IA-Gov: Ron Corbett's think tank running online ad campaign

When Ron Corbett announced in December that he will not seek a third term as Cedar Rapids mayor and will consider running for governor, he promised a “big surprise” at the end of his final “state of the city” address on February 22.

Corbett has long been positioning himself to run for governor. Since creating the conservative think tank Engage Iowa in late 2015, he has given dozens of speeches around the state, most often to Rotary clubs or members of local Iowa Farm Bureau chapters and Chambers of Commerce.

After Governor Terry Branstad confirmed plans to resign in order to become U.S. ambassador to China, many Iowa politics watchers speculated that Corbett would decide against seeking higher office next year. Instead of competing for the GOP nomination in an open primary, he would have to run against a well-funded sitting governor, Kim Reynolds.

To those who don’t share my view that Corbett will take on the challenge of running against a Republican incumbent, I ask: why is Engage Iowa spending money to promote Corbett’s name and catchy conservative slogans online?

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New Iowa Senate Republican gun bill is unconstitutional as well as unwise

Pro-gun advocates spent a lot of money to help Republicans gain control of the Iowa Senate in last year’s elections. The GOP majority will likely move several of the gun lobby’s legislative priorities soon, including so-called “Stand Your Ground,” an amendment to Iowa’s constitution establishing the right to keep and bear arms, and relaxed rules on concealed carry permits and youth firing of handguns.

If they are smart, Republicans who venerate the Second Amendment will steer clear of State Senator Jake Chapman’s new bill, which would trample on the First Amendment and prevent potentially life-saving conversations.

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The Children of Immigrants

Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese’s latest reflection resonated with me, since all four of my grandparents were born outside the U.S. -promoted by desmoinesdem

My grandmother Marie was an immigrant. She arrived at Ellis Island with her mother Dorthea and siblings on August 21st, 1906, aboard the SS Bremen. Then, as now, many Americans decried the influx of foreigners on our shores even while they celebrated the liberties embodied by the Statue of Liberty, who lifted her lamp beside the Golden Door for my grandmother and countless others, and who herself was a gift from a foreign land.

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Fremont County, the southwest corner of Iowa. Number 9 in population

The series continues. Click here for earlier installments. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This week I will review our ninth-smallest county in terms of population, Fremont County. The 2010 census found 7,441 people living in the entire 517 square miles of the county, the 34th largest in Iowa. To put this in perspective, Fremont County is roughly equal in population to the city of Knoxville (Marion County).

Fremont County is southwest of Des Moines; it is located the extreme southwest corner of Iowa. According to Google Maps, the county seat of Fremont County, Fremont, is 166 road miles from the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines.

Fremont County was founded in 1847 when it was formed from Pottawattamie County. The county was named after the John C. Fremont, the early American Explorer.

The highest population in Fremont County (18,546) was in the 1900 census. The county has lost population in every census since that time, and in 2010 had roughly half the population that it had in 1940.

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Everything you want to know about Iowa's horrible new collective bargaining law

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate voted today to dramatically reduce collective bargaining rights for some 180,000 public employees, following approximately 27 hours of debate in the Iowa Senate and fourteen and a half hours of debate in the Iowa House. GOP leaders moved House File 291 and Senate File 213 simultaneously through both chambers in order to speed up the process.

Democrats had offered dozens of amendments to the bills, which were published for the first time on February 7. Instead of allowing full discussion of every amendment, GOP leaders moved to cut off debate at a “time certain” today. That maneuver had never been used in the Iowa Senate and has been invoked only rarely in the Iowa House–including to end debate on the collective bargaining bill Republicans passed in March 2011. Debate ended in the Iowa House at noon, after which the majority quickly voted down all the remaining amendments with no discussion. Six Republicans joined all 41 Democrats to vote against the bill on final passage. Two of them, Tom Moore and Dave Heaton, are former teachers. Clel Baudler is a retired state trooper. Andy McKean and Shannon Lundgren were just elected from eastern Iowa swing districts, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. McKean is also very familiar with Chapter 20 as a former county supervisor and longtime state lawmaker. I don’t know why Mary Ann Hanusa opposed the bill.

Senators debated all night long Wednesday into Thursday morning, with Republicans voting down every Democratic amendment. Independent State Senator David Johnson voted with Democrats on all the amendments and joined them in giving several passionate speeches. Few Republicans in either chamber chose to speak in favor of the bills, aside from Senate Labor Committee Chair Jason Schultz, House Labor Committee Chair Dave Deyoe, and State Representative Steven Holt, who floor-managed the bill and distinguished himself as the legislature’s least convincing liar. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski summarized some of the important Democratic amendments. I didn’t stay up to watch the whole debate, so would welcome examples of some of the most absurd Republican comments, like State Senator Mark Chelgren accusing Democrats of “stalling” while his party had shown an “incredible amount of patience.” Nothing says “patient” like making sweeping changes to a 43-year-old law, affecting 180,000 Iowans, after only nine days in the legislature.

Senate leaders ended debate at 2 pm Thursday, after which Republicans voted down the remaining Democratic amendments, then substituted the text of the House bill for the Senate bill, to get the legislation to Governor Terry Branstad more quickly. Branstad’s chief of staff, Michael Bousselot, spent the final hours of debate in the Senate chamber. House File 291 eventually passed on a 29-21 Senate vote.

Iowa’s largest public-sector union, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, plans to file a lawsuit claiming the new law is unconstitutional, presumably because of the way it grants more bargaining rights to “public safety” workers than to others, many of whom do dangerous jobs. Video from a February 16 press conference by labor leaders is available here.

I enclose below statements about the bill by legislative leaders from both parties, as well as documents prepared by Iowa House Democratic and Republican staff, which discuss in more detail how House File 291 will affect collective bargaining rights for different types of public employees. Regarding substantive impacts, I also recommend the recent guest posts here by state employee Ruth Thompson, University of Northern Iowa Professor Chris Martin, and attorney James Larew, who predicted that today’s action “will be remembered as the most destructive blow to our ability to govern ourselves fairly and efficiently in nearly half a century.”

GOP spin notwithstanding, collective bargaining “reform” in Iowa was designed primarily with political goals in mind, like similar measures in other states. Republicans know that crippling public sector unions will make it harder for Democrats to win elections.

Although Republicans repeatedly claimed during the House and Senate debates that their bill would help local governments, Chapter 20 has worked so well that more than 140 school districts rushed to sign new contracts with the teachers union before the legislature acted. Boards of supervisors in several large counties passed resolutions condemning the proposal. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson’s case against the bill is convincing.

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Governor Branstad's exiting chapter

Attorney James Larew assesses the Republican assault on collective bargaining rights in Iowa, a moment driven by “eager political cruelty.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Governor Terry E. Branstad’s gutting of Iowa Code Chapter 20, upon his signing of Senate File 213, will be remembered as the most destructive blow to our ability to govern ourselves fairly and efficiently in nearly half a century.

His unprovoked legislative assault will be recalled for its radical and disruptive contrast to the foresight of Branstad’s venerated Republican predecessor, Governor Robert D. Ray.

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