Iowa State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

Iowa State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

Iowa State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

by Paul Deaton

Note: With Republicans controlling Terrace Hill and the Iowa House of Representatives, a
lot of news is expected from the Iowa Capitol during the 2011. Following is a weekly
recap of stories from Des Moines that came through the Weekend Editor's
in-box. If you hear of news from the capitol, email the weekend editor here. Watch for this feature every Saturday while the legislature is in session.]

Republican Speaker Promulgates Taxpayers First Act

In a political shot across the bow, Representative Kraig Paulsen (R-HD35) released the Taxpayers First Act which proposes budget cuts totaling half a billion dollars over a three year period. While the final bill is expected to be the result of substantial debate during the 2011 session, what is significant is the proposed formation of a “Taxpayer Relief Fund,” the presumptive purpose of which is to deposit budget surplus funds for eventual release back to taxpayers. Some of the provisions of the proposal make sense, like charging state employees, legislators and legislative staff a health insurance co-pay, something most private employers already do. Other provisions, like canceling regents university sabbaticals for 18 months will prove to be controversial. Some of the cuts seem draconian and impact younger Iowans particularly hard. Tough economic times call for tough measures. Whether the Republicans will be thoughtful in their vision for Iowa's future remains to be seen as the bill goes through the legislative process.

Iowa Power Fund Here or Gone?

for Iowa keeps asking this question because retention of the Iowa
Power Fund is an open question. After Governor-elect Branstad
announced he would be keeping the Power Fund, it appeared on Speaker
Paulsen's hit list (Taxpayers First Act) to be eliminated once
current liabilities are funded. At a meeting in Iowa City on
Thursday, Governor Chet Culver indicated the Iowa Power Fund could be
saved. He said the Power Fund served “as an example that perhaps we
can change their mind,” indicating an effort to set politics aside
and persuade the Governor-elect to retain the Iowa Power Fund.

Governor Culver Farewell Tour

Governor Chet Culver made a stop at Iowa City's Hamburg Inn as part of his two day Farewell Tour on Thursday. It doesn't take many people to fill the Hamburg Inn, but in a packed venue he spoke to supporters about his accomplishments as governor and about what's next for the Culver family. Culver will be coaching his son's high school football team, moving into a home in Des Moines and looking for work. He hopes to stay in Iowa and work in the renewable energy industry. Word is that the governor went to Lone Tree after the event and bought a used Ford F150 pickup truck and drove it back to Des Moines. The vehicle is to use after Culver loses his mandated highway patrol driver when his successor is inaugurated next Friday.

Iowa Bar Association Posts Talking Points for Advocating Against Impeachment

The Iowa Bar Association posted a legislation page for people interested in the legislative process. They list talking points for use when advocating against impeachment of Iowa's Supreme Court Justices here. The
first is, “Pursuant to Iowa Code § 68.1, the only grounds for impeachment of a Justice is for a 'misdemeanor or malfeasance in office'. Although there are 32 separate references to the term 'malfeasance in office' in the Iowa Code, there is no statutory definition. Malfeasance has been defined as intentionally doing something illegal.” Click here to read more.

Librarians Worried About New Gun Registration Law

State librarians were among the first to express concern about Senate File 2379 which changed the rules about issuance of permits for handguns on January 1st. According to a report from the Library Journal, some librarians are concerned that patrons will openly carry handguns into the library. “The new law does not allow any restrictions to be placed on permit holders,” Duane Hildebrandt, the president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association and a board member of the Sumner Public Library, told Library Journal. “Allowing open carry with no ability to require concealment is a concern that many sheriffs, including myself, have,” he added. Libraries, businesses and other entities that work with members of the public are expected to amend current policies to prohibit firearms in their establishments.

Climate Change Report Released

The Iowa Climate Change Impacts Committee released its report to the Governor and the Iowa General Assembly this week. The Executive Summary is here and it includes policy recommendations. Of note to Blog for Iowa is the recommendation to “designate the Iowa Department of Public Health to report annually on the consequences of changing climate on the health of Iowa citizens.” BFIA has reported our concerns about the health impacts of burning coal to generate electricity and methane emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations, and our concerns about Iowa Department of Public Health Director designate Mariannette Miller Meeks regarding the relationship between air quality and human health. BFIA will be following the report's recommendations and whether or not they will be acted upon in Des Moines. Link to the complete 33 page report here.

Tea Party to Rally Against Gronstal

True to their word, Tea Partiers Kent Sorenson and Kim Pearson this week announced a rally to show support for conservative values in Council Bluffs, which is the district of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. With a 26-24 majority, it seems possible that Democrats could lose one or two conservative Democratic Senators on key votes. Instead of focusing on that, Republicans chose to make noise, confronting Senator Gronstal in his backyard. Let's hope this is the mere distraction it seems to be. The better question is whether Senator Gronstal can hold the Senate Democratic caucus together, as he will need to do as Democrats' last line of defense against Republican retrenchment.

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~Paul Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul Deaton

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