13 questions to ask at the public hearing on voter ID rules

This afternoon’s public hearing at the Iowa Secretary of State’s office probably will not lead to any substantial revisions in the administrative rules proposed to implement Iowa’s new election law. While the bill was working its way through the legislature, neither Secretary of State Paul Pate nor Republican lawmakers acknowledged research from other states, indicating voter ID and signature verification requirements would suppress voting by some eligible citizens, especially in certain groups.

Nevertheless, the record from today’s hearing could become important in potential future court rulings on the law.

Gerry Hebert, one of the country’s top experts on voting rights law, told an audience in Des Moines last week that testimony at public hearings has sometimes been useful in litigation on other states’ voting restrictions. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland after that event, Hebert offered more specific suggestions on questions that would be helpful for citizens to ask today.

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Des Moines City Council Ward 3 forum: Neighborhoods and advocates

Thanks to Stefanie Running for a play-by-play of the October 10 candidate forum for Des Moines City Council Ward 3, featuring Michael Kiernan, Josh Mandelbaum, and Abshir Omar. First-person accounts of campaign events are always welcome at Bleeding Heartland. -promoted by desmoinesdem

6:30 PM
It’s really a lovely night. Mid 60s, you can smell fall emerging from the hundred-year-old neighborhood trees and the glowing sunset inching forward sooner each day. Max Knauer and Kate Allen have been working with neighborhood associations and advocacy groups since August putting this forum together. I volunteer as a social chair for Gray’s Lake Neighborhood Association (GLNA), so I’ve seen the work that they’ve put into the program. They’ve scheduled the forum right in the heart of my own neighborhood, so it’s barely a half mile for me to travel.

As I arrive, other neighborhood reps are setting up, Knauer fields questions from co-sponsors and attendees alike. The candidates arrive. I’ve spoken to all three digitally via email or facebook. Tonight I introduce myself. I’m Stefanie Running. I’ll be the rep for this very neighborhood. I’ll also be writing about tonight’s forum for Bleeding Heartland. All three are gracious and welcoming.

Unpacking my camera gear, I realize it’s non-functional. I forgot something. I can’t go back home because the event is about to start and I didn’t drive. So I sit and I prepare to take notes. I apologize, dear reader, for my lack of photos. That’s my favorite part. Sadly, what I lack in photos, I’m going to make up for in article length. I apologize in advance.

To make this article a little more readable, from this point on I’ll show the panelist’s comments in bold, the candidate responses will be in standard font, and my own comments in italics.

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IA-01, IA-03: Polls find Blum and Young below 50 percent

Republican Representatives Rod Blum and David Young have approval ratings below 40 percent and re-elect numbers below 50 percent, according to new surveys from Public Policy Polling.

The Patriot Majority Fund, a super-PAC that largely opposes GOP incumbents, commissioned polls in nine House districts around the country, including the two in Iowa that Democrats will target next year.

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Keep up with threats to Iowa's public pension funds

Republican lawmakers are considering big changes to the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS). The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank funded through the Koch brothers network, has been studying the matter at the invitation of GOP State Senator Charles Schneider. That group recommends converting IPERS from a defined-benefit plan (with guaranteed payments for public employees) to a defined-contribution plan like a 401(k). Under that scenario, some 350,000 IPERS members would have to pay investment fees and could receive lower returns when they retire.

Similar changes could affect Iowans who pay into the Municipal Fire & Police Retirement System, Peace Officers’ Retirement System, or Judicial Retirement System.

Democratic lawmakers and staff have created a new e-mail list for Iowans wanting to stay informed about threats to public pension funds. This list will function much like the Iowa Statehouse Progressive Network, created at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, but with updates and action alerts related to state retirement issues.

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Rod Blum votes against hurricane, wildfire relief funding

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) was among 69 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted against a disaster relief bill today. Every Democrat present including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) supported the legislation, as did most of the GOP caucus, including Representatives David Young (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Niv Elis and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

The package includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund — including $4.9 billion for a disaster relief loan account — $16 billion to address national flood insurance program debt and $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts. It also provided $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico.

Congress will likely vote on more disaster relief funds later this fall, as costs pile up due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires in California and Oregon. According to Congressional reporter Jamie Dupree, “Florida lawmakers have already requested $27 billion in specific funding for the state; officials from Texas have asked for almost $19 billion.”

Blum’s district includes Cedar Rapids, which received substantial federal assistance after being devastated by flooding in 2008. At this writing, he has not explained his reasons for opposing today’s bill. Some Republicans were upset about the process, which did not allow for any votes on budget cuts to offset the new spending. Others wanted additional funding for the National Flood Insurance Program to come with strings attached. I will update this post as needed with comments from Blum, if any appear on his official website or his social media feeds.

All four Iowans in the U.S. House voted for a Hurricane Harvey aid package last month.

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