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Week in Iowa, Jan. 16, 2023: Recap of news from across the state
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Jan. 22, 2023 6:00 am
In the news
Lawmakers tee up private school assistance: A bill allowing parents to use taxpayer dollars to pay for private school tuition and expenses is set for floor votes in the House and Senate early this week. The bill quickly passed through committees in both chambers over the last two weeks. After passing through the Legislature, the bill will go to Gov. Kim Reynolds' desk for a signature.
The program, which is estimated to cost $341 once fully implemented, was one of Reynolds' key priorities for the session. Democrats urged those opposed to the bill to call their representatives over the weekend and voice their opposition.
Sioux City woman charged with voter fraud: The wife of a Woodbury County supervisor was charged with voter fraud Jan. 12 for allegedly fraudulently filling out voting materials and casting absentee ballots on behalf of others in two elections. Authorities say Kim Phuong Taylor, 49, approached elderly members of Sioux City's Vietnamese community and filled out ballots and other forms in their names for the 2020 primary and general election in which her husband, Jeremy Taylor, was a candidate.
The FBI continues to investigate the case, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release. A trial was scheduled for March 20 in U.S. District Court in Sioux City.
Bill banning "gay panic" defense advances: Lawmakers moved forward a bill that would prevent a defendant from using a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity as a mitigating factor if charged with a violent crime or assault. It's the third time the bill has been under consideration. The so-called gay panic defense has been used successfully in other states, and some states have already banned it.
Lawmakers try to fix depleted funds for veterans: A fund designed to give emergency financial assistance to Iowa veterans would get a boost under proposals from Iowa lawmakers. The Iowa Veterans Trust Fund ran out for the first time in a decade in October. Separate bills would increase the annual allocation to the fund from $500,000 to either $800,000 or $1 million.
Ransomware, cybersecurity bills advance: Bills dealing with cybersecurity and ransomware moved forward in the Iowa House last week. One bill would make it a crime to launch a ransomware attack, and provide penalties up to a Class C felony depending on the amount of money lost in the attack. Another would create a cybersecurity unit in the state's Office of the Chief Information Officer and require government entities to report cybersecurity incidents to the office.
Top National Guard general to retire: Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, will retire March 1 after more than 30 years in the Guard and three years at its helm. Corell said he has given his recommendation for his successor to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who will appoint the next leader of the Guard.
They said …
I think we've come up with a really good bill here. I think the governor proposed a really strong bill that addressed any concerns that may have existed over the last two years in the debate that we've had. — Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley on Gov. Kim Reynolds' private school assistance proposal.
“Remind your legislators that we don’t work for the governor; we work for constituents. So we’re asking Iowans to let them know that and remind them that we are not here to do the governor’s bidding; we’re here to do the work of the people.” — Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst on Gov. Kim Reynolds' private school assistance proposal.
Odds and ends
UI Hospitals addressing gap: University of Iowa Health Care expects to open a new primary care location in southeast Iowa City by 2025 in an effort to address a "health care access gap" in that area. Officials said southeast Iowa City has the fewest primary care options in the city despite being the most densely populated.
Bill would scrap gender balance: A bill proposed in the Iowa Senate would eliminate the requirement that state and local boards and commissions have an equal number of men and women. A Republican senator said the requirement is no longer needed and said leaders have a difficult time filling open board positions.
COVID cases fall: Iowa reported 1,690 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, a drop from the previous week. There were 177 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, down from 222 the previous week.
Jeff Kaufmann re-elected GOP chair: Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann was unanimously re-elected last weekend to a two-year term as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. Since 2015, when Kaufmann was elected to his first term, Republicans have increased their numbers in both state government and Iowa's federal congressional delegation.