Capitol Update August 23, 2012

Iowa Public Information Board Up and Running

 The newly created Iowa Public Information Board had its initial meetings recently. The board was created by Senate File 430 and has nine members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The board is currently operating under transitional provisions. The board will begin its case work on July 1, 2013. At that time the board will be able to hire an executive director/attorney and use operating funds. No funding was provided in Senate 430.

The board’s members were announced earlier this summer and include: Robert Andeweg (Urbandale), Anthony Gaughan (West Des Moines), Jo Martin (Spirit Lake), Andrew McKean (Anamosa), Gary Mohr (Bettendorf), Bill Monroe (Johnston), Kathleen Richardson (Des Moines), Suzan Stewart (Sioux City), and Peggy Weitl (Carroll). The board’s chairperson is currently Bill Monroe.

At their initial meeting the board formed the following topical committees: Rules and Procedure, Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policies, Executive Director Job Description, Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, and January 2013 Legislative/Governor Report. Additionally, members of the board split up various constituencies to contact and form relationships with (media groups, cities, counties, other interested parties). The board is also currently drafting their governing rules with the assistance of the governor’s staff.

Senate File 430 gave the board the following powers:

  • Adopt rules to enforce and implement Chapters 21 and 22.
  • Issue declaratory orders with the force of law determining the applicability of Chapters 21 and 22 as well as informal advice to any person concerning the applicability of Chapters 21 and 22.
  • Receive complaints of violations of Chapters 21 and 22 and seek resolution of those complaints or (if after investigation find probable cause) prosecute before the board according to Chapter 17A.
  • Request and receive assistance and information from governmental bodies as necessary in the performance of its duties.
  • Examine confidential records as necessary.
  • Issue subpoenas enforceable in court for the purpose of investigating complaints and facilitating prosecution.
  • Issue civil penalties provided for in Chapters 21 and 22. These penalties could be anywhere between $100 and $2500 depending on the circumstances of the case.
  • Represent itself in court to enforce or defend its orders and rules.
  • Provide training on Chapters 21 and 22.
  • Prepare annual reports describing the complaints received, decisions rendered, etc.
  • Make legislative recommendations.

Senate File 430 also provides that if a party declines mediation, or if mediation fails, the board shall initiate a formal investigation and make a determination as to whether there is probable cause that a violation has occurred. If the board finds that there is, they shall start a contested case proceeding. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the board shall vote to render a decision. The board may issue any appropriate order to ensure enforcement of Chapters 21 and 22 including an order requiring or prohibiting specific action. The bill also provides that if the board determines there was a violation, it may:

  • Require the respondent to pay damages (as provided in sections 21.6 or 22.10).
  • Void any action taken in violation of Open Meetings laws if a court would be authorized to do so.
  • Senate File 430 does not however provide the board with the authority to remove someone from public office. The board can file an action under Chapters 21 or 22 that would subject a person to removal, but the board itself cannot remove a person from office. Additionally, a final board order may be enforced by the board in court—and is subject to judicial review.

College Safety Tips

This week, students will return to college for the start of the school year. Students who are new to Iowa and those attending schools out-of-state should be sure to know laws that may affect them. Parents and students may want to take a few moments to look up state laws and school policies on liquor, weapons, and driving. There’s a possibility the laws in one state are very different from laws in another and policies and vary drastically between schools.

In addition to knowing state laws and school policies, students should take extra care to be aware of their surroundings, especially on college campuses. Below is some information on campus safety and how students can protect themselves.

College Statistics:

  • College age women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
  • More than 50% of all sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within one mile of their home or at their home.
  • 55% of the women stated they had been intoxicated or were under the influence of drugs.

What you can do to protect yourself and friends:

  • Take a personal defense class. Many colleges offer classes for little or no cost to students.
  • Don’t walk alone.
  • If you do consume alcohol, do so responsibly and never leave any drink unattended.
  • Lock all doors and windows to prevent break-ins
  • When you are on campus know where emergency telephones are located.
  • Program security numbers in your phone. In an emergency situation dial 911, but in other situations campus police may need to be contacted.
  • University of Iowa Police- (319) 335-5022
  • Iowa State University  Police- (515)-294-4428
  • University of Northern Iowa Police- (319)-273-4000

 

USDA Helps Producers Increase Value to Their Products

On Thursday, August 16, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release in which U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack invited agricultural producers to apply for grants to increase the value of their products.  Applicants have until October 15, 2012 to apply.

USDA Rural Development is making up to $14 million in grants available for projects that help farmers and ranchers produce bio-based products from agricultural commodities.  The grants, which are competitively awarded, are available for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount is $100,000 for planning grants and $300,000 for working capital grants.

Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income are the goals of the VAPG program.  For example, Unruh Greenhouse LLC in West Union, Iowa received a VAPG working capital grant to process and package local produce for nearby grocery stores, universities and hospitals.

Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to apply, but priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized farms or ranches that are structured as family farms, beginning farmers or ranchers, or those owned by socially-disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.

For information on how to apply, see page 48951 of the August 15, 2012 Federal Register– http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-15/pdf/2012-20082.pdf

 

 News from District 31

Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp presented 67 Iowa farm families with the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award during a ceremony at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, Aug. 17.  Ballou Farms of Monticello was one of the 67 farm families.

The award recognizes the efforts of Iowa’s farmers as environmental leaders committed to healthy soils and improved water quality.  It seeks to recognize the exemplary voluntary actions of farmers that improve and protect the environment and natural resources of our state while also encouraging other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building success upon success.   Congratulations to Bob, Andy and Bill Ballou.

With the summer coming to a close, remember school is now back in session. Watch out for the little ones as they go to and from school. And as always, if you have any concerns or issues that need addressing, please contact me.  My email address is lee.hein@legis.state.ia.us or my phone is 319-480-1997.

 

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