April 14, 2017
New Road Blocks for Iowans to Vote
New Road Blocks for Iowans to Vote
Voters in Iowa will have more hurdles and less time to vote next year after Republican lawmakers approved new changes to Iowa’s elections. These changes include shortening the voting window and requiring a photo ID to vote. The legislation has been pushed by Republican lawmakers despite opposition from both local election officials and voting rights advocates due to the new regulations and challenges voters will face.
The effects of the proposal could make it harder for over the 200,000 Iowans who don’t currently have the required documents to vote. The impact of the legislation will especially hurt the elderly, disabled, minorities, and low-income Iowans who disproportionately lack the needed requirements.
The elimination of 11 early voting days could make it harder for Iowans to vote and gives communities less time to have satellite voting locations throughout their area. Approximately 34,000 Iowans voted in the first 11 days of early voting last year.
Once again, House Democrats offered multiple amendments that would have made voting easier for Iowans by expanding the number of IDs accepted and keeping the early voting timeline in place.
GOP Plans Higher Tuition, Early Childhood Cuts in Budget
Budget documents released this week show Republican lawmakers plan to increase tuition and make significant cuts in early childhood education to pay for hundreds of millions in corporate tax breaks that put the state budget in deficit this year.
The education budget, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, cuts an additional $10 million from Iowa’s three state universities next year. Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers cut $18 million from the universities to cover part of the state budget deficit. The budget also eliminates the Flood Center at the University of Iowa (which jeopardizes federal funding) and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State.
Republican lawmakers are planning an additional $1.7 million in cuts to early childhood education programs for at-risk children like Head Start and Shared Visions preschool.
The bills will likely be debated on the House floor next week.
Iowa’s Graduation Rate Increases
Iowa currently leads the country in graduation rate and is the only state with a graduation rate above 90%. Now, Iowa’s high school graduation rate has increased for the fifth year in a row according to figures released today by the Iowa Department of Education.
State data shows 91.3% of students in Iowa’s Class of 2016 graduated within four years, up from 90.8% for the Class of 2015. Iowa’s four-year graduation rate climbed among African American students, Hispanic students and white students, but decreased among Asian students, Native American students, students in special education, students from low-income backgrounds, and students whose native language is not English.
Overall, Iowa’s four-year high school graduation rate has climbed 3 percentage points over a six-year period. Iowa has also seen a nearly 2 percentage-point increase in the graduation rate for students who took an extra year to finish high school.
Mammogram Reporting Law Signed
Breast cancer affects every Iowan in different ways. According to the American Cancer Society, finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the-art cancer treatment are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully.
One reason detection can be delayed is due the density of breast tissue. In addition, many individuals do not know they have dense breast tissue and the impact it may have on their mammogram results. As a result, a person may not be diagnosed with breast cancer until the cancer is much larger or spread to other parts of the body.
After many years of considering legislation, a new law was signed this week adding breast density information to mammogram reports sent to Iowans with dense breast tissue. Iowans with dense breast tissue will be provided information including evidence-based information on dense breast tissue, the increased risk associated with dense breast tissue, and the effects of dense breast tissue on screening mammography.
The bill takes effect upon enactment.
“Policing for Profit” Bill Advances Through House
A bill that will help curtail civil asset forfeiture has been approved by the House. Described by the Institute for Justice, as “Policing for Profit,” civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement officers to seize assets they believe are involved in illegal activity. The owner of the property does not have to be charged with a crime to have the civil forfeiture of assets be valid.
Senate File 446 would require a criminal conviction for the government to keep any property that is taken by civil forfeiture that is valued at $5,000 or less. To avoid this requirement, a prosecutor has the burden to prove that the value of any property that is seized exceeds $5,000.
The bill also increases the level the state must prove to keep anything that is civilly seized from someone over $5,000. Under current law, the government only has to prove it is more likely than not, or by the “preponderance of the evidence,” that the forfeiture is valid. SF 446 would require “clear and convincing” evidence, or generally that it is highly probable that the civil forfeiture was appropriate. This increased burden on the government means that it will be easier for everyday people to prove that the government overstepped its role and had no basis for taking someone’s property.
SF 446 also requires additional record keeping on law enforcement agencies for any property that is civilly seized. The law enforcement agency must keep detailed records on the amount of property as well as the disposition of any seized property. These records must be open to the public.
Senate File 446 passed the House on a vote of 95-1 and now goes to the Governor.
Palmer Amaranth as a Primary Noxious Weed
Palmer Amaranth, a weed known to harm crops such as cotton, corn, and soybeans, has been labeled a primary noxious weed in a bill that passed both the House and Senate.
Palmer Amaranth is an aggressive weed with a very fast growth rate. It can grow from 2-5 inches in less than three days, and quickly becomes resistant to herbicides. So far, it has been found in 49 counties, mostly in the southern tier of the state.
As a primary noxious weed, Palmer Amaranth seeds are no longer allowed to be sold or imported within the state. Also, this bill allows for county weed commissioners to enter land and destroy the weed in certain circumstances. However, there is an exception for land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). If the weed is found on CRP land, elimination of the weed has to comply with the contract requirements.
The bill, HF 410, now goes to the Governor.
Iowa Health Information Network
Since 2015, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been working to move the administration of the Iowa Health Information Network (IHIN) away from state control to a non-profit. The Iowa Legislature approved this potential change so that IHIN can have more flexibility in meeting the ever evolving technology in health care.
The IHIN allows hospitals and physician clinics to exchange patient information across Iowa using a secure network. This information includes summaries of patient records that include demographics, problem lists, recent procedures, allergies, medications, immunization records, and lab results. Patients have the opportunity to opt-out of IHIN due to privacy concerns.
The new organization that will administer the IHIN is the Hielix/Koble Group (HKG) after being selected through a competitive bidding process. The IDPH states that HKG operates health information networks in other states. The HKG states they plan to expand IHIN to include long-term care, pharmacies, labs, home health, behavioral health, hospice, and other providers, as well as neighboring states.
The HKG took over control of IHIN on March 31, 2017. More information on the IHIN can be found here: http://www.iowaehealth.org/provider/.
Regional Interoperability Committee Outreach Meetings
Emergency communications is ever changing for public safety, and the Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System Board is holding outreach meetings to discuss the deployment of the Statewide Land Mobile Radio system and FirstNet within Iowa.
Updates on the progress of FirstNet, both at the state and federal level, as well as the Land Mobile Radio System will be given at each meeting. The meetings, which are listed below, are open to the public and will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and lunch will be served. Registration is required, and to see the calendar and to register for these meetings go to https://isicsb.iowa.gov/events.
April 26 at Southwestern Community College – Room 180 – register by April 15