Under the Golden Dome

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The legislature went 18 days past the planned 100 when it finally adjourned on May 5th.  The biggest reason for the delay is because House and Senate Republicans took a long time to find agreement on a new tax plan. It will gradually phase in tax reductions over a six year period. The final reductions in taxes will happen in 2023 and 2024 if economic triggers are met.

In 2019, tax collections will be reduced by $100 million, while it is estimated $66 million will come in from new taxes on digital services.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Every seat in the House and half in the Senate are up for reelection later this year.  Twenty-two legislators are choosing not to come back.  In the final days of a general assembly, many give "retirement" speeches on the floor. This week Wally Horn, Bob Dvorsky, Mark Chelgren, and Rick Bertrand are honored with Senate resolutions. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

There are only a few days before per diems stop for legislators. It's the goal for the session to end by the 100th day -- April 17th -- but with two different tax codes in the works and no fiscal year 2019 budget, it's likely the session will continue longer. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

At this point, it's common to hear bills are enrolled. This means both chambers have approved a bill and it awaits the governor to sign it in to law or veto.  Because the chambers are controlled by the same party as the governor, a vetos are highly unlikely.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

On Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds talks about firing the Director of Iowa Finance Authority, Dave Jamison.  She says he was terminated for credible allegations of sexual harassment.  She reiterates her zero tolerance policy, but reveals very little about the allegations due to privacy concerns for the victims.

In November, Reynolds said a Senate Republican report about past sexual harassment should reveal additional information about past claims while protecting personal information.  Reporters ask the governor how not releasing information related to Jamison is different. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Last year Rep. Matt Windschitl authored a bill greatly expanding gun rights in Iowa.  It includes making it legal to carry a concealed pistol in the Capitol with a permit, and a stand your ground provision allowing people to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Typically, Monday mornings at the Capitol aren't the most active day, but nothing was typical about last Monday morning.  Around 10 a.m. a post from a Democratic-leaning blog, Iowa Starting Line, contained pictures and a video of Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix in a Des Moines bar.  He is sitting close to a woman lobbyist and at one point it looks like they briefly kiss.  Hours later, Sen. Dix resigned from the senate.  Jack Whitver was elected as the new minority leader and Charles Schneider as the Senate president.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

As President Trump imposes larger tariffs for metal, he reaffirms his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Many agricultural products from Iowa go to Canada and Mexico.  As Trump repeatedly says he's willing to start a "trade war", Gov. Reynolds is worried about a backlash.

The governor says the president's actions will have unintended consequences for Iowa farmers and manufacturers.  However, she does support making some changes to NAFTA.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Jerry Foxhoven as the director of the Department of Human Resources in June.  All of the governor's appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.  These appointments first must pass a Senate committee, and when Foxhoven's appointment came up for a vote all Democrats voted against.  It passed the committee, but to be confirmed Foxhoven must be voted by two-thirds of the full Senate body.  They'll probably vote sometime in April. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

During Gov. Kim Reynolds' weekly press conference, she talks about the shooting in a Florida high school that killed 17 people. She reintroduces a Department of Homeland Security public campaign "If You Something, Say Something" as a result of the murders in Florida.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the final week for most bills to pass a committee and become eligible for debate in a chamber. It's known as "funnel week." Exceptions are for bills in appropriations, ways and means, government oversight, and administrative rules, which is why most budget bills are approved at the end of a session.

On this show, we focus on two bills. One that passed and one that didn't pass through the senate judiciary committee.  Both are among the most controversial bills that come before lawmakers, dealing with abortion and capital punishment.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The human brain has opioid receptors that process pain and pleasure.  An opioid drug like morphine, oxycodone, or Percocet is often prescribed to alleviate physical pain from a surgery or physical injury.

Opioids are addictive. In 2017, about 200 people died in Iowa from an opioid drug overdose.

On this show, two bills to help curb opioid drug abuse are moved out of subcommittees.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Dozens of subcommittees occupy a lot of space and time at the Capitol at this point during the session.  These three panel members are a more informal discussion about a bill to determine what needs to be modified, removed or added.  Often members of the public offer their input during these meetings.

In this program we visit the senate lounge, where two subcommittee meetings are happening a few feet from each other. We focus on the State Government subcommittee’s discussion about a bill that would allow Iowans to bring alcohol back from another state.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A water quality bill with a long history in both chambers passes and will be the first law Governor Reynolds signs.  It started in 2016 during the last general assembly. It passed in the house, but did not get debated in the senate.  The general assembly ended, killing the bill.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The beginning of the session is a good opportunity for groups to present their recommendations to lawmakers.  On Wednesday morning, veterans’ organizations came to the Capitol for that purpose. Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs chair, Dan Gannon, talks with us about three of them: a bill to mandate the POW / MIA flag be flown at state buildings on designated holidays, instill Americanism and Patriotism in grades K - 12, and encourage the judicial branch to expand Veteran’s Treatment Courts.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the beginning of the 2018 session where legislative leaders lay out their intentions.

During the opening week, party leaders speak about their goals.  Republican praise their work from last year and intend to support the governor’s new tax code for Iowa.  Only a few details are revealed about a tax code changes, and the governor says the process may take several years.

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 / 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.

John Pemble / IPR

As the end of the session nears, leaders are often asked a simple "yes or no" about the likelihood of a bill becoming law.  The Senate president says a bill that would change how independent water utilities are managed isn't moving forward.  This bill's passage would affect the Des Moines Water Works, for example. 

John Pemble / IPR

  

This week, the House passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the state's history.  It bans abortions after 20 weeks except when the life of the mother is in danger.  The bill originated in the Senate two week ago, but the House makes many revisions.  In this podcast, we condense the six-and-a-half hour long debate from the chamber floor to 15 minutes.

John Pemble / IPR

Since 2007, two legislators are surprised every year with an award from the Herbert Hoover Foundation. On Thursday Senator Rob Hogg and Representative Zach Nunn were honored.  Previous honoree House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says it's one of the most meaningful awards a legislator can receive.

John Pemble / IPR

Six weeks ago, legislation about changing Iowa's collective bargaining law featured a long and contentious debate in both chambers, and hundreds of demonstrators at the Capitol.  During this process lobbyist Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, advocated for this bill.  Turns out he was not registered during this time as a lobbyist.  The House Ethics Committee took up a complaint about Klein this week and we'll hear part of the committee's process during their first action of this General Assembly.

John Pemble / IPR

Week 10's podcast begins with the state of Iowa being low on money, again.  The Revenue Estimating Conference projects a $131 million shortfall by July 1st. Legislative leaders say budget cuts this close to the end of the fiscal year aren't practical, so the state's rainy day funds will be used.

John Pemble / IPR

This week, the House passes a bill expanding gun rights.  Among the things it will allow includes a person with a permit can bring a concealed pistol to city council meetings, but not school board meetings.  Similarly, one can be brought inside the state Capitol. 

Representative Matt Windschitl leads the effort to pass this bill. During the debate he says, “If I had my druthers, a law-abiding Iowan would be able to carry a firearm wherever they are lawfully present.”

John Pemble / IPR

This is the first funnel week of the session, where bills that have not come before a committee are eliminated. It also provides party leaders a chance to reflect on what they've accomplished and what they can realistically expect to see coming to the House or Senate floor for debate.  Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), minority leader, says the Republicans' remaining agenda is "nonsense." House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) says Hogg's use of "hyperbole" is an example of the Democrats having a tough time refuting the success of a Republican-dominated session. 

John Pemble / IPR

There is lingering bitterness from last week's long debate about changing Iowa's collective bargaining laws.  On Monday afternoon, Democratic senators use their points of personal privilege to voice their disappointment and to ask more questions about the authorship of the bill.

John Pemble / IPR

A Republican bill changing collective bargaining passed through the House and Senate on Thursday after a long and contentious debate.  Governor Terry Branstad signed it into law on Friday.

John Pemble / IPR

On this show, representative Monica Kurth from Davenport took her oath of office on Monday.  She won a special election on January 31st.  Now the Iowa House is full and her first day was a long one.  The House debated a K-12 education spending bill, as well as a new rule banning the use of visual aids, during a debate without approval from the Speaker of the House.

John Pemble / IPR file

Three-and-a-half weeks ago, Governor Terry Branstad presented two major proclamations during his Condition of the State speech. One, budget reductions for this fiscal year, which the House and Senate just delivered.

Second, redirecting family planning money that would not include funding organizations that perform abortions.  Last Thursday, the Senate passed a bill accomplishing this goal.  But it was a heated debate, often involving Senate Rule Nine.

John Pemble / IPR

With 29 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the Senate, the majority party is winning everything put to a vote, including the most anticipated legislation of this session, Senate File 130. It’s the budget bill cutting $118 million from the current fiscal year ending June 30th. On this show, we’ll hear some of the debate. The bill moves to the House next week where it is expected to pass and be signed into law by Governor Branstad.

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