Iowa House of Representatives
Address: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: (515) 281-7330
IOWA, HOUSE REPUBLICAN NEWSLETTER
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Recap of Week 9
On Tuesday we passed the preschool reform bill which sets up a scholarship system for families that need financial assistance to pay for preschool. On Wednesday we started the lengthy debate on HF 535. The main points of the bill simply requires employees to contribute to their insurance benefits, allows an employee to negotiate as a free agent and allows an arbitrator to pick a middle group between the two parties.
On March 5th I attended a forum at NICC with Representative Lukan. If I get back in Des Moines in time I will be joining the 9.12 group of Jones County on Saturday for their monthly meeting in Anamosa.
As always, you can contact me at email@example.com or (515) 281-7330. Also, if you are ever in Des Moines make sure you stop by the Capitol to visit.
Sincerely, Lee Hein
Secretary Northey Notes–Community Meat Lockers: Great Source of Local Food
On Friday March 4, 2011, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) issued a press release that touted that Iowa is not only a great agriculture state, but it is also a great food state. Iowa leads the nation in pork production and is in the top ten in production of beef. Our state’s delicious corn-fed Iowa beef or a juicy Iowa pork chops are recognized across the globe as the standard of high-quality meat. One option to get more of these Iowa-grown products on our tables is to visit local meat locker.
Iowa currently has 164 Iowa inspected establishments serving the people of Iowa. This includes sixty-eight “official establishments” that are able to directly sell their products, labeled “Iowa Inspected and Passed,” within the state. There are also eighty-six “custom exempt establishments” that slaughter and process livestock, poultry, and wild game for the owner’s exclusive use and
are labeled NOT FOR SALE. Custom exempt establishments are also allowed to purchase inspected products for further
processing and sale to the household consumer. In addition, ten plants are able slaughter poultry, either on a custom basis for the animal’s owner or as an official establishment where they can offer it for sale.
A directory is available at http://www.IowaAgriculture.gov.
Funeral Protests and the First Amendment
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution reads; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Last year, the United States Supreme Court carefully examined this amendment in relation to free speech in the case of Snyder v. Phelps 562 U.S. (2011). Last week the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their ruling in the case of Phelps, better known as the Westboro Baptist Church Case.
Westboro Baptist Church is located in Topeka, Kansas but is known throughout the United States for the funeral protests conducted by members of the church. It is estimated they have protested over 600 funerals, many of the funerals were U.S. Soldiers. The case came to the Supreme Court after Albert Snyder, the father of one of the fallen soldiers, filed a law suit against Westboro and its leader Fred Phelps. During Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder funeral, Phelps and his congregation from Westboro picketed the funeral with chants and signs condemning soldiers and the United States. Albert Snyder brought a suit against the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion upon seclusion and civil conspiracy claims.
On March 2nd the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Westboro with an 8-1 decision (Justice Alito dissenting). Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that what the members of Westboro church were saying was hurtful but he writes; “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.” The majority of the Supreme Court Justices found that the free speech of the picketers outweighed the emotional pain caused by their signs.
The dissenting judge, Justice Alito, argued that protecting Westboro would only encourage their “outrageous” attacks. “This is the strategy that they have routinely employed – and that they will now continue to employ – inflicting severe and lasting emotional injury on an ever growing list of innocent victims.” Justice Alito did not believe that the language Westboro used while picketing funerals was protected under the first amendment.
While many are concerned about the ruling and what it means for the future, Iowans do have some protection against funeral picketers. In 2006 Republican Representative Jeff Kaufmann introduced the Iowa law that places limits on protests at funerals. Code section 723.5 prohibits disorderly conduct at funerals or memorial services within 500 feet of the location. Penalties for violating this law increase each time the law is violated. The first violation is a simple misdemeanor, the second is a serious misdemeanor and the third or subsequent offense is a class “D” felony.
Governor Signs Taxpayers First Act — “Extra Light”
On Monday, March 7, the Governor signed House File 45, the Taxpayers First Act. Dubbed “Extra Light,” the bill saves $10 million over three fiscal years and contains several policy provisions that are important to the House Republican caucus. The Governor signed the bill with only one item veto.
Here are the items that remain in the bill after the Senate amendment:
• Prohibits legislators and legislative employees from having a better health care plan than plans bargained for by executive branch employees
• Eliminates funding for the shuttle from the parking ramp to the Capitol
• Requires the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals budget subcommittee to review all sustainable communities projects (this is the House language on heated sidewalks)
• Limits sabbaticals to not more than 3% of faculty through the end of FY 2012 (this is a small reduction to the overall number of sabbaticals for FY 2012)
• Cuts acquisitions by the state library by 50% through the end of FY 2011
• Denies any state benefits to adult illegal aliens
• Prohibits taxpayers funded lobbyists
• Cuts expenditures for office supplies, equipment purchases, printing and binding and marketing by 50 percent of the unencumbered appropriation, requires the establishment of a master marketing contract to reduce the amount spent on marketing
• Prohibits out-of-state travel by state employees unless they get a waiver from Executive Council
• Requires the sale or lease of the Iowa Communications Network
• Requires Department on Aging to develop a plan to reduce number of Area Agencies on Aging
• Prohibits the purchase of any new state vehicles, requires Admin and Reg budget sub to look into privatization of the state vehicle fleet
• Eliminates the Generation Iowa Commission
• Prohibits Iowa from renewing its membership in the North America Super Corridor Coalition
• Reduces Department of Education by $59,000 due to not having a director until January 2011
• Reduces funding for the legislative health care coverage commission by $167,000
• Prohibits DOT from planting wildflowers unless it is for erosion or weed control
• Eliminates the Rebuild Iowa Office and shifts responsibilities to Division of Homeland Security at the end of FY 2011
• Provides “claw back” provisions for local government funding if found to be ineligible
• Corrective language regarding early childhood and unemployment compensation
In addition, the Senate added the language from House File 94, the Taxpayer Transparency Act, which requires the Department of Management to create a searchable budget database and internet website. The Senate changed the language to require the database to be updated every 60 days instead of every 30, deleted the tax rate calculator that would show the tax rate by location, exempted federal funds and grants from the database, required the Regents to provide only information related to state funds and not only funds, and added required the database to have information about special tax credits.