Reynolds signs controversial election changes, broadband expansion

    Republicans lawmakers have again turned down allowing the secretary of state to distribute absentee ballot request forms before the November election. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate will not be allowed to mail out absentee ballot requests to all active voters this fall or make other emergency election changes without approval from legislators.

    Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday signed House File 2486, a controversial proposal rushed through the Legislature by the Republican majority in the final hours of the 2020 session.

    Democrats sharply criticized the bill as a “voter suppression” measure, coming on the heels of a record-turnout June 2 primary in which 80% of ballots were sent by mail. County auditors who oversee elections also opposed the legislation, saying the primary proceeded smoothly despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican lawmakers said the Republican secretary of state had gone too far with emergency changes enacted before the primary.

    The bill requires the secretary of state to get permission from the Legislative Council, a 24-member panel of lawmakers, for making election changes in response to a natural disaster or armed conflict involving the U.S. military. Election officials will be prohibited from reducing the number of polling places open on Election Day by more than 35%.

    The bill also sets up new procedures for presidential electors, including the designation of alternate electors.

    The legislation was among more than 30 bills the governor signed Thursday.

    Reynolds signs rural broadband program

    Reynolds noted in a news release that her signature on Senate File 2400 represented a “key legislative priority.”  The bill creates a rural Iowa broadband grant fund and broadband infrastructure tax exemptions aimed and increasing internet connectivity in rural Iowa.

    “This legislation builds on my empower rural Iowa initiative by encouraging greater investment in broadband,” Reynolds said in a statement. “High-speed internet will continue to serve as a catalyst for growth in the ever-changing 21st century economy. I applaud the Iowa Legislature for working together, passing this bill with unanimous approval.”

    Here is a list of legislation signed Thursday, according to the governor’s office:

    HF599: an Act relating to hunting by persons under the age of sixteen.

    HF684: an Act providing limited immunity from certain criminal offenses and prohibiting certain disciplinary sanctions for persons under twenty-one years of age who report, seek, or require emergency assistance for alcohol overdoses, and modifying penalties.

    HF760: an Act relating to the exemption from the hotel and motel taxes for the renting of lodging.

    HF2197: an Act relating to the medical residency training state matching grants program rural rotation requirement.

    HF2221: an Act act relating to the licensed health professional member of a local board of health.

    HF2238: an Act relating to regulation of foods sold by minors.

    HF2359: an Act relating to the reporting of certain assessment scores by approved practitioner preparation programs.

    HF2363: an Act relating to unemployment insurance contribution rates for certain landscaping employers.

    HF2364: an Act for an act relating to injunctions issued to employers for certain violations of the state unemployment insurance law.

    HF2365: an Act relating to certain notifications issued by the department of workforce development concerning claims for unemployment benefits and the voluntary shared work program, and including applicability provisions.

    HF2372: an Act regarding driver’s licenses, including the exemption of certain farmers and hired help operating a special truck from the requirement to be licensed as a chauffeur and the optional inclusion of a mark reflecting autism spectrum disorder status on a person’s driver’s license.

    HF2389: an Act relating to the rulemaking process for executive branch agencies and including transition provisions.

    HF2410: an Act relating to the issuance of special senior statewide antlerless deer only crossbow deer hunting licenses.

    HF2412: an Act relating to the definition of public improvement for public construction bidding purposes.

    HF2418: an Act relating to certain information in proceedings before the director of the department of education and the board of educational examiners, certain requests made to the school budget review committee, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.

    HF2445: an Act relating to the privacy of a victim of a sex offense in a criminal or civil proceeding.

    HF2452: an Act relating to the disposal and acquisition of city water utilities, including at-risk systems.

    HF2455: an Act allowing the use of a leashed dog to track and retrieve a wounded deer and providing a penalty.

    HF2485: an Act establishing an exception to the number of children allowed to be present for child care at any one time in a child development home under certain conditions.

    HF2486: an Act relating to the conduct of elections, including emergency powers, procedures relating to electors, and the use of a county seal on materials related to elections.

    HF2502: an Act relating to firearms and weapons, including the storage, carrying, possession, or transportation of weapons and the establishment, use, and maintenance of shooting ranges.

    HF2528: an Act relating to persons authorized to request assistance pursuant to the statewide mutual aid compact.

    HF2561: an Act relating to protections for certain potential recipients of anatomical gifts.

    HF2585: an Act relating to the terminology used in relation to the deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.

    SF280: an Act relating to the residency of members of the armed forces stationed at specified military installations for purposes of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges.

    SF457: an Act relating to the criminal and juvenile justice system by modifying criminal penalties, surcharges, fines, fees, and costs, creating and modifying funds, making appropriations and allocating revenues, modifying installment agreements, modifying civil claims for reimbursement, restitution, and collection of court debt, and providing effective date provisions.

    SF458: an Act relating to debts for which the homestead is liable by providing that the homestead may be sold to satisfy debts secured by a mechanic’s lien, including principal, interest, attorney fees, and costs, and including effective date provisions.

    SF2232: an Act relating to the Iowa trust code, including the creation of directed trusts, the transfer of trust assets into other trusts, and requirements related to notices to beneficiaries.

    SF2373: an Act modifying provisions relating to telecommunicators.

    SF2400: an Act relating to broadband service, including matters under the purview of the office of the chief information officer, the empower rural Iowa broadband grant fund, and certain broadband infrastructure tax exemptions, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.

     

    Kathie Obradovich
    Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.