Reynolds, GOP killed way to reduce racial, economic disparities in Iowa courts

Governor Kim Reynolds made headlines last week with two vetoes: blocking language targeting the attorney general, and rejecting a medical cannabis bill that had strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

A provision she didn’t veto drew little attention. For the foreseeable future, it will prevent Iowa courts from using a tool designed to make the criminal justice system more fair to defendants of all races and income levels.

Reynolds should appreciate the value of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), since she works closely with two former State Public Defenders: Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and the governor’s senior legal counsel Sam Langholz. But last year she ordered a premature end to a pilot program introducing the tool in four counties. The governor’s staff did not reply to repeated inquiries about the reasoning behind Reynolds’ stance on this policy.

Notably, the owner of Iowa’s largest bail bonding company substantially increased his giving to GOP candidates during the last election cycle, donating $10,100 to the governor’s campaign and $28,050 to Republicans serving in the state legislature.

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Where things stand with Republican bills targeting Iowa workers

Republican attacks on working Iowans have received less attention this year than in 2017, when new laws shredded public employee collective bargaining rights, blocked local governments from raising the minimum wage, and reduced workers’ compensation benefits, especially for those who hurt their shoulder on the job.

But below the radar, GOP lawmakers have moved several bills lately that would make life harder for working people, including some facing the difficult circumstances of unemployment or workplace injury.

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"Workfare" bill for Iowa Medicaid would cost nearly $17 million over two years

Matt Chapman has closely followed this year’s legislative proposals affecting Iowans on public assistance. He previously reported on a separate bill with a $40 million price tag. -promoted by Laura Belin

A Republican bill seeking to impose new work requirements on some 170,000 Medicaid recipients in Iowa would cost the state budget nearly $5 million more the first year and an additional $12 million every year thereafter, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. Any savings to the state would be “minimal.”

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Reynolds takes solid step toward expanding voting rights

Since Governor Terry Branstad signed an order in January 2011 to end automatic restoration of voting rights for Iowans who have completed felony sentences, only 328 affected people have regained their franchise: 206 through the end of Branstad’s tenure, and 122 since Governor Kim Reynolds became the state’s leader in May 2017. Yet an estimated 52,000 Iowans are ineligible to vote because of a criminal record.

A constitutional amendment moving through the state legislature would end the lifetime ban for most Iowans with felony convictions but could not take effect until 2023 at the earliest.

Today Reynolds announced several steps aimed at increasing the number of Iowans who could participate in the electoral process sooner than that.

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Bill targeting Iowans on public assistance would cost $40 million by 2021

Matt Chapman has closely followed this year’s legislative proposals targeting Iowans on public assistance. -promoted by Laura Belin

A bill requiring more frequent reviews of Iowans’ eligibility for public assistance programs would cost the state an additional $40 million during the first two years alone, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The federal government would be on the hook for an additional $35 million during the same period.

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Five Senate bills target Iowans on public assistance

Matt Chapman has attended Iowa House and Senate subcommittee meetings nearly every day. These bills were among the most significant he has tracked lately. -promoted by Laura Belin

Over the past week, Iowa Senate subcommittees considered five bills drafted to address fraud in Iowa public assistance programs. Each bill would direct revenue generated by Iowa taxpayers to private vendors, who are charged with finding fraudulent claims. If investigation supports the claims of fraud, those funds could be recovered, and criminal charges filed.

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