices in Burlington and Keokuk this summer to prepare for cuts to victim services funding. 

The closures come as Iowa programs that help victims of domestic and sexual violence are trying to figure out how to deal with a combined $5.7 million cut in state and federal funding.

DVIP Executive Director Kristie Fortmann-Doser  says a lack of private places for victims to drop in and talk to advocates could impact their immediate safety.

firework
pixabay

Thursday is the first day of legal fireworks sales in Iowa, but no retailers are licensed yet.

State Fire Marshal Jeffrey Quigle says his office is conducting inspections Thursday and expects to issue licenses for consumer fireworks sales in the next few days. 

He says there are 500 to 600 registrants in the online portal for prospective fireworks retailers.

Amy Mayer/IPR

A leading research center focused on local farmers and environmental conservation is hanging on by a thread, even as the movement to diversify agriculture, which it helped launch, continues to thrive.

firework
pixabay

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Thursday to put a 90-day ban on the retail sale of fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county.

The vote came two days after Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill into law that legalizes the use and sale of fireworks in Iowa. The bill allows local governments to ban the use of fireworks, but it does not allow for restrictions on sales.

Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry says the county attorney approved the moratorium on sales.

Joyce Russell/IPR

As a crowd of legislators and other supporters looked on, Gov. Terry Branstad today signed a bill legalizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks in the state for the first time since the 1930’s.  

The bill goes into effect at once.

The governor expects the Fire Marshal’s Office to have rules in place to enable the sale and use of fireworks for this 4th of July.    

Applause broke out as the governor signed the bill.

“Let the fireworks begin,” Branstad declared.

Barry Dale Gilfry / Flickr

The 2017 Iowa legislative session was historic in the sense that Republicans held a state government trifecta for the first time in 20 years, and the session carried some major themes including labor issues and family planning services.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with statehouse reporters across the Midwest to see what plans and proposals are being considered in their neck of the woods, as well as the political dynamics of their chambers after the 2016 election.

The abortion-access advocacy organization NARAL Pro-Choice America is urging Gov. Terry Branstad to veto legislation it says threatens women's health and plays politics with women's lives.

Senate File 471 requires women to wait three days before receiving an abortion and have an ultrasound before the procedure. It also bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. 

"There is still time for the governor to do the right thing," says NARAL's James Owens. "This bill introduced ideology into the doctor’s room and tries to shame women away from accessing basic healthcare." 

Gage Skidmore

On this special "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River, Iowa Public Radio's Ben Kieffer co-hosts a discussion with Gazette opinion page editor Jennifer Hemmingsen.

Thursday evening, they gathered at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids to talk politics with columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman, as well as political reporter James Lynch of The Gazette. They discussed President Donald Trump’s first one-hundred days, as well as the main takeaways of the 2017 Iowa legislative session.

John Pemble / IPR

The first half of the 87th General Assembly ends Saturday morning, April 22nd, at 7:15. The chambers are mostly silent as amendments and budget bills are finalized in committees. In the middle of the night, House leaders give their sine die speeches a few hours before adjournment. By daybreak, debate begins for the last bills of the session. One expands medical marijuana and the other is the standing appropriations budget bill.

John Pemble

For the first time in 20 years, Republicans held majorities in the Iowa House, Iowa Senate, with a Republican in the governor’s office.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on what was accomplished this legislative session with panelists: Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register, James Lynch of The Gazette, Barbara Rodriguez of the AP, and Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent, Joyce Russell.

Joyce Russell/IPR

In a heated exchange with reporters, Governor Branstad today defended GOP lawmakers for approving $150,000 in transition expenses for Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds as she assumes the governorship.      

Democrats called the appropriation extravagant in a year when budgets are being cut across state government.    

But Branstad compared the fund to past transition appropriations.

“The same Democrats when they controlled everything, gave $170,000 for [Gov. Chet] Culver's transition,” Branstad said.

His voice rising higher, Branstad implied that sexism was involved.

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa legislature adjourned for the 2017 legislative session on Saturday, after pulling an all-nighter on Friday. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters spoke with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell.

WIKICOMMONS / Anatomy of the Human Body

A new law limits the amount of compensation an Iowa worker can receive for a shoulder injury.  Critics say the change makes workers disposable, but proponents point out that the law also provides tuition so injured employees can retrain for new careers.

 

In January, 2016, 51-year-old Bill Bennett of Pleasantville fell at work and tore the rotator cuff on his right shoulder. The injury makes his dominant right arm useless for movements as basic as pouring a cup of coffee.

John Pemble/IPR

After working through Friday night, the Iowa legislature wrapped up its 2017 legislative session, what some are calling historic for the sheer number of Republican initiatives approved.       

The majority party left a few major priorities undone with promises to take them up next year.  

With Republicans in charge of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years, the way was cleared for major initiatives to take flight.   

John Pemble / IPR

  

It's the last full week of the 2017 legislative session with many long and complicated discussions about next year's budget.  This week's show stays clear of most of the budget discussion and we can present a final show next focusing on the budget with a wrap up of the past 15 weeks.

For this second to last show in the series, we focus on some of the final non-budget bills passing both chambers.

Iowa General Assembly

Two of Governor Branstad’s re-appointments to the Iowa Board of Medicine failed to get the votes needed for confirmation in the Iowa Senate last night, going down to defeat over the issue of abortion.  

In 2013 Board Chair Diane Clark, a public member from Lake Mills, and Dr. Hamed Tewfik, a physician from Iowa City,  voted to stop Planned Parenthood’s telemed abortion program, which allows women to obtain medical abortions from remote locations without a physician present.  

Senator Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) led the opposition to the appointees.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A last minute Republican-sponsored budget bill introduced this week at the statehouse should ensure that Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds has the resources she needs to take over as governor.  

Reynolds will assume the office when Governor  Branstad leaves to become U.S. Ambassador to China.    

At the request of the Branstad/Reynolds administration, the bill appropriates $150,000 for transition expenses.    

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) says with so many budgets getting cut this year, the request was carefully considered:

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

A program to encourage the installation of art in Iowa’s public buildings is on the chopping block at the statehouse.  

A Republican-sponsored budget bill eliminates the Art in State Buildings program enacted under the leadership of Republican Governor Robert Ray back in 1979.   

Works of art can be  viewed  at more  than 160 public buildings in Iowa, many of them by Iowa artists, as a result of the program that captures  one-half of one percent of the cost of public buildings to commission paintings or sculptures.  

vaping 360/flickr

Electronic cigarettes and other so-called vaping products sold to Iowans on the internet would be regulated for the first time under a last-minute spending bill as the GOP majority strives toward adjournment of this year’s legislative session.      

Under the bill, sellers would be required to obtain a permit to sell the alternative nicotine products online.

Sellers would be required to certify the buyer is at least 18 years old.  And the products would be subject to the state sales tax.      

John Pemble / IPR

Former Iowa lawmakers are expressing dismay at the partisanship on display at the statehouse, although they say Iowa reflects a national trend.  Former Speaker of the Iowa House, Republican Brent Siegrist says the legislature has become much more partisan than during his time there.

"There's still 150 well-meaning people up there. Even when you disagree with them, they're there to do the job that they think they're sent to do, but it is more divided and more ideologically rigid than when I was there, and I think that takes a toll."

Joyce Russell/IPR

After two hours of sometimes contentious debate, the Iowa House today voted 56 to 41  to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Iowa, going along with the Senate, and clearing the way  to send the bill down  to the Governor for his signature.   

Opponents warned of fires, injuries, and other traumas if the governor signs the bill.  

Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) managed the bill, arguing for the personal freedom of Iowans.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today signed what’s being called one of the strongest anti-texting laws in the country.  

It’s part of a broader effort to combat distracted driving, which is contributing to an increase in traffic fatalities in Iowa.

The bill will make texting while driving a primary offense so law enforcement can pull over a driver for looking at a hand-held screen for texts or social media or e-mail.   

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