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Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill Overturned in Iowa

An effort to ban abortions in Iowa if there was a detectable fetal heartbeat has been stopped by the courts. Backers are vowing to appeal this ruling with an eye towards overturning Roe v. Wade.

 

In 2018, Iowa legislators passed a strict ban on abortions in cases where a fetal heartbeat could be detected. District Court Judge Michael Huppert ruled yesterday that this was unconstitutional since heartbeats could be detected prior to the viability of the fetus.

 

Backers of this legislation knew that it would face judicial challenges. In fact, one of the senators supporting the law at the time of its passage said, “We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade - 100 percent.” Under this strategy, the legislation would make its way through the court system until taken up by the Supreme Court. Presumably the high court would then use that opportunity to rule on whether the 1973 case legalizing abortion nationwide, Roe v. Wade, should be overturned.

 

Those opposed to this law hailed the court’s decision as consistent with constitutional protections for abortion. They also said that the decision was a victory for women’s freedom and health care.

 

Do you think that states should ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected? Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade?

Gun Rights to be an Issue in Iowa Next Year

Should the Iowa constitution protect the right to bear arms?

That is the question facing legislators as they gear up for the 2019 legislative session. There is a move to enshrine the right to bear arms in the state’s constitution, but some legislators are wary.

 

To amend the state constitution, Iowa legislators must approve amendments in two separate sessions and then the voters must vote in favor. Last year, both houses of the legislature approved a resolution that would add this language to the constitution:

 

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

 

The vote was 34-15 in the house and 54-42 in the senate.

 

With new legislators being elected in November, these vote totals will certainly change. However, Republicans retained control of both chambers, so efforts to pass the amendment a second time will likely succeed. If that happens, the proposed amendment will be on the Iowa ballot in 2020.

 

Supporters of amending the constitution argue that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right that should be protected from infringement by lawmakers. They say that putting this language in the state constitution will ensure that state residents will be protected from future efforts to strip them of their gun rights. Opponents counter that this amendment would prevent common sense gun safety legislation. They say that this is the wrong direction for Iowa to be taking given recent mass shootings.

 

The legislature convenes on January 14.

 

Do you think that Iowa and other states should add constitutional protections for the right to bear arms?

 

 

Trump’s Tariffs Affecting Iowa Farmers

 

President Donald Trump has been vocal in his desire to upend U.S. trading policy. He has imposed or threatened a variety of tariffs, and other nations have retaliated. Now Iowa farmers are caught in the middle of this trade war, something that concerns them as well as their representatives in Congress.

 

Earlier this year, President Trump imposed tariffs on some goods coming in from Mexico, Canada, the EU, and China. In response, these countries imposed tariffs on U.S. products, some of them agricultural. This has caused prices to drop for corn, pork, and other farm-sector products to drop. That is hitting some Iowa farmers hard.

 

These farmers are struggling with lower prices for this year’s crop while at the same time facing decisions about what to do next year. Given the uncertainty over trade policy and the willingness of the president to continue exploring further tariffs, many farmers are unsure about their economic future. This has prompted some farm state members of Congress, such as Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, to encourage the White House to consider how this trade war is affecting farmers.

 

Even in light of this disruption to the farm economy, however, many of these members of Congress are wary about supporting legislation that would scale back the president’s tariff powers. They are taking an attitude of waiting to see if these trade issues can be resolves soon so that U.S. farmers can once again enjoy greater access to international markets.

 

Do you think that farmers are right to be concerned that trade disputes could hurt their ability to stay in business?

 

Iowa Court Rules Against Cops Seizing Cash

 

Thanks to an Iowa Supreme Court ruling, it will be a little more difficult for police to seize cash and property from people who are not convicted of crimes.

 

In late May, the state’s highest court said it was illegal for law enforcement to continue using a handful of practices that were common in the seizure and forfeiture of property. Civil asset forfeiture, where police take someone’s cash or property upon suspicion, not conviction, of a crime, is a controversial process. In recent years, media reports have brought to light many questionable cases that have occurred in Iowa.

 

The Supreme Court ruled on a case brought against the state by two men who had $45,000, some equipment, and their SUV taken by the law enforcement. One man was charged with speeding but no other crime.

 

The court’s decision held that law enforcement cannot require someone to answer questions about the property being seized in order to get it returned. The decision also held that a court must determine if law enforcement acted properly during the seizure prior to the court forfeiting that property to the state. In addition, the high court ended the practice of prosecutors dropping their challenge to people seeking return of their forfeited property at the last minute. This was a way to avoid being held liable for attorney costs if a court ruled against the state in such cases.

 

This decision strengthens protections that individuals in Iowa have against police taking their assets upon mere suspicion of criminal activity. It does not affect asset forfeiture in criminal cases.

 

Do you think that there should be stricter rules on the state taking someone’s property when that person is only suspected, but not convicted, of a crime?

 

Iowa Governor Candidates Take Aim at Tax Credits

 

The Democrats running for governor in Iowa have a lot of differences, but there is one thing they agree on – limiting the tax credits that go to businesses.

 

Like many states, Iowa offers a variety of tax credit programs that benefit business owners. These programs give a credit against taxes paid if businesses meet certain criteria. In some programs, the tax credits paid by the state can exceed the amount of taxes paid by the business.

 

These programs are touted as an economic development tool. Their supporters say that they are necessary to bring companies to the state. They are also used as a way to give incentives for companies that meet goals favored by politicians, such as pay certain wage rates.

 

Critics say that tax credits are merely corporate welfare under another name. The programs, these observers point out, are really state money being paid to businesses. They take money that could go to other services and instead give it to private corporations.

 

The candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination largely focus on that last point. They propose ending some or all of these tax credit programs and using the new revenue for education and other public services.

 

While all the candidates support reforming the state’s tax credit programs, one of them – Fred Hubbell – served on the economic development board that allocated tax credits. His opponents attacked him for his work in that position, while Hubbell said that he tried to focus tax credits on progressive goals.

 

The state’s primary election is June 5.

 

Do you support tax credit programs that provide funds for private businesses? Are these programs a necessary way to create jobs in a state or are they corporate welfare that diverts tax money from public services to wealthy business owners?

 

Taxes, Abortion, and Opioids at Play in Iowa Legislature

 

Iowa legislators went into overtime during their 2018 session. While scheduled to last for 100 days, legislators went well beyond that time limit this year. During this lengthy session, they finalized work on a number of hot-button issues, including tax cuts, abortion restrictions, and new opioid requirements.

 

Taxes

 

Legislators debated a variety of changes to the state’s tax code, but finally settled on a package that cut rates and reformed the code. The final tax reform bill reduced the number of brackets from nine brackets to four, and lowered the top rate from 8.98% to 6.5%. They also reduced the corporate income tax rate from 12% (the highest in the nation) to 9.8%, in addition to making other changes to lower taxes on business income.

 

Abortion

 

Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation that ban abortions if a doctor could detect a fetal heartbeat. This was the second major anti-abortion bill passed in the last two years in Iowa. During the 2017 session, legislators banned abortion after 20 weeks and imposed a three-day waiting period on women seeking abortion. That law has been blocked while the courts consider its legality.

 

Opioids

 

As is the case with many other states, Iowa has had a significant problem with opioid addition and overdoses. Legislators passed a bill that would change state law in a variety of ways to address these problems. One of the provisions place new controls in the state’s prescription monitoring system. Another is a “good Samaritan” provision that would allow people to report overdoses without being charged with a crime. A third part of the bill would require doctors to use electronic prescriptions for opioids to help combat forged written prescriptions.

 

 

Do you think that Iowa taxes should be cut? Do you support legislation to ban abortion if doctors can detect a fetal heart beat? Should opioid prescriptions be subject to strict limits?

 

 

Iowa Kills Religious Freedom Bill, Advances Abortion Restrictions

 

Iowa legislators considered two bills of special interest to social conservatives this year: a religious freedom restoration act and a bill that would place new limits on abortion. Lawmakers split on what to do with the bills, with the abortion bill advancing and the religious freedom bill dying.

 

In the 2018 legislative session, Iowa became the latest state to debate how much protection the state should give to religious expression or activities based on religious views. Bills introduced in both houses of the legislature, entitled the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” would have set a higher standard for the state to meet in court if challenged on regulations or laws that infringed upon religious expression or actions motivated by religious beliefs.

 

Supporters of the bill contended it was necessary to protect individuals who have sincere religious beliefs from government rules that infringe upon their freedom. Opponents, including many in the business community, said that the legislation could protect discrimination, especially discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 

Versions of this legislation have been enacted nationally and in other states. However, there was significant controversy in recent years when North Carolina and Indiana lawmakers considered these proposals. North Carolina enacted a law and faced a national backlash and economic boycott.

 

The Senate version of the proposal, SF 2338, passed a Senate committee and was scheduled for floor action until the majority leader sent it back to committee. This effectively killed the bill for the year. The House version of the measure did not make it out of committee.

 

Legislation to restrict abortion fared more favorably in Des Moines, however. In late February, the Senate passed a bill that would outlaw abortion if a doctor could detect a fetal heartbeat, which generally occurs around 6 weeks after gestation. No doctor could perform an abortion until he or she attempted to detect a heartbeat. The bill contained an exception that would allow abortions for medical emergencies. Doctors who violated the law could be charged with a felony and punished with up to five years in jail.

 

The hearings on this bill drew numerous speakers, both from Iowa and nationally. Those in favor of it said that a heartbeat proves that a fetus is a baby, so the state should not allow it to be killed. Those in opposition said the state should not infringe upon a woman’s right to access safe access to family planning procedures.

 

After is passage by the Senate, the fetal heartbeat bill is being considered by the House of Representatives, where it has already been approved by a key committee.

 

Do you support legislation that would give greater protection to religious liberty? Or do you think that “religious liberty” bills serve as cover to discriminate against gays and lesbians? Do you think that abortion should be outlawed once doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat?

 

Iowa Senate Bill 577

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Iowa Senate Bill 577, To Protect Health Professionals From Disciplinary Action Related to Lyme Disease: Passed 93 to 0 in the state House on March 14, 2017.

 

To protect health care professionals from state disciplinary action based on complaints stemming solely from the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 577!

 

 

Iowa Senate Bill 502

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 502, To Raise a State-Imposed Cap on Fees Issued by Creditors: Passed 49 to 0 in the state Senate on April 12, 2017.

 

This measure modifies several aspects of state law governing credit cards, including raising the limit on overdraft fees (bounced checks) from $15 to $30. It also allows the fee for exceeding a credit limit to go from $15 to $30. It also increases the amount that a person can receive from a civil action against a credit issuer from a range of $100 to $1,000 to a range of $200 to $2,000.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 502!

 

 

Iowa House Bill 640

 

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House Bill 640, To Require the Iowa Secretary of State to Spend $150,000 to Inform Voters of Iowa's Voter Registration Laws: Failed 41 to 56 in the state House on April 17, 2017. 

 

To amend a budget fill that funds several departments to require the Iowa Secretary of State to spend $150,000 "to provide information and education to Iowa’s voters about Iowa’s voter registration laws." The office of Secretary of State Paul Pate, who supported the voter-ID bill enacted by the Legislature this session, said it would spend $50,000. Opponents of the bill said that amount was not enough.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 640!

 

 

Iowa Senate Bill 524

 

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Senate Bill 524, To Allow the Production and Distribution of Cannabis Oil on a Limited Basis: Passed 33 to 7 in the state Senate on April 21, 2017.

 

Under current law, Iowans can possess cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy (though its production is prohibited). This bill allows for two companies to make the oil and five to distribute it, and allows its use for a number of ailments including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and a terminal illness.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 524!

 

 

Iowa House Bill 518

 

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House Bill 518, To change the state's law on worker's compensation: Passed 29 to 21 in the state Senate on March 27, 2017

 

To change several parts of Iowa's law on worker's compensation, including to let companies deny a claim if an employee tests positive for drug use. The bill also creates a program for workers with shoulder injuries to undergo retraining.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 518!

 

Iowa House Bill 642

 

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House Bill 642, To suspend the statewide report card for public schools for two years: Failed 42 to 55 in the state House on April 17, 2017

 

Starting with the 2015 school year, the Iowa Department of Education has released report cards for public schools in the state. This amendment to the bill that funds the education department would suspend further report cards until the 2020-21 school year, thereby allowing for two years of data to be collected on a new statewide student assessment.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 642!

 

Iowa Senate Bill 438

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Iowa, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 438: To prohibit state or local governments from requiring "project labor agreements" on public works projects: Passed 57 to 41 in the state House on April 4, 2017

 

To prohibit government managers from requiring "project labor agreements" on taxpayer-funded construction projects. In effect, such agreements require union labor.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 438!

 

Iowa Senate Bill 506

 

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Senate Bill 506, To allow "medical marijuana": Passed 45 to 5 in the state Senate on April 17, 2017

 

The bill allows for a limited number of companies to produce and sell marijuana for medical purposes called out in law, including the treatment of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). It expands on a law, which will expire in July, which allows the use of some marijuana purposes for the treatment of epilepsy if diagnosed by a neurologist. This bill would not allow marijuana in its smoked form.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 506!

 

Iowa Senate Bill 481: To bar cities from enacting "sanctuary city" policies

 

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Senate Bill 481, To bar cities from enacting "sanctuary city" policies: Passed 32 to 15 in the state Senate on April 12, 2017

 

To prohibit cities and counties from banning their law enforcement officers from collecting information regarding an individual’s immigration or citizenship status and providing that information to the federal government.

Citizens and officials may file a complaint with the state attorney general against any local government that imposes a ban. The state may then withhold money from that government until it complies.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 481!

 

Iowa House Bill 134: To prohibit local governments from limiting the number of unrelated people who can share rental housing

 

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House Bill 134, To prohibit local governments from limiting the number of unrelated people who can share rental housing: Passed 43 to 6 in the state Senate on April 11, 2017

 

To prohibit local governments from regulating or banning rental housing based on whether the renters in a unit are related to each other.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 134!

 

Iowa’s Rightward Turn

 

In the 2016 election, Iowa voters gave control of the state Senate to Republicans. Voters also increased the GOP’s governing margin in the state House of Representatives. This legislative control, coupled with a Republican governor, has meant that the 2017 legislative session is notably more conservative than in past years.

 

This shift in Iowa government can be seen when looking at some of the notable conservative legislation passed by one or both chambers so far this year:

 

House Bill 516 -- To require voters to present an ID: Passed 59 to 40 in the House and 26 to 21 in the Senate

To require voters to present an ID before receiving a ballot, and to require the state to give a voter registration card free of charge to those who do not have one of the forms of ID stated in the law. It also prohibits straight-party voting.

 

Senate Bill 471 – To ban abortions after 20 weeks: Passed 32 to 17 in the Senate and 55 to 42 in the House

To declare that anyone who terminates a pregnancy 20 weeks or later after fertilization is guilty of a felony. The act establishes some exceptions for preserving the life or health of the pregnant woman, or when the fetus has "an irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

 

House Bill 295 -- To prohibit counties and cities from creating their own minimum-wage laws: Passed 56 to 41 in the House and 29 to 21 in the Senate

To prohibit local governments from setting their own laws on the minimum wage and other matters concerning employment, and to pre-empt existing minimum-wage laws in counties. The bill also prohibits local governments from banning plastic bags.

 

Senate Bill 43 -- To prohibit state or local governments from requiring "project labor agreements" on public works: Passed 26 to 21 in the Senate

To prohibit government managers from requiring "project labor agreements" on taxpayer-funded construction projects. In effect, such agreements require union labor.

 

House Bill 517 -- To make several changes to state laws on gun ownership and use, including putting in a "stand your ground" standard: Passed 58 to 39 in the House and 33 to 17 in the Senate

To make a number of changes to state law on gun ownership, including putting in place a "stand your ground" provision and letting citizens sue local governments for enacting gun-free zones.

 

House Bill 242 – To remove a line on the state income tax form that funds Iowa political parties: Passed 65 to 34 in the House

To remove a line from the state's income tax forms that lets taxpayers direct a portion of their state tax to Iowa political parties.

 

House Bill 291 -- To limit collective bargaining for unionized government workers and require ongoing recertification of unions: Passed 53 to 47 in the House and 29 to 21 in the Senate

To limit the scope of collective bargaining for union of government workers, require ongoing elections of employees to keep a union in place, and prohibit the government from collecting dues or political contributions for a union. Some parts of this act do not apply to public safety employees.

 

Senate Bill 2 – To end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood: Passed 30 to 20 in the Senate

To direct the state health department to not spend Medicaid money on organizations that perform abortions, and to set up a new state program to give family planning services. This is known in the press as the "defund Planned Parenthood" bill.

 

House Bill 542 – To increase work requirement for drawing unemployment again: Passed 58 to 39 in the House and 29 to 21 in the Senate

To increase the work requirement seeking a second (or later) claim for unemployment insurance. Currently, a person who receives unemployment pay must earn $250 before filing for unemployment again. The bill increases that requirement to 8 times the amount the person received in a weekly unemployment check.

 

What do you think of these bills? Are you happy with the conservative direction that legislators are taking? Or do you think they are moving too far to the right?

 

Iowa House Bill 312: Let motorists leave a car running unattended

 

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House Bill 312, Let motorists leave a car running unattended: Passed 98 to 1 in the state House on February 22, 2017

 

To remove language in state law that forbids motorists from leaving a car running unattended. The law continues to require motorists to engage the parking brake in such circumstances.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa House Bill 312!

 

Iowa Follows Wisconsin’s Lead on Unions

 

 

The fight over government worker unionization has come to Iowa.

 

Last week, the legislature passed a bill that would limit the power of government employee unions. Here is how VoteSpotter described the bill:

 

To limit the scope of collective bargaining for union of government workers, require ongoing elections of employees to keep a union in place, and prohibit the government from collecting dues or political contributions for a union. Some parts of this act do not apply to public safety employees.

 

With Republicans controlling the legislature and the governorship, this bill faced little serious opposition on its way into law.

 

Republicans in the Hawkeye State were inspired by legislation from Wisconsin in 2011. That was when Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in that state’s legislature enacted a bill, known as Act 10, to limit collective bargaining for government workers over fierce pushback by union and activists. By contrast, the Iowa legislation did not feature nearly the heated theatrics and political wrangling as occurred in Wisconsin.

 

What will happen in the wake of this bill’s enactment in Iowa? It may face a court challenge, as Act 10 did. If courts uphold the law, then Iowa will likely see a decline in government union membership, given the experience of Wisconsin. One analysis concluded that Act 10 produced $5 billion in savings for Wisconsin taxpayers over five years, so something similar could occur in Iowa, too. In fact, it seems that the effects of Act 10 are still being sorted out in Wisconsin, so it may take Iowa years to see the full impact of this legislation.

 

What do you think of this type of legislation? Are government unions too powerful? Or are legislators on the wrong track in limiting collective bargaining for government employees?

 

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