116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / News / Government & Politics / State Government
Capitol Notebook: Iowa Senate honors retiring Bolkcom for 24-year Statehouse career
Democrats and Republicans praise “scrappy” Bolkcom
DES MOINES — He started out as the “scrappy” kid from a family of nine who grew up helping his father drive around professional wrestling stars like Andre the Giant.
He became the liberal lion in the Iowa Senate, a fierce frontman on issues like medical marijuana, protections for LGBTQ Iowans, and a public smoking ban.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday honored the 24-year career of Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, with a resolution passed by the chamber and remarks from many colleagues, both Democrat and Republican.
“He grew up scrappy. He grew up working, doing hard work,” said Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha. “He’s always been and will always be the guy who sticks up for those who are down.”
Republicans praised Bolkcom for his sharp wit during floor debate — when he is often critical of the current majority party’s policy — but also being helpful and willing to work across the aisle.
“You truly have the heart of Iowa in every policy you undertake,” said Sen. Zach Nunn, R-Altoona. “And while we might not agree on every issue, you are compelling, you are well-educated, and you always have the care of your constituents first.”
Bolkcom said he considered it a “responsibility and honor” to represent Iowa City in the Iowa Legislature, and noted he has often called it “one of the best political jobs.” He also stated his concern for the current state of political discourse and the future of American democracy.
“I leave here with much more than I brought,” Bolkcom said.
PREGNANCY SUPPORT: The state would spend $1 million to partner with nonprofit organizations that provide counseling, guidance and other information to pregnant mothers with the goal of reducing abortions, under a new program proposed by Senate Republicans and approved by the Senate.
Senate File 2381 would create the “more options for maternal support” program, or MOMS, which was designed similar to a program in Texas, under Iowa’s human services department.
Democrats who opposed the Iowa bill pointed to issues with fraud in the Texas program. Republicans said the Iowa proposal contains oversight mechanisms that they believe will prevent fraud in the new program.
The bill passed on a 32-16 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans in support. It now moves to the House for consideration there.
INMATE DIES: Amel Frederick Lueth, 73, was pronounced dead due to natural causes April 2 while in hospice at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center. Lueth had been serving a 30-year maximum term for multiple counts in Story County of prohibited acts — manufacturing, delivering, conspiring or possessing less than 50 kilograms of marijuana. His sentence began May 31, 2012.
CALL BEFORE YOU DIG: The Iowa Utilities Board joins the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Iowa One Call and Common Ground Iowa to remind Iowans during National Safe Digging Month to always schedule a utility location request through Iowa One Call or by calling 811 prior to beginning any digging work. Calling 811 is free — and it’s the law.
Iowa law requires any resident or professional excavator contact 811 or Iowa One Call a minimum of two business days before digging to prevent serious injuries, utility service disruptions, and possible costly repairs that could occur when buried gas, electric, communications, water, or sewer lines are damaged.
Learn more by visiting the Iowa One Call website or call 811. Safe digging information is also available on the IUB website.
CRISIS INTERVENTION: SF 513 to make law enforcement reports about a person experiencing a mental health crisis, substance-related disorder crisis, or housing crisis would be kept confidential if no charges are filed. It would apply to records of law enforcement intervening in de-escalating conflicts or referring people to providers of mental health treatment, substance abuse, homelessness or other services.
It also would allow people to be held in provider facilities temporarily without their consent, Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, warned.
SF 513 was approved 96-1.
RIIF BUDGET: The House voted 95-0 to approve the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) budget. HF 2579 calls for spending nearly $290 million, including $175 million in new appropriations. The budget represents an increase of $87 million over this year.
Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City, said an unexpected increase in gambling revenue, which flows into RIIF, made it possible to increase spending. However, he warned that revenue likely will decrease as Nebraska casinos come online.
The major increase would be $12 million for the state sports tourism program to fund projects that promote sporting events, Bossman said. It increases the appropriation for major maintenance $8 million to $28 million. Another $3.2 million was earmarked for renovation and remodeling Department of Human Services’ facilities. State parks infrastructure would get an increase of $4 million.
The appropriation for security cameras on the Capitol Complex was increased $750,000 to $1 million and another $500,000 was included for the Capitol Complex monuments fund with the requirement of $2 of private fundraising for every $1 appropriated.
Several amendments offered by Democrats were rejected.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: A $53.5 million increase in the state’s share of the $6 billion health and human services budget was approved 60-34 with only one Democrat voting “yes.”
HF 2578 calls for $2.1 billion in state funds, a 2.5 percent increase over this year. The House proposal is $39.5 million more than Gov. Kim Reynolds requested.
Major increases include $14.6 million for child and family services for shelter care and qualified residential treatment programs, $7.4 million to reduce the intellectual disabilities waitlist, $4 million for rural home health incentives, $3.12 million for a provider rate increase for those serving Iowans with intellectual disabilities, and $3 million for behavioral health intervention services.
The budget would fully fund the resource centers at Woodward and Glenwood, which are under federal Department of Justice investigation. It would add $5.2 million for Department of Human Services field operations for 50 more full-time equivalent staff positions and current operations.
Amendments to fund programs for dementia, spina bifida, poison control, opioid treatment, dental treatment, child protections centers, child care worker wages, a psychiatric unit at Cherokee Mental Health Institute, sex offender treatment, foster families and refugees were all rejected. They would have added more than $75 million to the budget, according to Health and Human Resources budget chairman, Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola. Another, to create a Class C felony for the sale, manufacture, distribution, prescription and dispensing of all abortifacient drugs, was ruled not germane to the bill.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau