Capitol Update: Week 15

 

Veteran Designation on Driver’s Licenses

The current process for Veterans who want their service annotated on their Driver’s License requires both a visit to their local VA and the DOT. The purpose of the VA visit is to inform the Veteran about various programs and benefits they earned with their time in the service.  However, some legislators learned through personal experience that this was not occurring.

In order to remedy the situation and make the process easier for Veterans the House passed a bill changing the process. The new process sends the Veteran directly to the DOT to receive their designation.  Then, the DOT will inform the VA about the Veteran.  The VA is then required to reach out and explain benefits and programs.  This ensures that Veterans understand the benefits they are eligible to receive from their service.

Ensuring Timeliness of Absentee Ballots

Midway through this session I managed a bill on the floor that dealt with Iowa election laws. The bill had a couple of different functions. It addressed the confidentiality program administered by the Secretary of State, the printing of ballots, satellite absentee voting, and the conduct of school district elections.

This bill reached the Senate where an amendment was added. The Senate amendment represents a “work-around” solution to a long-experienced challenge with postmarks on absentee ballots by giving an alternative to prove that an absentee ballot was mailed before the deadline. The amendment has no other impact on absentee ballot policy or procedures or deadlines.

Specifically, the amendment allows, but does not require, county auditors to use the Intelligent Barcode (IMBC) in place of traditional postmarks as proof that absentee ballots were placed into the mail system before the deadline. The Intelligent Mail barcode is the next generation of USPS® barcode technology used to sort and track letters and flats. It will verify the exact time the absentee ballot was scanned into the postal system.

It also requires Secretary of State to prepare a report to the legislature on the impact of intelligent bar codes by counties that choose to use them. This amendment grants the Secretary of State authority to create emergency rules for use of the intelligent bar code.

I thought this was a good amendment that helped update our election laws and an effective use of technology to ensure timeliness and accuracy.

The majority of the week was spent debating budget bills. I am looking forward to adjournment next week if not in the next couple of days.

As always if you have any comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to get in touch. My phone number is (319) 480-1997 and my email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov.

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