Pissed off: New Iowa law makes fake urine a crime

Marty Ryan covers a new law that received little attention early this year. -promoted by Laura Belin

A private sector employee from Iowa goes across the border on a Friday after work to Illinois. His friends offer a blunt, and he takes a hit. He thinks nothing of it, because recreational use of pot is legal in Illinois. On his way home on Sunday, he realizes that there could be a random drug test early in the week. He’s heard marijuana will stay in his system for up to 30 days, so he purchases a package of fake urine at a vape shop.

Monday morning, he is asked to take a drug test. He manages to get the fake urine into the beaker without anyone seeing him.

Days later, a lab result indicates that he may have used fake urine. Depending on a union contract, an employee handbook, or company policy that has been posted conspicuously, the employee may be disciplined, or in a severe case terminated. Now, he can also be arrested for a simple misdemeanor.

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Policing bill would worsen Iowa's justice system disparities

Most of the new crimes and enhanced penalties that would be established under a policing bill approved by the Iowa House would have a disparate impact on Black people, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Before passing Senate File 342, Iowa House members amended what had been a narrowly-focused bill on officer discipline to include several other so-called “Back the Blue” proposals: giving law enforcement more protection against lawsuits, increasing benefits for officers, and greatly increasing the criminal penalties for some protest-related actions.

For seven of the nine crimes addressed in the “Back the Blue” bill, now pending in the Iowa Senate, the LSA found the “conviction rate for African Americans exceeds the population proportion of the State, which would lead to a racial impact if trends remain constant.”

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Iowa can lead the way

Bruce Lear: A bipartisan policing reform law enacted last year was supposed to be a start. As it turned out, that bill was also the the end. -promoted by Laura Belin

When a police officer pulls me over for a traffic stop, I don’t think death sentence. I think where is my registration and insurance card, and what did I do now?

That’s white privilege, and that’s not how any of this should work.

I know it’s possible to honor and respect the police, and still be horrified when unarmed person of color is murdered by a police officer, often on video, and then the officer is exonerated by internal investigation or by the courts.

I also know there is a middle ground between the “Defund the police” crowd and those who know we need strong, fair, well trained, law enforcement not required to play the role of social worker or psychologist. 

Something has to change in this country. Iowa lawmakers took a first step in 2020, but didn’t follow through this year.

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Combating voter suppression, "Iowa Nice" style

Bryce Smith chairs the Dallas County Democrats. promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa has a rich tradition of voting integrity, from the way we draw legislative districts, to our access to early voting, election day voting, and ways in which to register to vote. We might call the system the “Iowa Nice” part of the U.S. election system.

Sadly, Iowa’s GOP-led legislature recently approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed yet another bill full of voting restrictions, labeled “voter suppression” by Democrats and hailed as “election integrity” by some Republicans. This comes just a few years after the GOP-led legislature in Iowa passed sweeping voting rights changes and restrictions in 2017.

Republicans across the country have no plan for how to become more competitive in the national popular vote, so they have focused on keeping power by making it harder for those who don’t support them to cast ballots.

With no clear path to enact a federal Voting Rights Act, given the Senate filibuster, how can Democrats defend democracy in GOP-controlled states?

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2021

The Iowa House opened its 2021 session on January 11 with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats, a big improvement for the GOP from last year’s 53-47 split.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women last year.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

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Final look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape, with ratings

Politics watchers from around the country are watching Iowa’s U.S. Senate race today, but arguably the battle for the Iowa House is more important for our state’s future. Democrats need a net gain of four seats for a majority or three seats for a 50-50 chamber that would block the worst excesses of the Republican trifecta.

The 2020 playing field is even larger than usual, in part because Democrats finally have the resources to compete with Republicans in the battleground House districts.

I enclose below a brief final look at each House district, with the latest voter registration figures (as of November 2), absentee ballot totals (as of November 3), campaign spending by both parties, and recent voting history. This post from early October has more background on each campaign, which influenced my ratings.

Democrats have good prospects to win control of the chamber, with many potential targets. If Republicans cling to a majority, it will probably be with only 51 seats.

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