A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, March 11, 2013:
Mental health transition: The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an $11.6 million supplemental appropriations measure Monday that would provide transition money to 26 counties to help fund mental health programs through June 30.
Scott and Linn counties would pull down nearly 40 percent of the money being earmarked for counties having trouble meeting their Medicaid obligations as Iowa moves to a regional mental-health service delivery system. Scott County would get $2.4 million and Linn County would receive $2.2 million in transition funds this fiscal year to meet mental health obligations.
Lawmaker, counties and the state Department of Human Services have agreed to the transition funds. Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, floor manager for HF 160, said he expects the bill will win Senate approval and head to the governor’s desk for his consideration.
Senate confirmations: Iowa senators voted 46-0 Monday to confirm 11 of Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointments to various state positions. Senators confirmed Nicholas Gerhart, 37, of Des Moines, as Iowa Insurance Commissioner, replacing Susan Voss who left the position earlier this year. Senators also confirmed former state Rep. Chuck Gipp, R-Decorah, as director of the state Department of Natural Resources and former state Rep. Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna, as the director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy.
On another 46-0 vote, the Senate approved Robert Von Wolffradt as Iowa’s chief information officer and Jason Carlstrom as a member and chairperson of the Iowa Board of Parole. Also confirmed by the required two-thirds affirmative of the 50-member Senate were Leann Jacobsen and Timothy Peterson to the Iowa Technology Advisory Council; James Davidson, Kelly Rielly, and Carrie Tedore to the Vision Iowa Board; and Joanne Stockdale to the state Environmental Protection Commission.
Nude, but not nasty: The Iowa House approved HF 359 89-10 to give cities more power to regulate strip clubs. Cities would be allowed to enact ordinances prohibiting nudity in any establishment within their jurisdiction.
HF 359 clarifies that nude performances are not the same as sexually explicit “material,” which only can be regulated by the state. The distinction became necessary, lawmakers said, because the state Supreme Court ruled a year ago that live nude and nearly nude dancing was sexually explicit “material.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Iowa gets a C: Iowa ranked a C on the Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Report Card on how well state legislative information is made available to the public.
Evaluated across six criteria, the Transparency Report Card judges legislative websites in relation to how government information is publicly available. Factors (and Iowa scores) were: completeness (0), timeliness (1), ease of electronic access (0), machine readability (-1), use of commonly owned standards (0) and permanence (2).
The report card, which, can be found at http://openstates.org/reportcard/, was based on the experience of the Sunlight Labs and a group of civic hacker volunteers who were collecting data from state websites across the country to build a comprehensive legislative database.
The Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable.
$15,637 a day: As a group, Iowa’s winning U.S. House candidates raised $15,637 a day during the two-year 2012 election cycle, according to a MapLight analysis of Federal Election Commission fundraising data.
Fourth District Republican Rep. Steve King was the top fundraiser, reporting $3,753,860 in contributions or $5,144 a day, according to MapLight. Republican Rep. Tom Latham raised $3,408,822 or $4,671, to defeat fellow incumbent, Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell. First District Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley raised $2,687,005 or $3,682 per day and 2nd District Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack pulled in $1,562,540 or $2,141 a day for two years.
According to MapLight, on average, each House incumbent raised $1,689,580, an average of $2,315 every day of the 2012 cycle. Senators raised an average of $10,476,451 or $14,351 a day.
Business council backs ed reform: The non-partisan Iowa Business Council (IBC) is backing HF 215, calling the education reform package originally filed by the Governor’s Office its No. 1 priority for the legislative session.
“The time has arrived to be bold, courageous, and transformative in how education is delivered,” Stan Askren, chairman, president, and CEO of HNI Corporation in Muscatine and 2013 chairman of the Iowa Business Council, said Monday. “The state’s economic vitality and future rests on our ability to have a well-educated and prepared work force.”
The IBC is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose 25 members are the top executives of 21 of the largest businesses in the state, the three Regent university presidents, and Iowa’s largest banking association.
For more, visit www.iowabusinesscouncil.org.
Scientific leaders: Adam Michael Zaccone of Harlan and Maya Frances Amjadi have been selected as the two most promising young scientific leaders in Iowa’s 2013 high school graduating class, Gov. Terry Branstad announced Monday.
They will participate in the National Youth Science Camp held near the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia.
Alternates are: Dylan T. Beyhl, Davenport; Macy Lynnae Murray, Keokuk; Eva Shelton, Williamsburg; and Megan Marie Valentine, Dubuque.
The camp is an annual summer forum where students exchange ideas with leading scientists and other professionals from academic and corporate worlds. More information is available at www.nysf.com.
NCRC certification testing: Iowans will have an opportunity to advance along the pathway to career success by receiving a National Career Readiness Certificate. Interested individuals may take the test at 1 p.m. March 23 in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Dubuque, Marshalltown and Waterloo. Individuals interested in testing must reserve a spot at the selected location.
The readiness certificate is a credential recognized across the country that students and workers use to demonstrate their workplace skills. The NCRC test measures several skills, including critical thinking and applied mathematics.
For more information, visit www.skillediowa.org. Testing locations and details are as follows: Cedar Rapids Human Services Campus Conference Center, 317 7th Ave. SE, Suite 401, To Register: (319) 365-9474; Davenport IowaWORKS Center, 902 West Kimberly Road Suite 51, To Register: (563) 445-3226; Dubuque IowaWORKS Center, 680 Main Street, 2nd Floor, To Register: (563) 556-5800; Marshalltown IowaWORKS Center, 3405 South Center Street, To Register: (641) 754-1400; and Waterloo IowaWORKS Center, 3420 University Avenue, Suite G, To Register (319) 235-2123.
Pig protest: Mercy for Animals and local animal rights activists have scheduled a demonstration outside a Des Moines Wal-Mart to protest the practice of confining pregnant sows to gestation crates.
Members of Chicago-based Mercy for Animals have traveled to Des Moines before to protest the use of gestation crates and to rally against the so-called “ag-gag” bill which prohibits the secret recording of farm operations.
The visit is part of the group’s national campaign against Wal-Mart for purchasing its meat from certain providers. More information a can be found at www.WalmartCruelty.com.
Teen videos: The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced the winners of the Let Your Voice Be Heard video contest Monday. The winners were:
First: Aaron Hosman and Adhel Jok of Des Moines Central Academy The winning video can be found at: http://youtu.be/4gFwbU2Vazs; Second: Clay Wetterling and Logan Hoelting of Melcher-Dallas. The second place video can be found at: http://youtu.be/2wp4BIFybZA; Third: Matthew Johnson, Lexi Crozier, and Austin Stackovich of Melcher-Dallas.
Latino legislative day: The Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens has scheduled March 12 as its first-ever Latino Legislative Day at the Iowa State Capitol. LULAC State Director Joe Enriquez Henry will speak, as well as American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa attorney Rita Bettis. Democratic Sens. Jack Hatch and Janet Petersen, both from Des Moines, also will speak to the group.
Shooting range: Legislation that would protect the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s outdoor shooting range from noise complaints from neighbors is on its way to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk. The Iowa Senate voted 45-1 to approve HF 133 on Monday, with Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, casting the lone “no” vote.
The bill previously passed the Iowa House by a 98-1 margin. The legislation was the outgrowth of a state Office of Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman decision that the city’s outdoor shooting range at 2727 Old River Rd. SW violates a state law prohibiting a publicly owned shooting range to be within 200 yards of inhabited structures. The bill was one of 15 measures approved by senators on Monday afternoon.
Gift law update: Employees and officials in state government’s executive branch would be required to report gifts, bequests and honoraria that they might receive in excess of $100 from a paid lobbyist or other restricted donors during a calendar year under a bill that passed the Iowa Senate on a 46-0 vote Monday.
SF 121 requires monthly reporting if warranted. Iowa law allows government employees and officials to receive gifts and honoraria from restricted donors under certain circumstances, but currently there are no reporting requirements for fees or expenses paid for speaking engagements, trade missions or other functions. The bill covers the governor’s office, the state Board of Regents’ institutions, state boards and commissions and all executive-branch agencies.
A person who knowingly and intentionally violates the proposed reporting requirement could be convicted of a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of at least $315 but not more than $1,875.
Quote of the day: “It’s not a perfect bill, but what bill up here is?” Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, speaking in support of HF 210, a bill related to the practices and procedures of the state public defender.
–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau