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Voting Rights, Legislative Wrap Up, Jon's Story, 05.01.19

The Exchange 05/01/19


Coming up on The Exchange, we talk with a law professor who says the relatively low turnouts at the polls in some elections may have something to do with voter apathy, but that’s only part of the story.

Also, we talk with an expert on the future of business and jobs in America who says if you fear that your position may be taken over by computers,  you may be right.

And a roundup of the legislation passed and not passed in the Iowa legislative session that ended last weekend.  That and more coming up on the exchange, but first his news.

You’re listening to The Exchange, on SPM, I’m Mary Hartnett.  The Iowa Legislature adjourned over the weekend, passing tax bills, medical marijuana legislature, and several tax measures.

But some measures, even though they were passed by lawmakers, have yet to get final approval from Republican Governor Kim Reynolds.

One of the last things Republican lawmakers did before leaving the statehouse for the year voted to ban Planned Parenthood from getting government grants for sex education programs. 

Reynolds was asked this week if that policy runs at odds with her failed proposal to expand access to birth control. 

0430reynolds1: 10  “We’re going sit down and take a look at it. It’s not one or the other. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t other people or programs providing those services. So it’s not just one.”

Critics say this policy would reduce access to sex education. 

Reynolds says she’ll push for her bill that would allow Iowans to get birth control directly from pharmacists without first going to a doctor. It passed the Senate, but not the House. 

0430reynolds2: 11    “So I’m not giving up on that. I didn’t get everything I wanted...but it’s not going to surprise you that I’m also going to be fighting for the constitutional amendment that gives felons the right to vote.”

Reynolds didn’t say whether she’d sign into law bills expanding medical marijuana laws, legalizing sports betting, banning public insurance from covering transgender surgery, and restricting the attorney general’s ability to join out-of-state lawsuits. She has about a month to sign or veto these bills.  

Lawmakers passed some of Reynolds’ other priorities, including a framework for a children’s mental health system, funding for her workforce development initiative, and rural broadband and housing incentives. 

This was Reynolds’ second legislative session as governor, and her first after being elected. 

Governor Kim Reynolds says there has been a lot of input on whether she should sign or veto the sports gambling bill recently approved by the Iowa Legislature.

“I’m hearing on both sides, I’ve had a lot of people reach out,” Reynolds says. The bill approved by lawmakers would let the state’s casinos take bets on professional and college sports — either at the casinos or elsewhere via a smart-phone app.

Reynolds says many people don’t want to see her sign the bill into law. “They’re concerned about addiction to gambling and the impact that this may have,” according to Reynolds. Others say the state needs to take control.

“I had a lot of other people who have indicated it is happening, it is going to continue to happen — and they think it is very important that we have some kind of oversight,” Reynolds says.

The last thing Republican lawmakers did was approve changes to how Iowa Supreme Court justices are nominated.

The proposal would remove the senior justice from the panel that selects names to send to the governor, and allow the governor to choose the majority of nominating commission members. It’s a more narrow version of a bill previously passed by the Senate. 

Representative Steven Holt is a Republican from Denison. 

0428holt: 10   “Providing one additional appointment for the governor provides a bit of extra voice to the people through their elected governor. This extra appointment does not politicize the system in any way.”

Democrats say this would give the governor too much power over the selection of appellate judges. They say it would politicize the courts and erode the independence of the state’s judiciary.   

Iowa lawmakers have sent a bill to the governor with nearly unanimous support that would extend a statewide sales tax for school infrastructure. 

It would also put a much larger percentage of that revenue toward property tax relief than the current law. Republicans say it’s a win-win because it funds school projects and provides tax relief.

Representative Ras (RAHZ) Smith is a Democrat from Waterloo.

0425smith2: 15   “I find it a bit frustrating that I’m standing here speaking to a SAVE bill that greatly decreases the funds that are reallocated toward supporting our school districts with infrastructure needs. A SAVE bill that started the year with 90 percent of the funds going to our schools has been greatly diminished to just 70 percent.”

Smith says he’s disappointed that Senate Republicans insisted on a larger portion going to property tax relief. Almost all of the Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate voted for the bill. 

A bill Republicans say will increase transparency in local property taxes has been sent to the governor after back-to-back votes in the Iowa Senate and House. 

The bill requires cities and counties to inform residents that when property values increase, local officials COULD lower property tax rates if they want the city or county budget to stay the same. If local officials want or need their budget to grow, they’d have to take more steps to notify, and get feedback from, the public. To raise taxes more than 2-percent, the council or board would need a two-thirds vote.

Republican Representative Dustin Hite of New Sharon says it forces local officials to VOTE on the property tax rate if they want to bring in more money.  

0425hite1: 05 “They can’t say ‘we didn’t raise your property taxes, your assessment went up.’ We’re trying to take that part of it out.”

Democratic Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City says the bill doesn’t do anything to limit property tax growth, which Republicans had announced as a priority for this session. 

0425bolkcom2: 14  “This is a red tape machine for city clerks and county supervisors to do their jobs that they’re elected to do. And they have the same constituents back home that we do, that share concerns about property taxes.” 

House Democrats claim the bill will hurt the state’s public pension program known as IPERS (eye-purrs). The bill was released the day before lawmakers voted on it, and is completely different from earlier Republican plans aimed at limiting property tax growth. 

Among the bills the legislature passed this session awaiting the governor’s signature is one allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. Even once it becomes law, many questions will remain.

Industrial hemp once was used for clothing, rope and a wide variety of other products. But in 1970 it was lumped in with its cousin marijuana and classified as a controlled substance. That made it illegal to grow nationwide. Under the 2018 farm bill, it’s now legal for states to allow it. 

Sam Funk of the Iowa Farm Bureau says it could offer a way for farmers to diversify their crop rotations. But there are scant details about markets and processors for hemp.

0429funk it’s going to be a changing marketplace and we’re going to have to take a very close look for each individual operation as well as for the state as a whole. (:08)

One hemp seed producer in Colorado sees the most potential in hemp for its cannabidiol (Kuh-NAB-is-DIE-uhl) oil but says in 5 to 10 years the plant may again become popular for fiber. 

As mentioned earlier, one priority of Governor Kim Reynolds that lawmakers failed to pass that year was a measure that would allow ex-felons to regain their voting rights.

Voting rights have been a major issue for activists since the 2016 election, with many saying many minorities were kept from voting in several states.  Josh Douglas agrees and says there are many things that states can do to encourage voting and enfranchise more voters.  His new book, Vote for US: How to Take Back our Elections and Change the Future of Voting.  Douglas is a professor of law at the University of Kentucky and specializes in election law and voting rights.  Douglas says he wrote the book in part to dispel some of what he calls the gloom and doom stories that are told lately about the disenfranchisement of voters.

You’re listening to the Exchange; I’m Mary Hartnett.  I am talking with University of Kentucky professor of law Josh Douglas about his new book, “Voting for US: How to take back our Elections and change the future of Voting.

Vote For Us by Joshua A. Douglas


Josh Douglas is a professor of law at the University of Kentucky and specializes in election law and voting rights.  His new book is called, Vote for US: How to Take Back our Elections and Change the Future of Voting.  

You’re listening to The Exchange on Siouxland Public Media; I’m Mary Hartnett.  Technology has become a big part of all of our jobs.  Many fear that technology could mean many occupations could be eventually taken over by computers.  Professor of Business Administration Ed Hess shares those fears. The University of Virginia Darden School of Business educator and researcher is the author of several books about business administration and human potential, including Humility is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.  Hess says 80 million jobs will simply not exist shortly.


Professor Edward Hess

That was the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor of Business Administration Edward Hess, the author of the book; Humility is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.  Hess says the United States needs to prepare for a significant shift in the kind of jobs Americans will have in the next 30 years, as more and more professions become entirely mechanized.



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