July 4 thread: Legalized fireworks in Iowa

During the action-packed legislative session, I never got around to writing about the bill making fireworks sales legal in Iowa for the first time in 79 years. Even if you hadn’t heard about the change in state law, you’ve probably noticed more fireworks going off in your neighborhood at all hours of the night lately, or seen complaints about the phenomenon on your social media feeds. Although numerous local ordinances restrict the use of fireworks to a short window on or close to the 4th of July, many enthusiasts either don’t know or don’t care. I haven’t heard of many people being fined for ignoring those rules.

I’m no fan of do-it-yourself fireworks, which can be triggering for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many veterans say unexpected or “random” explosions near their homes are more upsetting than large municipal fireworks displays, which happen at predictable times.

Amateur fireworks also cause many preventable injuries. So far this year, a Davenport teenager lost a hand, and a woman in Shueyville has third-degree burns after “a multi-shot box misfired sending a projectile” into her lap. Her four-week-old infant was lucky to escape with only cuts and a broken leg after the quick-thinking mom “tossed the baby aside before the firework exploded.”

Iowa’s long ban on fireworks sales was inspired by major fires, in particular the 1931 blaze that destroyed downtown Spencer. When House members debated Senate File 489 in April, Democratic State Representative Tim Kacena warned about incidents he had seen as a firefighter in Sioux City. Already this year, amateur fireworks have caused several serious fires, one burning down an abandoned farm house near a friend’s residence in Wayne County.

Support for the fireworks bill didn’t fall strictly along party lines. After the jump I’ve posted the Iowa House and Senate roll calls, so you can find out whom to credit or blame, depending on your perspective. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

For those interested in the events that made July 4 a day worth celebrating, I recommend a trip Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was drafted, approved, and signed in 1776. My family recently traveled there for the first time. The highlight was the phenomenal Museum of the American Revolution, possibly the best historical museum I’ve ever seen. Plan to spend at least three or four hours there to make the most of the exhibits.

The National Constitution Center is also worth at least a half-day. My favorite parts were the temporary exhibit on the rise and fall of Prohibition, a permanent display featuring books that inspired the founding fathers, and an interactive feature (accessible on the center’s website) showing the influences on each amendment in the Bill of Rights. My kids’ favorite part of the Constitution Center was an area where you can vote for past presidents after reading genuine campaign statements about ten issues, not attached to either candidate’s name.

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Weekend open thread: Short-sighted elected officials edition

Who knew that when you tell a state agency leader to save another $1.3 million somehow, he might cut some important programs and services? Not State Representative Dave Heaton, the Republican chair of the Iowa legislature’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Who knew that when you impeach a mayor using a kangaroo court proceeding, a judge might order the mayor reinstated while her appeal is pending? Not Muscatine City Council members.

Follow me after the jump for more on those stories. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I’m also interested to know what readers think about Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen’s request to waive certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act in order to bring Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield back to Iowa’s individual insurance market for 2018. Elements of the “stopgap” measure violate federal law; health care law expert Timothy Jost told the Des Moines Register’s Tony Leys that some parts of Ommen’s proposal are “extremely problematic” and not likely “doable.” Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Anna Wilde Mathews and Louise Radnofsky saw the Iowa developments as “a key test of the ability to modify the [Affordable Care Act] through executive authority.” Slate’s Jordan Weissmann agreed.

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Let's not forget who made Iowa's new medical cannabis law so useless

Iowa’s new medical cannabis law goes into effect on July 1, but “obtaining the medicine will be difficult and manufacturers said it’s unclear if the state’s effort will be viable,” Linley Sanders reported for the Associated Press this week. Her story illuminated a few reasons the law won’t help most of the people who could potentially benefit from access to cannabis derivatives.

Iowa lawmakers closed out the session with all-nighter so as not to adjourn without doing something on this issue. The previous medical cannabis law, adopted in similar last-minute fashion three years earlier, was due to expire this summer. Even for people with seizure disorders, the only conditions for which cannabis oil was allowed, the old law was too limited and unworkable.

As the new law’s defects become more obvious, we need to remember that most state legislators favored a better alternative. House Republicans thwarted their efforts.

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Five stories: How Iowa's new abortion law will torment and endanger women

Women in Iowa have almost no options for terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks, under a law former Governor Terry Branstad signed a few weeks ago. Proponents have claimed the measure would “save lives immediately.”

In reality, the law will cause more pregnant women to have life-threatening health problems, and will add to the suffering of parents whose babies have no chance of survival.

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Who's Ready to Run?

Heather Ryan continues the series of posts by Iowa women who helped make 2017 a record-breaking year for political training programs. Ryan is the chair of the East Des Moines Area Democrats and a host of the Facebook Political Series “Fight Like a Girl.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s fair to say that I was most likely not the target demographic for the “Ready to Run” program hosted in Ames, Iowa on April 28. While I am indeed female, I am far from a political novice. In fact, I consume politics almost as voraciously as I consume a bag of Taki’s. I majored in Political Science at Drake, worked in Washington DC and have participated in countless campaigns. That being said, I constantly seek out knowledge, and the Ready to Run program was an excellent means for such.

As of late, I have attended Precinct Leader Training, Wellstone University, Ready to Run and even teamed up with Representative Ruth Ann Gaines to teach Politics in a Reality TV world. Each of these courses offered their own unique educational experience. The Precinct Leader Training, run by the Iowa Democratic Party, expands on grassroots, neighborhood activism. Wellstone University is a three day intensive where we worked on our stump speeches, fundraising technique and internet presence (among a slew of other things). Representative Gaines and I teach public speaking and presentation skills in a time when the populous is more interested in seeing a rumble than a debate. But unlike any of those training seminars, Ready to Run focuses solely on encouraging and preparing women to run for office. This is the primary strength of this day-long crash course.

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Iowa Senate leader stripped two Republicans of committee chairmanships

In an unusual move between the first and second years of a legislative assembly, Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix took committee chairmanships away from two members of his caucus this week. Senator Jake Chapman is the new leader of the Commerce Committee, replacing Bill Anderson. Senator Craig Johnson, who was just elected for the first time last November, now chairs the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee, replacing Rick Bertrand.

Dix handed the more significant demotion to Bertrand, who no longer serves on any appropriations subcommittee. Anderson’s remaining committee assignments still include a spot on one appropriations subcommittee as well as a position on the powerful Ways and Means panel.

Senate Republicans didn’t publicize the changes, which took effect on May 24, on their website or social media feeds. The snubs to Bertrand and Anderson attracted little notice amid the transfer of power from Governor Terry Branstad to Kim Reynolds. Senate GOP communications staff, Johnson, Bertrand, and Anderson did not respond to my requests for comment. When I reached Chapman by phone on May 24, he confirmed his new committee chairmanship but declined to speculate about the reasons, saying, “I don’t make those decisions.”

My first thought was that Dix punished Bertrand for throwing a bit of a tantrum (starting at the 6:12:20 mark of this video) during the final debate on Senate File 471, the bill banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks. But when senators first considered the same bill in March, Chapman had tried to suspend the rules to force a floor vote on “personhood” language. Johnson was among sixteen Republicans to support that breach of Senate protocol. Anyway, my initial hunch wouldn’t explain what Dix did to Anderson, who has never called out his GOP colleagues during a Senate floor speech, to my knowledge.

My best guess is that Bertrand and Anderson paid a price for missing too many votes this year. Follow me after the jump for details.

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