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Iowa Legislature

Iowa’s New Laws Effective July 1

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol

Rep. Sally Stutsman of Riverside forwarded a link to the Iowa House Democrats’ Statehouse News which covers the new laws that take effect July 1. Among them are several new initiatives aimed at boosting Iowa’s skilled workforce, including $66 million for the skilled worker job creation fund to help Iowans upgrade work skills, fill key shortage areas, and connect businesses with training and education.

In addition, on strong bi-partisan votes, the legislature also approved workforce housing credits to help local communities address workforce housing needs and new measures to protect Iowa seniors from abuse and neglect.

Also starting July 1, firefighters, EMTs, and reserve peace officers can anticipate an increase in their tax credits from $50 to $100; and minors will no longer be able to purchase e-cigarettes.

Other new laws the legislature passed that start July 1:

• Helped Iowans with the high cost of childcare while continuing education and working (HF 2463).
• Created a new income tax credit of up to $2,500 for qualified adoption expenses (HF 2468).
• Encouraged more production and use of ethanol and biodiesel (SF 2344).
• Expanded eligibility for the Military Homeownership Assistance Program (SF 303).
• Extended tax credits for solar and wind energy projects (SF 2343, SF 2340).
• Improved quality of life for kids suffering from seizures and epilepsy (SF 2360).
• Made it easier for students with a Minor’s School License in shared district schools to travel to schools other than their home school for extracurricular activities (SF 2228).

Check out the complete list by clicking on this link:

Gronstal Asks Senate For Subpoena Power

Sine Die? Not So Fast!

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

DES MOINES— Governor Branstad’s office released an end of session message for the 85th Iowa General Assembly at 8:41 a.m. yesterday, saying, “despite the partisan tone of the session, we are pleased there was agreement on the majority of our legislative plan.” The House had been all high fives and out of there before 6 a.m., busy posting brilliant photos of the east side of the capital on Facebook as the sun rose.

Not so fast! The senate hadn’t adjourned.

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer cautioned members that the session was not over until it was over— after the Senate adjourned sine die. Switching my audio feed over to the Senate, instead of calling up HCR 109, the Sine Die Resolution, Majority Leader Mike Gronstal called for a rules committee meeting and recess. When the Senate re-convened at 7:34 a.m., a prayer was said, they pledged allegiance, approved the April 30 journal, and then adjourned at 7:48 a.m. until Friday morning.

What happened has been well reported by corporate media. Rod Boshart of the Cedar Rapids Gazette was one of the first to break the story.

“The shutdown of the split-control legislature’s 2014 session got messy Thursday morning when Senate Democrats attempted to pass a resolution giving a legislative panel broad investigative power to look into alleged mismanagement and secret dealings by Branstad administration officials,” he wrote.

Session may end today, but the politics is far from over.

Republicans provided comic relief in the wee hours of Thursday when it was announced State Senator and Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Joni Ernst called in around 4 a.m., asking the chair to be excused. The Republican level of participation  in the Senate has been a joke, and Ernst has been campaigning with a clown car of candidates, running down the presumed Democratic nominee, Bruce Braley, and the president. Occupied by posting on Twitter about her footwear, she is likely to miss Friday as well.

The 2014 general election has begun in earnest. It is framing up nicely for Democrats.

Progressives should love it when the Republican U.S. Senate candidates, like Ernst, tie Bruce Braley to the Affordable Care Act. The law is working and its popularity will increase. If that is their campaign issue, please bring it on, because the law is already saving federal dollars on health care. In case you missed it, the escalating cost of health care was one of the drivers behind the law. It was designed to bring health care costs down and it is.

A reason to feel good about it is in light of 17.8 million sign-ups through Medicaid expansion and the web site, the Republicans are trying to switch their narrative to Benghazi faster than the sinking of the Titanic.

Another reason Democrats should be hopeful is the mail from the TEA people indicates they don’t realize their group’s influence peaked in the rebellion of 2010. The TEA party is over, and that they don’t get it is good for progressives.

Iowa Democrats are also fielding excellent candidates in all four congressional districts. The tides are shifting. Signs are everywhere that this could be a great year for Democrats, and with all of the women running, Iowa seems more likely than ever to elect its first female U.S. House member.

There is no useful Republican campaign story for the corporate media to cover outside the weirdness of their debates and events. The more weirdness on display, the more swing voters will be alienated. It seems clear that Iowans don’t want a “true conservative” representing them in the U.S. Congress. Pragmatism would serve them better, but who am I to give advice?

Meanwhile, Braley continues to build support, Hatch is catching Branstad in the polls, and with all their Benghazi, Obamacare, gun, abortion, military hagiography, pro-Israel, free market talk, what reasonable person could take Republicans seriously?

I appreciate the work of our legislators this session, and when the Senate adjourns it will be over, but beginning again with the 2014 general election campaign. I’m in. Are you?

Sen. Hogg: Branstad Scandal Update

Video about 8 minutes long.  4/23/14

Iowans Speak About How Medical Cannabis Helped Them

With signs posted in the background, “Cannabis is medicine” and “Sick people are not criminals,” brave Iowans tell their stories.


Gronstal: Iowans Are Getting Screwed

“I cannot condemn in more firm words the actions of the Director to instruct administrative judges to screw Iowans out of their benefits. Of course our caucus is behind this.”

Blips On The Legislative Radar Screen

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

During the second session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly, it appears legislators have been getting along swimmingly. The budget number was agreed behind closed doors, in what seems like record time. And if supplemental state aid for our schools wasn’t agreed within 30 days of the governor’s budget proposal, as required by state law… well, the school districts are getting used to that and it was a minor bump on the road to the 2014 midterms.

There were a few blips on the radar. There was the failed telemedicine bill, which passed the House, but from the beginning had no chance in the Iowa Senate. There was HF 2381, the gun suppression bill, that also passed the House with some progressive legislators, notably Rep. Mary Wolfe of Clinton, voting for it. It’s hope ended when Senator Rob Hogg, chair of the judiciary committee, said he didn’t plan to take up any gun legislation this session. In a bicameral legislature, where the consent of both chambers is required, any citizen who was taught the basics of our government should have known these bills were going nowhere, even if they piqued some interest in the media and among the uneducated. A basic lack of understanding of how government works could explain why these bills moved at all.

Is hope for the right wingers lost?

To get an answer, I went to Google and came up with an Iowa Gun Owners alert dated March 13 calling for gun owners to contact their state representative and ask for a vote on House File 2284, which, according to their web site is the “Constitutional Carry” bill that would make firearms permits optional in the state of Iowa. “The Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen. He, above all the rest, can move bills at his leisure,” the author wrote. “Let him know that you’re tired of the excuses, the rhetoric, and the inaction. Tell him now is the time to move this legislation forward,” he added.

If the bill missed the second funnel, can it still move? The answer is yes by invoking House Rule 60 which under certain conditions, including a super majority of 60 House members in favor, could suspend the rules for a vote.

If we go into the wayback machine, it is a short trip to 2010 when Republicans wanted to recruit seven Democrats to vote with them to invoke Rule 60 and advance a bill that would allow the people of Iowa to vote on an amendment to the state’s constitution that would define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The measure failed.

Fast forward to 2011, when former Representative Kim Pearson mounted an attempt to force a vote by using Rule 60, to give fetuses the full rights of U.S. citizens. She was unable to muster her own caucus around the failed effort.

So what is the point of this Republican madness? Don’t ask me. I am a progressive. It may have something to do with the low regard the Republican House leadership holds for moving on supplemental state aid for our schools.

In any case, have we heard the last of guns, gays and abortion as the 85th Iowa General Assembly fades into the history books? I don’t know that either, but rest assured, it is not too late for them to appear on the radar. If they do, one hopes the people of Iowa realize that elections matter, and are willing to roll up their sleeves and clean out the clown car that the Iowa House of Representatives will have become under Speaker Paulsen.

Elections matter. However, what matters more is the results produced for all of the people of Iowa. The special interest legislation mentioned above represents the nadir of social progress, something that matters to each of us, regardless of political party. We can all do better.

Day 28: Iowa House Republicans Continue To Break The Law

progress iowa

For Immediate Release: March 12th, 2014

Contact: Matt Sinovic, (515) 423-0530

Day 28: House Republicans continue to break the law by refusing to fund Iowa schools

House leadership’s 28-day delinquency prompts two questions:

1. Why do they continue to break the law by refusing to pass school funding legislation?

2. Why do they believe a child in Iowa is worth less than a child anywhere else in America?

Des Moines, Iowa — Twenty eight days have passed since Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives violated their statutory responsibility to pass allowable growth funding for public schools in the 2015 school year.

“For twenty eight days, House Republicans have broken the law by not funding our schools,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Blocking another debate on school funding was just the latest example of their disregard for the law and Iowa’s schoolchildren. Iowa spends $1,500 less than the national average per pupil on public education, so our schools need these resources now more than ever. We deserve to know why Speaker Paulsen, Majority Leader Upmeyer, and House Republicans continue to break the law, and why they believe a child in Iowa is worth $1,500 less than a child anywhere else in America.”

The deadline to increase funding for the 2015 school year was Thursday, February 13th. Since that date the House has refused to debate any legislation to increase school funding, including one proposal passed by the Senate that would increase K-12 budgets by six percent. Yesterday the House again rejected a debate on an increase in school funding passed by the Senate well before the February 13th deadline.

Also yesterday, the Senate Standing Education Committee amended and passed House File 2194 to keep the current law requiring school funding to be set every year within 30 days of the submission of the Governor’s budget. In addition, school funding for the 2015 school year was incorporated into the bill at the same six percent level which the Iowa Senate passed earlier this session within the legal requirements of the law.

98 percent of school administrators oppose the House Republicans plan to wait, as Iowa schools are woefully underfunded. Iowa schools are funded at $1,500 less per pupil than the national average, and an increasing number of students attending Iowa public schools live in or on the brink of poverty.

More than 1,700 have signed a Progress Iowa petition to House leadership asking them to fund our schools. To view the petition, visit



Associated Press: School funding for 2015 again shot down by House

Annual Condition of Education Report: 41% of public school students eligible for free or reduced price lunches, up from 27% a decade ago

Cedar Rapids Gazette: Senate passes future 6 percent state aid hike

Radio Iowa: Democrats say Iowa below national average on school spending

Divided Iowa Legislature Likely To Silence HF 2381

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

DES MOINES— Yesterday the Iowa House of Representatives passed HF 2381, a bill that adds a section to existing Iowa Code that provides “any person, trust, corporation or other entity may possess a firearm suppressor if the firearm suppressor is registered and possessed in compliance with federal law and regulations.” The vote was 83-16.

“Another bill I am working on is to allow Iowans the opportunity to own a firearm suppressor,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) in a newsletter. “As I have said before, law abiding citizens are just that, law abiding. We should be allowing Iowans to exercise their rights to the greatest degree possible and not be imposing burdensome restrictions on their Constitutional rights.”

“We’ll take a look at that but it’s my plan not to take up any firearm legislation this year,” said State Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), chairman of the senate judiciary committee, in response to news of the bill’s passing.

So is the cycle in a divided legislature. One chamber proposes, and the other moderates. Here is how house members voted.

HF 2381

HF 2381

No Republican Support For Medical Marijuana In Iowa

Thanks for trying Senator Bolkcom.