Iowa Legislature 2014

Iowa Legislature 2014: Common ground unlikely on hot-button issues

2014-01-03T00:00:00Z 2014-05-08T22:23:19Z Iowa Legislature 2014: Common ground unlikely on hot-button issuesMIKE WISER Journal Des Moines Bureau Sioux City Journal
January 03, 2014 12:00 am  • 


Hot buttons are social, economic, theological, spiritual, scientific or legal issues that elicit strong, often emotional responses from people. Hot button issues can mobilize activists and cut across party lines. Some, such as abortion, have been argued for decades. Others move into the public consciousness as social mores change – such as legalization of marijuana – or explode into the national debate for a period of time and fall by the wayside as attention fades – compare the gun control debate immediately after the Sandy Hook killings to now.


THE ISSUE: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that abortion is legal in the United States. Since then, it’s been an argument over access in statehouses across the country. In 2013, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad became the first governor required to sign off on Medicaid reimbursement payments for abortions. The state’s rulemaking Iowa Board of Medicine adopted new regulations that essentially outlawed telemedicine abortions, but those rules were stayed by a judge until a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against the rules is resolved.


Gov. Terry Branstad

Polk County District Judge Karen Romano

State Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport


The Planned Parenthood lawsuit over the Iowa Board of Medicine rules moves some of the focus away from the Statehouse. Still, if there’s any legislation to move on abortion, Catholic anti-abortion Davenport Democrat Joe Seng becomes a key player because he will sometimes ally himself with anti-abortion Republicans looking to curb access to abortions instead of Democrats in the Senate, where the Democrats hold a slim 26-24 majority.


THE ISSUE: The ongoing push between gun rights and gun control advocates.


State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

State Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

State Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, assistant majority leader


Little movement on either side is expected. Bills expanding gun rights introduced in the Republican-controlled House – such as the controversial “Stand Your Ground” and “Constitutional Carry” bills – have died in the Senate Judiciary Committee and sometimes even in the House Judiciary Committee. Still, Rep. Matt Windschitl, a railroad engineer and gunsmith by trade, reliably introduces gun rights measures every session.

Medical marijuana

THE ISSUE: Should the state loosen up on marijuana laws through nonenforcement, decriminalization or legalization?


State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

State Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee


Bolkcom, a member of the majority Democrats in the Iowa Senate, said he will introduce one bill that would remove marijuana from the most restrictive listing and another to create a way for patients to get medical marijuana. Baudler, a member of the majority Republicans in the Iowa House, was named the seventh “worst” state legislator by the national pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project in 2013. Baudler, a former state trooper, said he would work harder to be No. 1.

Strip clubs

THE ISSUE: Municipal advocacy groups are seeking changes to a state law that pre-empts city authority to regulate strip clubs.


State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

State Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

Senate Democrats


Legislation giving cities more authority to regulate strip clubs passed the Iowa House and moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2013 with a recommended “yes” vote, but it never went to the floor for a vote. Concern on the bill was summed up by state Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, who said he worried the legislation could lead to 99 different standards in 99 counties or more than 900 standards in different cities.

Internet poker

THE ISSUE: Online poker could bring an extra $3 million to $13 million into state coffers annually, according to a study by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, if the state decided to write laws to regulate the game. There have been several attempts to do so – most recently in the 2013 session when a bill passed the Senate but died in the House – to no avail. Critics span the gamut from those who are opposed to the state being involved in gambling for moral reasons to those who oppose state intervention for free-market reasons.


Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, chairman Senate State Government Committee

Rep. Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, chairman House State Government Committee


Danielson thinks Iowans risk being taken by “bad actors” in the online poker business because it is not regulated by the state. He said online fantasy sports and premium play online games also are cause for concern, although he’s not certain legislation will move this year. “There’s always a chance,” he said. “If there’s a gaming bill and there’s bipartisan agreement, we can get it done.”

Voter ID

THE ISSUE: Should people who want to vote be required to present a photo identification to do so?


Secretary of State Matt Schultz

Sen. Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, Senate majority leader


Schultz has made voter identification his main issue as the secretary of state. His bills to require ID cards have never made it past the Iowa Senate. When Schultz pushed his last voter ID bill, the Iowa Democratic Party panned the bill, saying Schultz was on a quixotic quest whose real aim was “disenfranchising voters.”

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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