116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / News / Government & Politics
Iowa Politics Today: Branstad signals support of fireworks bill
Gazette Des Moines Bureau
Apr. 10, 2017 4:12 pm
A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, April 10, 2017:
GOVERNOR 'NOT OPPOSED' TO LEGALIZING FIREWORKS: Gov. Terry Branstad flashed a green light Monday at legislative efforts to legalize consumer fireworks in Iowa. 'Most states in this country do permit fireworks. We have a lot of Iowans that go out of state to buy their fireworks,' Branstad told his weekly news conference. 'I am not opposed to Iowa having access to legal fireworks on a limited basis.'
Senate File 489 would allow licensed retailers or community groups to sell consumer-grade fireworks out of permanent structures to adults from June 1 to July 8 and Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. A similar provision would apply to conforming temporary structures, such as tents, from June 13 to July 8 each year. The bill, which is awaiting House action, also places time restrictions for the display of fireworks.
'I will wait to see what's in it if indeed a bill passes,' the governor said Monday. 'We are one of the very few states that have very restrictive laws on fireworks.'
CLOSING ELECTION POLLS EARLIER: Branstad said he's awaiting legislative passage of a proposal revamping some of Iowa's election laws, but he indicated Monday he favors one change that isn't in House File 516.
The governor said he wished lawmakers would have included a provision to close Iowa polls one hour earlier on primary and general election days. Iowa polls now are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. those days. He said ending balloting at 8 p.m. instead would 'make sense,' telling his weekly news conference, 'we're out of sync with the rest of the world. We don't come in until the Mountain States in the west.'
HF 516 would make several changes to state election administration, including voter registration, absentee voting and requiring voters to present an ID to vote. The bill would tighten the absentee voting period from 40 days to 29 days, but doesn't not change Election Day polling hours.
'It's not in the legislation, but it's something I would like to see and I think a lot of people who work an Election Day would love to see the Iowa polls close at 8, and I think the public would, too, like to see the returns and not have to wait up so late to see what the election results are,' he said.
CAPITOL SECURITY: Gov. Terry Branstad, who has his own security detail, said Monday he feels 'very safe and secure here in the Capitol' and doesn't think additional security will be needed when the public is allowed to bring guns into the Statehouse.
'I have every confidence in the state troopers and the job they do here,' Branstad said about members of the Iowa State Patrol who provide law enforcement at the Capitol.
However, Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, one of the sponsors of House File 517 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=hf517 that expands Iowans' gun rights, said during floor debate that bypassing Statehouse security entrances would not be difficult.
Branstad said there aren't that many Iowans who have the carry permits that would be required to bring a gun into the Capitol. According to Windschitl, about 275,000 Iowans have carry permits.
'These are responsible, law-abiding citizens who want to have their rights protected, and I don't see anything wrong with that,' Branstad said, stopping short of saying he will sign the bill when it gets to his desk.
'I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment. We're going to carefully review it, but I think they've tried to build safeguards and reasonableness and fairness into the legislation,' the governor said.
911 BILL STALLS: A House-passed bill that would have kept some 911 recordings secret appears to have stalled in the Iowa Senate for this session. Leaders of the GOP-led Senate have removed House File 571 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=HF%20571 from the Senate debate calendar and sent it back to the Senate State Government Committee, a procedure move that keeps it eligible for consideration in the 2018 legislative session.
The bill, which was approved 99-0 by the House last month, would have required law enforcement agencies to edit medical information out of 911 recordings or provide redacted transcripts when the public requests the recordings, now considered public records under Iowa law.
Opponents fear the measure could be more broadly applied to keep secret all 911 recordings, body camera videos and police logs.
The bill would have exempted from Iowa's open records law medical records, including 'information contained in audio or video call recording, including but not limited to, an audio or video 911 recording, relating to the injury or medical condition of a person who is the subject of the call.' All 911 recordings concerning juveniles also would be confidential under the proposal.
SEN. TAYLOR ILL: A state senator became ill in the Senate chambers Monday afternoon and was transported to a Des Moines hospital as a precautionary measure. However, Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, returned later in the day in time to cast votes.
'I felt ill Monday afternoon and — as a precaution — was taken by ambulance to the Des Moines hospital. The good news is that all tests came back OK, and I was released,' he said in a statement. 'I thank everyone at the Capitol for their thoughts and prayers.'
WEEKLY CROP REPORT: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says wet weather kept farmers from the field for most of the week. However, he said drier weather and warmer temperatures late in the week allowed some field work and fertilizer applications to take place.
'We will need some more warm and dry weather before we start see widespread fieldwork,' Northey said in his weekly crop report Monday, which said there were 1.8 days last week suitable for fieldwork.
Topsoil moisture levels are rated 1 percent very short, 3 percent short, 72 percent adequate and 24 percent surplus.
Subsoil moisture levels rated 1 percent very short, 5 percent short, 75 percent adequate and 19 percent surplus.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'You know, beef could be big,' Gov. Terry Branstad, who has been nominated to be ambassador to China, reacting to news that nation will once again allow the importation of beef from the United States.