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Say Cheese

by: Susan Staed

Sat Apr 25, 2015 at 10:24:03 AM CDT

(I've never heard of this Iowa House rule before. Supposedly clerks for other House Democrats have also been hassled recently after posting photos on social media.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

When I was a child, I hated getting my picture taken. An infamous family photo taken at an older sister's wedding is of the entire family grouped together, grinning for the professional photographer - except 10-yr-old me. I have a scowl on my face big enough to scare away the Dalai Lama. Not sure how old I was before I quit hiding when mom or dad yelled, "Family picture time!", but eventually I overcame the low self-esteem and painful shyness that dominated adolescence.

40 years later, it's more than a little ironic that one of my duties as Art's clerk is to photograph his legislative day. After winning re-election, Art decided to document the process involved in how our laws are made. This means a gazillion pictures of meetings with constituents one-on-one, pictures of group meetings, pics of sub-committees, full committees, and ultimately pictures of House debate.

Last week, after taking pictures of various representatives during floor debate on education, I returned to my seat next to Art's. The Chief Clerk came out of the Well (rather unusual during floor action, but House Leadership told her not to wait), up to my desk and told me not to take pictures of individual reps unless I had their permission - per House Rules.

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Adventures in wishful thinking

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 24, 2015 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

Longtime Republican Polk County Supervisor Robert Brownell apologized this week for calling Democratic State Senator Tony Bisignano names in an e-mail to seven Iowa House Republicans.

Such classless behavior is unbecoming an elected official, but Brownell's faulty political analysis is perhaps more shocking. In the controversial e-mail, Brownell speculated that Republicans could retake the Iowa Senate majority in 2016 if State Senator Matt McCoy decides to run for Congress.

Sorry, no.  

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Senate confirms Loretta Lynch as attorney general; Grassley and Ernst vote no

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 18:55:20 PM CDT

The U.S. Senate finally confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general today, more than five months after President Barack Obama nominated her and nearly two months after the Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded her nomination. The confirmation vote was held up in part because of a dispute over abortion-related language in a separate human trafficking bill. Senate Democrats filibustered that bill several times in March. Compromise wording that allowed both sides to claim victory led to a unanimous vote to approve the trafficking bill yesterday.

Lynch has had more than 50 senators backing her confirmation for some time, but whether her nomination could get to a final vote on the floor was another question. This morning, twenty Republicans joined the entire Democratic caucus to approve cloture on Lynch's nomination by 66 votes to 34 (roll call). As expected, Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted against the motion; they've been on record for weeks opposing the attorney general nominee. According to a report by Alexander Bolton of The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "worked quietly to round up more than 60 votes" for cloture in order to avoid "publicly validating" a rules change Democrats implemented in 2013, which allowed most presidential nominees to reach a floor vote with support from a simple majority of senators.

The Senate confirmed Lynch later today by 56 votes to 43 (roll call). The ten Republicans who supported her included four who are considered among the most vulnerable incumbents up for re-election in 2016. Grassley and Ernst voted no again. I enclose below Grassley's floor statement explaining his opposition and Ernst's official comment after the vote.

The three GOP presidential candidates now serving in the Senate--Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz--all voted against cloture on Lynch's nomination. Paul and Rubio then voted against her confirmation, while Cruz was absent for that vote.

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Disability rights advocates sound alarm about Iowa Medicaid privatization

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 09:11:14 AM CDT

Iowans who advocate for people with disabilities have deep concerns about Governor Terry Branstad's plan to privatize Medicaid, shifting most recipients into managed care. Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum, who has been caregiver to a daughter with developmental disabilities, has been warning for weeks that the reorganization of Medicaid is too hasty and needs oversight from state lawmakers. Last week she discussed potential problems in more detail, citing the Kansas experience with Medicaid privatization as a cautionary tale. After the jump I've posted the transcript from that press conference. Supporting documents are available here on how managed care has affected Kansans with disabilities.

Meanwhile, Disability Rights Iowa Executive Director Jane Hudson shared her take on the "empty promises" in Branstad's plan for Medicaid. You can read the full text of her April 20 guest column for the Des Moines Register at the newspaper's website or at Disability Rights Iowa. I've enclosed a few passages after the jump, but you should click through to read the whole piece. Nearly 20 advocacy groups for Iowans with disabilities or mental health challenges signed on to Hudson's editorial; the full list is below.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Pussytoes

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 23:56:00 PM CDT

Warmer weather and spring rains have caused woodland wildflowers to explode all over Iowa lately. This past week, I saw the first blossoms of sweet William (blue phlox), sweet cicely, and littleleaf crowfoot or buttercup.

I was fortunate to visit the Ledges State Park in Boone County recently with naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller. We saw carpet-like stands of spring beauty, bloodroot, and Dutchman's breeches. Eileen also noticed a much less showy native plant, which I had never seen (or at least not been aware of seeing) outside books.

After the jump I enclose several pictures of pussytoes in bloom. The plants are native to most of North America. They are so unobtrusive that I would have walked right past them if Eileen had not pointed them out.

As a bonus, I included a photo of bloodroot and Dutchman's breeches blooming together at the end of this post.

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Henry Rayhons acquitted on sex abuse charge

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 17:23:57 PM CDT

A Hancock County jury acquitted former State Representative Henry Rayhons today on a charge of 3rd Degree Sexual Abuse. Rayhons was accused of having sex with his incapacitated wife in an assisted living facility last May. Prosecutors had tried unsuccessfully to move the trial out of Rayhons' home county, which he had represented for eighteen years in the Iowa House.

The jury deliberated for three days before reaching a not guilty verdict. During the trial, Rayhons denied that he had sex with his wife on the date in question. He had admitted to doing so when first interviewed by a state investigator, but during the trial he said that the investigator had been yelling at him and bullied him into the admission. His DNA was found on his wife's clothing and bed sheets, but on the witness stand during the trial, Donna Rayhons' former roommate testified that she could not be sure of hearing Rayhons having sex with his wife. The the defense argued that the defendant's DNA "could have been left on his wife's things from a previous sexual encounter, before Rayhons had been told by nursing home staff his wife was no longer able to consent to sex." A nurse's exam produced no proof of sexual intercourse on the date in question.

In closing arguments, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Susan Krisko tried to keep the jury focused on the specific events of this case rather than a "philosophical debate" on "whether or not someone with Alzheimer's can have sex." But Rayhons' attorney warned jurors,

"It's an unprecedented case. The decision that you make here will be debated, discussed, followed for years," defense lawyer Joel Yunek said in his closing statement. He said a guilty verdict could make other spouses afraid to even visit a husband or wife with Alzheimer's disease, for fear of being charged as a rapist if the partner with dementia grabbed them the way Rayhons says Donna Rayhons did to him.

Under those circumstances, I'm not surprised the jury acquitted. The defense was wise to frame the case in broad terms, since the trial was getting national attention. We can only hope that Krisko was wrong about an acquittal being tantamount to declaring "open season" on vulnerable people in nursing homes.

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New Iowa Workforce Development Director cleaning up Teresa Wahlert's mess

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 22, 2015 at 09:58:14 AM CDT

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend is implementing key recommendations from the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve concerns about the previous agency director's actions. Townsend's actions provide a refreshing contrast to Teresa Wahlert's management of Iowa Workforce Development, which sparked recurring controversy and not one, not two, but three lawsuits.
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Iowa Congressional 1Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 18:21:19 PM CDT

First-quarter financial reports are up for all U.S. House candidates at the Federal Election Commission's notoriously user-unfriendly website.

The big news came from IA-01, where a newcomer to campaigning pulled in one of the biggest single-quarter hauls by a non-incumbent in Iowa history. To my knowledge, the only Iowa challenger who has raised more for a U.S. House race in one quarter than Ravi Patel just did was former First Lady Christie Vilsack in her 2012 marquee race against Representative Steve King. I believe that King is the only Iowa incumbent who has raised more than half a million dollars for a U.S. House race in one quarter; he did it twice during that re-election campaign against Vilsack in a redrawn IA-04.

Follow me after the jump for highlights on fundraising in all four Iowa districts. Bonus points if you can guess which former Iowa Congressional candidate is still carrying debt from two campaigns ago.  

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Schools paying the price for Iowa legislative dysfunction

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 14:00:00 PM CDT

Nearly a week after the deadline for school districts to certify their budgets for the coming year, Iowa lawmakers are still not close to a deal on K-12 education funding. Some 300 teachers have been laid off in anticipation of no increase or only a minimal increase in state aid.

Statehouse Republicans who are resisting the obvious compromise on school funding claim Iowa doesn't have the money Democrats want to spend on K-12 schools, let alone the amount educators asked for. Reality: money could be found for an adequate increase in state aid to schools if not for an expensive commercial property tax cut lawmakers approved two years ago, adding some $277 million in fiscal year 2016 alone to other costly tax breaks for Iowa business interests.  

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Fake Iowan for Hillary

by: sarased

Mon Apr 20, 2015 at 22:05:06 PM CDT

(Thanks for this first-person account of an Iowa campaign stop that drew international attention. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Last Tuesday morning, I woke up a lifelong Iowan, a working mom, a wife, a small business owner. By dinner, I was being portrayed by national - and international - media as a "fake" Iowan.

It has taken nearly a week for the reality of my unexpected cup of coffee with Hillary Clinton to sink in. As soon as she sat down, I realized how privileged I was to have her ear that morning. The experience, from start to now, has been surreal, to say the least.  

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Term limits would be terrible for the Iowa legislature

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 19, 2015 at 20:19:39 PM CDT

Annals of the absurd: Iowa's longest-serving state legislator, who sought a ninth Senate term last year at the age of 80, is now beating the drum for term limits.

What a terrible idea, especially for a state whose governor already takes an expansive view of his own powers.  

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Weekend open thread: Tamara Scott ignorance edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 19, 2015 at 13:22:22 PM CDT

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

I just caught up on some recent remarks by Iowa's Republican National Committeewoman Tamara Scott. In addition to representing Iowa on the RNC, Scott lobbies the state legislature on behalf of Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization and leads the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America, an influential group on the religious right. She was speaking at the FAMiLY Leader's southeast regional summit on April 9, an event four potential GOP presidential candidates attended. Scott used the Wiccan invocation that stirred controversy in the Iowa House to make a case for more public expressions of Christianity, including teaching the country's dominant religion in public schools. (Scott has frequently advocated school prayer and alleged that various societal problems stem from removing Christian prayers from public schools during the 1970s.) Miranda Blue covered the FAMiLY Leader regional summit speech for Right Wing Watch; some excerpts are after the jump. For video of all speeches from the regional summit, click here.

I am continually struck by how clueless social conservatives are about the separation of church and state. Though Scott does not acknowledge this legal reality, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from promoting any specific religious viewpoint. Every time a prominent Republican demands more government expressions and endorsements of Christianity, they are driving away Jews and probably members of other minority religious groups too, not to mention the growing number of Americans who do not identify with any religion.

In a fantastic column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Lynda Waddington offers her own Christian perspective on Scott's prayer for a storm to disrupt the Wiccan invocation. I've enclosed excerpts below, but you should click through to read the whole piece. All I can say is, that Cabot witch sure demonstrated some amazing powers.

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Dowling Catholic High School considering request for gay-straight alliance

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Apr 18, 2015 at 14:58:17 PM CDT

Administrators at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines are considering students' request to form "a non-religious LGBT support club." The school made national news recently for withdrawing a contract offered to a teacher after administrators learned he was openly gay. After at least 150 students walked out of class to protest the hiring decision, a junior at the school who is gay started a petition seeking to form a club where all students "can feel supported and loved." Initially school officials said they would discuss the request, and at this writing, they have not announced a decision. Gay-straight alliances exist in scores of Iowa public high schools, but to my knowledge, the only Catholic school in the state with such a club is Regina High School in Iowa City.

After the jump I've posted excerpts from Liam Jameson's petition at Change.org and the full text of an e-mail Dowling Catholic President Jerry Deegan sent to parents on April 16. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

On a related note, although I could not be more strongly pro-choice, I believe students at Hampton-Dumont High School in Franklin County, Iowa should be allowed to form a "Students for Life" club, as long as staff don't promote the club and students are not required to attend.

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The Phony Estate Tax Farm Confiscation Ploy

by: daveswen

Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 18:24:11 PM CDT

(Thanks for this post on an important and timely issue. Iowa's three Republicans in the U.S. House all voted for the estate tax repeal that passed today; Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack voted against it. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Dave Swenson

Senator John Thune, from my home state of South Dakota, has a degree in business and an MBA.  He knows little of tax math, incidence, or outcomes from what I can tell. Like many mouthpieces on many topics, he doesn't let facts get in the way of a heartfelt story, though.  And the best story the GOP has spun over the last decade or so is the tale of woe and intrigue associated with the dreaded federal estate tax, which they've disingenuously rebranded as the "death tax."

Thune co-sponsored the just-passed House bill to eliminate the federal estate tax and at that time said:

For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one's life savings that has been built from income already taxed when originally earned. Currently more than 70 percent of family businesses do not survive to the second generation, and 90 percent of family businesses do not survive to the third generation.

Without citing one example, Thune intimated that the federal estate tax was destroying or would destroy businesses and was terrorizing grieving survivors.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Dutchman's breeches

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 23:50:00 PM CDT

After a somewhat late start, many spring wildflowers are blooming now in central Iowa. If you walk in a wooded area over the next few days, you may see Virginia bluebells, spring beauty, toothwort, rue anemone, Dogtooth violets (also called trout lilies), or today's featured native plant, Dutchman's breeches. Thanks to the distinctive shape of the flowers, Dutchman's breeches are among the easiest spring wildflowers to identify.

The arrival of spring also heralds the return of Harlan Ratcliff's Central Iowa Butterfly Forecast, updated every two weeks at the Poweshiek Skipper site.

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

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Grassley, Ernst vote for Medicare reimbursement deal

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 19:30:00 PM CDT

Changes to entitlement programs rarely attract strong bipartisan support, but on Tuesday the U.S. Senate approved a bill to change how Medicare sets reimbursement rates for doctors by 92 votes to 8 (roll call). All of the no votes came from Republicans, but Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the bill. Follow me after the jump for background and details.
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Tom Vilsack future plans speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 13:10:00 PM CDT

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack plans to move back to Iowa after President Barack Obama's term ends, according to Radio Iowa's summary of his remarks on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program. Vilsack has served in Obama's cabinet from the beginning and said he's not interested in continuing to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture if Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2016. He wants to move back to Iowa and might teach at a university, but he doesn't want to become the University of Iowa's next president. O.Kay Henderson reports that Vilsack is open to running for office again someday.

"You know, you never want to say never," Vilsack said. After disappointing losses in 2014, the Iowa Democratic Party is in the midst of a rebuilding process and Vilsack seems personally committed to the effort. "It's going to require a lot of work and it's going to require all hands on deck," Vilsack says. "And it's going to require making sure that we are competitive and getting the message out and working in all 99 counties."

How many Iowa Democrats would like to travel back in time two years and talk Vilsack into running for Tom Harkin's Senate seat? There's no doubt in my mind that even in a Republican landslide year, Vilsack could have beaten Joni Ernst. If he agreed to take her on in 2020 (a potentially tougher race because Ernst will be the incumbent), Vilsack would be nearly 70 years old.

Governor Terry Branstad came back to his old job after twelve years--would Vilsack run for governor in 2018? He would be well positioned beat Kim Reynolds or Bill Northey (who appear to be the two most likely GOP nominees), but I don't see Vilsack going back to that job.

If Representative David Young wins re-election to Iowa's third Congressional district in 2016, some Democrats would probaby try to recruit Vilsack to run against him in 2018. But a U.S. House seat in the minority caucus probably wouldn't sound appealing. My best guess is that Iowans will not see Tom Vilsack's name on a ballot again. What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Excessive demands for personal attention hurt the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 08:41:47 AM CDT

Hillary Clinton embarked on a road trip to Iowa immediately after making her campaign official on Sunday. She has several small-scale events scheduled for today and tomorrow in Monticello (Jones County) and Norwalk (Warren County), a sign she is committed to winning over Iowa caucus-goers.

Most politically engaged Iowans look forward to seeing presidential candidates in person during caucus season. We like to hear first-hand where the contenders stand on issues that matter to us. As a group, we are generally willing to give all contenders serious consideration before making up our minds.

Unfortunately, some Democratic activists seem to think that candidates prove their worth in Iowa by fawning over local VIPs. That mentality hurts the Iowa caucuses, especially when pooh-bahs broadcast their sense of entitlement to national reporters covering the campaign.

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Four reasons Marco Rubio is making a big mistake

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 16:44:23 PM CDT

First-term Senator Marco Rubio will announce later today that he is seeking the Republican nomination for president rather than running for re-election to the U.S. Senate from Florida.

Even without hearing his stump speech, I have a feeling he will live to regret that choice.

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Still not convinced Martin O'Malley is running for president

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 12, 2015 at 22:49:00 PM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign for quite a while. These past few days, he continued to walk and talk just like a presidential candidate would in Iowa. On Thursday, he spoke at Simpson College and headlined a fundraiser for State Representative Scott Ourth before speaking to a good crowd in a heavily Democratic Des Moines neighborhood. The next day, he taped an episode of "Iowa Press" on Iowa Public Television (video and full transcript here; excerpts after the jump). O'Malley wrapped up Friday with a well-received speech at the Polk County Democrats' spring event (click through for video or audio). The stump speech blended a summary of his accomplishments as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor with a vision for the future. For laughs and applause, he threw in some good jabs at tea party Republicans. Before and after the speech, O'Malley worked the room of activists. His staff had put down placemats and postcards for people to take home.

Yet I still can't shake the feeling that O'Malley will not follow through with running for president.  

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