SIGNS OF ADJOURNMENT: Several harbingers that adjournment of the 2018 session may be in the offing were evident Monday at the Statehouse.
White packing boxes began to stack up in the Iowa House chambers for representatives to use in readying for their returns home, but none were brought out yet for senators.
In anticipation of adjournment, House pages Hannah Brown of Lenox and Bailey Veatch of Ottumwa were stacking and decorating the boxes that are used by lawmakers to pack up items from their desks before heading home until January 2019.
Another sign that the year is winding down did appear in the Senate, however, when senators began honoring members who will be retiring at the ends of their current terms.
Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, was the first to be feted with retirement tributes.
In the House, 12 Republicans and four Democrats are retiring or running for other offices.
And the most pronounced signal that it’s time for legislators to adjourn arrives Tuesday, when their daily expense money runs out.
Tuesday marks the session’s 100th calendar day. Legislators living outside Polk County have been receiving $168 in daily expense money since the session convened Jan. 9. Those living in Polk County receive $126 in daily expense money.
GOVERNOR SIGNS FOUR BILLS: Gov. Kim Reynolds signed four bills into law Monday, including a measure to toughen the state’s kidnapping statute and one dealing with stun guns.
The governor signed Senate File 2230, which would make the crime of kidnapping of a minor 17 or younger by a stranger a forcible Class B felony punishable by a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
The Iowa County Attorneys Association had sought the change in the aftermath of a 2013 case involving Michael Klunder of rural Stratford. He abducted Dayton teenagers Kathlynn Shepard and Dezi Hughes, then 15 and 12, and took them to a hog confinement facility where he worked.
Klunder killed Shepard and tried to dispose of her body in a river. He later killed himself. Hughes was able to escape when Klunder separated the girls after the kidnapping.
The county attorneys’ group contends Klunder would not have been freed had he been serving consecutive terms on previous kidnapping charges.
The governor also signed Senate File 2321, which keeps stun guns classified as a dangerous weapon but removes the requirement that a person would need a permit to carry or possess the guns. The bill also requires a person to be
18 years old to legally buy a Taser or stun gun.
Proponents say the change was made to acknowledge that various family members may use a stun gun for protection.
DEAN OF THE IOWA SENATE HONORED: Senate colleagues spent more than an hour Monday paying tribute to Cedar Rapids Democratic Sen. Wally Horn, 84, who is retiring at the end of his current term after a record 46 years in the Iowa Legislature.
In a show of bipartisan support, 13 Democrats and seven Republicans spoke in favor of Senate Resolution 122 — a measure honoring Horn for his 10 years in the House and 36 years in the Senate.
“You’re the argument for not having term limits, said Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant.
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, praised Horn for being “a steady hand” over the years in a sometimes volatile chamber.
Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, honored Horn as someone who “parks the politics at the door,” and many touted him as a champion for education.
Horn, a native of Bloomfield who was a teacher, coach and facilitator for Cedar Rapids public schools, was candid with his colleagues, saying, “I don’t know if I’d do it again. Looking back, I probably would.”
But he noted that it took valuable time away from his family. “You miss things,” he said.
“The Legislature controls you, your time,” he added, calling that “the most difficult thing.”
The resolution passed with unanimous support.
SENATE BACK TO FULL STRENGTH: Alden Republican Annette Sweeney took the oath of office Monday afternoon to become the 50th member of the Iowa Senate.
Sweeney, 60, was sworn in by Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, as her husband and two sons looked on in the Senate well.
Sweeney, who previously served in the Iowa House, said she was eager to get up to speed on the issues facing the 2018 legislative session, which was in its 99th day Monday.
“I need to read those bills and be informed. I need to get caught up,” said Sweeney, who was certified by the Iowa Board of Canvass on Monday as the winner of a special election last week in Senate District 25. The district includes all of Grundy and Hardin counties and portions of Butler and Story counties.
In winning the special election, Sweeney garnered 4,776 votes to 3,786 ballots cast for Democrat Tracy Freese of Dike.
Sweeney succeeds former Sen. Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, the Senate majority leader. He resigned his Senate seat March 12 following the release of a video posted by the online political blog Iowa Starting Line in which he appears to be kissing a lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.
FEDERAL PELL GRANT PROPOSAL: Gov. Kim Reynolds is calling for the expansion of federal Pell Grants to aid more people seeking short-term certificates in high-demand fields.
Reynolds noted that although short-term training programs typically are designed in response to in-demand jobs, students are not always eligible for them if they don’t meet Pell’s requirements on program length.
Pell Grants require programs to be 600 clock hours over 15 weeks, but many credit and no-credit programs don’t meet that requirement.
Reynolds was joined at her weekly news conference Monday by a community college chancellor, a student, an employer and the leader of the nonprofit National Skills Coalition in calling for congressional action to change how Pell
Grants can be used as a way to help more than 127,000 Iowans earn postsecondary credentials.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I like everyone, but some were easier to like.” — Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, during a floor speech after being honored Monday by his Senate colleagues for his 46 years in the Iowa Legislature.