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Under the Golden Dome: Consideration

IPERS is the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System, and has 360,000 members.  In 2017, a bill in the Senate proposed creating an alternative defined contribution plan for new state employees, but it didn’t go anywhere.  Democrats have expressed concerns about any change to IPERS and it was often a talking point during last year’s election.

During a House State Government Committee meeting the chair Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, took the opportunity to make a statement. "There is not going to be any changes to IPERS this year or next year," says Kaufmann.  "That is an omnibus statement.  That includes amendments. That includes budgets.  That includes standings.  That includes everything. There is very simply and unequivocally not going to be changes."

Ranking member of the committee Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, says she appreciates Rep. Kaufmann’s adamant words about making no changes to IPERS, but she would also like to hear it from the Senate. "They have been bringing in the Reason Foundation, which is in essence a company hired to gut .. basically our public pension systems throughout the country.  And we know that and so .. it’s kind of the mixed message issue."

There are some who can carry a firearm on school grounds, like law enforcement officials. But for the average person like a parent who takes their child to school, it is a class D felony to take a gun to a school Even if they have a non-professional permit to carry a concealed weapon.

SSB-1017passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, says of the 270,000 permit holders in Iowa many of them are parents taking their children to school and some of them are not aware that pulling up to a school ground with a weapon is illegal.  The bill does not allow someone to get out of the vehicle with the gun.

Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, will support the bill because he thinks the legislature has already gone too far in allowing guns are allowed, which includes the State Capitol. "And whether you like it or not, you respect the law till you can change it," says Bisignano.

Before the legislative session began, there was a very close race in House District 55 which covers parts of Winneshiek, Clayton and Fayette Counties. 

The ballots were counted and incumbent Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, was leading by seven votes. His Democratic challenger Kayla Koether asked for a recount. His lead increased to nine votes, but 33 mail-in ballots in Winneshiek County weren’t included in that tally because they arrived after Election Day without a conventional postmark.

Koether filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state and the Winneshiek County auditor saying the 33 ballots were incorrectly tossed out. She argued the mailed ballots have a barcode printed by the United States Postal Service and that could determine if they were mailed before the deadline.

A judge ordered the county auditor to work with the postal service.  The postal service determined 29 of those ballots were mailed before the deadline of November 5th.  The judge then dismissed the suit saying the courts lack jurisdiction in deciding whether or not to open and count these 29 ballots. The judge determined the Iowa House of Representatives has the exclusive right to determine the outcome.
Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer appointed three Republicans and two Democrats to a serve on a Contested Election Committee. They are tasked with making a recommendation to the House of Representatives.

During the committee's meeting two lawyers argue the case before the representatives.  The attorney representing Koether says the postal services scan of the bar codes indicates the ballots were mailed before Election Day, but the attorney representing Rep. Bergan says those codes aren't "intelligent mail barcodes." He cites a 2016 change to Iowa Code 53.17 and says the legislative intent was to only count ballots received after Election Day that have an intelligent mail barcode.

The committee recommends to the House of Representatives that the 29 ballots not be opened.  The fate of these ballots will be determined during a chamber debate of the house scheduled to start on January 28th.



John Pemble is a reporter for IPR