Todd Prichard officially exploring run for governor

Saying Iowa needs “new vision,” “fresh leadership,” and ” better than what we have seen during this legislative session,” State Representative Todd Prichard announced today that he is “considering” a gubernatorial campaign. The rollout leaves little doubt that Prichard will eventually join the Democratic field. His campaign website now features a Todd Prichard for Governor campaign logo. His “leadership team” includes heavyweights like Marcia Nichols, former political director of AFSCME Council 61; Brad Anderson, who ran Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Iowa; former Iowa Democratic Party state chair Sue Dvorsky; and State Senator Bob Dvorsky.

I enclose below Prichard’s news release and background on the candidate from his website. Last month Prichard discussed his life experiences and values at a Democratic gathering in Des Moines; you can read or listen to that speech here. Prichard talked more about his work and thoughts about a 2018 Democratic campaign message with Iowa Starting Line. Prichard has a political page on Facebook and is on Twitter @RepPrichard.

Two other Democrats launched gubernatorial campaigns earlier this year: Rich Leopold and Jon Neiderbach. (Neiderbach spoke to the Northwest Des Moines Democrats group on March 21, and Bleeding Heartland will soon post excerpts from his stump speech.) Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire is widely expected to announce a gubernatorial campaign in the coming months.

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Branstad's office withholds invitation list for collective bargaining bill signing

Governor Terry Branstad’s staff have rebuffed repeated efforts to obtain a list of those invited to watch the governor sign sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law last month.

Going against longtime standard practice for high-profile legislation, Branstad excluded reporters from attending what staff called a “private” event. Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, later posted a picture of himself shaking the governor’s hand at the bill signing. The large number of pens on the governor’s desk suggest that many others celebrated the historic move to take rights away from an estimated 180,000 public workers.

Jodie Butler was determined to find out who else was in that room.

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Fixed it for ya: An update and correction to Bobby Kaufmann's newsletter about Iowa's voter ID bill

Local activist Lauren Whitehead wasn’t fooled by an Iowa House Republican’s spin on House File 516, the voter suppression bill. See also John Deeth’s take on Kaufmann’s “worse than cynical” newsletter. -promoted by desmoinesdem

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann has made it clear that he is swamped with emails and other duties, so in the interest of participatory government, I’ve taken it upon myself to help him by correcting a few errors that appeared in his recent Your Capitol Voice newsletter, which focuses on the voter ID bill that is making its way through the Iowa legislature, because integrity is very important to him.

Please see below for the corrected version, and the text of the original at the bottom.

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Expect more downward revisions in Iowa revenue estimates

Jon Muller examines factors contributing to Iowa’s budget crunch. What do you want first: the bad news or the “quite disturbing” news? -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) reduced its FY 2017 estimate for General Fund Revenues by $106 million. That’s on top of the $96 million downward revision in December 2016. Since the original estimate used for FY 2017 appropriations (December 2015), cumulative downward revisions total $243 million on a $7.3 billion budget.

This has led to all the gnashing of teeth that comes every time revenues begin to slow. The REC has never been particularly prescient when it comes to predicting the turn in receipts, either on the way down or the way up. I have some insight into this phenomenon because I used to be a revenue estimator for the Iowa General Assembly, and wasn’t any better than they are now. Indeed, economic models in general are not very good at predicting turns in the business cycle until after they happen. They are very good at generating consensus forecasts that tend to magically predict the next year will look a lot like the current year, at least during stable periods.

What’s new this time around is, according to policy makers expressing concern about the downgrade, is the reduction in revenues during what is considered a reasonably healthy economy. In my view, the stress on the General Fund is actually due to two primary factors. The economy is perhaps not quite as robust as consensus opinion suggests. Secondly, it appears the cost of House File 2433 passed during the 2016 legislative session, a bill providing a sales tax exemption for items consumed in manufacturing processes, was dramatically understated.

I suspect those looking to blame the sluggishness on a downturn in the farm sector will be disappointed as farm income growth begins to turn positive. Those who believed hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts and credits would spur state revenue growth should be equally disappointed. It’s just not happening.

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Rod Blum comes out against Republican health care plan Updated: So does David Young

A little more than two weeks after House Republicans released their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) announced on Twitter that he will not support the American Health Care Act. According to Blum, the bill “doesn’t do enough to lower premiums for hardworking Americans. I’m a ‘no’ on current version – need to drive down actual costs!” Speaking to The Hill the same day, he added, “We need real competition driving prices down. We don’t need the government telling us what should be in an insurance policy. The government has a role to play. We need to help people who need the help.” Blum had previously said directly and through staff that he was studying the bill.

Like all other House Republicans, Blum has voted multiple times for “Obamacare” repeal bills that would have done nothing “to lower premiums for hardworking Americans,” let alone “drive down actual costs.” However, the stakes are higher now that a GOP-controlled Senate and Republican president might enact new health care legislation. I don’t know what kind of plan Blum is envisioning, but there is no magic wand Congress can wave to “help people who need the help” without the government setting minimum standards for health coverage and regulating the market in other ways.

Blum belongs to the House Freedom Caucus. Although that group has not taken an official stand against the AHCA, some of its prominent members are on various “whip counts” of Republicans opposing the bill. Since no Democrats are backing a plan that would leave millions uninsured and drive up costs for millions more, House leaders can’t spare more than 21 GOP members in any floor vote on their health care bill. Some Congress-watchers have already counted more defectors than that.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among the first House Republicans to come out against the AHCA. He supports “rip it out by the roots” repeal of “Obamacare” instead. I doubt the amendments unveiled this week to satisfy House conservatives will change his mind. UPDATE: A staffer told the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble on March 22 that King is “undecided–leaning no” on the bill. SECOND UPDATE: White House spokesperson Sean Spicer announced that King will support the bill. Seeking confirmation. A member of the House whip team told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that King “went from no to yes in the WH [White House] today after assurances about Senate tweaks.” UPDATE: King released a video statement explaining his decision to support the AHCA. He’s still committed to repealing Obamacare. He hopes Republicans will strip “essential health benefits” out of the bill, paving the way for other measures he wants, like health savings accounts and selling insurance across state lines. He said he told President Donald Trump in a White House meeting today that he worked very hard for total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but that legislation won’t be brought up this year, because leaders don’t think they can get the votes. He said he had a “firm commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a manger’s amendment to strip out “mandates” and “essential health benefits” from the House bill. King views this bill as the “best chance” for the “closest thing” to total repeal of Obamacare in the current political environment. He later tweeted that he and Trump had negotiated “the best possible improvement on ObamaCare Repeal.”

Representative David Young (IA-03) has repeatedly said he is studying the bill and the Congressional Budget Office analysis of its impact. Young’s staff have told constituents this week that he is still undecided. I consider him likely to vote yes if the bill comes to the floor–which may never happen, if leaders conclude they don’t have the votes. For what it’s worth, The Hill’s whip count put Young in the “leaning/likely no” camp because he said on March 15, “I want to make sure it is something that works in the end for all Americans, and that it would pass if it gets over to the Senate.” Several GOP senators have said the AHCA will not pass the upper chamber. UPDATE: Young announced in a March 22 statement, “While the American Health Care Act, legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, is a very good start, it does not yet get it right and therefore I cannot support it in its’ [sic] present form.” I’ve added his whole press release below.

Neither of Iowa’s U.S. senators have clarified how they would vote on the Republican bill. Senator Chuck Grassley has made conflicting statements, telling House members the bill must be changed so that insurance premiums don’t skyrocket for older people not yet eligible for Medicare. On the other hand, Grassley has said Republicans can’t afford to miss what could be their only opportunity to keep six years of promises. Senator Joni Ernst said at town-hall meetings in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines on March 17 that she is studying the AHCA’s potential impact on Iowans and insurance premiums. I hate to break it to her: no alternative plan will magically make cheap insurance widely available while maintaining guaranteed coverage for people for pre-existing conditions and letting children stay on their parents insurance through age 26.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the Iowa Hospital Association estimates between 200,000 and 250,000 Iowans would lose their insurance coverage under the Republican plan. More on that story below.

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School choice isn't really a choice

Tanya Keith does the math: tax credits to support “school choice” would mainly help families who can afford to send their kids to private school anyway. -promoted by desmoinesdem

When I hear people talking about “school choice,” I wonder if they really know what’s involved in choosing a school that’s not your neighborhood public school. We knew we wanted our oldest of three kids to attend the Downtown School, an open enrollment school within Des Moines Public Schools, and we put her on the list before she was born. I was thrilled to learn that she made the list in Kindergarten, but I was naïve to the effort it would take to complete her education there.

We are raising the only grandchildren in a family where both grandmothers are experts in early childhood education, so I was willing to go the extra mile for a top quality education for my children. What I didn’t realize is I would be going the extra 12.2 miles, every day, all school year long. Our first five years, we drove 6.1 miles each way to get our child to school. Let’s do a little math with that:

12.2 miles x $.54 (the IRS mileage allowance for 2016) x 174 school days = $1,146.31

That’s one child at one school, but that’s not the end of the expense.

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