Credibility is oh so fragile, and officials in Iowa’s largest school district dented theirs last week. Even people who don’t live in Des Moines should be troubled by what occurred, because there is a good chance, come January, the Iowa Legislature will respond in ways that could affect every other school district in the state. Here’s why:
In the Nov. 5 school election, the Des Moines school district asked voters to approve a higher property tax levy for the district’s building and equipment needs. The higher physical plant and equipment levy will bring in an additional $6.5 million a year.
There was a sobering news report a few weeks ago that did not get the attention it deserved here in Iowa. That’s unfortunate, because the report should put to rest once and for all the shortsighted attempts by some members of the Iowa Senate to interfere with public safety. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register. Opinions are his own.
One of the most contentious issues in the Iowa Legislature this year involved the way the state’s judges are chosen.
That process was established 57 years ago when voters amended the Iowa Constitution. It’s worth noting that Republicans held solid majorities then in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. In the years that followed — when governors were Republicans, as well as when they were Democrats — the stature of the Iowa judiciary was saluted across the United States for its fairness and nonpartisan nature. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register.
The Republican Party’s state chairman said Democrats have nothing to complain about when it comes to a series of last-minute Republican bills adopted in the final days of the Iowa Legislature’s 2019 session. The Democratic Party leader disagrees, as you would expect.
The First Amendment isn’t long, but it certainly packs a lot of angst into those few words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in the latest IowaWatch Connection radio report and podcast that Iowa needs to streamline the process for getting flood relief to portions of the state pounded with spring flooding. The process will include coming up with funds in Iowa to provide flood relief, matching at some level federal aid that eventually comes into the state, Reynolds said in the weekend radio report. On Monday, Reynolds announced a $15 million legislative funding package the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and her request that the Iowa Legislature approve about $10 million for fiscal 2020. The money next fiscal year would fund housing tax credits for flood-stricken areas of the state. Reynolds also signed an executive order that creates a flood advisory board to coordinate the state’s flood recovery and rebuilding effort.
When members of the Iowa Legislature show up at coffee shops in their districts on weekends, you won’t hear them talking about not trusting local government officials. But that is at the heart of a bill that would turn city and county government topsy-turvy and place a straitjacket on the governments that are closest to the voters. House Study Bill 165 is the product of Republicans who hold a majority of seats on the House Ways and Means Committee. A subcommittee has recommended approval of the bill. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.
Iowa clean energy advocates suspect the state’s largest utility is secretly behind a new organization claiming to represent farmers, consumers and businesses that oppose the state’s solar policies. The utility neither confirmed nor denied a role in setting up the group and a spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy did not directly answer a question about its role in the group. But solar industry supporters said the timing and similarities in messaging suggest a link. “This group didn’t exist until the utilities, particularly MidAmerican, started pushing a bill that would decimate the distributed solar industry in Iowa,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a lawyer with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. In late January, a few weeks before the introduction of two bills that would impose new costs on solar customers, a website and Facebook page surfaced for an organization calling itself the REAL Coalition, which claims it “gives voice to Iowa consumers, farmers and businesses on the energy issues affecting our state.”
The website decries what it calls the “solar cost shift,” and urges legislators to “keep the interests of ALL your constituents in mind and vote YES” on bills moving briskly through both chambers that would impose substantial new fees on electricity customers who generate some of their own power.
Sunshine Week will be observed across the nation next week. In Iowa, the sunshine next week will be obscured by clouds — at least when it comes to citizen access to videos recorded by law officers on their squad car cameras and body cameras during incidents in which police shoot someone or when officers are fired upon.