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Chances of Red-Light-Camera Ban, Gas-Tax Increase Dim as Legislature Pares Workload PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 09 March 2012 06:16

Prospects for bills that would ban red-light cameras and increase Iowa’s gas tax are dimming as state lawmakers work to pare down their workload in the final month of session.

March 16 is the Iowa legislature’s second “funnel” deadline, when bills must clear one chamber and a committee of the opposite chamber to remain alive. The 2012 legislative session is scheduled to end April 17.

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) said March 8 that a bill that would ban red-light and speed cameras in Iowa as of July 1 does not have the 51 votes to pass the Iowa House. Seven Iowa cities use the cameras to issue traffic tickets of up to $200 for speeding or running red lights. “My understanding is it’s short of the votes,” Paulsen said.

Muddy GOP Presidential Picture Keeps Iowa Delegates in Play PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 14:44

Iowa’s influence in choosing presidential nominees generally diminishes after its first-in-the-nation caucuses. But this year could be different because of the lack of finality in choosing who the Republican nominee will be.

“I think we’re in a different election cycle than we’ve ever seen before,” said Republican National Committee member Kim Lehman of Johnston. “Historically, the nominee has already been chosen [by this stage in the process]. Clearly, we don’t have a chosen nominee yet. That goes back to a trend that’s happening where people are not allowing the political gurus to make the decision for the grassroots voters.”

People in 10 states are casting their votes today – Super Tuesday, with 419 delegates up for grabs. But with the perceived GOP front-runner changing multiple times so far, political analysts don’t expect Super Tuesday to clarify the GOP-nominee contest much.

“The race is far from over nationwide,” said Steve Roberts, a former chair of the Republican Party of Iowa and a member of the Republican National Committee.

Four days after Super Tuesday, Iowa Republicans will gather for county conventions. They will vote Saturday on platforms and choose delegates who will go on to the April 21 district conventions and the June 16 state convention.

Bill Aims to Increase Oversight, Curb Fraud in Small-Town Iowa PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 02 March 2012 12:55

Faced with the temptation of handling thousands of dollars, an increasing number of city clerks in small-town Iowa have used taxpayer money to buy items including alcohol, laptop computers, gas grills, pumpkin pies, cat litter, and self-improvement books.

“To me, it’s just very frustrating,” said Carrie Kirchhoff, city clerk of the 433-resident town of Lewis in southwest Iowa. “It makes the rest of us clerks look bad that really try to do a good job for our cities. And then it gets the citizens all worked up, too. How do they go on in the same community and hold their head up? It’s unreal.”

The number of fraud cases in Iowa cities with populations of fewer than 700 has grown from seven cases from 2000 through 2005 to 32 cases from 2006 through 2011, said State Auditor David Vaudt.

When the public and private sector are combined, Iowa was fourth in the nation last year in a ranking of states most likely to have losses from major embezzlement cases, according to a study by Massachusetts-based risk-management company Marquet International.

A bill expected to be taken up the legislature’s Government Oversight Committee aims to clamp down on the fraud through increased audits and oversight.

Bill Adding Teeth to Iowa’s Open-Records Law Gets New Life PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Thursday, 23 February 2012 10:36

A six-year battle in the legislature to create an Iowa Public Information Board has renewed life because of a new floor manager for the bill with a “strong desire” to move it forward.

“I think the time’s come for this bill to move forward. Six years is long enough,” state Representative Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) said February 22. “Iowans that I’ve talked to talk about transparency in their government. ... I think the common, everyday Iowan needs one place to go to find out some of their answers.”

The board would add teeth to the state’s open-records law.

Under Senate File 430, the state would create a seven-member board that would address people’s questions and problems about access to government records and meetings, and seek enforcement of the state’s open-records and public-meetings laws.

House Lawmakers Reject Expansion of Bottle Bill PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Thursday, 23 February 2012 10:09

Iowa lawmakers have once again crushed a proposal to expand the state’s 1978 bottle bill.

A panel of lawmakers on February 22 heard testimony on House Study Bill 652, which would expand Iowa’s beverage-container-control law – the anti-litter law more commonly known as the “bottle bill,” – to include water bottles and sports drinks.

But the bill’s floor manager made clear that the legislation isn’t going anywhere this year.

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