Category Archives: View Point
Safe at Home Act Vital
By Paul D. Pate
Iowa Secretary of State
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and that made it the perfect time for the Iowa Legislature to approve the Safe at Home Act. The bill’s purpose is simple. It is designed to prevent victims from being physically located through a public records search.
The incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence in Iowa are much more frequent than most people realize. The statewide numbers are staggering. According to the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division, almost 21,000 Iowans receive victim assistance services at any given time because of domestic violence. Almost 3,500 domestic violence convictions are handed down to criminals every year in Iowa courts. Domestic violence affects men, women and innocent children in our state.
The Safe at Home Act will provide an alternate address for participants to utilize as their new legal address after they have moved away from their abuser to start a new life. In order to become certified in the Safe at Home confidential address program, participants must take action against their abusers, such as protective orders, criminal complaints or police reports. Participants may enroll in the program before an abuser is convicted. That is part of the success of the program – it enables victims of these crimes to be proactive toward getting their lives back on track.
This legislation cannot replace other legislative initiatives that might keep offenders in prison longer, nor does it expedite the legal procedures that might incarcerate offenders sooner. However, this program helps victims of violence start over by taking back the power and control from their offenders.
My office has worked closely with legislators on both sides of the aisle, state agencies, SAH programs in other states and public records interest groups to work out complicated arrangements related to public records and public disclosure. The fact that both chambers of the Iowa Legislature passed the bill unanimously is an indication not only of its widespread support, but also reflects that interested groups are satisfied that their concerns are addressed.
More importantly, saving the lives of Iowans currently living in fear is a worthwhile and meaningful plan. According to data from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, an average of 13 deaths occur every year in our state due to domestic violence. This bill will reduce that number by making it easier for victims to leave their abusers and to prevent being found by them. The Safe at Home Act is real progress in this battle. It will help victims become survivors.
Question: What are the powers and duties of the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB)?
Answer: The IPIB is an independent agent authorized by statute (Iowa Code chapter 23) to issue advice, or declaratory orders with the force of law, regarding the applicability of the open meetings (Chapter 21) and open records (Chapter 22) laws.
It can receive and investigate complaints alleging violations of the laws and seek resolution through an informal process. If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, and the IPIB has probable cause to believe the law has been violated, the board may prosecute the government body or official in a contested-case proceeding under the Administrative Procedures Act (Chapter 17A). The IPIB can issue subpoenas to investigate complaints and prosecute cases, and it can also issue orders with the force of law to require compliance with the sunshine laws.
The IPIB also offers training in Chapters 21 and 22 to government bodies, disseminates information to the public, submits an annual report to the Governor and Legislature and makes recommendations relating to access to government information.
Question: What are the limits of the IPIB jurisdiction?
Answer: The IPIB does not have jurisdiction over the judicial or legislative branches, or over the Governor and Governor’s office. A complaint must be filed with 60 days from the time the alleged violation occurred or the complainant could have become aware of the violation with reasonable diligence.
Question: Do I have to file a public meetings or records complaint with the IPIB instead of going to court? If I file a complaint with the board and am dissatisfied with the result, can I appeal?
Answer: Any person, the Attorney General or a County Attorney seeking to enforce open meetings and records laws can bring the complaint before the IPIB, or the individual can bring an action in state district court, as under current law. If more than one party simultaneously brings an action before the IPIB and in court, the court shall stay the case pending resolution of the complaint by the IPIB. A final IPIB order is subject to judicial review.
Question: Where can I find out more information about the IPIB?
Answer: The IPIB has a website: www.ipib.iowa.gov. You can also contact the IPIB staff by phone at 515.725.1781, by fax at 515.725.1789 or by email at IPIB@iowa.gov.
Rural America: It’s Complicated, Really Complicated
By Brian Depew, email@example.com, Center for Rural Affairs
There are two closely held, widely believed, narratives about rural America. The national media narrative, with roots in the 1980’s farm crisis, is fatalistic. Rural places are dying. It lives on at the Brookings Institute and the New York Times, fueled by demographics that show decades of population decline across much of rural America.
The other narrative is woven by small town boosters. They point to new demographic data showing 30-49 year olds returning to small towns. They talk with passion about new businesses and housing shortages.
The challenge is, neither narrative is wholly accurate. The truth is far more complex. The fatalists, caught in a crisis mind frame, are wrong. Rural America will not return to a vast buffalo commons anytime soon. Meanwhile, the boosters lead with great local successes while brushing over underlying trends.
To build a vibrant small town future in America, we must understand clearly what challenges we face and where emerging opportunities exist.
Many small towns are losing population, yet young families moving in often cannot find housing. Much small town infrastructure is in decline, but contractors, plumbers and electricians have more work than they can handle, often with new construction. Small town grocery stores are under pressure but community-led efforts to retain grocery stores have seen dramatic success.
America’s small town reality is complex. Some places thrive, others struggle. And in every small town there is a mix of success and challenge. Understanding these dynamics is the only path to a vibrant future.
By Dawn Pettengill
I believe every day working at the Capitol is a blessing and a big responsibility. That’s why I do my best to make votes based on facts — by getting your input and doing my research.
One that is turning into a real killer decision is the fuel tax vote coming up. The last time the fuel tax was increased was in the late 80s. In 2006, a comprehensive study was done on road/bridge infrastructure needs. We were short of meeting those needs by about $220 million dollars a year. At that time, I made a commitment to support an increase in the fuel tax and have said so every year.
Nearly ten years later, we still haven’t increased the fuel tax and our lack of money for maintenance is showing. Cities and counties are borrowing money to fix roads when they should be able to count on money from the Road Use Tax Fund. Every penny of gas tax generates around $22 million for the Road Use Tax Fund, which is a Constitutionally protected fund reserved solely for roads and bridges.
Two years ago, the Governor told the DOT to find efficiencies. They did, reducing spending by $50 million. The dollars saved went to road repairs. We know there are more ways to find savings, but they don’t come close to $220 million a year.
After reaching out to my constituents, I received input on both sides of a fuel tax increase. Nobody wants to pay more, but some can see it is needed. Nobody wants to vote for it either, but some see the need. It is my job to make these decisions and I was supporting it. Like so many things in Des Moines, a couple of Democrats, Republicans and the Governor came together to see what everyone can agree on. When we got the bill last week from that select group, the bill has some “deals” in it that I’m not sure I can vote for.
The bill is supposed to be a money raiser for the Road Use Tax Fund, with a 10 cent fuel tax increase, $220 million. But included in that bill are a couple of decreases. One is a ten year ethanol differential that reduces the Road Use Tax Fund about $7.5 million a year. Okay, we are raising $220 million a year and then we give ethanol $7.5 million of it in the same bill? I support ethanol and have voted yes on this every year. But c’mon, let ethanol stand on its own. Also added was the same thing for biodiesel, only three cents a gallon instead of the two cents for ethanol. Again, these are supports for our Iowa economy, but it makes it harder to vote for the bill…adding to the cost of gas to fix roads and then cutting breaks in the same bill.
A few other things were added and I’m not as committed as I was before, but will do my best to keep you taxpayers at the desk with me when I make the final vote. I know one thing for sure. The fuel tax is the cheapest hit to your wallet and it hits harder the people who drive more, like me. That’s the way it should be. I don’t want people who drive to church once a week paying higher registration fees again. Stay tuned.
Also, hopefully this week we will finish out the supplemental state aid debate and get it to the Governor. We sent our bill over to the Senate three weeks ago and finally got their response late last week. Stay tuned there too.
If you have any concerns or questions, give me a call at 515-281-6879 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m here for you!
Iowa Senate – Steve Sodders:
Committee work on bills is in full swing. The committees and appropriations sub-committees are not only moving bills, but they are also hearing updates from the various departments and organizations they fund. For example, we had a three hour marathon Appropriations meeting, where we heard from the Board of Regents on funding for the three state universities. Discussed was the new formula for distributing the funds between the three universities that is based partly on the number of Iowa students they are serving.
In the Public Safety meeting, we heard from the Criminal Investigation Crime Lab on Synthetic Cannabinoids. These drugs are complex chemical formulations that are sprayed on plant matter and smoked under the premise that it is synthetic marijuana. These drugs can be hundreds of times more potent than herbal marijuana and are extremely dangerous. The producers change the formulas rapidly to avoid the law and sell these drugs legally in gas stations and other shops around the state.
Iowa House – Dawn Pettengill:
What’s happening in the statehouse? Conservation wants us to increase the sales tax another penny. That would take us up to 8 cents on the dollar when you count the school and local penny and 3/8 of that cent would go to Conservation. The House voted to give K-12 education another $80 per pupil, which is another $100 million, but they wanted $240 million. Plus, we have big infrastructure needs and are trying to figure out how to get $210 million more a year of ongoing money into the Road Use Tax Fund.
Almost every conversation involves someone needing money, but the elephant in the room nobody is talking about — the looming dollar increase needed to completely fund Medicaid. In 2011, the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) was 63.51%. For every dollar spent, the federal government paid $ .6351. The FMAP has decreased every year and the state has picked up more of the cost each of those years. With 54.91% as the 2016 FMAP, we are expecting to need an additional $150 million over last year to fund it completely for a total of $1,574,569,144. Every budget impacts Iowans, but this one hits the most vulnerable people and there are no busses full of poor people coming to the Capitol to lobby us. We just know we have to take care of them.