Iowa legislature cramming months of work into weeks

4 The Record

Representative Gary Mohr touts status quo budget that still increases school spending

Iowa state lawmakers are back at work.​

They picked up the legislative session about a week and a half ago where they left off in March.​

Now they’re cramming what normally takes months to do into a matter of two to three weeks.​

Of course priority one every year is the budget.​

Next year’s spending plan is on course to have $7.85 billion in the general fund.​

Actual revenue hasn’t met projections.​

That leaves state lawmakers working with $360 million less than they expected.

However, Republicans in control of the legislature say they intend to stick with a 2.3 percent increase in public schools.​

More money is slated for medicaid while lawmakers will try to hold spending levels close to the same as the prior year everywhere else.​

Outside of the budget one of the more controversial proposals comes from Republican State Senator Roby Smith of Davenport.​

It cleared the Iowa Senate.

That proposal would not let the secretary of state act independently to send applications for absentee ballots.​

Remember this just happened for the Iowa Primary.

The Iowa House on Thursday night adopted a compromise measure that lets the secretary of state do it with approval from some lawmakers in both parties.​

The state saw a record turnout for a primary of more than 500,000 ballots — ​
80 percent of those absentee.​

Democrats are screaming the more restrictive measure from the senate is voter suppression. ​

Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in Des Moines want lawmakers to take action in five areas.​

This is part of the growing pressure in light of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.​

The movement calls on lawmakers to reject a proposal to legalize corporal punishment in public schools.​

The house and senate unanimously adopted the plan for a more perfect union.​

That proposal would ban police choke holds, ​make it illegal to rehire police officers once fired for misconduct and enable the attorney general to investigate police misconduct.​

Other items being pushed are to adopt legislation that decriminalizes marijuana, to end juvenile detention and for Governor Kim Reynolds to issue an executive order that reinstates voting rights for felons who completed their punishment.

That’s a lot of work in a short amount of time.​

Republicans once again can have their way.​

They control the house, the senate and the governor’s mansion.​

I spoke with State Representative Gary Mohr of Bettendorf on Thursday about the shortened session.​

We start with the challenge of trying to get everything done so quickly.​

Mohr discussed the time pressure to compress what’s required for the legislative session from what normally takes months into a matter of weeks, how much consideration was given to doing the job remotely, what kind of financial blow the state expects from the pandemic, what revenue questions need to be answered and how much help Iowa needs from the federal government.

Watch the full conversation in the video above.

Local 4 News, your local election headquarters, is proud to present 4 The Record, a weekly news and public affairs program focused on the issues important to you.  It’s a program unlike any other here in the Quad Cities. Tune in each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. as Jim Niedelman brings you up to speed on what’s happening in the political arena, from Springfield, Des Moines, Washington, D.C. and right here at home.

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