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Iowa Supreme Court: Sioux City traffic cameras don't violate constitutional rights or state law

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 20, 2015 at 12:10:00 PM CST

The Iowa Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a District Court ruling that held a man responsible for a speeding ticket issued under Sioux City's Automated Traffic Enforcement Ordinance. You can read Justice Brent Appel's whole decision here (pdf). Michael Jacobsma employed several legal arguments in his suit challenging the speeding ticket:

The defendant sought dismissal of the citation on constitutional grounds, claiming enforcement of the ordinance violated the Due Process Clauses of the Iowa and Federal Constitutions, the inalienable rights clause of the Iowa Constitution, and the Iowa municipal home rule amendment that prohibits cities from enacting ordinances that conflict with state law.

Pages 2 through 7 cover background on Sioux City's ordinance, Jacobsma's ticket, and his legal challenge. Pages 7 through 23 explore the extensive federal and state case law on due process challenges against similar ordinances. Key points: the ordinance allows vehicle owners to present evidence indicating that they were not driving at the time of the alleged traffic violation, but Jacobsma never did so. Furthermore, since this case involves only civil penalties (a fine) rather than criminal penalties, there is less of a burden on the government to prove Jacobsma was operating the vehicle when it was traveling at 67 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone.

Pages 24 through 32 address Jacobsma's claim that the presumption in the Sioux City traffic camera ordinance violates his "inalienable rights" under the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions. After going through lots of court rulings on inalienable rights clauses, Appel notes that many "cases hold that liberty or property rights enumerated in the inalienable rights clauses of state constitutions are subject to reasonable regulations in the public interest." The Iowa Supreme Court justices agreed, "there is no doubt that the regulation to control speeding on state highways gives rise to a public interest generally."

Pages 33 through 35 address Jacobsma's claim that the Sioux City ordinance is invalid because it conflicts with state law. Here the controlling case law is Davenport v Seymour, a 2008 Iowa Supreme Court decision also authored by Appel. That ruling upheld the city of Davenport's use of traffic cameras. Today's ruling concludes that Sioux City's rules on tickets issued by traffic cameras are "consistent with substantive state law related to speeding" and not "irreconcilable" with the various Iowa Code provisions cited by Jacobsma.

Speaking to Radio Iowa's Dar Danielson, Jacobsma said he is disappointed with today's ruling but respects the Iowa Supreme Court's opinion.

The high court may eventually consider a different case related to Sioux City's traffic cameras. Last year, city officials filed a lawsuit claiming the Iowa Department of Transportation exceeded its authority when it issued rules restricting local governments' use of automated traffic enforcement systems. That case is scheduled to be heard in Woodbury County District Court this May.

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Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice calls for action on racial disparity, courthouse security

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 14:32:36 PM CST

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady delivered his annual State of the Judiciary address to Iowa House and Senate members this morning. The full text is available here (pdf), and I've posted important sections after the jump. Cady hailed progress the court system is making on helping Iowa children and improving efficiency and transparency. He described ongoing initiatives to improve how Iowa courts handle family law cases and review guardianship and conservatorship laws and procedures. Cady also asked lawmakers to appropriate 4.7 percent more funding for the court system in the next fiscal year.

Cady cited recent work within the judicial branch to "better understand and address the persistence of racial disparities" in the criminal justice system--a longstanding problem in Iowa. I enclosed below reaction from Assistant House Minority Leader Ako Abdul-Samad. Abdul-Samad is one of five African-American members of the Iowa House.

Finally, the chief justice alluded to a shooting last September during a meeting of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors as he called for action "to make every courthouse in Iowa safer and more secure."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Sledding ban edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 10, 2015 at 09:56:35 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

After an unusually dry December, most of Iowa finally got a decent blanket of snow this week. Meanwhile, a classic winter activity became the unlikely center of a public policy controversy. The Dubuque City Council moved to prohibit sledding at 48 out of 50 city parks, generating some national media coverage and debate over whether city officials over-reacted to worries about litigation.

Contrary to the exaggerated claims of some authors, no city has banned or outlawed sledding within its jurisdiction. Iowans in Dubuque and elsewhere are free to sled on private property and on some public land. The "ban" applies only to certain public parks.

That said, I agree with those who say Dubuque leaders went way too far and set the penalty for unauthorized sledding too high at $750. In fact, City Council member David Resnick was probably right when he warned, "Crowding all [these] sledders into two areas is actually increasing the safety hazard and I don't think we should limit our potential [liability] by increasing the safety hazard for kids." I hope the controversy leads to higher turnout in the next Dubuque local election.

According to Katie Wiedemann's report for KCRG-TV, local leaders say unhappy Dubuque residents should talk to state lawmakers:

"Iowa law protects cities from liability in the event someone gets hurt on city property while biking, skating or skateboarding. But there's no protection if someone gets hurt while sledding. Some lawmakers attempted to fix that during the 2013 legislative session, but the bill failed."

However, Iowa Association for Justice Executive Director Brad Lint argued in today's Des Moines Register that "the city already enjoys fairly broad liability immunity under Iowa law." After the jump I've enclosed excerpts from Lint's op-ed column, which also addresses broader issues such as unwarranted fear of litigation and groups "begging" Iowa legislators "for protection from the often nonexistent lawsuits in their fields." As one Bleeding Heartland reader suggested privately to me this week,

Hopefully people will eventually see the sledding thing for what it is...another cynical attempt by the insurance industry to use people to twist the arms of their legislators to exempt the insurers from paying claims even in cases of negligence....

P.S.- Sledding is a common cause of serious childhood injuries during the winter. I know someone whose son nearly lost an eye and developed a life-threatening infection behind his eye socket after a sledding accident in her own backyard. I love sledding almost as much as my kids do, but keep these safety tips in mind when you play in the snow.

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Mid-week open thread: Christmas edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 24, 2014 at 21:15:00 PM CST

Merry Christmas to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community who is celebrating the holiday, and peace on earth to all regardless of religious beliefs and customs. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

In past years I have posted some links about the religious origins of Christmas celebrations as well as some traditional food for the holiday.

Children often look forward to the toys they will receive on Christmas. Unfortunately, not all of those toys are safe or appropriate. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood gives out "awards" annually for the worst toys of the year. This year's nominees were atrocious. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group's annual "Trouble in Toyland" report is an excellent resource for parents, and I recommend checking to see if any of your children's gifts ended up on the danger list. I've posted the executive summary after the jump, along with excerpts from a good Des Moines Register article on keeping your kids safe during the holidays.

Speaking of safety, the long Christmas weekend tends to be a busy time for travel. If you are driving to see friends or family, one of the best presents you can give yourself, your loved ones, and everyone else on the road is not using your cell phone while driving. It doesn't matter whether you are talking or texting, or whether you are holding the phone or using hands-free technology: "There is no safe way to use a cell phone while driving." Legislative bans on texting while driving or using hand-held phones haven't reduced crashes (including in Iowa), only partly because of noncompliance. Hands-free devices give drivers a "false sense of security," and drivers aware of texting bans may attempt to hold their phones out of view, increasing the amount of time they take their eyes off the road.

UPDATE: I should have included a few links on good toys. Here's a piece on toys that encourage creative, imaginative play, and here's a classic on "The 5 Best Toys of All Time" (though I would replace "dirt" with a ball).

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Tom Harkin's legacy: links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 09:11:36 AM CST

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin's been giving a lot of interviews lately as he wraps up a 40-year career in Congress this month. I've posted some of the newsworthy excerpts after the jump, along with the full text of Senator Chuck Grassley's widely-praised tribute to his colleague on the Senate floor.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: James Q. Lynch's feature for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on "The Harkin Legacy" is a good read.  

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Thanksgiving weekend open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 29, 2014 at 10:18:54 AM CST

I hope everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community had a good Thanksgiving holiday and is enjoying the weekend, however you prefer to celebrate. For those who still need to use up leftovers, I've posted a few ideas for soup here and my favorite thing to do with extra cranberry sauce.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Winter storms and "Black Friday" shopping have dominated newscasts for the past day or two, but the big story of the week was the St. Louis County grand jury declining to indict Officer Darren Wilson in connection with the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. I cannot imagine how awful it would be to lose a child in that way, knowing that the person responsible will never even stand trial. Whether or not you believe Wilson acted improperly, there was clearly enough evidence to indict him. Let a jury sort out whether he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt at a criminal trial. Signs point to the prosecutor not even trying to get an indictment. A New York Times graphic I've posted below shows "what was different about the Ferguson grand jury."

Not surprisingly, there was unrest in Ferguson for two nights following the grand jury's announcement. Most of the protesters there and elsewhere were peaceful, despite feeling intense anger. However, some looting and burning incidents provided fodder for Officer Wilson's sympathizers to portray those who protested Brown's death as "thugs" or worse. I mostly avoided social media arguments over the Ferguson case but saw many people talk about blocking or unfriending racists in their feeds. Spectra Speaks wrote this counter-intuitive post: "Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson." It's worth a read.

A common thread in many online arguments over Ferguson was someone reacting negatively to the phrases "white privilege" or "check your privilege." For people who don't understand what that means, Des Moines-based writer Ben Gran spelled it out:

White privilege exists for all white people, even poor whites.
"White privilege" doesn't mean you get free stuff for being white. "White privilege" doesn't mean that life is easy if you're white. "White privilege" doesn't mean that you get everything handed to you on a silver platter for being white.
"White privilege" means that there are certain HORRIBLE things that are MUCH LESS LIKELY to ever happen to you because you're white.

For example, if my son were waving a pellet gun around in public, it is much less likely that anyone would call the police, much less likely that police would open fire on him within seconds of arriving on the scene, and much less likely that police would stand around not administering first aid afterwards. Which is not to say it's advisable for anyone to wave a pellet gun around--only that doing so while white is much less likely to get you killed.

UPDATE: PBS published an outstanding chart comparing "several key details" of Officer Wilson's version of events to testimony various witnesses provided during the investigation. The chart "doesn't reveal who was right or wrong about what happened that day, but it is a clear indication that perceptions and memories can vary dramatically."

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Iowa State University ending VEISHEA for good

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 11:40:00 AM CDT

Iowa State University President Steven Leath announced this morning that the university will never again hold the annual spring celebration known as "VEISHEA" for more than 90 years. Leath cancelled most VEISHEA events this year after a riot broke out yet again. Last month, a task force Leath convened to study the issue recommended replacing the celebration with at least three separate events, not using the VEISHEA name and not held during the spring or on any holiday weekends. You can read the full report here (45-page pdf). Vanessa Miller summarized its key points in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Although many ISU alums will be disappointed to see the VEISHEA tradition end, Leath made the right decision in my opinion. Long ago this event's name lost its association with ISU's original colleges (Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture). Anything called VEISHEA will make many people think of drunken riots, and as the task force report noted, "A major springtime event at Iowa State, even if significantly retooled and identified by a different name, may still carry with it the baggage of unofficial VEISHEA." I suspect most Ames residents will be relieved by today's news.

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Rest in peace, Jim Brady

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 20:25:00 PM CDT

Jim Brady never planned to be a gun control advocate. That task fell to him when a mentally ill person tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. John Hinckley's attack left Brady permanently disabled and unable to continue his career as a press secretary. However, he and his wife Sarah Brady remained in public life as the country's most visible and dedicated advocates of gun control. More than twenty years after President Bill Clinton signed it into law, the Brady Handgun Control Act remains the most significant federal legislation designed to keep guns away from criminals, abusers, and some mentally ill people.

Like the 55 mph speed limit, which saved lives without allowing us to point to specific people who benefited, the Brady bill has surely prevented some gun deaths. We'll never know who is walking around alive today because an unstable person was blocked from buying a gun. How well the Brady Bill works is a matter of debate. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reported earlier this year that the law had "blocked more than 2.1 million gun purchases" to felons, domestic abusers, or fugitives. I've posted excerpts from that report after the jump.

Other researchers have suggested that the Brady law had limited impact on gun violence overall. While the waiting period introduced in 1994 likely reduced gun suicides, gun homicides were less affected because the "unregulated secondary gun market" has remained "a gaping loophole" in the system of background checks. The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun advocates have repeatedly stymied Congressional efforts to close that loophole.

Brady died yesterday at age 73. I appreciate how hard he worked, in a role no one would choose, to keep others from being killed or wounded by people who never should have been able to buy a gun.  

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July 4 weekend open thread: Iowa fireworks debate

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 12:34:00 PM CDT

Happy Independence Day to the Bleeding Heartland community. We're heading out to the Windsor Heights parade soon. Holiday parades and summer festivals are great outreach opportunities for candidates and their campaigns. Please share any favorite parade stories in this thread.

Last weekend Democratic State Senator Jeff Danielson and Republican State Senator Jake Chapman co-authored an editorial promising to work together next year to legalize fireworks in Iowa.

Senate File 2294 had several provisions that would allow fireworks to be safely regulated. Those stipulations would include prohibiting minors from purchasing fireworks, giving local municipalities the ability to restrict fireworks and the fire marshal the ability to regulate fireworks in the case of droughts.

The fireworks ban originally was a result of a Depression-era fire created by a sparkler in the middle of a drought when temperatures were nearing 100 degrees.

There also are misnomers and myths surrounding the fireworks-related injuries. In fact, the number of fireworks-related injuries in the U.S. has decreased drastically - nearly 61 percent - from 1994 to 2011, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This decrease in reported injuries is noteworthy considering the use of fireworks increased nearly 100 percent during the same time period.

We remind Iowans that as we near the celebration of our independence, fireworks remain illegal in Iowa. About 42 states have legalized some form of fireworks. We encourage all those who wish to have the same freedom to display fireworks, to please contact your legislators and let them know it is time for Iowa to join America in celebrating our Independence Day with fireworks.

Here's some background on "The Great Spencer Fire" of 1931.

I'm a bit surprised to see Danielson taking the lead on this issue, as he is not only a firefighter but also a veteran. Amateur fireworks can prompt anxiety or panic attacks for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Playing with sparklers, which are legal, as well as fireworks purchased from neighboring states, contributes to a surge in eye injuries around July 4. Interest groups representing doctors have lobbied strongly against lifting the ban on most fireworks because of the risk of burns.

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Weekend open thread: Midsummer edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. The big political news was the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee passing a no-confidence motion in top leaders and electing former Iowa House Speaker Jeff Kaufmann as new party chair, with Cody Hoefert as co-chair. Radio Iowa has the audio of Kaufmann's speech to the committee, a spirited and a bit defensive case for changing leaders at this time. Too bad the party now has a team at the top whom major donors will support. The Iowa Republican live-blogged the State Central Committee meeting. Shane Vander Hart has video of remarks by several committee members. UPDATE: Added more commentary on the Republican Party leadership change below. Apparently Chad Olsen is returning as Iowa GOP executive director, which is good news for Republicans, since he knows a lot more about GOTV than the outgoing staff.

With the July 4 long weekend coming up, many people will be planning celebrations outdoors. Unfortunately, heavy rain has caused flooding affecting many Iowa parks, roads and trails in low-lying areas. With any luck we'll get a few dry days before next weekend.

Excess nutrients (primarily runoff from conventional agriculture) can cause algal blooms in waterways. Ponds and lakes affected by the overgrowth of algae are unfortunately not safe even for pets, let alone humans.

Most fireworks remain illegal to buy or sell in Iowa, despite efforts by some statehouse Republicans to pass a bill this year, which would have legalized them for the first time since the 1930s. There wasn't broad-based support for the bill. Playing with sparklers, which are legal, as well as fireworks purchased from neighboring states, contributes to a surge in eye injuries around July 4.

For those planning to march in parades on behalf of local candidates or political groups, enjoy your outreach and try to keep your message positive.

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A Little Vietnam in Dallas County

by: CompassPlant

Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 22:47:55 PM CDT

(Terrifying comment on the lack of basic safety awareness among some Iowa gun enthusiasts. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Yesterday I conducted a wetlands delineation for the Iowa DNR at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Area, along the South Raccoon between Adel and Redfield. Among the highlights: a good plant list that included a new sedge species, Carex oligocarpa; numerous butterflies, including Tiger and Black Swallowtails, American Lady, Spring Azure, Eastern Comma, and Red Admiral; experience with riparian soils; and overall a good day.

The most memorable part came in the last 15 minutes. Four 20-something year-olds noisily stopped about 450 feet away on the old canoe access road and began making sounds that could have been firecrackers. When the first clear rifle report came, I knew that this was no mere Independence Day warm-up. At least two bullets hit within 100 yards of me and a third whizzed overhead as I crouched behind a low dirt pile.

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Memorial Day open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon May 26, 2014 at 13:35:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind this Memorial Day, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

I've posted Memorial Day-related links in past years at this site, but I learned only last year that Memorial Day became an official federal holiday only recently, in 1971. That's surprising, given that the tradition of remembering American war dead on a special day in May goes back to the 1860s. The Iowa National Guard's website includes brief histories of Iowa soldiers' involvement in U.S. wars since the mid-19th century and a stunning photo of thousands of men standing in the shape of the Statue of Liberty.

The horrendous shooting rampage in Santa Barbara on Friday night has prompted a wave of new commentaries about mental health, violence against women, and gun violence generally. It's so upsetting to know that the authorities couldn't do a thing to disarm the perpetrator, even though his family had been trying to get him help and warned police weeks ago that he was posting YouTube videos about his murderous and misogynistic fantasies.

For many people, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer, so I'm re-posting a link to a piece that's worth re-reading every year: Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning.  

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There's never a good time for a speeding ticket

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 20, 2014 at 16:05:00 PM CDT

But there may be a worst time: when you're a candidate for public office, and your campaign has already run a tv ad blasting your opponent for a speeding violation.

As you've probably heard by now, State Senator Jack Hatch got ticketed yesterday for driving 65 miles per hour (or maybe 68 mph) on a stretch of I-80 near Altoona, where the speed limit has been lowered to 55 because of road construction. He was lucky his fine wasn't doubled for a speeding infraction in a work zone, apparently because "road workers were behind concrete barriers all day." Hatch quickly released a statement praising the work of law enforcement and taking full responsibility for his actions, along with a shot at Governor Terry Branstad: "I will pay this ticket in full when I return to Des Moines Tuesday. Accountability is important. I offer a stark contrast to the current Governor when it comes to dodging responsibility and attempting to hide the truth from Iowans."

Granted, Branstad tried to evade responsibility when his vehicle was caught going way over the speed limit last summer, and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds made lame excuses at the time. And according to the Des Moines Register, yesterday was only the second time Hatch has been ticketed for speeding, while Branstad received four tickets during his time away from the governor's office. Still: when you've bashed the incumbent for this behavior, you need to be extra careful. Speed limits may be the most commonly-broken laws in the country, judging by how often I get passed on Iowa highways, but that's no excuse.

Speaking of which, the Sunday Des Moines Register reported that former State Senator Staci Appel, the Democratic candidate in Iowa's third Congressional district, was ticketed in March for driving her pickup truck 83 mph in a 60 mph zone on a four-lane highway in Warren County.  Her comment to the Register: "In my enthusiasm to talk to voters I regret that I inadvertently made a mistake, and I have paid my ticket." Unless you're rushing someone to the hospital, there's no reason to go that far over the speed limit, ever. Build more time into your campaign schedule or settle for running late. It's not Appel's first traffic ticket either.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- Who else is insanely jealous of Todd Dorman's headline-writing ability?

I reluctantly went with "Hatch Me if You Can," after considering "Troopers in Hatch Pursuit," "Speed Trap Delivers Hatch Slap" and "Hatch Trails Branstad by 19 in State Patrol Poll."
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No-brainer: fired Iowa DCI agent wants his job back

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 09:50:00 AM CDT

The career Division of Criminal Investigation agent who lost his job shortly after reporting a speeding incident involving Governor Terry Branstad's SUV is willing to drop his lawsuit against the state if he can get his old job back, James Q. Lynch reported yesterday for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

"He is interested in returning and it's our understanding the position is still available," said Tom Duff, a Des Moines attorney representing former DCI special agent Larry Hedlund.

Hedlund was a central figure in a high-profile incident last April where a state trooper driving an SUV carrying Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was clocked driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone. [...]

Although officially retired now, Hedlund is interested in returning to work, Duff said. Since the incident, the director of the Department of Public Safety has left state employment and two others involved in the handling of the Hedlund case have moved to other jobs.

The former Department of Public Safety chief was Brian London, who stepped down last September. His tenure at the agency was a real train wreck. The Iowa Senate recently confirmed Larry Noble to run the department again; he was Branstad's first choice for that job.

By many accounts, Hedlund was a solid employee during his long career at the DCI. If he is willing to work there again, rehiring him seems like an easy call. I can't imagine why the state would prefer to roll the dice on expensive litigation. Court hearings would only generate more coverage of Hedlund being forced out. Hedlund's attorney told Lynch that he has not heard back yet from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.  

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The pros and cons of Iowa traffic cameras: links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 07:37:38 AM CDT

Transportation policy doesn't often generate passionate public debate, but everyone seems to have a strong opinion about traffic cameras. Last week the non-profit news service Iowa Watch published an excellent piece on how traffic cameras are used in Iowa and the conflicting evidence about whether they improve public safety. Kelsey Block's article inspired me to compile arguments for and against this law enforcement tool.
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Iowa legislative news roundup: dead and alive after the second funnel

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 13:59:29 PM CDT

The Iowa legislature's second "funnel" deadline passed late last week. To remain eligible for debate during the remainder of this year's session, most legislation needed to have passed one chamber as well as a committee in the other chamber. There are a few exceptions to the rule, namely appropriations bills and some tax measures. Rod Boshart listed the most significant "dead" and "alive" bills for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The Iowa House Republican staff compiled a more comprehensive list of "second funnel survivors," including bill summaries. The Iowa Senate Democratic staff highlighted the most important bills passed by the Senate that died in the House.

After the jump I've enclosed more links and some analysis on bills that died as well as those still under consideration. From my perspective, the most surprising casualty of the funnel was a bill to extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children (see the "safety and crime" section below).

Any comments on pending legislation in the Iowa House or Senate are welcome in this thread.  

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Sioux City suing state to block traffic camera rules

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:35:31 AM CDT

As Bleeding Heartland has discussed before, I've long felt that Governor Terry Branstad's disregard for local government authority is one of the most under-reported Iowa political stories of the last few years. The Iowa Department of Transportation's new rules restricting cities' use of traffic cameras is one of many examples. Bills seeking to ban local governments from using traffic cameras for law enforcement stalled during the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions. The Iowa DOT's new rules went into effect last month; they do not prohibit all use of traffic cameras but require annual reviews to show the cameras are improving safety and not just serving as a revenue source for local government.

Sioux City is one of many Iowa municipalities that have installed traffic cameras on some major roads and intersections. The Iowa DOT gave Sioux City officials "until May 1 to justify the use of two speed cameras and seven of its 11 red-light cameras." Now the city government has filed a lawsuit claiming the state department exceeded its authority.

Assistant City attorney, Justin Vondrak, filed the judicial review action in Woodbury County District Court and says the DOT regulations make it almost impossible for the city to use speed cameras along Interstate 29 within the city limits. "What we're asking for is a review of the rules and to eventually have the rules determined to be unconstitutional based on the city's home rule authority, as well as other Iowa code sections which grant the city joint jurisdiction with the DOT for traffic enforcement upon the primary roadways within the city's jurisdiction," according to Vondrak.

More details on the lawsuit are after the jump.

Whatever the District Court rules, I expect the losing side to appeal and would not be surprised to see the Iowa Supreme Court eventually decide this matter. The case raises interesting questions about local and state government powers. On a related note, I still think some municipality should have challenged Governor Branstad's executive order on project labor agreements in court.

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What could go wrong? Iowa House legalizes silencers (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 09:54:36 AM CST

Most gun-related bills failed to make it through in the Iowa legislature's first "funnel" last week. The list of proposals that are dead for this year included efforts to restrict access to firearms (such as Senate File 2179 to close the gun show loophole) and several bills aimed at making guns more available: House File 384 to authorize possession of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns; House File 169/Senate File 251 to allow Iowans with permits to carry concealed weapons on school grounds; House File 172 to allow school employees to carry guns in school; and House File 2012 to allow children as young as 12 to possess handguns.

The trouble is, many incumbents don't want to face the gun lobby's wrath in an election year. Many lawmakers want to have something to brag about when pro-gun activists compile scorecards and endorsement lists. Such concerns prompted Iowa House and Senate leaders to revive and eventually pass a 2010 bill to make it easier for Iowans to carry concealed weapons.

I believe the same dynamic prompted Iowa House members to vote overwhelmingly yesterday to legalize firearm suppressors, better known as "silencers" popular for many decades among snipers and assassins.

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What could go wrong? 12-year-olds with handguns edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:51:25 AM CST

Every year I'm amazed by some of the bills Iowa House and Senate members introduce. An Iowa House Public Safety subcommittee provided the latest head-scratching example yesterday, when two Republicans and a Democrat unanimously advanced a bill to lower from fourteen to twelve the age at which Iowans can "possess a pistol or revolver or the ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose" while being supervised by a parent or guardian or an instructor authorized by a parent or guardian. Details are after the jump.  
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New Year's Day open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 01, 2014 at 13:15:00 PM CST

Happy new year to the Bleeding Heartland community. Here's an open thread. I'm among the minority of Iowans not watching the Outback Bowl today, but for what it's worth, I do hope the Hawkeyes beat Louisiana State. LSU jumped out to an early lead.

Several new laws take effect in Iowa today, notably the alternative to expanding Medicaid, just approved by the federal government in mid-December. Under the plan, federal funds will cover Medicaid for Iowans earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level and private health insurance for Iowans with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In theory, the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is supposed to cover between 100,000 and 150,000 people, roughly half of our state's uninsured population. Problems with the federal health insurance exchange website may leave a lot of people with a gap in coverage, though. The Iowa Department of Human Services has advised roughly 16,000 Iowans who applied for coverage through Healthcare.gov and may be eligible for Medicaid to apply again to the state agency. If they apply by January 31, they can get coverage retroactive to today.

Teen drivers in Iowa face new restrictions under Senate File 115, which passed both chambers with large bipartisan majorities last year. After completing driver's ed and having an instruction permit for six months, teenagers will have an intermediate license for 12 months (extended from six months under the previous statute). Also, the teen driver's parents have the option to limit the driver to having no more than one unrelated minor passenger in the vehicle. Rod Boshart explained more details about the new law, intended to reduce the risk of traffic accidents involving young drivers.

Boshart also reports, "Thousands of commercial property owners in Iowa face a Jan. 15 deadline to apply in their counties for a new tax credit established" in the compromise property tax bill approved at the end of last year's legislative session with strong bipartisan support.

As of today, it is legal in the state of Colorado to sell marijuana to people over age 21 at certain licensed stores. Drivers with Colorado license plates were already among the groups more likely to be pulled over by Iowa State Patrol. I would guess that profiling will increase.

In some parts of the country, black-eyed peas are considered a lucky food to eat on New Year's Day. I'm not a fan of "hoppin' John," the most traditional preparation, but I've posted the recipe for my favorite black-eyed peas dish after the jump.  

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