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Legislative update from Iowa Democrats


This news story was published on May 24, 2019.
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The following is a legislative update from Iowa Democrats:

Remembering Iowa Veterans this Memorial Day

As Memorial Day approaches, it is a good time to remember the sacrifices our veterans have made, and to thank them for their service. This year, the Iowa Legislature continued to thank and support Iowa Veterans through legislation.

The Legislature expanded the number of families who are eligible to receive funds from the Injured Veterans Grant Program. This program provides funds to family members who have a loved one that was injured in a combat zone or contingency operation overseas, by allowing families to visit their injured soldier. Eligible families are able to receive $2,500 for travel expenses and an additional $2,500 for every 30 days their loved one is hospitalized.

To celebrate and honor our veterans during Memorial Day weekend, there are several events being held across the state. The main event is a celebration at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery at 8 a.m. in Adel, Iowa with keynote speaker Iowa National Guard Command Sergeant Major Rachel Fails.

To find Memorial Day events near you, please visit https://va.iowa.gov/events.


Sports Betting and Fantasy Sports Participation Now Allowed in Iowa

Iowans will soon be allowed to bet on their favorite sports teams after a bill was signed last week to legalize sports betting and fantasy sports in Iowa. Beginning later this year, Iowans can now bet on any professional, collegiate, or international team as well as individual sporting events governed by the Olympic Committee.

In order to bet, the person must be age 21 or older and bet at “sports wagering area” in a casino or on a mobile device. To bet on a mobile device, an eligible bettor can establish an account at a casino and set up an “advance deposit” system for the first 18 months.

While, Iowans will be allowed to bet on Iowa colleges and universities, they will not be allowed to make in play bets on individual athletes in an event where an Iowa college or university is a participant.

Gaming issues rarely break down on party lines and the legislation had both Republicans and Democrats voting for and against the proposal. Since the Supreme Court has made their ruling, eight states have currently legalized sports betting in their state.


Industrial Hemp Bill Signed into Law

Legislation allowing the growing of industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity has been signed into law, but farmers must wait a bit before they can start growing. The legislation, called the Iowa Hemp Act, first requires the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to prepare and submit a state plan to the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA). That plan must include certain requirements, such as keeping track of land, testing methods, and disposal of plants or products that exceed the allowed THC concentration. Hemp is defined as a species of cannabis that does not exceed three-tenths of 1% THC.

Once the plan is approved, IDALS will have primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp. IDALS will have oversight responsibility over industrial hemp and will establish and administer the hemp license applications and promulgate rules on the program. As a condition of licensure, consent is given to IDALS and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) or local law enforcement entering the crop site at any time. An individual can hold a number of licenses at one time but cannot cultivate more than 40 acres.

The law comes after changes contained in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allowed the USDA to issue regulations and guidance on the commercial production of industrial hemp.

Currently, 41 states have enacted legislation to establish industrial hemp cultivation and production programs.


Iowa Producers Stuck in Middle of Trump Trade War

Since last summer, Iowa farmers have been stuck in the middle of the Trump Administration’s trade war and the dispute shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

Earlier this month, trade talks with China broke down again and the Trump administration hiked tariffs on an additional $200 billion on imports from China.

Iowa producers have been particularly hard hit by the continuing trade disputes as depressed crop and livestock prices have led to uncertainty among Iowa producers. In 2017, Iowa was second nationally in soybean production and China accounts for nearly 60 percent of the global soybean trade, about one of every three rows of U.S. soybean production. While soybeans were the top US agricultural export to China, retaliatory tariffs from China have led to a 10-year low price on soybeans.

The Trump Administration has attempted to offset the damage done by the trade conflict by providing federal aid to producers unable to sell their product. The program distributed about $11 billion in aid last year, with the President stating he hopes for another $15 billion this year. However, farmers haven’t turned a profit on corn in six years and it’s been five years since they profited off of soybeans.

Iowa producers are not the only people feeling the impact of the Trump tariffs. It is estimated the tariffs put in place by the Trump administration are equivalent to a tax hike of about $550 per American family. If the Trump administration follows through on their pledge to raise 25% tariffs on over $500 billion in Chinese imports, it could mean a $2,200 tax hike on an average family.


Free Fishing Weekend in Iowa

Iowa residents can fish without a license on June 7-9 this year, during free fishing weekend in Iowa. Many waterways across the state also have events during free fishing weekend. For more information on events and fishing tips visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing.

Outside of free fishing weekend, people over the age of 16 must have a valid Iowa fishing license. Fishing licenses for Iowa residents range from $10.50 for a one day license to $62 for a three-year license. Seniors over the age of 65 can purchase a lifetime license for $61.50. Tags for trout and paddlefish are extra. Fishing licenses for nonresidents are slightly higher.

Licenses can be purchased at many retail stores across the state, on the DNR’s website, or through the new Go Outdoors Iowa app. The app launched in February and allows hunters and fishers to buy licenses, view hunting and fishing regulations, and report harvests. The app is free to download at the App Store or Google Play Store.


Iowa Joins Lawsuit against Drug Manufacturers

Iowa has joined 43 Attorneys General in a federal lawsuit against the companies that are conspiring to price fix prescription drugs. The lawsuit is against the nation’s 19 largest generic drug manufacturers, including Pfizer, Sandoz, Mylan, and Teva Pharmaceuticals. The allegations also include dividing customers and rigging bids, increasing costs to affect the insurance market (or Medicare and Medicaid), and requiring patients to pay artificially inflated prices for more than 100 generic types of drugs.

Prescription drugs at issue include antibiotics, anti-depressants, contraceptives, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV, and ADHD, which account for billions in US sales.

The Attorney General is seeking damages, civil penalties, and court action to remedy the significant harm caused to Iowa consumers, businesses, and taxpayers.

Since 2016, the Attorney General’s office has joined several federal lawsuits that mostly relate to consumer protection, anti-trust violations, and Medicaid fraud. This past session, both Senate and House Republican lawmakers voted to strip powers from Iowa’s Attorney General.

If signed into law, the Attorney General would be allowed to join such federal lawsuits only at the request of the Governor, the Executive Council, or the Legislature. The Justice Systems budget is currently being considered by the Governor, who has the authority to veto this section of the bill.


Iowa High Schools Rank High Nationally on Report

U.S. News and World Report ranked the nation’s top 12,250 high schools. The list shows that 10 Iowa high schools ranked in the top 2,000 schools in the country and 11 more ranked within the top 3,000.

Each school is ranked by a weighted mix of five factors: college readiness, math and reading proficiency, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rate.

Some Identified as Targeted on Iowa’s List Make Top National Ranking

Some of the Iowa high schools identified by the Iowa Department of Education (DE) as being targeted for support are also ranked highly on the U.S. News and World Report list. Many of these high schools were criticized in the local media for making Iowa’s targeted school list when the Iowa list came out last December.

At that time, the DE revised their School Report Card rankings of schools to align with the new Federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The report card ranks all Iowa schools with the bottom 5% identified as needing comprehensive assistance and another set of schools are identified as having one or more student subgroup score with lowest 5% of schools in specific targeted areas, such as achievement gap, English Language Learners, low-income or special ed.

The following are ranked as one of the best High Schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report, but are also identified as “Targeted” on the Iowa School Report Card:

Targeted School and U.S. News National Ranking
Johnston 1,810
Ankeny High School 1,878
Cedar Falls 2,054
Cedar Rapids Washington 2,109
Pella 2,218
West Des Moines Valley 2,360
Marion Linn Mar 2,383
Iowa City, City High School 2,485
Carlisle 3,392
Cedar Rapids Prairie 7,401
Mason City 7,413
Sioux City East 7,600
Colfax-Mingo 7,633
Davenport Central 8,515
Clinton 8,674
Charles City 8,751
Lone Tree 9,691
Vinton Shellsburg 9,720
Des Moines Lincoln 10,177
Independence 10,898
Winterset 11,145
Cedar Rapids Jefferson 11,539
Muscatine 11,590


Business Tax Return Deadline Extended for Disaster Areas

The Iowa Department of Revenue has extended a suspension of any penalty or interest for taxpayers who principal residence or business is located in counties that have been declared a disaster. The counties included in the extension are Clinton, Louisa, Muscatine, Scott, and Wapello. This extension is in addition to a previous extension granted for Fremont, Harrison, Louisa, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie, Scott, Shelby, and Woodbury counties.

If the original or extended due date for the payment or tax return is on or after April 1, 2019, but before May 31, 2019, the deadline is extended to June 30, 2019. This extension applies to all types of taxes except for property taxes or any other taxes administered by county or local governments.

The state Department of Revenue has established a Flood Resource Page that can be found at https://tax.iowa.gov/2019-flooding. The page includes additional information, including frequently asked questions, related to all the extensions and deadlines for state taxes impacted by disasters across the state.


Davenport School District Placed on Conditional Accreditation

The Davenport School District, Iowa’s third largest school district, has been placed on conditional accreditation status by the Iowa State Board of Education at their May meeting. This came after the Department of Education (DE) conducted a “Phase II Accreditation visit” earlier this year. That was ordered at the board’s November meeting after the district failed to make satisfactory progress in correcting numerous instances of noncompliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and financial concerns.

The district needs to continue to work with the department to correct all citations issued and follow the conditions recommended by the accreditation team. DE staff noted at the meeting that they will have to report these actions to the U.S. Department of Education, which could also act.

Some of the new citations found at the Davenport visit showed that teacher evaluations sampled showed no evaluations, career development plans, and no evidence of a grievance procedure. Concerns were also noted related to English as a Second Language teachers proper procedures.

One of the more concerning problems pin pointed was that the bullying and harassment policy needs to be addressed. More than one staff member told interviewers they had reported several students engaged in potential bullying and were told by the administration because these students were not always targeting the same person, it was not considered bullying.

Individual Education Plans (IEP) was one of the main reasons for the site visit. Many students should have been identified and prepared an IEP, but were not. This, according to the report, has been nearly remedied.

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One Response to Legislative update from Iowa Democrats

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    May 26, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    As they attempt to destroy how the country was founded and it becoming a super power for good around the world, No worse tribute to those who died protecting our freedoms as democrats trying to create a socialist/communist state.

    Anyone who votes for today’s socialist Democratic Party at any level of government is either to stupid not to understand history or to stupid to care.