Capitol Review 3/5/17

Election Integrity and Modernization

Iowans should have confidence in their elections.  Measures like voter verification and election modernization give Iowans assurance that our system is fair, clean, and ensures eligible voters aren’t disenfranchised. 

House Republicans have been working with Secretary of State Paul Pate on changes to Iowa’s election process, including voter verification, that make it easier to vote, harder to cheat, and ensures no one is turned away.

This week, the State Government Committee passed the Election Integrity and Modernization bill and sent it to the House floor for consideration.

HSB 93 requires all voters to present government-issued identification at their polling location.  Acceptable forms of ID include:

  • An Iowa Driver’s License
  • An Iowa Non-operator ID
  • A United State Passport
  • A Veteran or Military ID
  • A Voter Identification issued by the Secretary of State

HSB 93 provides eligible voters with a free Voter Identification Card if they cannot afford another form of identification.

  • Voter verification measures are already law in 34 other states.

HSB 93 implements the use of E-poll Books to modernize and streamline the voting process at polling locations

HSB 93 eliminates straight-ticket voting from Iowa ballots

  • Iowa is one of only nine states that allow straight-ticket voting
  • Straight-ticket voting disenfranchises third party candidates that don’t have a box that voters can check
  • Straight-ticket voting also causes confusion for voters oftentimes

A recent Des Moines Register poll finds that 69% of Iowans believe that a government-issued ID should be presented in order to vote.

Education Committee Moves Forward on Flexibility for School Districts

As tight budgets abound at both the state and local level, the conversation naturally moves to using existing dollars more effectively.  School districts have often asked for additional flexibility in their “silos” of funding and the legislature has abided in the past by making small changes here and there. 

But the atmosphere this year has been ripe for making larger changes to give more power back to the local school districts.  Here are the bills moving currently that provide those needed changes:

House File 26 – Home Rule

This bill grants similar authority to school districts that cities and counties in Iowa have had since 1968 and 1978, respectively.   In broad terms, it’s ultimate local control.  School districts would be able to exercise flexibility in areas in which state law or rules don’t limit operation.  They would still be required to follow law that prescribe their actions as well as avoid actions prohibited by law, including creating additional taxing authority. 

House Study Bill 178 – Flexibility for School District Funds
Schools receive funding for specific purposes when new programs are created, requiring them to address the issue with narrow guidelines put on those funds.  Often those guidelines prove to be too narrow and need some loosening up.  This bill makes changes to a number of funds, including Professional Development funding, At-risk and Dropout funding, Preschool funding, PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) funding, and Talented and Gifted (TAG) funding, by adding additional allowable expenses that are meant to help the funding further the goals of the program.  It also includes language meant to provide additional flexibility from the sometimes heavy hand of the Department of Education in creating additional parameters around various programs and funding through rules and guidance to school districts.

House File 446 – School District Flexibility Fund
As mentioned above, often school district funds have narrow parameters that prohibit them from being utilized fully.  As a result, school districts accumulate unused funds that grow year after year.  There are currently over 74 identified sources of funding that school districts statewide have leftover funds in to the tune of over $146 million in FY 2015 (a $17.5 million increase over FY 2014).  Much of this funding cannot be touched or used.

The idea behind HF 446 is to create a new “Flexibility Fund” that would collect some of this funding and create additional spending authority for districts to use those funds in a broader fashion, but still in the direction of the original source of the funding.  The fund should hopefully help districts access some of this untouchable funding, bring carry-over down, and use the money in ways that help students with further access, more high-quality programming, and a stronger education program.

In addition to House action this week, the Senate is also moving forward on bills that fall in the periphery of the flexibility category.  Long on the minds of many school districts and legislators are issues of “inequity” for specific funding requirement, namely transportation funding and spending authority on a per pupil basis.  SSB 1124 will take steps to alleviate these inequities and the House will review that when and if it comes over from the Senate.   

All of these bills, still early in the process, are works in progress.  But movement has begun and they are priorities of House Republicans to the extent that additional flexibility and authority be provided to school districts to more effectively manage local operations in providing the best education possible for Iowa’s children.

Defending the Second Amendment

House Republicans are strong defenders of Iowans’ Second Amendment rights.  Over the last six years, the House has passed a number of bills that expand and protect the rights of Iowans to keep and bear arms.

This session provides a unique opportunity to protect and strengthen Second Amendment freedoms for Iowans.  This week the Judiciary Committee passed the omnibus firearm bill to expand Iowan’s personal liberties and crackdown on straw purchases.

Pictures from this Week

UNI class

UNI Class

Hawkeye Community 2

Hawkeye Community College

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