National news media and the Democratic Party have put a focus on proposals by Republican state legislatures on topics in which the Iowa Legislature has led, such as on abortion restrictions and youth employment regulations.
Iowa Republicans have had control of both chambers in the Legislature and the governor’s office for seven years. In that time, the Legislature and governors have championed a conservative agenda, components of which are being pursued in Republican-controlled states whose leaders are expected to run for president.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled state Legislature there have proposed a ban on abortions after six weeks, after previously passing a 15-week ban.
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The Iowa Legislature in 2018 passed its “fetal heartbeat” bill, which would ban most abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy, though the courts have blocked that law from going into effect.
DeSantis widely is expected to enter the Republican presidential primary ahead of the Iowa Caucus. Just days after Florida Republicans introduced their bill, he made his first trip to Iowa and received a warm welcome from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is trying to get the Iowa Supreme Court to remove the hold on the state’s “fetal heartbeat” bill. Reynolds introduced DeSantis at his event and called him a “good friend.”
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart lambasted DeSantis’ policies in a release.
“On day one of Florida’s new legislative session, DeSantis’ allies in the state Legislature introduced a bill that would ban abortion before many women know they’re pregnant — and DeSantis has repeatedly pledged that he will sign that,” she said. “Again, Iowans know how cruel and unacceptable that is.”
In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed a law to create education savings accounts, by which parents can use public funds to transfer their children out of public schools to private schools. In Iowa, Reynolds signed a similar law earlier this year.
Huckabee Sanders also signed a law that would loosen regulations on teenage workers, no longer requiring government work permits for younger teens. The law did not go as far as a bill being considered in the Iowa Legislature that would allow teens to work later hours and in more settings but made bigger headlines.
State’s Revenue-reducing measures upset Area county officials in Iowa
Area county officials have struggled with budgeting following changes by the Iowa Legislature in recent years that have reduced revenues for local governments.
Dubuque County Supervisor Harley Pothoff was frank in his frustration with numerous state law changes and legislative proposals this year, supported by the Republican majority, that he said make it harder for county governments to provide services.
The Dubuque County Board of Supervisors last week reached an agreement on a maximum spending limit for the next fiscal year that corresponds with a property tax levy increase of 20 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value if fully funded, though supervisors could lower that amount as they continue to finalize their budget.
Pothoff voiced disappointment that the state had put counties in that position through tax cuts and unfunded mandates in recent legislative sessions, and a state error whose correction led to reduced revenues to counties.
“The state put us here,” he said. “The state had the chance to hold the counties harmless and take it out of the state (coffers). The mistake was on the state’s part. But again, we get the short end of it. There are too many unfunded mandates. It’s easy to pass legislation when it doesn’t cost you anything.”
Delaware County Auditor Carla Becker, also a Republican, said the re-assessment of property valuations required by the state error had been simple enough to calculate. But she said any further cuts or restrictions from the state could force cuts to county services.
“I am all for people keeping their taxes in check,” she said. “But we don’t want our population, our taxpayers, our residents to have us limit the services we provide to them. Our county has done a good job being there when they need us. That is getting hard.”
Republicans in the statehouse have said the moves are part of a broader effort to reduce property taxes, which is a priority for the party this year.
Ernst pushes for child care loans access
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a bipartisan bill last week that would open access for nonprofits to receive federal loans for child care operations.
The Small Business Child Care Investment Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., would make licensed nonprofit child care providers eligible for federal loan programs currently open only to for-profit providers. The legislation would expand the programs to religiously-affiliated providers, as well.
Wisconsin Supreme Court election outlook still unclear
The recent primary election for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court settled which candidate of each political persuasion would vie for the general election in April.
Liberal-leaning candidates for the seat received 54% of primary votes, with Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz finishing first with 46%. Conservative-leaning candidates received 46% of the vote, with former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly finishing first with 24%.
But, according to data from Wisconsin Elections Commission compiled and analyzed by media company FiveThirtyEight, Supreme Court primary votes historically have not reflected general election results. In 2016, the liberal-leaning candidate had the lead in the primary but lost in the general election. In 2020, the primary was close to even, but the liberal-leaning candidate won in the general election.
The winner of the April election will replace conservative Justice Patience Roggensack, who is retiring.
The other members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court are split ideologically, with three liberal and three conservative-leaning justices. So the winner in 2023 is expected to be the deciding vote on high-profile matters such as abortion rights and gerrymandering in legislative districts.
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