Government

Printing paper maps going out of style for Iowa gov, drug take back day scheduled, dead bills walking: Iowa Capitol Digest, April 25

People talk on the second floor of the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People talk on the second floor of the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, April 25, 2018:

ROAD MAP TO OBSOLESCENCE: The $381 million transportation budget the Iowa House approved Wednesday included $242,000 for the Department of Transportation to print paper transportation maps.

The change reflected the growth in use of smartphones, navigational units and other GPS technology, and the pursuit of government efficiency, Transportation Chairman Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia, said in 2012.

That was the year when the Legislature decided to reduce the number of maps and frequency of printing the maps from 1.8 million every year, Huseman said.

The DOT will print 1.4 million to distribute over the coming two years.

“We’ll be tracking how many of these maps disappear,” Huseman said. “If it ever looks like it’s not being used, we’ll probably be phasing them out.”

PARK FUNDING: Iowa state parks are in line for a 43.5 percent funding increase in an agriculture and natural resources budget approved Wednesday.

The House voted 57-36 to approve a $90 million budget that includes $39 million from the general fund.

It also taps the Environment First Fund and Resource Enhancement and Protection Fund to support the efforts of the departments of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Natural Resources.

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Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, manager of House File 2491, said that without the increase some parks might be closed. He called the increase a “high priority” because of the “desperate need.”

So the House approved a $3 million increase from $6.235 million by taking $2 million from REAP and $1 million from the Environment First Fund.

COURT IN MOURNING: Iowa’s Supreme Court justices, former colleagues and friends on Wednesday were marking the passing of former Justice Jerry L. Larson of Harlan, the longest serving justice in the history of the Iowa Supreme Court.

Larson, who died at age 81 early Wednesday, served on the high court from 1978 to 2008.

His colleagues say he was revered as a dedicated public servant whose long career combined his respect for the rule of law, his unwavering support for fair and impartial courts, and his great fondness for his hometown and the Shelby County Courthouse.

Larson served on the court from 1978 to 2008.

“I had the honor and great pleasure to serve with Justice Larson for my first 10 years as a justice on the Supreme Court,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said. “He was a great mentor and better friend with a keen legal mind, a quick wit and a deep love of the law. Our sympathies go out to his entire family.”

Larson was appointed in 1975 as a district court judge, where he served until his appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1978.

DRUG TAKE BACK DAY: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is this Saturday.

Iowa’s health and safety officials are urging residents to take advantage of the opportunity to safely dispose of unneeded medicines.

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Local law enforcement agencies, pharmacies and others are teaming up to collect leftover prescription drugs, as part of this special one-day event held each spring and fall.

Sponsors say the Take Back program helps prevent the dangerous misuse of controlled prescription drugs, such as opioid pain relievers, as well as protecting against environmental contamination caused by improper medication disposal.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about 80 percent of individuals treated for a heroin addiction were first introduced to opioids through a prescription pain medication usually obtained from a friend, family member or other acquaintance.

National Prescription Drug Take Back events will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in about 100 communities across Iowa. For details, go to: https://odcp.Iowa.gov/RxTakeBacks.

In previous events, Iowans have disposed of more than 50 tons of medication — a collection rate of 30 pounds of excess pills and other drugs every minute.

DEAD BILLS WALKING: At least two policy bills that did not survive the “funnel” process earlier this session appear to be getting reactivated in the Legislature’s fiscal 2019 budget process.

Draft language for the justice systems budget bill included an Iowa Department of Corrections proposal to shutter rooms designated for inmates to have access to adult content materials in state prisons and a separate proposal to prohibit operation of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, over jails and prisons.

The so-called prison pornography reading rooms were set up in response to a federal court ruling in the 1980s that found Iowa’s prison rules dealing with sexually explicit reading materials were unconstitutional.

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However, DOC officials say they have language modeled after a Federal Bureau of Prisons policy that they believe will stand up to a court challenge from inmates.

The drone language was spurred by reports that unmanned aerial vehicles have been used to drop drugs, cellphones and other contraband inside prison grounds.

Officials also are concerned drones could be used to drop weapons into a prison.

Policy language in a separate courts budget bill requires the Iowa Judicial Branch install and maintain a flagpole on the grounds of the judicial building in Des Moines to fly U.S. and Iowa flags.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I know that the soil does have to be at a certain temperature. That’s the extent of my farming knowledge.” — Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, on pressure for the Legislature to adjourn so farmer-legislators can plant crops.

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