WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 18, 2018) – After today’s stunning defeat of the House farm bill, H.R. 2, in a 198 - 213 vote, the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) called on Members of Congress to repair the bipartisan farm bill coalition and deliver a farm bill that works for everyone.

When cheating happens in the classroom, Iowa's top education officials are responsible for investigating the allegations and uncovering any wrongdoing.

But the public in Iowa has little insight how state leaders investigate incidents, what material is collected, and the amount of cheating taking place. They also don't know the extent of staff involvement in the cheating.

And they don't have any way of knowing that investigations are thorough and fair.

It's all legitimate under Iowa law.

Uncertainty surrounding a newly created $60-million tax-relief fund and few safeguards on how the state taxpayer dollars will be used opens up the potential for misuse, state lawmakers say.

House Ways & Means Chair Tom Sands (R-Wapello) told IowaPolitics.com last month that among 100 Iowa House members, 50 Iowa Senate members and the governor, there are probably 151 different ideas on how to use the $60 million that will go into the Taxpayers Trust Fund this year.

Lawmakers are struggling with how to transform Iowa's 99-county system for providing mental-health services into a more uniform, statewide network. The underfunded system presently leaves thousands waiting for services.

"Those are the people probably suffering the most right now," said Margaret Stout, who for 25 years was executive director of Iowa's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a not-for-profit that provides mental-health education, advocacy, and support.

Iowa's adult-mental-health system provided services to 52,059 people last fiscal year, according to the Iowa State Association of Counties. Underfunding leaves thousands more without needed services. The system has an anticipated $51.4-million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2013, according to the state's Legislative Services Agency.

The chair of one of Iowa's powerful tax-writing committees said March 19 that allowing certain local projects to keep their own sales-tax revenue - rather than sending the money to the state - is a slippery slope.

"I think it's a very dangerous road to go down," Iowa House Ways & Means Chair Tom Sands (R-Wapello), told IowaPolitics.com. "The state started down that road just a little bit with the racetrack, and now, here are two other proposals that are coming off of that. So the next question is: Where will this end?"

In 2005, lawmakers and the governor first used this economic-development tool to bring NASCAR to Iowa. Then-Governor Tom Vilsack signed a law that paved the way for construction of the Iowa Speedway in Newton by allowing the racetrack to keep $12.5 million of its own future sales-tax revenue.

An Iowa policy group warned then that the Newton project would encourage other cities to seek similar subsidies from state funds. The group, it appears, was right.

The Iowa Supreme Court on March 16 said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's item-veto of a bill intended to keep Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) field offices open was unconstitutional.

"Simply stated, the legislature appropriated funds to IWD with strings attached, and our constitution does not permit the governor to cut the strings and spend the money differently," said the opinion authored by Justice Thomas Waterman, who was appointed by Branstad in February 2011.

However, it does not appear that the ruling would lead to the re-opening of the 36 field offices, which helped unemployed Iowans find jobs, write résumés, and prepare for interviews.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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