NRA to push aggressive legislative agenda in Iowa

Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Iowa legislature passed one of the loosest “shall issue” gun permit laws in the country. The bill appeared to have died in the legislature’s “funnel”, but Democratic leaders revived it, and the final version passed both chambers by wide margins. Democrats presumably thought supporting the top legislative priority of the National Rifle Assocation would save many of their vulnerable incumbents. But even though the NRA endorsed Governor Chet Culver and many Democratic lawmakers, Republicans made huge gains in Iowa last month.

Now the NRA plans “a major push for expanded gun rights in Iowa,” Jennifer Jacobs reported in today’s Des Moines Register. The organization’s priorities for the 2011 legislative session are listed after the jump.

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Massive Iowa Legislature linkfest (post-funnel edition)

The Iowa Legislature has been moving at an unusually fast pace during the shortened 2010 session. It’s time to catch up on what’s happened at the statehouse over the past three weeks. From here on out I will try to post a legislative roundup at the end of every week.

February 12 was the first “funnel” deadline. In order to have a chance of moving forward in 2010, all legislation except for tax and appropriations bills must have cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by the end of last Friday.

After the jump I’ve included links on lots of bills that have passed or are still under consideration, as well as bills I took an interest in that failed to clear the funnel. I have grouped bills by subject area. This post is not an exhaustive list; way too many bills are under consideration for me to discuss them all. I recommend this funnel day roundup by Rod Boshart for the Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Note: the Iowa legislature’s second funnel deadline is coming up on March 5. To remain alive after that point, all bills except tax and appropriations bills must have been approved by either the full House or Senate and by a committee in the opposite chamber. Many bills that cleared the first funnel week will die in the second.  

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Layoffs for some, furloughs for others as Culver announces budget cuts

This afternoon Governor Chet Culver announced the next steps toward cutting $565 million from the 2010 budget. I’ve posted the governor’s statement after the jump, and you can find pdf files with more details about the cuts here. (UPDATE: The Des Moines Register posted this chart showing the cuts Culver approved.) Highlights:

Culver is ordering all of the 3,258 non-contract (that is, non-union) employees in the executive branch “to take seven days without pay between now and the end of the fiscal year. I do not believe it is fair for any state employee to not contribute toward our solution.”

Culver approved spending cut plans submitted by 28 department heads and approved, with minor changes, spending cut plans submitted by 6 other department heads. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs summarized the impact:

Altogether, the 34 approved plans will save the state’s general fund about $520 million, he said.

The approved plans call for a total of 180 layoffs and the elimination of 229 open positions. The total job loss, so far, is 410.

Here’s where there the layoffs will be: 79 from the Department of Human Services, 35 from the Department of Revenue, 10.8 from the Department of Inspections and Appeals,  13 from the Department of Education, eight from Iowa Public Television, eight from the Department of Public Health, seven from the Department of Economic Development, seven from the Department of Cultural Affairs, four from the Department of Administration, four from the Department of Management, two from the Alcoholic Beverages Division, two from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and one from the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.

Forty-three state employees tentatively set for layoffs in the Department of Commerce will be spared. The 10 percent across-the-board cut will not be applied to the divisions of banking, credit union, insurance and utilities divisions, which are agencies within the commerce department.

Culver rejected the $45 million spending reduction plans offered by the directors of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety, saying,

I reject these two plans because I am hopeful that we can find an alternative to laying off hundreds of correctional officers, state troopers and law enforcement personnel.

I am rejecting these plans because public safety is essential to our daily lives.

That is why yesterday I sent a letter to the state’s three bargaining units – AFSCME, Iowa United Professionals, and the State Police Officers Council – who represent more than 16,000 state employees – asking them to join me in negotiations for amending their current contract.  This past Saturday, I met with AFSCME’s bargaining unit – which represents more than 13,000 state employees – to discuss ideas for moving forward.  We followed that meeting with a three hour session yesterday morning and the talks have been very productive.  And earlier today, I met with the State Police Officers Council representatives and those talks were productive.  Finally, I will meet with the Iowa United Professionals union leadership as soon as schedules permits, but our staff has been in daily contact with their representatives.

I seek substantive discussions with all three unions on issues that may impact our state budget cuts.  Our goal is to do everything we can to prevent layoffs related to essential public safety.

If we cannot reach agreement with the unions, then I will implement the layoff plans submitted by these two departments.

Unfortunately, we do not have an endless amount of time in which to reach an agreement and to have it ratified by each respective union. I expect to know by Friday, November 6 whether we will move forward in discussions with the unions or implement the layoff plans.

The president of AFSCME Council 61 issued a statement saying his union will negotiate with the governor in the hope of avoiding layoffs. Both sides are promising not to release any details about the discussion until the talks conclude, but no doubt some proposed alternatives to layoffs will leak out before then.

The Des Moines Register’s Tom Beaumont covered Republican gubernatorial candidates’ ideas for cutting the budget here.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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