Statehouse and Politics

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.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill backers say would benefit African-Americans in the criminal justice system failed to advance in a Republican-dominated panel in the Iowa House today.    

The NAACP favors the bill to expunge the criminal record when charges against a defendant are dropped.  

Currently online court records don’t indicate a charge was dropped.    So an employer can go online and see only that a job applicant was charged with a crime. 

Clinton Democrat and defense attorney Mary Wolfe says she hears from young African-Americans who had unfounded charges dismissed.

John Pemble / IPR

Five Republicans and five Democrats met again at the statehouse Tuesday without resolving an ongoing conflict over how much state money K-12 schools should get next year.  While districts around the state await word, the House and Senate remain 100 million dollars apart. Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen couldn’t say what the resolution will be.

”We didn't have it today obviously,” Paulsen says.  “Educators are looking for us to get this resolved and my hope is that we can get that done.” 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican-dominated panel in the Iowa House Tuesday signed off on a Senate bill to revise sentences  for underage offenders who commit homicide. Backers say the bill would bring Iowa into compliance with court rulings that Iowa’s current law is unconstitutional. 

Both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts threw out Iowa’s law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers. The Senate bill gives courts other options. Courts could allow parole immediately. But they could also still hand down the life without parole sentence.   

Iowa Public Radio

Republicans would dominate on the Iowa Board of Regents if three new nominees are confirmed, and one Senate Democrat says Governor Branstad is not following the intent of the law with the appointments.  

The governor nominated Vermeer executive Mary Andringa, Des Moines community volunteer Patty Cownie, and UNI student Rachel Johnson.  

Coralville Democrat Bob Dvorsky says with the appointments the nine-member board will include five Republicans, two Democrats, and two Independents.    

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate is unlikely to take up the issue of collective bargaining, so why did the House debate it until 10 PM last Tuesday?

State Rep. Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, felt that the bill was a distraction from the bigger issue of school funding.

"They are waiting to know what their funds will be for this upcoming school year and we felt like this entire bill was a distraction and that's why we totally opposed it," Steckman says.

But State Rep. Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, says that these processes sometimes take years. 

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. 

Jess Calhoun

Members of a gun safety group that formed after the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut were at the Iowa statehouse today. They’re lobbying against a bill awaiting debate in the Iowa Senate that critics say will expand access to firearms. 

Jess Calhoun of Ames is with the Iowa affiliate of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“We want to work to see more common sense solutions to gun violence in our country,” Calhoun says.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

 

Approval for supplemental funding for Iowa's schools has been stalemated in the Iowa Legislature so far this session. Democrats are proposing a 4 percent increase and Republicans are holding strong at a 1.25 percent increase. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

After a roughly nine hour debate, Republicans in the Iowa House today voted strictly along party lines to scale back Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public employees, but only for teachers and other school employees. Dozens of education groups lobbied hard against the bill, which could make it more likely that teachers would get smaller raises when the school and teachers union disagree. Mason City Democrat Sharon Steckman calls the bill an attack on public schools.

John Pemble/Ipr

More than a thousand documents about the delayed opening of the new Fort Madison prison have arrived at the Capitol at the request of the House Oversight Committee .   The committee chairman says the documents reveal construction issues that prison officials have not previously discussed.   

The documents from the Department of Administrative Services include contracts and bills covering the months of construction.    Oversight Chief Republican Bobby Kaufmann is asking his nine-member committee for help sifting through the information.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to raise the state sales tax for natural resource protection is being revived at the statehouse, and dozens of environmentalists and wildlife advocates crowded a committee room Tuesday in support.   The bill would raise the tax by three-eighths of a cent for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a constitutionally protected fund approved by Iowa voters in 2010.    

Ocheyedan Republican David Johnson says the new tax would bring in roughly 150 million dollars a year.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad’s appointee to head the Iowa Workforce Development Agency was questioned by a panel of State Senators. They are charged with confirming or denying the appointment.      

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The deadline for individual school districts to publish their budgets is April 5th, but in light of indecision at the statehouse, that's proving difficult.

That’s pushed one superintendent, Art Tate of Davenport Community Schools, to drastic measures: openly defying state law.

"I'm trying to improve the graduation rate and reduce the suspension rate and pull the achievement gap together, and I'm having to, every year, reduce. I just came to the point I said, 'I can't do that anymore. I won't do that anymore. It's immoral.'"

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. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

The bill would allow the production and dispensing of marijuana in Iowa for the treatment of certain medical conditions.  

alamosbasement/flickr

After an hour and a half of emotional debate, the Iowa Senate Tuesday on a bipartisan vote, agreed to let school districts decide when to start classes in the fall.   

House Republican Caucus

By a wide margin and without debate, the Iowa House today approved a wide-ranging gun rights bill. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

State lawmakers are working to advance a bill that would legalize sound suppressors for guns and allow children of any age to handle a gun under parental supervision, among other measures.

John Pemble/IPR

How to sentence teenagers who’ve committed heinous crimes continues to elude state lawmakers.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A lawmaker whose land will be traversed by a proposed oil pipeline wants protection for landowners.

Caleb Smith / Speaker John Boehner via Flickr

Netanyahu stressed Iran’s “radical” regime, saying there is no difference between the country and ISIS in terms of “imposing a militant Islamic empire.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

School choice advocates flooded the Iowa statehouse Tuesday.

Alex Heuer

Iowa’s new state penitentiary in Fort Madison is still empty, and now officials are worried about frozen pipes.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Sheriff's officers across the state say there aren't enough beds for Iowa's mentally ill, and some lawmakers are joining their cause.

John Pemble

As Iowa lawmakers prepare for the first so-called "funnel deadline," of the 2015 session IPR Statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell talks with IPR's Julie Englander about sifting through the items on the slate in the coming weeks. 

John Pemble/IPR

A standoff between Democrats and Republicans over funding for K-12 schools next year continues at the statehouse.

Wes Thorpe/flickr

Cell phone companies are going head to head at the statehouse with Iowa’s towns and cities.

iprimages

Sheriff’s officers and other officials report a shortage of psychiatric treatment beds across the state.

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Department of Human Services is seeking bids to outsource parts of the more than $4 billion  Medicaid program. Some lawmakers question the quality of care and cost savings the move will provide.

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