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It's what plants crave.

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Yellow wood sorrel

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 18:08:41 PM CDT

Today's featured plant is native to much of North America and is edible in limited quantities. In fact, one experienced forager called this plant and its close relatives "my favorite wild edible." After the jump I've enclosed several pictures of Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta).

As a bonus, I included two shots of American bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), one of my all-time favorite Iowa wildflowers. It's a common sight in wooded areas and along many shady bike trails throughout the summer.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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Kent Sorenson pleads guilty over hidden payments scheme (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 13:39:46 PM CDT

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that former State Senator Kent Sorenson has pleaded guilty to two charges related to hidden payments in exchange for supporting Ron Paul for president. When he abandoned his position as Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign chair to endorse Paul less than a week before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, rumors immediately circulated about alleged payments for his support. Sorenson repeatedly denied those rumors. However, he has now admitted that he received $73,000 in concealed payments after endorsing Paul. As part of his plea agreement, he also admitted lying to journalists and giving false testimony to an independent counsel appointed to investigate various charges. Sorenson resigned his Iowa Senate seat last October, the same day that independent counsel filed a devastating report. Federal authorities have been investigating the case since last year.

After the jump I've enclosed the full Department of Justice press release, with more details about the plea deal. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. As far as I can tell, these charges are unrelated to any payments Sorenson allegedly received from the Bachmann campaign earlier in 2011. A former Bachmann campaign staffer made those claims in complaints he filed with the Federal Election Commission and with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. Another former Bachmann staffer signed an affidavit containing details on Sorenson's compensation for work supporting that campaign.

One mystery I hope someone will solve someday is whether Sorenson's attorney, Ted Sporer, lied on behalf of his client, or whether Sorenson lied to Sporer along with everyone else. Even on the day he resigned from the state legislature, Sorenson maintained he was an innocent victim of a "straight-up political witch hunt." A separate lawsuit that had alleged Sorenson stole a valuable e-mail list from a Bachmann staffer's computer was eventually settled without any admission of wrongdoing by Sorenson.

UPDATE: Russ Choma has more details at Open Secrets, including the full plea agreement. Highly recommend clicking through to read that whole post. I've enclosed excerpts below.

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In Des Moines, a rare left-wing take on 1950s nostalgia and American exceptionalism

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:49:25 AM CDT

Sunday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines marked its 100th anniversary at a dinner gathering downtown. The gala was unusual in several respects. For one thing, I don't recall seeing such a large and bipartisan group of Iowa politicians at any non-political local event before. Attendees included Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Terry Branstad, State Senator Jack Hatch, Lieutenant Governor nominee Monica Vernon, Representative Bruce Braley, State Senator Joni Ernst, Representative Dave Loebsack, IA-03 candidates David Young and Staci Appel, State Senator Matt McCoy, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, State Representatives Helen Miller, Marti Anderson, and Peter Cownie, and several suburban mayors or city council members. (Insert your own "a priest, a rabbi, and an Iowa politician walk into a bar" joke here.)

The keynote speech was even more striking. It's standard practice to invite a Jewish celebrity to headline major Federation events. This year's guest was award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. But other than a "Borscht belt"-inspired opening riff about learning to nod and say "Yes, dear" to his wife, Dreyfuss left obvious material aside. He didn't dwell on humorous anecdotes from his Hollywood career, or talk about how being Jewish helped his craft. Instead, Dreyfuss reminisced about a cultural place and time that could hardly be more foreign to his Iowa audience, regardless of age or religious background.

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Iowa could do so much better with local food availability

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Agriculture is and always has been a major part of Iowa's economy, but given our abundance of world-class farmland, we could do much more to make local food available to Iowans. When the non-profit food advocacy group Strolling of the Heifers introduced its "Locavore Index" two years ago, Iowa ranked second only to Vermont in terms of local food availability. At that time, the index measured per-capita presence of Community-Supported Agricultural enterprises and farmers markets.

Last year, Strolling of the Heifers added a third component to the index: the per capita presence of "food hubs," those "facilities that handle the aggregation, distribution and marketing of foods from a group of farms and food producers in a region." Iowa dropped to fifth place on the Locavore Index.

For 2014, Strolling of the Heifers added a fourth component: the percentage of school districts with Farm-to-School programs, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Sadly, only 31 percent of Iowa school districts have a Farm-to-School program, putting us below many states with insignificant agricultural output compared to Iowa. We should be doing better seven years after the state legislature first funded Farm-to-School efforts. While our state is still strong in farmers markets per capita, our national rank on the Locavore Index dropped to tenth.

August and September are arguably the best months to shop at Iowa farmers markets. With peak late-summer produce being harvested around the start of the academic year, it's a shame more Iowa students don't have access to fresh, local food. We should have more flash-freezing facilities to make it easier for larger facilities to buy local as well--not just public school districts but also nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and universities. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach "provides technical assistance to school food service staff" in six northeast Iowa counties. Here's hoping that project will expand statewide.

After the jump I've posted the Strolling of the Heifers chart showing all state-level data on local food availability. I added the group's "10 reasons to consume local foods," covering economic, health, environmental, and taste benefits. Iowa's Healthiest State Initiative doesn't include a strong local food component, although it promotes healthier eating at schools. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers a few Farm-to-School programs and has provided grants for a few dozen schools to start vegetable gardens each year.

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Republicans left Iowa House seats uncontested in nearly every battleground Iowa Senate district

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 12:41:54 PM CDT

The filing period for general-election candidates closed on August 15. You can view the full candidate list for federal and state offices on the Iowa Secretary of State's website. John Deeth briefly reviews all 100 House races here. Next month, I'll be posting on the most competitive Iowa House races.

For today, I'm interested in what appears to be a pattern of Republicans letting Iowa House seats go in battleground Iowa Senate districts. I suspect a strategy is in play to depress GOTV in the more Democratic halves of these districts.  

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Weekend open thread: Cost of doing nothing edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 12:31:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Sunday's Des Moines Register includes a good feature by Lauren Mills of IowaWatch.org and the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. She lays out how payday lenders are "burying Iowans" in debt. Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Joe Bolkcom pointed out that the payday lending business model depends on "locking people into this cycle of debt." Previous research has indicated that payday lenders cost Iowa consumers about $36 million per year. Mills reports that this industry spends heavily on campaign contributions and lobbying the Iowa legislature. Lobbyists talk a good game about jobs and helping people who need cash for emergency expenses. But think how many more jobs could be created if Iowans living paycheck to paycheck had $36 million more to spend on goods and services, rather than on outlandish "loan shark rates."

Mills reports that legislation to regulate interest rates charged by payday lenders has been stalled. Bolkcom said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal won't bring up the bill unless it can pass the Republican-controlled Iowa House. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer called that a "convenient excuse" for the Senate not to act. I haven't noticed her or any other House Republicans acknowledging this problem, though.

The best chance for Iowa lawmakers to address payday lending was during the period when Democrats controlled "the trifecta." In 2007, the Iowa House and Senate approved, and Governor Chet Culver signed, a bill capping interest rates on car title loans. (Such legislation had been stalled for years when Republicans controlled the Iowa House, although it attracted bipartisan support in both chambers in 2007.) Three years later, Bolkcom and then Iowa House Democrat Janet Petersen made a major push to pass a similar interest rate cap on payday lenders. However, industry lobbyists warned that such a law would put payday lenders out of business, as had happened with car title lenders. A wide range of organizations supported the payday lending reform, including the Iowa Attorney General's office, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Child and Family Policy Center, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. But ultimately, the House version of that bill died when conservadem State Representative Mike Reasoner sided with two Republicans to kill it in subcommittee.

Some Iowa local governments, most recently in Waterloo, have passed zoning rules to try to prevent payday lenders from targeting low-income neighborhoods. But state regulations are the only realistic way to stop the cycle of debt perpetuated by lenders who keep borrowers coming back for more high-interest loans and cash advances. Iowans on the edge are paying the price for the legislature's failure to act years ago.

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IA-04: Jim Mowrer's third ad focuses on Social Security

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 12:25:20 PM CDT

Today Democratic candidate Jim Mowrer started running his third television commercial across Iowa's fourth Congressional district. In look and feel, the 30-second spot closely resembles Mowrer's first and second television ads, featuring the candidate's own voice and the same acoustic background music. While the previous ads focused on Mowrer's public service, the new one mentions an earlier part of his biography: the family tragedy that cemented his commitment to preserving Social Security. I've posted the video and transcript after the jump.

Mowrer's new ad does not mention six-term Republican incumbent Steve King by name. Rather, the Democrat says he disagrees with those who "want to weaken Social Security." King has voted for the House Republican Study Committee budget, which would increase the Social Security full retirement age and put Social Security's cost of living adjustments on the "chained Consumer Price Index." (Bleeding Heartland has explained before why chained CPI would be disastrous for lower- and middle-income Social Security recipients.) More than 100 of King's House GOP colleagues rejected the Republican Study Committee budget.

King has also repeatedly voted for House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's budget plans, though in recent years Ryan has backed off from Social Security cuts he once advocated.

To my knowledge, King has not run any radio or television commercials this year. Nor has he given the appearance of being worried about Mowrer's challenge. His lackluster fundraising let Mowrer build up a financial advantage. In addition, King has been relying on his son and daughter-in-law to run the campaign, rather than the professionals he brought in to manage his 2012 re-election bid against Christie Vilsack.

Mowrer talked about his family's experience with Social Security during his appearance on the Des Moines Register's soapbox at the Iowa State Fair. He also noted that King has voted to raise the retirement age.

King focused on health care reform during his soapbox speech, calling Obamacare "a malignant tumor that is metastasizing and feeding upon America's God-given liberty."

Any comments about the IA-04 race are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- Like Mowrer, Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) grew up in a family that relied on Social Security survivor benefits to keep food on the table.

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71 percent of Iowa residents were born here

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 20:43:00 PM CDT

Some 71 percent of Iowa residents were born in this state, a higher percentage than in all but six states, according to an interactive graphic at the New York Times website based on data from 2012 (hat tip to the Des Moines Register's Daniel Finney). The states with an even greater proportion of residents born there, as of 2012, were Louisiana (79 percent), Michigan (77 percent), Ohio (75 percent), Pennsylvania (74 percent), and Wisconsin and Mississippi (72 percent each). The states with the lowest percentage of residents born there were Nevada (25 percent), Florida (36 percent), Arizona (38 percent), and Alaska and New Hampshire (42 percent each).

On this page you can view how migration to and from Iowa has changed over the past century. In 1900, following decades of extensive immigration from Europe, only 59 percent of Iowans were born in this state. That figure gradually rose each decade, peaking at 80 percent of Iowa residents being born here as of 1960 and 1970. By the same token, 14 percent of Iowans were born outside the U.S. as of 1900. That figure dropped steadily to a low point of 2 percent from 1960 through 1990. As of 2012, 5 percent of Iowa residents were foreign-born.

Among Iowans who have moved here from other states, those born in other Midwestern states outnumber those from the northeast, south, and west combined.

The percentage of native-born Iowans who have stayed here has fluctuated very little over the last century. At any given point measured, between 58 percent and 64 percent of all Americans born in Iowa were living in Iowa. Patterns of out-migration have changed somewhat. For many decades, a significant number of Iowa-born Americans have settled in Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and other Midwestern states. Migration to California peaked in the middle part of the last century. As of 2012, there were more Iowa-born people living in southern states and more in other states in the west than in California. The New York Times comments,

MIGRATION INTO IOWA
Iowa has been the picture of stability. But the share of its population born in the state is at its lowest point since 1920. [...]

DIASPORA OUT OF IOWA
Iowa is unusual in that the overall number of people born in the state is itself declining, leaving fewer people to possibly migrate. The flow out of the state hasn't grown much, though people leaving head south.

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Third-party and independent candidates in Iowa's 2014 elections

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 11:25:50 AM CDT

The filing period for general election candidates in Iowa closed last Friday, so it's a good time to review where candidates not representing either the Democratic or Republican Party are running for office. The full candidate list is on the Iowa Secretary of State's website (pdf(. After the jump I discuss all the federal, statewide, and state legislative races including at least one independent or minor-party candidate. Where possible, I've linked to campaign websites, so you can learn more about the candidates and their priorities.

Rarely has any Iowa election been affected by an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot. Arguably, the most recent case may have been the 2010 election in Iowa's first Congressional district. Final results showed that Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley defeated Republican challenger Ben Lange by 4,209 votes, while conservative candidates Rob Petsche and Jason Faulkner drew 4,087 votes and 2,092 votes, respectively.

Any comments about Iowa's 2014 elections are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hoary vervain

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 20:47:02 PM CDT

A native or restored prairie in full late summer glory is gorgeous, but I also have a soft spot for wildflowers that can survive some of the toughest conditions humans have inflicted on the landscape. Today's featured plant flourishes in overgrazed pastures and on roadsides with poor soil, and is native to most of the continental United States. After the jump I've posted several pictures of Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta), which blooms across most of Iowa from late June to September.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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IA-03: Second Staci Appel ad stresses independence, bipartisan work

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 17:22:00 PM CDT

Democratic Congressional candidate Staci Appel's campaign started running its second television commercial today.  "Independence" focuses on the candidate's work in the Iowa Senate from 2007 through 2010. I've posted the video and my transcript after the jump. As in her first commercial, the announcer refers to the candidate as "Staci"--ever since Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, this approach seems to be a trend with women candidates.

The script includes key words that resonate with conservatives and moderates ("business," "finance," "balance budgets") as well as with progressives (expanding pre-K, raising the minimum wage, approving pay equity). That makes sense in a swing district like Iowa's third. Appel mentioned the same set of issues in her soapbox appearance at the Iowa State Fair. I've posted excerpts from the news coverage after the jump.

Groups backing Republican candidate David Young are sure to portray Appel as a liberal Nancy Pelosi clone, so it makes sense to pre-empt that message with an ad about bipartisanship. To my knowledge, neither Young nor the National Republican Congressional Committee have run television ads in IA-03 since the primary. The NRCC ran a web ad bashing Appel, while U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley recorded a radio spot supporting Young.

In related news, Appel's press release announcing today's new tv spot took a swipe at Young for backing a "flat tax" at the Iowa State Fair (video here). At the end of this post I've enclosed excerpts from the Des Moines Register's coverage of Young's soapbox speech.

Appel is one of eight great women candidates for U.S. House, according to a feature in the latest edition of Elle magazine. The piece described Appel as a "mother of six and fierce pro-choice advocate," who wants to bring "less bickering" and more "Iowa-mom common sense" to Washington.

IA-03 contained 153,285 registered Democrats, 164,984 Republicans, and 156,626 no-party voters as of August 1.

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District Court upholds Iowa rule banning "telemedicine" abortions

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 22:46:10 PM CDT

A Polk County District Court today upheld a rule adopted by the Iowa Board of Medicine last year, which would prohibit Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from providing medical abortions using "telemedicine" (where a doctor meets with the patient via videoconferencing). You can read the full text of Judge Jeffrey Farrell's ruling here. After the jump I've summarized Judge Farrell's key findings, including background on the case and excerpts from his decision. I've also enclosed reaction from both sides in the telemedicine abortion debate, as well as from Governor Terry Branstad and Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.

Judge Farrell's ruling goes into effect in 30 days, but Planned Parenthood has already said it will appeal, so the Iowa Supreme Court may put another stay on the rule pending its hearing of the case.

I'm surprised by this ruling. In a November 2013 decision granting Planned Parenthood's request for a stay of the rule, Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano sounded skeptical that rule would be upheld when courts considered the merits. She noted the lack of evidence of any adverse outcomes in more than 5,000 abortions using Planned Parenthood's telemedicine system, the "peculiar" fact that the Board of Medicine required an in-person meeting between a patient and doctor for abortion services, but not for other telemedicine practices, and the likelihood that denying rural women access to medical abortion would increase demand for "surgical abortion, which is much more invasive and risky." UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland reader ahawby notes several factors that could have influenced Judge Farrell's perspective on this case.

Today's decision is a victory for opponents of abortion rights, because Iowa women in small towns and rural areas will face more hurdles to obtain abortions early in pregnancy. It's also a personal triumph for Branstad's legal counsel, Brenna Findley. As Judge Farrell's ruling acknowledges, Findley was a vocal advocate of the rulemaking, urging the Board of Medicine to act quickly on the petition from pro-life activists, against the advice of the board's own legal counsel as well as the Iowa Attorney General's office.

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Three reasons Rick Perry's indictment will help him with Iowa Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:54:25 AM CDT

Being charged with a crime is rarely good news for any public figure, but it looks like Texas Governor Rick Perry will be the exception that proves the rule.

Not only will his presidential aspirations survive the criminal case launched against him last last week, the governor's prosecution will improve his standing among Iowa Republicans, for three reasons.

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Rest in peace, Jim Jeffords

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 20:50:00 PM CDT

Former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont passed away today at the age of 80. When he was first elected to Congress in 1974, New England Republicans were well represented in Washington, DC, and were more progressive than many southern Democrats in the Capitol. By the time he retired in 2006, only a few Congressional Republicans hailed from states to the north and east of New York.

Jeffords will be most remembered for becoming an independent in May 2001, shifting control of the Senate to Democrats just a few months into George W. Bush's presidency. Emily Langer notes in her Washington Post obituary that Jeffords had been out of step with his party on many occasions before then.

In 1981, while serving in the House, he was the only Republican to oppose President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts. Later, as a member of the Senate, Mr. Jeffords opposed President George H.W. Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court and publicly agonized before supporting the president on the invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

During the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, Mr. Jeffords broke with his party by backing the president's health-care plan and voting against the articles of impeachment brought against him in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Even so, leaving the GOP caucus was a difficult choice for Jeffords. You can watch his May 24, 2001 speech here or read the transcript at the Burlington Free Press website. Iowa's senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among the GOP colleagues most hurt by Jeffords' defection. Speaking to reporters on that day in 2001, Jeffords said his meeting with Republican senators had been

the most emotional time that I have ever had in my life, with my closest friends urging me not to do what I was going to do, because it affected their lives, and very substantially. I know, for instance, the chairman of the finance committee has dreamed all his life of being chairman. He is chairman about a couple of weeks, and now he will be no longer the chairman. All the way down the line, I could see the anguish and the disappointment as I talked.

So many elected officials have remained loyal to parties that no longer represent their views. It's hard to redefine one's political identity and jeopardize longtime relationships. Jeffords stands out because he took a painful step for principles he believed in.

Incidentally, Grassley focused on the policy implications of Jeffords' switch, not his personal loss of power. As it happens, he didn't have to wait long for another chance to chair the Senate Finance Committee, from January 2003 through December 2006.

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Hillary and Bill Clinton to headline the final Harkin Steak Fry

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 12:10:00 PM CDT

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will be the star guests at Senator Tom Harkin's final steak fry on September 14 at the Indianola Balloon Field. Doors open at 12:30 pm, event runs from 1-4. Traffic can be slow on the highway leading to the balloon field, so my advice is to allow extra time.

All of Iowa's Democratic candidates for federal and statewide office typically speak at the steak fry, but the big crowds will be there to see Hillary Clinton in her first Iowa appearance since the January 2008 caucuses. While she's in central Iowa, I would not be surprised to see her do an event for Staci Appel, Democratic nominee in the third Congressional district. Then State Senator Appel appeared at numerous events for for Hillary during 2007.

My opinion hasn't changed regarding Clinton and the 2016 Iowa caucuses: if she runs for president again, she wins here. Vice President Joe Biden and everyone else are far behind in every Iowa poll I've seen. Other presidential hopefuls are waiting in the wings, in case Clinton decides against running, but are in no position to challenge her for the nomination.

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New data bolster supporters of raising Iowa's gas tax

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 07:33:30 AM CDT

The average cost of owning a car is lower in Iowa than in any other state, the Cedar Rapids Gazette's B.A. Morelli reported on August 16, citing an analysis by Bankrate.com. Car insurance costs an average of $630 per year in Iowa, the lowest in the 50 states. Vehicle repairs cost Iowa drivers an average of $315 per year, also the lowest number for any state. The average cost of gasoline for Iowa drivers worked out to $998 a year, taking into account not only the price of gas but also vehicle miles traveled and fuel efficiency rates. That's "middle of the pack," Morelli noted.

Iowa's gasoline tax has not been increased since 1989, reaching a historic low in real terms. Meanwhile, Iowa road and bridge conditions continue to deteriorate. Three years ago, our state ranked third-worst in the country for structurally deficient bridges. The latest data indicate we are second-worst in that category, with more than 20 percent of the state's bridges in need of repairs or replacement.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch supports raising the gas tax, while Governor Terry Branstad has said he favors other ways to finance road and bridge work. The candidates clashed over that issue during last week's debate. Branstad has left himself some wiggle room by not pledging to veto a gas tax increase.

The current leaders of the Iowa House and Senate Transportation Committees strongly support raising the gas tax to pay for road work. Bills to increase the tax by a total of 10 cents per gallon over several years passed committees in both chambers in recent years, but advocates were unable to recruit enough bipartisan support to pass them in the full Iowa House or Senate in either of the past two legislative sessions. Iowa House Transportation Committee Chair Josh Byrnes has promised to keep working on this issue, and State Representative Brian Moore, the vice chair of that committee, said this spring that a gas tax hike is "in the works" for 2015. He has emphasized that weight limits on structurally deficient bridges are bad for businesses like the livestock transportation company he owns.

Republicans Byrnes and Moore both represent Iowa House districts that may be targeted this fall, as does Iowa Senate Transportation Committee Chair Tod Bowman, a Democrat. Prospects for raising the gas tax will depend in part on whether key advocates are re-elected in November. Regardless of which parties control the Iowa House and Senate after the midterm elections, a gas tax increase would have to be a bipartisan effort.

Democratic and Republican critics of increasing the gasoline tax have pointed out that consumption taxes tend to be regressive, hitting lower-income people harder. A gas tax hike would also disproportionately affect rural residents, who may need to travel further to work or shop. The Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has recommended reforms to address those concerns. I've posted the short summary after the jump; you can read more in depth on their ideas for "building a better gas tax" here. I would add that any increase to Iowa's gas tax should be accompanied by "fix-it first" language, so that new road construction doesn't swallow the most of the revenue that should be earmarked for repairs. Fixing roads and bridges gives taxpayers more bang for their buck and creates more jobs than building new roads or putting new lanes on existing roads, which (while sometimes needed) increase future maintenance costs.

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Weekend open thread: Matt Schultz comeback attempt edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 09:29:10 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Lots of politicians have come back after one or more electoral setbacks. Tom Harkin lost his first campaign for U.S. House in southwest Iowa. Bill Clinton lost his first re-election bid as Arkansas governor. But it's rare for a politician to win a general election after losing a party primary for a different office in the same year. Two high-profile Iowa Republicans are now attempting this feat in 2014. Sam Clovis, who finished second in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, shifted gears to run for state treasurer.

This past week, Madison County Republicans nominated Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to run for county attorney. Schultz finished third in the GOP primary to represent Iowa's third Congressional district after choosing not to seek re-election to his current position. (He also finished third in Madison County, behind David Young and Brad Zaun.) The Vote Matt Schultz website now focuses on his plan to fight crime in Madison County. I've posted text from the "issues" page after the jump. In keeping with his relentless hyping of voter fraud as a major crime problem (in the absence of evidence), Schultz is now stoking fears that suburban sprawl will allow "more big-city crime" to "spill over" into nearby areas.

Schultz lived in Council Bluffs, where he served on the city council, before relocating to the Des Moines area after winning the 2010 secretary of state election. Dar Danielson reported for Radio Iowa on August 15,

Schultz moved to Truro a year-and-a-half ago and was asked about those who say he hasn't lived in the area long enough to represent the people there. "This is a situation where it's not about money, and I could have made a lot more money working at a law firm in Des Moines, I've got a lot of legal experience and professional experience," Schultz says. "I have a passion for public service and I really care about the community I live in. I love Madison County, it is like heaven for us."

According to the Winterset Madisonian, the county attorney position is a full-time job with a salary of roughly $73,500. I would be surprised to hear that Des Moines law firms are lining up to hire an attorney who spent a relatively short time in private practice before presiding over an underwhelming term as secretary of state. But perhaps there's an untapped market for lawyers who are able to spin any courtroom defeat as a victory and have attempted to enact rules that were eventually slapped down by not one but two district court judges.

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State Representative Henry Rayhons charged with abusing his incapacitated wife

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:25:00 AM CDT

When I criticized State Representative Henry Rayhons for announcing his retirement so late in an election year, I had no idea this was coming down the pike:

Today, 78 year old Henry Rayhons of Garner, Iowa was arrested after charges were filed against him for 3rd Degree Sexual Abuse, a class C Felony. [...]

The criminal complaint states that on or about May 23, 2014, Rayhons committed sexual abuse upon the victim [Donna Rayhons] by performing a sex act upon her as a person suffering from mental defect or incapacity, after he had been told that the victim did not have the cognitive ability to give consent to any sexual activity.

You can view the complaint and affidavit here (pdf). After the jump I've posted the full text of the Iowa Department of Public Safety press release, a statement released by Henry Rayhons' attorney, and excerpts from relevant news coverage. Henry Rayhons has been released from jail after posting bail. Donna Rayhons passed away on August 8.

It appears that the prosecution's case against Rayhons will rely on testimony from Donna Rayhons' roommate at the nursing home, surveillance camera footage from the nursing home, and statements the state lawmaker made while being interviewed by a Department of Criminal Investigations agent on June 12. Judging from comments made yesterday by Rayhons' son and by his attorney, the defense will argue that Rayhons is the victim of a "witch hunt," that he loved his wife, and that the "sexual contact" he admitted to "could be anything from a hug or a kiss."

Rayhons' late retirement makes a lot more sense now. By the way, on August 14 local Republicans held a special election to nominate Terry Baxter in Iowa House district 8, the seat Rayhons will vacate. Baxter will face Democrat Nancy Huisinga in a district that strongly favors Republicans in voter registrations and presidential voting in 2012.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1200 words in story)

IA-04: A despicable comment, even by Steve King standards

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 07:26:00 AM CDT

Anyone who has followed Representative Steve King's career knows that he is prone to racially insensitive comments that minimize realities of how African-American people are often treated in this country. Specifically, he has long defended racial profiling by law enforcement. King's most recent comments on this topic made national news yesterday. As the country reacts to yet another police shooting of an unarmed black man, King has determined that we don't need to worry about racial profiling by police in Ferguson, Missouri. You can watch his whole Newsmax interview here or read the highlights here:

"This idea of no racial profiling," King said, "I've seen the video. It looks to me like you don't need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that."  

This man thinks it's a horrible infringement of liberty for a corporation to be required to provide contraception coverage, yet he is incapable of acknowledging the long and well-documented history of police officers killing black men for no reason. I don't think this was a slip of the tongue--King thinks ahead of time before making the offensive comments that end up on highlight reels.

I've posted the Iowa Democratic Party's reaction to King's "hateful rhetoric" after the jump.

UPDATE: Some progressives believe King is "crazy," while some conservatives believe the liberal media are out to make the congressman look bad. I say both groups are wrong. Speaking to the Sioux City Rotary Club more than six years ago, King admitted that "he plans everything he says, no matter how 'provocative' -- it's weighed ahead of time, never off the cuff and designed to stir discussion of key issues."

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 83 words in story)

IA-Gov: First Branstad-Hatch debate discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 16:08:26 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad and State Senator Jack Hatch are debating this afternoon at the Iowa State Fair. Iowa Public Television is live-streaming the event and will replay the debate at 7 pm tonight. Share any comments about the governor's race in this thread. I will be updating with my thoughts after the jump.

Branstad has agreed to two other debates with Hatch, but his team are refusing to allow Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to debate Hatch's running mate, Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon. It's a strange stance for a guy who is determined to make Reynolds the next governor.

UPDATE: My live-blog is after the jump. I will add more links and discussion later. If you missed the debate, you can watch at 7 pm on Iowa Public Television. They may also keep the video up on the IPTV website. SECOND UPDATE: The full debate transcript is now available here.

THIRD UPDATE: Mike Glover saw this debate as a sign Iowa "will actually have a governor's race this year." Click through to read the whole piece; I've posted excerpts below, after the liveblog.

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 2250 words in story)
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