Under the Golden Dome

By Iowa Public Radio

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Under the Golden Dome is Iowa Public Radio's coverage of the Iowa legislature. Each episode is a compilation of the week's news coverage, including stories, interviews and more. The 2017 session finds Republicans controlling both legislative chambers, as well as the Governor's office, for the first time in 20 years. Out of the gate lawmakers are addressing a $100 million shortfall in the current budget. Join us as we navigate issues like education funding, and improving Iowa's water quality. Each week we'll talk with policy makers as well as those impacted by their actions.

Episode Date
Under the Golden Dome: Challenges Ahead 5/9/2018
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The legislature went 18 days past the planned 100 when it finally adjourned on May 5th. The biggest reason for the delay is because House and Senate Republicans took a long time to find agreement on a new tax plan. It will gradually phase in tax reductions over a six year period. The final reductions in taxes will happen in 2023 and 2024 if economic triggers are met. In 2019, tax collections will be reduced by $100 million, while it is estimated $66 million will come in from new taxes on digital services. The delay in finishing a new tax plan allowed legislation that previously was considered dead to pass through both chambers. This includes the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States. Gov. Reynolds signed the bill, and it is expected to be challenged in court before it's enactment date of July 1st. This law has the potential to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a ruling could restrict abortion across the country. This possibility is one reason supporters
May 09, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Leaving Late 4/20/2018
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Every seat in the House and half in the Senate are up for reelection later this year. Twenty-two legislators are choosing not to come back. In the final days of a general assembly, many give "retirement" speeches on the floor. This week Wally Horn, Bob Dvorsky, Mark Chelgren, and Rick Bertrand are honored with Senate resolutions. In the House, those leaving aren't presented with resolutions, but they are given the floor to address their colleagues. Clel Baudler is the only representative to do so this week, but it's expected a dozen others will take advantage of this opportunity soon. There seems to be a lot of time between now and the last day of the session because the tax plan and Fiscal Year 2019 budget are still being written. The House and Senate are reconciling their different plans behind closed doors, and the process could take anywhere from one to three weeks before adjournment. For now, this show is taking a pause or as legislators would say it is being differed. There will
Apr 20, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Taxes, Trade, & Personal Points 4/13/2018
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There are only a few days before per diems stop for legislators. It's the goal for the session to end by the 100th day -- April 17th -- but with two different tax codes in the works and no fiscal year 2019 budget, it's likely the session will continue longer. This week a public hearing on a House tax code received praise and pushback from around three dozen Iowans. Support ranges from it stimulates the economy to it adds "gravy on our taters." This is a reference to the federal tax breaks that started in January. Leaders in the House and Senate will have to find a compromise between their two very different tax bills. Gov. Kim Reynolds is concerned about trade tension between the United States and China. It could have negative effects on Iowa's agriculture industry. President Trump says "trade wars are good and easy to win," but Gov. Reynolds says "no one wins in a trade war." She traveled to Washington D.C. to share her concerns with federal officials about what a trade war could mean
Apr 13, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Raising Penalties
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At this point, it's common to hear bills are enrolled. This means both chambers have approved a bill and it awaits the governor to sign it in to law or veto. Because the chambers are controlled by the same party as the governor, a vetos are highly unlikely. One of the bills awaiting the governor deals with electronic eavesdropping. It passed the House then the Senate where it was amended. As it returns to the House, suddenly Democrats have privacy concerns. Surveillance devices recording video and audio are more common among homes and landlords. The bill approves of these devices if they are to detect or prevent criminal activity. There are questions about how files stored from these devices can be shared when conversations are captured among people with no idea they are being recorded, and who aren't involved with a crime. Most fines for criminal penalties, court filings, civil fees, simple misdemeanor, and felony will increase under a bill passing in the Senate. It reallocates how
Apr 06, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Objections 3/30/2018
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On Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds talks about firing the Director of Iowa Finance Authority, Dave Jamison. She says he was terminated for credible allegations of sexual harassment. She reiterates her zero tolerance policy, but reveals very little about the allegations due to privacy concerns for the victims. In November, Reynolds said a Senate Republican report about past sexual harassment should reveal additional information about past claims while protecting personal information. Reporters ask the governor how not releasing information related to Jamison is different. The Democratic Party filed a Freedom of Information Act request about the governor's correspondence with the Iowa Finance Authority concerning harassment and the director's termination. They say her actions are a departure from how she has approached sexual harassment among her other political allies. This is an election year for every seat in the House, half in the Senate, and the office of governor. Two weeks ago anyone
Mar 30, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Gains for Guns & Nonpublic Schools 3/23/2018
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Last year Rep. Matt Windschitl authored a bill greatly expanding gun rights in Iowa. It includes making it legal to carry a concealed pistol in the Capitol with a permit, and a stand your ground provision allowing people to use deadly force if they feel threatened. This year he authored a resolution to add to the state constitution an amendment that would make it more challenging to pass gun restrictions in the future. He floor-managed a three hour debate in the House, where it passed. It also passed in the Senate. The resolution has a long way to go as it needs to pass in both chambers again during the next general assembly. If it succeeds, it has to be approved on a voter ballot, which potentially could happen in 2019. A long awaited de-appropriations eliminating $35 million from this year’s budget passes both chambers. It contains a measure that would make it legal for a governor to transfer money from an Economic Emergency Fund should the state’s budget come up short when the
Mar 23, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Resignation, Revision and Restriction 3/16/2018
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Typically, Monday mornings at the Capitol aren't the most active day, but nothing was typical about last Monday morning. Around 10 a.m. a post from a Democratic-leaning blog, Iowa Starting Line, contained pictures and a video of Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix in a Des Moines bar. He is sitting close to a woman lobbyist and at one point it looks like they briefly kiss. Hours later, Sen. Dix resigned from the senate. Jack Whitver was elected as the new minority leader and Charles Schneider as the Senate president. On this show, our first segment goes through the events of Monday morning as leaders react to resignation of Sen. Dix. We hear Whitver and Schneider's first speeches from the Senate floor in their new roles. Bills that passed in the Senate in 2017 are now in the house. One will place more regulations on traffic enforcement cameras. This goes against a Senate bill that passed this year that would outlaw these kind of cameras. Much of the House debate focuses on an amendment
Mar 16, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Insurance, Licenses & Energy 3/9/2018
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As President Trump imposes larger tariffs for metal, he reaffirms his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Many agricultural products from Iowa go to Canada and Mexico. As Trump repeatedly says he's willing to start a "trade war", Gov. Reynolds is worried about a backlash. The governor says the president's actions will have unintended consequences for Iowa farmers and manufacturers. However, she does support making some changes to NAFTA. Getting an individual healthcare plan in Iowa is only possible by paying a higher premium to one insurance company, but a Senate bill may change this for some. It allows Iowa Farm Bureau and the insurance company Wellmark Blue Cross and Shield to form an association health plan. Anyone who is a member of Farm Bureau can apply, but the plans would not be subject to the Affordable Care Act. This means the plan could exclude a person with a preexisting condition. Since 2013, a person wanting to teach in the state's school system needed
Mar 09, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Tax Breaks, Backfills, & Prescription Monitoring 3/2/2018
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Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Jerry Foxhoven as the director of the Department of Human Resources in June. All of the governor's appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. These appointments first must pass a Senate committee, and when Foxhoven's appointment came up for a vote all Democrats voted against. It passed the committee, but to be confirmed Foxhoven must be voted by two-thirds of the full Senate body. They'll probably vote sometime in April. Most of the governor's appointments are approved, but last year enough Democrats united against two appointees. During the vote, the action enraged Sen. Randy Feenstra and he berated Democrats for being intolerant. This week, Sen. Feenstra had more heated words about Democrats as they opposed his new tax plan. It's estimated to reduce tax collections by $1 billion annually. The house is writing a tax plan based on Gov. Reynolds' proposal. Unlike the Senate version, it reduces taxes over longer period of time. House leaders expect to
Mar 02, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Shortfalls and Cuts 2/23/2018
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During Gov. Kim Reynolds' weekly press conference, she talks about the shooting in a Florida high school that killed 17 people. She reintroduces a Department of Homeland Security public campaign "If You Something, Say Something" as a result of the murders in Florida. Because the crime was committed with a gun, she is asked questions about what firearm control or expansion she supports in the Iowa legislature. She says she doesn't want to comment right now on potential bills until they have passed through the representatives' and senators' process. Gov. Reynolds also says she prefers a holistic approach to addressing gun violence issues, by considering a number of factors including the breakdown of families and video game and television violence. A House of Representatives de-appropriations budget bill is given a public hearing, where advocates for higher education, the judicial branch, and Department of Corrections are among the voices concerned about proposed cuts. This is a bill that
Feb 23, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Abortion and Death Penalty 2/16/2018
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This is the final week for most bills to pass a committee and become eligible for debate in a chamber. It's known as "funnel week." Exceptions are for bills in appropriations, ways and means, government oversight, and administrative rules, which is why most budget bills are approved at the end of a session. On this show, we focus on two bills. One that passed and one that didn't pass through the senate judiciary committee. Both are among the most controversial bills that come before lawmakers, dealing with abortion and capital punishment. Because these topics generate great interest, Iowans who aren't normally heard at the Capitol give testimony to subcommittees reviewing the bills. Arguments for and against both bills often involve religion. One woman questions how a lawmaker can support an anti-abortion bill while also supporting capital punishment. These are issues echoed in many capitols across the country. In the case of the bill restricting abortion, it has the potential to be
Feb 16, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Managing Opioids 2/9/2018
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The human brain has opioid receptors that process pain and pleasure. An opioid drug like morphine, oxycodone, or Percocet is often prescribed to alleviate physical pain from a surgery or physical injury. Opioids are addictive. In 2017, about 200 people died in Iowa from an opioid drug overdose. On this show, two bills to help curb opioid drug abuse are moved out of subcommittees. One will require doctors and pharmacies to use an electronic prescription system. There is concern some areas of the state might not be able to comply with the technology needs, but the bill includes a wavier that can be applied for up to a year. The other bill to address opioid abuse is one establishing a needle exchange program. This would allow for the distribution of sterile needles without questions, a practice that is presently illegal in the state. Proponents say programs like this in other states reduce the spread of hepatitis C and HIV. They also say they serve as a means for users to discover
Feb 09, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: So Many Subcommittees 2/2/2018
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Dozens of subcommittees occupy a lot of space and time at the Capitol at this point during the session. These three panel members are a more informal discussion about a bill to determine what needs to be modified, removed or added. Often members of the public offer their input during these meetings. In this program we visit the senate lounge, where two subcommittee meetings are happening a few feet from each other. We focus on the State Government subcommittee’s discussion about a bill that would allow Iowans to bring alcohol back from another state. Current law states it is a serious misdemeanor to bring any beer or wine into the state. It only allows for one bottle of liquor. This bill will ease alcohol restrictions, allowing up to 48 cans of beer, six bottles of wine, and six of liquor. The bill passes, but the amount of alcohol may change before it is brought before a committee. A house subcommittee takes up a bill about the enforcement of immigration laws with language it will
Feb 02, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Small Steps 1/26/2018
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A water quality bill with a long history in both chambers passes and will be the first law Governor Reynolds signs. It started in 2016 during the last general assembly. It passed in the house, but did not get debated in the senate. The general assembly ended, killing the bill. When the senate switched to all Republican for this general assembly starting in 2017, they took up a bill with very similar language and passed it. The house, didn’t like it so Rep. Chip Baltimore wrote an amendment that passed. But the Senate voted not to concur with the amendment, meaning it has to go before the house again. The bills are centered around the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy released in 2012 by the Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University. It’s designed to reduce the amount of pollution running into Iowa’s steams that eventually feed to the Gulf of Mexico, where the combination of pollutants creates a hypoxic zone. There are many solutions the Nutrient Reduction Strategy
Jan 26, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Changes Recommended 1/19/2018
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The beginning of the session is a good opportunity for groups to present their recommendations to lawmakers. On Wednesday morning, veterans’ organizations came to the Capitol for that purpose. Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs chair, Dan Gannon, talks with us about three of them: a bill to mandate the POW / MIA flag be flown at state buildings on designated holidays, instill Americanism and Patriotism in grades K - 12, and encourage the judicial branch to expand Veteran’s Treatment Courts. Former senate president Mary Kramer talks about her report concerning sexual harassment at the Capitol. Her report indicates not much has changed she was a senator years ago. Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven appears in front of many panels to ease lawmakers concerns about the still-troubled rollout of privatized Medicaid, and the deaths of two children who were in foster care. Program highlights 3:00 Dan Gannon, Americanism and Patriotism in K – 12 education. 4:08 Dan Gannon,
Jan 19, 2018
Under the Golden Dome: Intentions and Conditions 1/12/2018
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This is the beginning of the 2018 session where legislative leaders lay out their intentions. During the opening week, party leaders speak about their goals. Republican praise their work from last year and intend to support the governor’s new tax code for Iowa. Only a few details are revealed about a tax code changes, and the governor says the process may take several years. The Republicans want to add more skills to Iowa’s workforce through post high school education, and Democrats agree. However, they warn every dollar cut from higher education results in higher tuition, and more debt for Iowans who want to improve their skills. Two weeks before the session, Morning Edition host Clay Masters visited Governor Kim Reynolds at the Capitol. This show features their conversation where she reflects on her first few months in office and what she wants to accomplish in 2018. During Governor Reynolds first Condition of the State, she reiterated zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the
Jan 12, 2018
Podcast: Under The Golden Dome - In Conclusion (4/26/2017)
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The first half of the 87th General Assembly ends Saturday morning, April 22nd, at 7:15. The chambers are mostly silent as amendments and budget bills are finalized in committees. In the middle of the night, House leaders give their sine die speeches a few hours before adjournment. By daybreak, debate begins for the last bills of the session. One expands medical marijuana and the other is the standing appropriations budget bill. On the floor, one of the last items of the budget to be criticized by the Democrats is the $150,000 allocated for the lt. governor's transition to be the next governor. During Governor Branstad's Monday morning news conference, he fiercely defends this amount of money. He also says he expects to be able to sign or veto the remaining bills in the next month before he leaves to be the U.S. ambassador to China. We close with a discussion about this year's session with Iowa Public Radio's statehouse reporter Joyce Russell, Associated Press' Barbara Rodriguez,
Apr 26, 2017
Podcast: Under The Golden Dome Week 15 (4/21/2017)
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It's the last full week of the 2017 legislative session with many long and complicated discussions about next year's budget. This week's show stays clear of most of the budget discussion and we can present a final show next focusing on the budget with a wrap up of the past 15 weeks. For this second to last show in the series, we focus on some of the final non-budget bills passing both chambers. A consumer fireworks bill in the House is managed by Representative Matt Windschitl. Days before it comes up he hesitates to bring it before the body because he has a hard time securing at least 51 votes. This bill is opposed by some Republicans because they don't want loud explosions to upset returning veterans adapting to life outside of a war zone. Windschitl says veterans fought for the freedom of Iowans to use consumer fireworks. Although Governor Terry Branstad has yet to be confirmed as the next U.S. Ambassador to China, the administration is moving forward with his plans to resign. This
Apr 21, 2017
Podcast: Under The Golden Dome Week 14 (4/14/2017)
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As the end of the session nears, leaders are often asked a simple "yes or no" about the likelihood of a bill becoming law. The Senate president says a bill that would change how independent water utilities are managed isn't moving forward. This bill's passage would affect the Des Moines Water Works, for example. A last-minute addition of a medical marijuana bill passes through committees and is eligible for debate in the Senate, but even if it gets this far, House leaders say representatives will not pass it. We have a few moments from the subcommittee where advocates make their case and lawmakers lay out how a medical cannibals program with 12 dispensaries would work in Iowa. We will hear some of the unusual legislative procedures around a "Sanctuary City" bill passing in the Senate. It's eligibility is questioned, a senator uses a rare rule allowing him to not vote but remain in the chamber, and there is an unexpected interruption that causes everyone to evacuate the chamber during
Apr 14, 2017
Podcast: Under The Golden Dome Week 13 (4/7/2017)
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This week, the House passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the state's history. It bans abortions after 20 weeks except when the life of the mother is in danger. The bill originated in the Senate two week ago, but the House makes many revisions. In this podcast, we condense the six-and-a-half hour long debate from the chamber floor to 15 minutes. Last year, the legislature approved funding to fix the Capitol's dome. For a couple of years moisture has gradually been leaking in. Repairs are beginning this week with a large scaffolding being built around the building's signature golden dome. A lawsuit is filed against the state by the Iowa State Education Association, over the new collective bargaining laws. It is the second to challenge how public unions can negotiate for benefits and salaries. This and next year's state budget are not growing as expected due to a lack of income to the state, and lawmakers are beginning to consider eliminating tax incentives to help the budget. It
Apr 07, 2017