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Exclusive: First look at a costly, regressive Iowa Republican tax plan

Iowa Republican senators are considering a proposal to reduce individual and corporate tax rates and eventually phase out the state’s already-limited inheritance tax. The plan would increase revenue by making more goods and services subject to the sales tax, but those provisions would be difficult to move through the legislature, and even if enacted, would replace a small fraction of the money our cash-strapped state stands to lose from the tax cuts.

Governor Kim Reynolds told journalists this week she won’t reveal specifics about her tax plan–a top priority for 2018–until she delivers her Condition of the State address on January 9. She indicated she is waiting to see how Congress amends the federal tax code.

However, Senate GOP lawmakers and staff have received a detailed set of proposals for review. Bleeding Heartland obtained a lengthy memo describing “the tax reform plan prepared for the Governor’s Office” and estimating the fiscal impact of those changes. As with pending GOP legislation at the federal level, the largest benefits would flow to the wealthiest Iowans.

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Questions remain on Iowa GOP couple's Saudi lobbying, political donations

Connie Schmett was registered as a foreign agent doing work on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through September 2017, a new filing shows. The revelation explains why Schmett and her husband, Kim Schmett, recently disclosed to the federal government a number of donations to Iowa Republican candidates and political committees they had made since March, when their work as consultants for the Qorvis/MSLGROUP previously appeared to have ended.

Several other curiosities related to Connie Schmett’s political giving remain unexplained.

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Democratic swing not large enough in Iowa Senate district 3

Democrats across the country are celebrating tonight after Alabama voters chose Doug Jones over Roy Moore, one of the worst candidates a major party has nominated for a U.S. Senate seat in my lifetime.

In Iowa Senate district 3, a Democratic swing was evident but not large enough for Todd Wendt to carry the day against Republican Jim Carlin.

Watch out, though: the coming special election for Carlin’s Iowa House seat should be competitive.

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Kent Sorenson's prison sentence will stand

A panel of judges on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously found that U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt did not abuse his discretion by sentencing former State Senator Kent Sorenson to 15 months in prison. Federal prosecutors had recommended probation after Sorenson admitted to taking money in exchange for endorsing Ron Paul for president, citing his cooperation with investigations of former Paul campaign operatives. But Pratt concluded that “Defendant’s conduct, viewed through the lens of America’s traditional understanding of the profound evils of political corruption, requires a substantial sentence.” A term of probation would not “reflect the seriousness” of his offenses, nor would it “deter others from engaging in similar criminal conduct.”

Sorenson appealed the sentence on several grounds. The Appeals Court found Pratt was not required to consider the value of Sorenson’s campaign work as a mitigating factor, nor was he wrong to consider the senator’s public office when imposing a sentence. I enclose below today’s full decision from the Eighth Circuit panel. You can read the District Court’s lengthy sentencing memorandum here.

Sorenson began serving time in March at a federal prison in Illinois. According to a September blog post by Shawnee Sorenson, her husband will transfer to a halfway house in January to finish his sentence. She had previously accused Judge Pratt of imposing a harsh punishment as “retribution for the work Kent did to unseat three unlawful Supreme Court Justices and unseat a current Supreme Court Justices [sic] wife.” Sorenson campaigned against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010, the same year he defeated Democratic State Senator Staci Appel. Her husband, Brent Appel, continues to serve on the high court.

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A rare victory for Iowa water quality

Following a public outcry, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has abandoned an effort to weaken the state’s E. coli water quality standards.

Officials had designed the change with the explicit goal of reducing the number of Iowa waterways deemed impaired. Environmental advocates had warned public health would suffer if the DNR assessed waterways based on average readings of E. coli levels, rather than the highest single measurement of the bacteria.

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