Often Rancorous Iowa Legislative Session Praised for Results

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

Tools

By Jay Knoll

DES MOINES – After fighting over abortion, budgets, education, taxes and a host of other issues for the better part of 130 days, the Iowa Legislature ended its overtime session on bipartisan high notes late Thursday morning.

The Senate adjourned shortly before midnight Wednesday. However, an ideological train wreck in the House Republican caucus over abortion policy that prompted GOP leadership to ask minority Democrats for votes to approve the $1.7 billion human services budget extended the session until midday May 23. Then large majorities voted for two of the major priorities of both parties and Gov. Terry Branstad – expanding health care access for low-income Iowans and the largest a sweeping tax relief plan in Iowa history.

“This has been a remarkable session,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Thursday. “We set very high expectations and the 150 of us, working together, met them all.”

He and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, emphasized that despite divided government, Iowa lawmakers showed an ability to rise above their partisan differences.

“Unlike the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington -- the unwillingness to compromise, the unwillingness to govern, staking out positions and holding them to the last breath … we chose to behave like adults, to find common ground and to govern,” McCarthy said.

“Working together towards common goals means we can achieve great things,” House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said. “It means in one session we can pass education reform, health care reform and historic property tax relief.’

The session, as rancorous as it was at times, earned praise from many quarters. Branstad hailed the split-control Legislature for its landmark achievements that fulfilled the priorities outlined in his Condition of the State address in January.

“We worked together the Iowa way,” Branstad said. “Both parties in both chambers came together to pass the most significant legislative achievements we have seen in a generation. These results will benefit generations to come, ensuring higher student achievement, job creation and healthier Iowans.”

Lawmakers won accolades from interest groups, too. Many groups called the decision to accept federal funds to increase access to health coverage to proximately 100,000 low-income Iowans the right move for the fiscal and physical health

“Having access to affordable, quality health insurance is a significant determining factor in whether or not an individual is able to beat (cancer),” according to Jen Schulte, Iowa director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Not only will the legislation save lives, it will save the state money because the federal dollars will pay the cost of covering more uninsured Iowans.

The Iowa Taxpayers Association was as effusive about the tax relief package, calling it a “positive step forward for good business tax policy in Iowa.”

“After years of discussion, debate and ultimately failed attempts to reform Iowa’s property tax system, the legislature has passed significant reform to improve Iowa’s position in an increasingly competitive environment,” ITA President Dick Vohs said. “This reform helps protect and limit tax increases for all classes of property taxpayers.”

Likewise, John Stineman, executive director, Iowa Chamber Alliance, saw a lot to like in the package, calling it a “meaningful move forward to remedy Iowa’s uncompetitive property tax environment.”

“This legislation is a win for business, a win for local governments and a win for Iowa,” he said.

Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry said passage of the tax relief bill “will provide predictability for Iowa businesses and immediate relief on their commercial and industrial property tax bills.”

“It is likely that the bill would not have advanced without the strong support of Branstad,” he added.

There were thorns in the bouquets the governor received for his role in the legislative achievements.

Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa, a liberal interest group that opposes Branstad, said the progress came “after months of political back and forth, and too many delays by Branstad.”

Iowa Citizen Action Network’s praise sounded a similar theme.

“In the final hours of the 2013 Iowa Legislative Session, lawmakers and Branstad set aside petty politics and focused on the needs of Iowans, said Executive Director Sue Dinsdale.

Branstad has 30 days now to review bills sent to him by lawmakers. He can sign them into law, veto them or use his line item veto to kill specific parts of bills.

Here is a scorecard of how some issues fared in the 2013 legislative session

DID
Reform/reduce property/income taxes
Reform education to boost teacher pay, leadership and career ladders
Expand health-care coverage for low-income Iowans
Increase the earned income tax credit from 7 percent to 14 percent
Bolster liability protections for farm owners
Increase funding to address skilled worker shortage
Raise judges’ pay by 4.5 percent
Boost REAP environmental funding to $16 million
Devote more funds to close worker “skills gap”
Boost state aid to K-12 schools by 4 percent
Fund universities so tuition is frozen next year
Extend tax break for ethanol-blended fuels
Expand teen driver training and limit passengers in vehicle
Allow electronic driver’s license renewals
Change state regulations for “mothballed” livestock buildings
Expand renewal of Iowa driver’s license to eight years from current five
Allow home-school parent to teach child driver’s education
Require background checks for school employees
Require background checks for vendors catering to children
Prohibit sale/operation/possession of radar-jamming device
Create criminal offense for removing police communication devices
Require DNA samples for aggravated misdemeanor convictions
Extend school sharing incentives
Exempt reconstruction of the Lake Delhi dam from certain DNR requirements
Create free-standing Iowa Department of Homeland Security
Relocate James Harlan statue to Mount Pleasant
Further refine regional mental health service delivery approach
Raise economic development tax credit cap to $170 million
Require newborn critical congenital heart disease screening
Expand definition of “sex act” in Iowa criminal code
Require vision screening for school children
Allow police outdoor shooting range in proximity to homes and businesses
Establish new assessment process for child abuse reports
Exempt home school students from annual assessments
Extend early education block grant program by five years
Prevent/control invasive species in public waterways
Bar seed distribution of certain invasive plants
Equalize E911 surcharge for wire-line and wireless services
Take steps to improve government efficiency
Authorize tribal governments to have reserve police force
Exempt savannahs and bengal cats from dangerous wild animal list
Establish lifetime fur harvester license for residents aged 65 or older
Address city of Des Moines franchise fee issue

DIDN’T
Raise the state gas tax
Expand anti-bullying measures in public/private schools
Reinstate limited death penalty
Ban use of hand-held cell phones while driving
Increase state minimum hourly wage
Ban smoking in gaming areas of state-licensed casinos
Legalize Internet poker via state-licensed casinos
Ban use of traffic enforcement cameras on state and local highways
Require public safety officials to keep firearm permit holders’ names confidential
Amend Iowa constitution to define marriage as only one man and one woman
Authorize schools to adopt mandatory uniform policy/dress codes
Amend Iowa constitution to establish spending/taxing limitations
Protect against taking land via eminent domain for recreation
Create a missing children safety fund
Keep gun permit issuance information confidential
Modify definition of obscene materials to exclude live acts
Mothers whose babies test positive for drugs could face criminal charges
Prohibit use of unmanned drone aircraft by state or local law enforcement
Authorize limited gambling on fantasy sports games
Ban minors under age 18 from tanning salons
Legalize medical marijuana
Raise speed limit to 60 mph on two-lane primary and hard-surface roads
Bar underage sale/ consumption/possession of energy drinks
Allow all-terrain vehicles (ATV) to operate on hard-surface roads
Raise elected officials’ salaries
Fund expanded passenger rail in Iowa
Expand transparency/accountability for state Board of Regents
Require proof of identification/residence to vote in Iowa elections
Upgrade dietary guidelines for public cafeterias
Expand campaign finance laws related to independent expenditures
Require school districts to develop/implement school safety/emergency plan
Provide suicide-prevention training for teachers
Modify definition of obscene materials to exclude live acts
Make service station gas pumps more accessible to handicapped
Require radon testing/mitigation in schools and new homes
Require installation of window fall prevention devices in large dwellings
Provide $8 million to upgrade Iowa Speedway in Newton
Require headlights on when windshield wipers operating
Make permanent the early education block grant program
Curb food waste/bolster recovery of excess food items
Allow limited issuance of Iowa driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants
Issue special electric vehicle registration plates
Allow parole for juvenile murderers after 45 years in prison
Shield cities from liability for sledding-accident injuries on public property
Expand bonding options for county buildings
Implement “Iowa first” provisions in state government purchasing procedures
Restrict donations/charitable contributions in criminal proceedings
Eliminate smart planning principles and other development guidelines
Eliminate straight-ticket voting option on Iowa election ballots
Modify/change criminal laws on intentional transmission of infectious diseases
Raise penalties for illegal use of handicapped parking permit
Create criminal offense for mothers whose babies test positive for drugs
Expand training for child-abuse reporters
Continue Iowa mortgage hotline
Expand support for English language learners
Establish Iowa health benefit marketplace
Bar body piercing for minors; require state permits for body piercing businesses
Allow the sale of raw milk
Restrict county-issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples
Bar abortion-causing medication via telemedicine video conferencing
Exclude “poppers” and snappers” from fireworks ban
Create income tax exemption credit for unborn children; increase overall credits
Impose moratorium on issuance of state gambling licenses
Abolish no-fault divorce for Iowa couples with children
Amend Iowa constitution to impose term limits on elected officials
Classify marijuana a schedule 1 controlled substance
Strike mourning dove hunting season
Require safety helmets for motorized bike operators under age 18 years
Recognize gold/silver as legal tender
Require state lawmakers to pay at least 20 percent of health insurance premium
Create office of chancellor to guide state universities under Board of Regents
Require hormonal intervention therapy for convicted sex offenders
Legalize sale and use of consumer fireworks in Iowa
Prohibit permits to drill oil/gas well using hydraulic fracturing
Require drug testing for recipients of state assistance
Allow eligible employee leave to attend parent-teacher conferences
Prohibit nuclear plans from reprocessing spent fuel into weapons-grade material
Impose sanctions against parents if their children engage in harassment/ bullying
Require labeling to identified genetically engineered food
Include pets under domestic violence protective order
Authorize possession of offensive weapons like machine guns or sawed-off shotguns
Abolish Iowa Department of Education and state Board of Education
Bar regulation of firearms/ammunition during state of public emergency
Provide wage protections for workers
Establish cause of civil action for woman who underwent an abortion
Set five-year repeal for all state rule
Permit parking on left side of roadways in winter weather
Require pawn shops to return stolen merchandise
Create taxpayer-funded education savings vouchers for public and private schools
Bar bonus pay for state employees effective July 1 -- excluding regent employees
Abolish county compensation boards
Modify conditions for use of justifiable/reasonable force
Require population impact statements on all legislation
Ban use of false/secret compartment in motor vehicle
Exempt state income tax on active military/reserve/National Guard pay
Expand domestic abuse laws to cover intimidate relationships
Ban minors under age 18 from tanning salons
Make mental health professionals mandatory reporters of potential serious harm
Establish facility to house sex offenders needing medical/personal care
Create mandatory life prison term for killing first responder
Conduct cost-benefit analysis for new highway rest areas
Allow person with permit to carry gun on school grounds
Allow school employees to get permit to carry gun in school
Strike tiered corporate income tax and set 6 percent uniform rate
Exempt some bars from smoke-free air requirements
Amend Iowa constitution to provide home rule for school districts
Amend Iowa Constitution to make House term lengths staggered, four years
Allow bigger motors on boats operating on Lake Macbride
Amend Iowa constitution to hold biennial, not annual legislative sessions
Create passing distances for motor vehicles overtaking bicycles
Bar opening vehicle door into moving traffic if not safe
Amend Iowa constitution to remove age restriction on state militia
Set criteria for bass fishing tournaments in public waters
Amend Iowa constitution to protect right of citizens to bear arms
Create state lottery game with proceeds benefitting people with multiple sclerosis
Prohibit late-term abortions with certain exceptions
Allow state to opt out of unfunded federal health care mandates
Authorize interim study of eliminating the Iowa income tax
Nullify federal Patient Protection/Affordable Care Act
Verify Social Security numbers for applicants for public funded programs
Amend Iowa constitution to establish spending/taxing limitations
Use revenue from traffic cameras to create uninsured vehicle coverage trust fund
Waive tuition and fees at state universities for Iowa National Guard members
Expand private-sector employee drug testing law
Impose constitutional limits on Legislature’s spending/taxing authority
Require electronic monitoring of all juvenile and adult registered sex offenders
Eliminate “good time” sentence reductions for inmates convicted of serious sex offense
Place moratorium on regulations affecting sale of unprocessed food
Protect Iowans from application of foreign laws
Bar employers/schools from seeking access to personal Internet accounts
Bar labor unions from knowingly collecting dues from illegal immigrants
Commit share of state surplus to road/bridge construction
Prohibit U.N. “Agenda 21” environmental action plan for sustainable development in Iowa
Amend Iowa constitution with “right to life” protection
Require helmets for all motorcycle/motorized bike operators/passengers
Create individual/corporate tax credit for contribution to home school grant group
Require Board of Regents to publish annual report on overtime pay
Establish world language education pilot project
Study creation of fourth regent university in Iowa or “regents outpost”
Adopt abortion restrictions to define a “person” at conception; bar some contraception
Bar Iowans from buying foreign-made U.S. flags
Create Iowa State Board for Blind and Deaf Education to oversee state’s two special schools
Eliminate state authority to waive school start date before Sept. 1
Bar city parking citations for Purple Heart recipients
Prohibit employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants
Require disclosure of gifts/bequests/honoraria to state executive-branch personnel
Require government/businesses provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers
Create state tax credit on qualified student debt for technology workers
Upgrade dietary guidelines for public cafeterias
Limit use of restraints for pregnant prison inmates
Restrict donations/charitable contributions in criminal proceedings
Eliminate straight-ticket voting option on Iowa election ballots
Increase corn check-off maximum rate to five cents per bushel
Expand/fund state oversight of water usage
Curb food waste/bolster recovery of excess food items
Make service station gas pumps more accessible to handicapped
Expand campaign finance laws related to independent expenditures
Authorize state lottery games to benefit Special Olympics program
Require school districts to develop/implement school safety/emergency plan
Expand domestic abuse laws to cover intimidate relationships
Require headlights on when windshield wipers operating
Study elderly aggressive behavior in long-term care facilities
Modify/change criminal laws on intentional transmission of infectious diseases
Permit parking on left side of roadways in winter weather
Require disclosure of gifts/bequests/honoraria to state executive-branch personnel
Allow limited issuance of Iowa driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants
Require medical malpractice lawsuits to be reviewed by special panels
Issue special electric vehicle registration plates
Amend Iowa constitution to establish spending/taxing limitations
Increase monetary limits on motor-vehicle transactions to protect consumers
Made sex offender changes for “Romeo and Juliet” relationships
Require pawn shops to return stolen merchandise
Raise penalties for illegal use of handicapped parking permit
Expand transparency/accountability for state Board of Regents
Prohibit placement of sexually violent predators in nursing homes
Require proof of identification/residence to vote in Iowa elections
Eliminate smart planning principles and other development guidelines
Shield cities from liability for sledding-accident injuries on public property
Implement “Iowa first” provisions in state government purchasing procedures
Allow flat-rate option for Iowa income taxpayers
Raise sales tax 3/8 of 1 percent for natural resources
Create specialty license plate with space for not-for-profit group decal
Require American products to be used in public improvements
Change collective bargaining rules
Expand school bus inspections
Create state tax credit on qualified student debt for technology workers
Allow electronic absentee voting by military and overseas voters
facebook twitter rss mobile google plus
email alerts you tube hooplanow pinterest instagram

What's On KCRG