2017 Legislative Session

Joyce Russell/IPR

Labor advocates are criticizing problems with the recertification voting that involved thousands of Iowa’s public sector workers this fall.  They want the Public Employment Relations Board to improve the  system before more voting takes place next year.  

Iowa’s new collective bargaining law requires public sector workers to periodically re-endorse their unions, which used to be automatic.  

This year, 87 percent of teachers, roadworkers, court employees, and others voted to retain their union representation.  

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Iowans going to the polls for municipal elections tomorrow will be asked to show an ID…..but not to worry.

It’s just a run-through county auditors are staging ahead of  Iowa’s new voter ID law going into effect.  

Starting in 2018 voters without an ID will have to swear to their identity, and then in 2019 they’ll be allowed to cast a provisional ballot only.   

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There was another court ruling today against public employees over a new state law limiting their bargaining rights in the workplace.

Polk County District Judge Arthur Gamble today threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

The new law treats public safety employees differently than other public workers.

AFSCME claimed that was a violation of the constitution’s equal protection clause.

John Pemble/IPR

By a wide margin, public workers across Iowa have endorsed their union representation in recertification voting that ended this week, mandated by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law.   

But some public employees will not retain their unions, and their contracts will be dissolved. 

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The first test of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law concluded yesterday, with recertification votes ending for 13 Iowa schools and community colleges.   

When ballots were all counted, bargaining units in all 13 schools were recertified with nearly 1300 teachers and faculty overwhelmingly endorsing their union representation.

The new law set a high bar for teachers to continue to be represented by unions.   In the end more than 1100 yes votes were cast, with only 27 teachers voting no.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A state official  overseeing the massive rewrite of Iowa’s collective bargaining statute for public workers  says he expects the courts may have to weigh in if employees lose their  union representation in first-ever recertification voting.   

The new law requires all public employee bargaining units to periodically vote to continue to be represented by unions.    

The Public Employment Relations Board is advising workers that if the vote fails, the contract with their employer goes away.   

But board chair Mike Cormack says not everyone agrees.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Teachers in some Iowa school districts and community colleges will find out this week whether they will continue to be represented by a union.  

It’s part of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law that makes it harder for public sector unions to operate in the state.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Kim Reynolds administration is closing the books on the fiscal year that ended in June, and, as predicted, revenues fell short of what was needed to cover all the spending the legislature approved.  

But the shortfall wasn’t as bad as feared, and the governor won’t be calling lawmakers back into special session.  

At the end of June, the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency estimated that tax receipts had fallen more than $100 million short, far more than the governor could cover with emergency funds.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

State officials will be keeping a close watch over a new state-run family planning program under an initiative unveiled at a statehouse committee this week.  

The Department of Human Services will be gathering data to determine how services are affected now that Planned Parenthood clinics aren’t included.    

The new state program provides family planning services including contraception at clinics around the state, but only those that don’t offer abortions.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A statehouse committee was briefed today on a controversial Republican proposal to save the state millions of dollars in health care costs for indigent, disabled, and elderly people.   

Under the plan, needy patients could no longer get care paid for right away, while waiting to be approved for government help.  

Currently, Medicaid will pay for three months of retroactive coverage.   

DHS Administrator Wendy Rickman briefed the legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee on the proposal.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

When Iowans go to the polls next week for schoolboard elections, they should take note of some new requirements for proving you’re a valid voter.     

It’s part of the Voter ID bill the legislature approved this year. 

The new mandate to show identification at the polls doesn’t go into effect until next year, but in the meantime other verification will be required for some voters.  

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Alternative nicotine products purchased online in Iowa are now subject to sales taxes for the first time under a new law that went into effect July 1st.  

Up to now, electronic cigarettes and vaping products could only legally be sold in Iowa stores and vending machines.     

Now online companies must acquire permits, restrict sales to those 18 or older, and collect state and local option sales taxes.  

So far only a handful of online sellers have acquired permits.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The state’s largest teachers union is reaching out to teachers and other employees in 14 Iowa school districts and community colleges where critical recertification votes will take place next month.  

The voting is mandated by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law that went into effect this year.        

For all public sector workers including teachers, the new law requires regular votes to stay unionized which used to be automatic.

John Pemble/IPR

Gun rights activists are renewing their call to allow firearms at the Iowa State Fair, after a violent incident on the fairgrounds Tuesday night.   

A man was stabbed and critically injured in a fight involving four young men on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds.    

On social media, the Iowa Firearms Coalition is urging the state legislature to end the ban.

"If the Iowa State Fair can't stop violent crime during the fair they should allow lawful citizens to adequately protect themselves,"  the organization wrote on Twitter.

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One part of Iowa’s new comprehensive gun rights law that went into effect in July may end up in court. Under the new statute, a gunowner can sue any local government that tries to keep firearms out of public buildings.  

Dozens of counties with courthouse weapons bans are potential targets. 

Jackson County Chief Deputy Steve Schroeder says they lived through a nightmare a few years back at their courthouse in Maquoketa. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Several new gun-related measures enacted during the 2017 Iowa legislative session are taking effect and Iowa Public Radio is exploring their implications for the state. But it’s hard to follow gun news if you don’t speak the language. Come along on visits to Camp Dodge, Brownells retail gun shop, and the Story County Sheriff’s office to learn about different types of firearms.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s largest public employees union is warning of likely legal action after hundreds of government workers lost their overtime rights as of July 1st.   

Under Iowa’s new collective bargaining law, professional employees who hold 160 different government jobs will no longer get paid for overtime. 

Mark Hedberg is an attorney for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees or AFSCME. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Representatives of public employees who could lose their union representation appeared before a statehouse committee Friday to express concern about Iowa’s new collective bargaining law.   

Starting next month, thousands of public workers will cast ballots to continue to be represented by unions.    

The new law requires the regular recertification votes. Retaining union representation used to be automatic. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Election dates have been set in September and October for thousands of public sector workers in Iowa to recertify their unions, or to disband their bargaining units.    

It’s part of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law which critics say will make it harder for unions to continue to represent public employees.     

Currently unions representing public employees remain certified unless workers call for a vote to decertify their bargaining unit.

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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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
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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
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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.

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