Laws and Policy

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Last weekend, an Iowa teenager from Waverly died from injuries sustained during a fireworks accident. He is believed to be the first person killed by consumer explosives in the state since the Iowa Legislature legalized them last year.

In this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Dr. Chris Buresh, Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Iowa, about this incident and the increase in firework-related injuries this year.

Cliff Jette/The Gazette

This week, the Trump administration reversed seven Obama-era policies on affirmative action that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses. The Trump administration will now encourage school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen about how this may impact admissions at Iowa State, the rise in faculty resignations, and college affordability.

Lorie Shaull

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he will retire from the U.S. Supreme Court this summer has put into question the future of abortion rights in the United States.

JOE SHEARER/WORLD-HERALD NEWS SERVICE

 

The use of consumer fireworks was legalized in Iowa last year, sparking complaints from both citizens and local law enforcement. This year, many cities have set their own rules for firework use, with some prohibiting them completely.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Jeremiah Terhark, owner of Iowa Fireworks Company; Pat Treeloar, Fire Chief for the city of Waterloo; and Tom Daubs, Public Information Officer for the Marion Police Department, about the upcoming July 4th holiday and the patchwork of fireworks laws across Iowa.

 

Ames Historical Society Website

For the past three years, Iowa State University's "Teaching and Learning Iowa History" series has taught courses about social justice in Iowa. This summer, a new course will highlight American Indian Iowans and their contributions to social movements in the state.

What are the Rules? Can I Break Them?

May 15, 2018
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode (cropped)
Chris Clayson

The laws, morals, and ethics which guide us, can also confuse us, and sometimes challenge us to improve or change the rules.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe gets a look at the philosophy of rules with Scott Samuelson, a philosophy professor at Kirkwood Community College. He says that he's learned a lesson stemming from the life of Socrates that for the most part, rules are important to follow, and when they need to change, then sometimes civil disobedience is that way that is done.

Emily Woodbury

Last month, head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, unveiled plans to repeal the landmark 2015 rules known as "net neutrality," which are Obama-era regulations that prohibit internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content.

Pai argues the rules are too heavy-handed and have stifled innovation and investment in the broadband industry.

Tony Townsend, associate professor of Information Systems at Iowa State University, says it is likely that Pai’s plan will be voted through.

Ken Lund / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

President Trump is rapidly reshaping the judiciary. On this River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about how Republicans are systematically filling vacancies in the federal court system with young, conservative judges.

Joining the conversation is former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau and Todd Pettys of the University of Iowa College of Law. 

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

A district court judge has yet to decide if a hearing is needed to determine whether a man accused in an Iowa City shooting can use a "stand your ground" defense.

The man accused of shooting three people in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall in August is asking the state to dismiss charges against him based on Iowa’s new "stand your ground" law.

Wikimedia Commons

During their spring session, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that social media is a constitutional right. It also decided cases regarding same-sex parents and birth certificates, a case involving a potentially offensively named band and the protected status of offensive speech, and a case involving President Trump's travel ban. 

JOHN BOLLWITT

Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered a review of Iowa’s alcohol laws. A working group will likely begin meeting in the next month to review existing regulations and make modernization recommendations.

"There is a huge emergence of entrepreneurial enterprises like craft distillers, micro brewers, family wineries," says spokesman Robert Bailey of the Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division. "It’s changed a lot since (Iowa's alcohol) law was first written when prohibition was first repealed."

IOLTA / Office of Professional Regulation, Iowa Judicial Branch

Nearly $240,000 in grants will be given to 14 Iowa legal non-profits that assist low-income people. This funding comes from the state's Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account program, which has suffered extreme decreases over the past decade.

So while this year's grants total $28,000 more than what was distributed in 2015-16, the funding is still less than what some legal service organizations say they need. 

A New Jersey man and his companies have agreed to pay $45,000 to the state of Iowa in the settlement of an alleged psychic mail scam.

Timothy Clements owns both TCA Mailing Inc. and T. Clements & Associates Inc. The state of Iowa suspects these companies marketed to and billed at least one Iowan in a psychic services scam.

Flickr / Michael Coghlan

In February, only 61 percent of those who took the Iowa State Bar Examination passed.  That's the lowest pass rate in more than a decade.

Taking the bar is required of all who wish to practice law in Iowa. February's 69 test takers came from more than two dozen law schools. 

Drake Law School Dean Ben Ullem says to better prepare its students for the bar exam, the school has altered the structure of courses.

Iowa Gunowners

There’s division in the ranks of gun rights groups in Iowa over pro-gun bills which have gained final passage in the Iowa legislature.

A group that calls itself Iowa’s Only No Compromise Gun Lobby is criticizing the compromise bills, and blaming the NRA and the Iowa Firearms Coalition for their role in the negotiations.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

The organization that represents some 63,000 Iowans with Alzheimer’s disease had its annual lobby day at the capitol today. 

Officials with the Alzheimer's Association say they want more accountability for health care workers providing dementia care.    

Currently, health care workers in nursing homes and other facilities must have a certain number of hours of dementia training.  

Carol Sipfle, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association Iowa Chapter, wants workers to show their competence as well.

Bryan McDonald/flickr

More than a year later than required by state law, negotiators in the Iowa House and Senate have agreed to a two-point-two-five percent increase in basic state aid for K-12 schools next year.  

Democrats say that’s the “best they can do” with a divided legislature.  The compromise is about 80 million dollars less than the 4 percent increase Democrats approved, but Republicans say schools will receive 87 percent of all new state revenue next year.   

Tom Narak with the School Administrators of Iowa calls the compromise obviously inadequate.

Iowa Senate Video Archive

On a mostly party-line vote, the Iowa Senate has approved a bill to add transgender individuals to those protected by Iowa’s hate crimes statute. 

The vote on Tuesday came after the killing last week of a teenager in Burlington.

Sixteen-year-old Kedarie Johnson was shot to death last Wednesday.   The student’s body was later discovered in an alley.

State Senator Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) says Johnson was transitioning from female to male.

jubilo haku/flickr

Iowa school districts will not be required to offer at least one high school computer science class under a bill that was scaled back in the Iowa House this week. 

The bill instead creates an advisory committee to make recommendations in time for the 2018-2019 school year. 

The committee will address whether schools should include a unit on coding for seventh and eighth graders.  

They’ll also consider whether students should be able to take a computer class to meet a school’s math requirement, and how many new teachers would be required.    

wintersoul1/flickr

Lifetime handicapped parking permits would become a thing of the past if a bill in the Iowa Senate becomes law.

Lawmakers say some drivers may be acquiring permits from other family members, and using them to take up parking spaces reserved for drivers with real disabilities. 

Statehouse lobbyist Brian Johnson has a permanent disability.  

He believes some drivers are using permits passed down to them from parents or grandparents.

Russell/IPR

After a vigorous debate, a state board today voted not to try to recover nearly half-a-million dollars in unemployment benefits that mistakenly went out to workers two years ago because of a technical malfunction at Iowa Workforce Development  

The former director of the state agency that distributes unemployment benefits came under harsh criticism today at a meeting of the board of directors for IWD.

Valdosta-Lowndes MPO/flickr

Vehicles overtaking bicyclists on roadways without bike lanes would have to give the cyclists plenty of room under a bill that passed the Iowa Senate today.    

Under the bill, the car or truck would have to get completely over in the adjoining lane to pass, just as they do while passing any other vehicle. 

Lawmakers told stories of fatal or near-fatal accidents on county roadways. 

Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler described harrowing experiences on a bicycle in rural Butler County.

John Pemble/IPR

After months of discussion, out of state for-profit companies now have the go-ahead to take over Iowa’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled on April 1st.  

The Branstad administration Tuesday received word of approval from the federal government though the date was once again delayed.  

In December, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services delayed implementation from January 1st to March 1st, stating that key requirements on 16 action items were not met, including adequate provider networks to serve Iowa’s more than 500,000  Medicaid patients. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Some third graders who can’t read at grade level would get help this summer under a pilot project the Branstad administration announced today.  

The project will help prepare the state for next year, when struggling students will attend summer school, or be required to repeat third grade.    

It’s part of a compromise struck in 2012.     Some GOP lawmakers wanted to keep back all third graders  not reading at grade level.     The compromise instead requires summer school if a student wants to advance to fourth grade.  

Stephen Chin/flickr

Another gun rights bill got its first airing at the statehouse today, with majority Republicans on a three-member panel signing on, and the lone Democrat objecting.  

The bill would allow loaded firearms on snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on both public and private property.     Currently, a gun must be unloaded and in a case.  

Richard Rogers with the Iowa Firearms Coalition says there are two problems with the current law.

Photo by John Pemble

State education officials say they’ll spend the next 18 months figuring out what a new federal education law requires.  

President Obama signed the law replacing the controversial No Child Left Behind statute.  

The new law is dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It gives more power back to the states for accountability, teacher evaluations, and how to push poorly performing schools to improve. 

Speaking to the state board of Education, Department of Education Director Ryan Wise says there’s a lot in the bill to digest.

Iowa Department of Education

The Iowa Board of Education today agreed to ease up on a summer school mandate for students who don’t yet read at grade level.

It’s part of a new state law that will affect thousands of 3rd graders starting after the 2016-2017 school year. 

Some Republican lawmakers sought to hold back all 3rd graders not reading at grade level.  In a compromise with Democrats, the law mandates intensive summer instruction instead.  

Phil Wise with the Iowa Department of Education warns students will be held back if they don’t meet the summertime requirements.

flickr

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer says the state is proceeding with a controversial plan to privatize the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled, in spite of a legal challenge by unsuccessful bidders for the contract. 

An administrative law judge will rule on complaints of irregularities in the choice of four companies to manage the more than four-billion dollar Medicaid program.     

Palmer says they’re proceeding with what they know.

“We'll operate from whatever we need to in response to that decision,” Palmer says.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A years-long battle between Iowa’s community banks and its credit unions flared up at the capitol today, where a legislative committee is conducting a routine review of tax credits.  

The financial institutions are taxed differently, and banks argue it’s an unlevel playing field.  

Kevin VanderLee with the Iowa Bankers Association describes a new community bank that was started in Johnston.

“There were individuals who made their investment to start a bank,” VanderLee says.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Update at 5:00pm: Late this afternoon, Gov. Branstad ordered all state agencies to stop any work on settlement of Syrian refugees.  

Original story: Several states are rethinking plans to accept refugees after the terrorist attacks in Paris. So far, Iowa is not among them.

Investigators say at least one of the Paris attackers slipped through Europe’s immigration system. 

Pages