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Iowa Senate Republicans seeking to end solar tax credit

The official Iowa Senate Republican tax plan would repeal the state’s popular Solar Energy Systems tax credit later this year.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra introduced Senate Study Bill 3197 on February 21 and scheduled a subcommittee meeting on the 130-page bill for 8:00 am the following morning. Sweeping changes to individual and corporate income tax rates could reduce state revenue by more than $1 billion annually, though the details are unclear, because no fiscal analysis is publicly available.

Although the bill would create a new legislative committee to “comprehensively review and evaluate each tax credit” (pages 31-2), it also calls for scaling back or eliminating some tax credits, with the solar incentive the first to go.

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Rod Blum's undisclosed, shady company used Congressional staffer for fake ad

How many unscrupulous practices can one member of Congress engage in with one small business in less than two years?

Quite a few, as Ryan Foley showed in a scoop with an incredible lede: “A congressman from Iowa violated House ethics rules by failing to disclose his role in a company that he formed, a mysterious outfit that uses his top federal staffer in a false testimonial promoting its services, an Associated Press review shows.”

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Exclusive: Two health giants block Iowans from medical cannabis program

Doctors affiliated with Mercy Cedar Rapids and The Iowa Clinic are refusing to sign paperwork their patients need to register for the Iowa Department of Public Health’s medical cannabis program. Iowa law requires applicants to obtain their doctor’s signature attesting that the patient has a “qualifying debilitating medical condition.” But the law stipulates that health care practitioners have “no duty to provide” written confirmation of the patient’s diagnosis.

Mercy Cedar Rapids appears to have instructed its 503 physicians not to sign the IDPH paperwork, according to two sources with qualifying conditions, who receive health care at different facilities in that network. Most if not all of the 250-plus health care providers at The Iowa Clinic, a doctor-owned group in the Des Moines area, are also refusing to sign medical cannabis card applications.

Without cooperation from a primary care provider, Iowans cannot start the process of receiving authorization to use cannabidiol legally. The number of patients affected by their health care group’s policies is unknown but potentially large. Mercy Cedar Rapids handled 451,400 outpatient visits last year at offices around Iowa’s second largest metro area. The Iowa Clinic averages 450,000 visits annually, serving about 148,000 unique patients across its central Iowa locations.

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Fourteen Iowa House Democrats who seem content to stay in minority forever

Iowa Democrats are in a deep hole, controlling only 20 of the 50 seats in the state Senate and 41 of 100 in the House. On the plus side, strong candidate recruitment and a wave of Republican retirements are giving Democrats plenty of opportunities to pick up House seats. (The 2018 Iowa Senate map is less promising.)

Raising money can be challenging for leaders of a minority party, who don’t call the shots on legislation. Furthermore, Iowa Republicans have a natural advantage, since the policies they promote are often tailored to suit wealthy individuals or corporate interest groups. While money doesn’t always determine campaign outcomes, quite a few Democratic lawmakers and challengers lost in 2016 after being massively outspent on television commercials and direct mail (see here, here, and here for examples).

Yet the latest set of campaign financial disclosures reveal little sense of urgency among Democratic incumbents who could do much more to help others win competitive districts this November.

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When Iowa's Republicans overturned rule on gun checks for mentally ill

After yet another mass murder involving an assault weapon made national news, Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters on February 15, “we have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that.” Similarly, Senator Joni Ernst said today that the U.S. needs more “focus” on mental illness, not gun control. (Not that she has any ideas on how to address that problem.)

The talking point is bogus, because people with mental illness aren’t more likely than others to commit violent crimes, and mental illness isn’t any more prevalent in the U.S. than in other countries that experience far fewer mass shootings.

But let’s leave that aside for the moment. A year ago, all of Iowa’s Republicans in Congress voted with their GOP colleagues to overturn “a sensible Obama administration rule designed to stop people with severe mental problems from buying guns.”

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Four Senate immigration bills fail: How Grassley and Ernst voted

With less that three weeks remaining until the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program expires, the U.S. Senate voted today on four immigration proposals. Three of them contained language to protect “DREAMers,” who were brought to this country without authorization as children. No proposal received the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The only bill to fall short of 50 votes was Senator Chuck Grassley’s legislation, modeled on President Donald Trump’s demands.

Iowa’s senators have talked a good game about the DREAMers, but today Grassley and Joni Ernst rejected bipartisan plans in order to be rubber stamps for the president and immigration hard-liners.

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