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No casino for Cedar Rapids

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 11:36:00 AM CDT

The State Racing and Gaming Commission voted 4-1 this morning against allowing a new casino to be built in downtown Cedar Rapids. Last year Linn County voters approved a casino referendum by a 20-point margin. Even some opponents of the project believed its construction was inevitable, given the political connections of the group hoping to build in Cedar Rapids. However, today's vote is in line with the precedent of approving gambling licenses only where new casinos would not "cannibalize" from existing ones in Iowa. Four years ago, the Racing and Gaming Commission rejected applications for casino projects in Fort Dodge, Ottumwa and Tama County, despite public approval of all three plans. Multiple studies indicated that the Cedar Rapids casino would draw much of its business from Iowans who now visit casinos in Riverside or Waterloo.

I will update this post as needed with political reaction to today's vote. Although many Bleeding Heartland readers will be disappointed, I agree with economists who have argued that the "interior casinos" not near Iowa borders do not promote economic development. Meanwhile, new casinos incur significant social costs.

Already I've seen several Cedar Rapids residents asking whether the CEO of the Riverside casino will build the waterpark he promised last year, if Linn County voters rejected the casino project. Don't hold your breath.

UPDATE: In his report for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Rick Smith noted that Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett "served in the legislature with three of the five members of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission." Former Iowa House Republican and Iowa Senate Republican Jeff Lamberti both voted no this morning. Dolores Mertz, who used to be the most conservative Iowa House Democrat, was the only commissioner to vote yes.

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IA-02: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 10:25:00 AM CDT

Three candidates qualified for the Republican primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district, but the latest fundraising reports suggest that Mariannette Miller-Meeks will get a third chance at beating Representative Dave Loebsack.

Follow me after the jump for details on the first-quarter reports each candidate in IA-02 filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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Mid-week open thread: Who could have imagined?

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 19:45:00 PM CDT

Here's your mid-week open thread, Bleeding Heartland readers: all topics welcome.

I have been thinking about the latest Iowa Supreme Court decision a lot today. A year ago, I would have sworn that as long as Terry Branstad remains governor, there's nothing anyone can do for the thousands of ex-felons permanently disenfranchised in this state. Branstad couldn't wait to sign that executive order as soon as he was back in office. Under the convoluted procedure he created, only a small fraction of 1 percent of those who have completed their prison terms have managed to regain their voting rights.

The day State Senator Jack Hatch declared his candidacy for governor, I could never have imagined the unlikely chain of events that followed. First, arch-rivals Tony Bisignano and Ned Chiodo set their sights on Hatch's Iowa Senate seat. Then, Bisignano was caught driving drunk again. Then, Chiodo not only challenged Bisignano's right to seek office but continued to pursue his case in court after losing before a panel of top state officials. (In contrast, the voter who challenged State Senator Joe Seng's registration as a candidate in IA-02 two years ago dropped his effort after the same panel determined Seng had qualified for the primary ballot.)

Then, Chiodo refused to take the Polk County District Court's no for an answer. Still I had no clue where all this was going--until yesterday, when three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices determined that not all felonies should be considered "infamous crimes," which justify stripping Iowans of their rights as electors. Very soon, one or more non-violent felons are likely to file suit, demanding that their rights be restored. Depending on where Justice Brent Appel comes down on the issue (he recused himself from the Chiodo/Bisignano case), the Iowa Supreme Court may eventually declare unconstitutional the 1994 law defining "infamous crimes" as felonies.

We don't know whether a majority on the court will take this stance. As Ryan Koopmans points out, the Chiodo ruling came out incredibly quickly. One or more of the justices may change his mind after reflecting on the issues for a while. Still, the potential for a major advance in Iowa voting rights is mind-blowing.  

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IA-03: First-quarter fundraising news roundup (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 17:24:28 PM CDT

Yesterday was the deadline for Congressional candidates to file quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission. Because so many candidates are running for Congress this year in Iowa, I'm breaking up these posts by district rather than doing a statewide roundup.

After the jump I've enclosed highlights from the first-quarter fundraising and spending reports of Democratic candidate Staci Appel and the six Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the third district. Spoiler alert: one of the GOP candidates is still carrying debt from a previous campaign.

I also added details below on what retiring ten-term Representative Tom Latham is doing with his substantial war chest.

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IA-04: Jim Mowrer out-raises Steve King for third straight quarter

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 07:55:09 AM CDT

If this has ever happened before in an Iowa Congressional race, I'm not aware of the precedent: Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer has raised more money than incumbent Representative Steve King for the third straight quarter in Iowa's fourth district. Not only that, during the first three months of 2014, Mowrer's fundraising eclipsed King's by even more than we saw during the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

Details from the reports both candidates filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission are after the jump.

UPDATE: The Iowa .Gif-t Shop weighs in. I really did laugh out loud.

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Divided Iowa Supreme Court rules Tony Bisignano can run in Iowa Senate district 17 (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 18:22:20 PM CDT

A three-way Democratic primary is assured in Iowa Senate district 17, as the Iowa Supreme Court announced this afternoon that it has affirmed a district court ruling on Tony Bisignano's eligibility to run for office. Rival candidate Ned Chiodo filed a lawsuit last month, saying Bisignano's recent aggravated misdemeanor conviction for second-offense OWI should be considered an "infamous crime." The Iowa Constitution disqualifies citizens convicted of "infamous crimes" from exercising the privileges of "electors."

Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote the plurality opinion, joined by Justices Daryl Hecht and Bruce Zager. Overturning Iowa Supreme Court precedents set in 1916 and 1957, the court ruled that "infamous crimes" cannot be interpreted to mean any crime punishable by a prison sentence, including aggravated misdemeanors. On the other hand, the court did not simply accept the 1994 law defining "infamous crimes" as felonies. Citing historical references including an 1839 Iowa territorial statute, the plurality argues that not all felonies are "infamous," and that the words had different meanings at the time the Iowa Constitution was adopted in the 1850s. It did not go on to define which felonies should be considered infamous crimes in the present context.

Justice Edward Mansfield wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Thomas Waterman. The concurrence agrees that Bisignano retains his rights as an elector, because aggravated misdemeanors cannot be considered "infamous crimes." However, Mansfield would have accepted the bright-line definition from the 1994 state law, equating felonies with "infamous crimes." He warned that the plurality opinion would serve as a "welcome mat" for future litigation from felons claiming that they should be entitled to vote, because their convictions were not for "infamous crimes." On balance, I agree most with Mansfield's opinion.

Justice David Wiggins dissented, arguing that the court should not have rewritten "nearly one hundred years of caselaw." He would have found Bisignano ineligible to run for office under the longstanding precedent that "infamous crime" means any crime punishable by a prison sentence. Wiggins' dissenting opinion does not accept the 1994 law which defined "infamous crimes" as felonies, because interpreting the state Constitution is a job for the Iowa Supreme Court, not the state legislature.

Justice Brent Appel recused himself from this case.

The Iowa Supreme Court did not rule on Chiodo's separate claim that Attorney General Tom Miller should have recused himself from the panel that allowed Bisignano to remain on the ballot. Chiodo argued that Miller had a conflict of interest, because one of his employees, Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake, is also seeking the Democratic nomination in Senate district 17.

You can read the Iowa Supreme Court's three opinions in this case here (pdf). After the jump I've enclosed summaries and excerpts from each opinion. I also included a statement from Bisignano hailing the ruling and announcing several more labor union endorsements.

One thing's for sure: today's ruling won't be the last attempt by the Iowa Supreme Court to clarify the definition of "infamous crimes."

UPDATE: Added Nathan Blake's comment below. SECOND UPDATE: Added more thoughts about the implications of this case.

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Cautionary note for early Iowa voters

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 10:07:06 AM CDT

A growing proportion of Iowans have chosen to vote early during the last few election cycles. During the 2012 presidential election, 43.2 percent of Iowans who participated cast early ballots. In yesterday's Des Moines Register, Jason Noble highlighted a problem that has and will continue to nullify the votes of some of them: missing postmarks on ballots that arrive after the general election. Post offices do not always postmark envelopes without a stamp. That's not a problem when county auditors receive mailed absentee ballots before election day, but current Iowa rules instruct auditors to throw out ballots that arrive late, unless a postmark proves they were mailed on or before the day before the election.

Iowa lawmakers discussed several ideas for addressing the problem, but lack of consensus led them to drop the issue this year. After the jump I've posted an excerpt from Noble's piece.

As things stand, Iowans who plan to vote early either in the 2014 primary or general elections can do a few things to make sure their votes count:

1. Mail in your absentee ballot well before election day, to ensure that it arrives on time.

2. Hand-deliver your absentee ballot to your county auditor's office.

3. Place a stamp on your absentee ballot envelope, so that the post office will have to put a postmark on it.

4. Vote early in person, either at the county auditor's office or (for the general election) at a satellite location. I prefer this option, because I know for sure that my ballot got to the right place on time. If you take this route, I recommend reviewing a sample ballot online first, so that you have time to research ballot initiatives and candidates for more obscure offices.  

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Des Moines metro residents among country's most satisfied

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 07:39:31 AM CDT

Via Julie Zeveloff at Business Insider, I see that the Des Moines/West Des Moines metro area ranked eighth on Gallup's latest survey measuring how satisfied Americans are with their city of residence. The latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is based on 531,630 interviews the polling firm conducted in 189 metropolitan areas throughout 2012-2013. Data collected are based on at least 300 respondents from each metro area. Click through for the full chart. About 92.2 percent of respondents in the Des Moines metro area said they were satisfied with where they live, not far off the highest satisfaction reported, 94.9 percent in the Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado area.

The Omaha/Council Bluffs metro fell just outside the top ten, with a 91.6 resident satisfaction rate, according to Gallup. The Quad Cities area ranked 75th out of the 189 metros; 86.6 percent of adults surveyed were satisfied to live in the area. Cedar Rapids was a lot lower in the rankings (112th) but not much different in terms of satisfaction: 84.4 percent.

Judging from Gallup's data, Americans are surprisingly content with their cities of residence. Even at the bottom of the table in Rockford, Illinois, more than 72 percent of respondents said they were satisfied. I would guess this data point reflects the relatively low barriers to moving in the United States, compared to some other countries. Many of those who hate where they live are able to pull up roots and try somewhere else, depending on their priorities (job prospects, cost of living, family nearby, mild weather, proximity to mountains or ocean, good schools or other amenities).

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Another look at the uncontested Iowa House districts

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 11:35:00 AM CDT

Over at the Smart Politics blog based at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Eric Ostermeier takes a look at the uncontested Iowa House districts today. He leads with this surprising fact: "Iowa Republicans failed to field candidates in a party record 32 State House districts this cycle." I recommend clicking through to read his whole post, which explores historical trends in Iowa House candidate recruitment for both parties.

Bleeding Heartland previously commented on the uncontested Iowa House races here. After the jump I've posted my thoughts on Ostermeier's analysis.

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At least 12 Iowans disenfranchised in 2012 presidential election

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 09:50:00 AM CDT

Secretary of State Matt Schultz's crusade to stop voter fraud in Iowa has uncovered a couple dozen allegedly ineligible voters who registered (not all of whom voted). The only person prosecuted for fraud was acquitted in less than an hour. I would bet that several people who pleaded guilty to lesser charges to avoid the risk of a trial would have been acquitted as well, since no evidence suggests they knew they weren't entitled to vote.

Meanwhile, via John Deeth I see that Schultz has now admitted that twelve Iowans had their ballots improperly thrown out during the 2012 presidential election, because their names wrongly appeared on lists of ineligible felons. I'm surprised the number isn't substantially higher than twelve, since we already knew that three voters in Cerro Gordo County alone were deprived of their constitutional rights. UPDATE: No one will ever know how many more Iowans did not attempt to register or cast a ballot because of confusion over their eligibility.

Schultz is creating a task force to resolve inaccuracies in the I-Voters felons file and has ordered county auditors "to work with local law enforcement, county attorneys and county clerks of court to make sure the felon status information is accurate" before special precinct boards decide whether to count provisional ballots cast by voters who appeared on the felon's list. I'm so naive that I assumed local officials were already conducting those checks before throwing out people's votes.

Schultz was not ashamed by a jury's rapid-fire acquittal of a southeast Iowa woman, saying she won't be able to "cancel out the vote of anyone in the future." At the very least, he owes a public and abject apology to the Iowans whose votes were tossed because of a flawed procedure for screening out felons. He may also end up having to return federal funds used for his criminal investigations--or maybe his successor will be left to clean up that mess. Schultz opted to run for Congress in Iowa's third district rather than seek a second term as secretary of state.

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Weekend open thread: Church and state edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 13, 2014 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

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

The non-profit advocacy group Secularity USA brought world-famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to Des Moines on Saturday. I couldn't make it to the event; if you were there, please share your impressions. The mission of Secularity USA is to raise public awareness "of the dangers of religious bias in government and promoting the traditional separation of church and state." While Dawkins is a well-known atheist, Secularity USA seeks to unite "religious and nonreligious supporters of church-state separation."

Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation this week inviting "all Iowans who choose to join in thoughtful prayer and humble repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14 in favor of our state and nation to come together on July 14, 2014." I wouldn't go so far as one blogger, who declared that Branstad "signed away separation of church and state," but it does seem inappropriate for the governor to lend his support to such a specific religious movement. The "Prayer 7-14-14" group, which is calling for the national day of prayer, sounds pretty far out there. Endorsing this project is different from routine appearances by governors at prayer breakfasts, or the prayers that typically open daily sessions in the Iowa House and Senate.

I wonder whether the governor's staff sensed that he crossed a line, because I didn't see any announcement of this event on the governor's official news feed. Normally that feed highlights several proclamation signings each week. It mentioned more than half a dozen other documents Branstad signed this past week--including, ironically, a proclamation for Muslim Recognition Day. Perhaps Branstad viewed inviting Iowans to pray on July 14 as nothing more than empty pandering to the FAMiLY Leader contingent, which is promoting the national prayer day. The governor hasn't elevated social conservative goals in most of his public speeches or in his legislative agenda.

Former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan headlined an Iowa GOP fundraiser in Cedar Rapids last night. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. As usual for Ryan, he said little about social conservative priorities, focusing instead on federal budget and tax issues, Obamacare, and the need for Republican unity. But he did nod to his religious heritage by urging his audience to give up "infighting," "tunnel vision," and "acrimony" for Lent.

Last month I never managed to post a thread on one of this year's biggest news stories related to church-state separation: the U.S. Supreme Court considering what has become known as the Hobby Lobby case. After the jump I've posted six links on the oral arguments in that case, which will determine whether two corporations are entitled to a religious exemption from the 2010 health care reform law's contraception mandate.  

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Kathleen Sebelius legacy discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 09:33:29 AM CDT

U.S. Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down, news broke last night. Hours earlier, Sebelius told members of Congress that an estimated 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health insurance through the state and federal exchanges created under 2010 health care reform law. A statement from the HHS department hailed her "work on Head Start, to expanding mental health coverage, to advancing cutting-edge health care research and, of course, her unwavering leadership in implementing the Affordable Care Act."

Naturally, instant commentaries on Sebelius' departure have highlighted the disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. I thought she should have resigned last fall. Even though the technical failure wasn't entirely her fault, someone should have been held accountable. Igor Volsky took a more generous view, praising Sebelius' work with Republican governors on alternatives to Medicaid expansion. She also convinced some of them, including Iowa's Terry Branstad, to "form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces."

All in all, I think Sebelius could have done the country more good by staying in Kansas. As governor, she could have continued to block new coal-fired power plants and veto lunatic bills coming out of the state legislature. Plenty of people could have done at least as well, if not a better job, running HHS and implementing the Affordable Care Act.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

President Barack Obama will appoint Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius. Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein reported, "Although Burwell does not have an extensive background in health-care policy, she is known for her strong management skills and has experience in issues of poverty and global health issues from her time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Moreover, she is popular on Capitol Hill. The Senate confirmed her as OMB director 96 to 0 almost exactly a year ago." Some Republicans are already praising her, and in any event, the 60-vote threshold for confirming presidential appointees no longer applies in the Senate.

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End of two eras: Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman on CBS Late Show

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 21:10:00 PM CDT

It's been nearly twenty years since I watched David Letterman regularly, so I didn't take much notice when he announced recently that he will retire sometime in 2015. Today's news hits home, though: Stephen Colbert will end his run at Comedy Central to replace Letterman on the CBS Late Show next year.

The Colbert Report is the late-night program I've watched most often during the past several years, even more than The Daily Show. I am concerned about how Colbert will make the transition from performing as a right-wing caricature to playing it straight on a major broadcast network. Still, I can't blame him for wanting to make a change after what will be a full decade at The Colbert Report. Supposedly he plans to bring his whole writing team with him to CBS, so that's promising.

Any comments about Letterman or Colbert are welcome in this thread. The word "legendary" is overused, but Colbert's performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner was one of the greatest comic routines I've ever seen. You can find the video on various YouTube pages and read the full transcript here.

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Branstad, key Iowa House Republicans more open to medical cannabis

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 11:23:06 AM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad has opposed efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use in Iowa, but on Monday he he signaled that he is open to taking a small step forward this year.

[I]t looks like we could end up with something that's very limited in focus, like as passed recently in Utah and Alabama," Branstad said. "I'm certainly working with legislators to see if there's a possibility to work something out on that before the legislature adjourns."

The new Utah law allows extract in oil form, but not smoking marijuana to treat a medical condition. Along the same lines, James Q. Lynch reported stunning news: Iowa House Public Safety Committee Chair Clel Baudler is open to legalizing the use of medical cannabis, in oil form. After meeting with parents whose children suffer from seizure disorders, Baudler said, "These little kids are taking some drugs that are really hot [...] So if we educate ourselves and possibly we can give them some relief, that's a good thing."

Last summer, Baudler bragged that he would wear as a "badge of honor" his designation as one of the country's ten worst state legislators, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

He and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen indicated that to have any chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, a bill to legalize the use of cannabis would have to exclude marijuana that can be smoked. That will disappoint Iowans suffering from cancer, severe pain, or debilitating chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis. Smoking marijuana can ease nausea and other symptoms in such patients. Speaking to Lynch, Baudler said people who want to use cannabis to treat conditions other than seizure disorders should "Move to Colorado."

Even limited progress on this issue is welcome, but I hope Iowa lawmakers will move forward with a broader study of medical cannabis programs.

UPDATE: Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal is willing to help "move a limited bill on medical cannabis oil forward." Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix is non-committal for now.  

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Don't RAPE REAP

by: Supervisor Brent Oleson

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 18:12:24 PM CDT

(The author has been a Linn County Supervisor since 2009 and previously worked with the Iowa Senate Minority leader. Bleeding Heartland discussed the bipartisan effort to increase REAP funding to $25 million here. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I'm gonna go on a rant...about an attempted RAPE.

Yes, I mean every word and hyperbole I'm uttering on this post. REAP (Resource Enhancement & Protection) is being RAPED! For Agriculture...by agri-business...to correct it's mistakes in a supposedly free and private market of farming. How is this rape of taxpayer funds and DNR license plate fees occurring and for what specifically? Read on My friends. 

The Iowa House of Representatives wants to put REAP dollars toward... agri-terrace projects, forestry management (subject to logging), and water nutrient pollution clean-up programs because farmland soil is laden with fertilizer chemicals. These are all worthy issues to be addressed on their own I say, and should indeed be addressed and monies put toward mitigation efforts. The Iowa Dept. Of Ag has jurisdiction on all these problems, and they should since their policies and practices created them in the first place.

This isn't an indictment of farmers, because most are great conservationists of their own free will as it's good business and good citizenship. I commend those Iowa farmers, especially my Linn County ones, who work hard to be responsible neighbors, citizens and conservationists...voluntarily I might add! But I don't give a pass to bad apples, policy-makers, or special interest Ag industry lobbyists.

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IA-Sen, IA-Gov, Iowa caucus: Highlights from the new Suffolk poll

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 15:40:00 PM CDT

The Suffolk University Political Research Center asked 800 Iowa "likely voters" about this year's biggest races. The margin of error for the survey, conducted between April 3 and April 8, is plus or minus 3.5 percent. Suffolk's press release summarizing the highlights is here. Full results are here (pdf). Tables are here (pdf).

Representative Bruce Braley leads all Republican rivals for U.S. Senate in the first Iowa poll conducted after Braley's comments about Senator Chuck Grassley gained wide attention. Braley is still better-known than the GOP candidates, and more Iowans have a favorable than unfavorable impression of him. The bad news for Braley is that he is below 40 percent against each of the Republican candidates.

Suffolk's poll indicates that the GOP IA-Sen primary is now a two-tier race, with State Senator Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs each commanding more than 20 percent support, and the other candidates in the single digits. That makes sense, since Ernst and Jacobs have the most establishment support and are the only Senate candidates who have been able to raise their name recognition through paid advertising. But 40 percent of respondents were undecided.

Governor Terry Branstad's still in positive territory, with 48.5 percent of respondents viewing him favorably and about 35.4 percent unfavorably. His lead over Democratic State Senator Jack Hatch is smaller in this poll than in any other Iowa survey I've seen, though: 42.4 percent to 32.1 percent.

Among respondents who said they are likely to participate in the 2016 Democratic caucuses, 63 percent favor Hillary Clinton. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was far behind with 12 percent, followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 10 percent. It's hard to say who is really in second place, since the margin of error for the Democratic caucus-goer subsample is quite large (plus or minus 8.4 percent). Nevertheless, Clinton clearly maintains a commanding lead.

I wouldn't read much into the Iowa GOP caucus results from this survey. All the potential presidential candidates (Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio, and Condoleezza Rice) are clumped close together, between 6 and 11 percent support. That's within the the margin of error of plus or minus 8.7 percent for that subset of the Suffolk poll.

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Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Iowa's corporate contributions ban

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 09:42:00 AM CDT

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear Iowa Right to Life's appeal challenging a state law that bans corporations from making campaign contributions, Colin Smith reported at the On Brief legal blog. Last summer, a panel for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Iowa's ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates while striking down some of the campaign finance disclosure rules Iowa Right to Life had challenged. You can read Iowa Right to Life's appeal to the Supreme Court here (pdf).

Smith commented,

There had been some interesting speculation that the High Court might decide to hear the plaintiff's arguments regarding the constitutionality of Iowa corporate contribution law on the merits, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court just handed down another blockbuster election law case this month. [...]

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the Tooker challenge to Iowa's corporate contribution ban effectively means that Iowa's law will remain in place for now, although the Court's order today does not necessarily foreclose the possibility that another enterprising plaintiff might try another challenge in the future.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Time for Iowa State to cancel VEISHEA permanently

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

Yet again, "VEISHEA" celebrations in Ames have degenerated into a riot. This time a student was injured badly enough to be life-flighted from the scene, on top of the substantial property damage we've seen too often. VEISHEA is supposed to be a celebration of Iowa State University pride, but I think campus leaders need to accept that they can't stop a small percentage of drunken idiots from ruining the festival for everyone. Administrators have given students plenty of chances to prove they can get VEISHEA right.

Although it may seem unfair to punish everyone for the behavior of a small group, we're not talking about a handful of troublemakers. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of people were involved in last night's riot. This isn't the first, second or even third riot during VEISHEA. The recurring problem makes the whole university look bad. Most colleges and universities get by without a weeklong party every spring. It's time for Iowa State to join them.

Comments from Ames police Commander Geoff Huff and ISU President Steven Leath are after the jump.

UPDATE: Leath announced on April 9 that the rest of this year's planned VEISHEA events will be cancelled. A task force will determine what happens in future years.

Leath said VEISHEA will be completely refocused on what it used to be or it will be eliminated.

"The problems revolving around alcohol, house parties -- these issues have to go away," said Leath.

I hope the task force will also review acts of violence that don't generate media coverage or attention. For instance, I would like to know whether sexual assaults on campus typically increase during VEISHEA week.

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Fewer Iowa lawyers seeking judgeships

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 09:11:00 AM CDT

The applicant pool for Iowa's judicial vacancies has been declining in recent years, Mike Wiser reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on March 30. Iowa courts administrator David Boyd has been analyzing trends across the state and concluded that during the past decade, "The applicant pools [for District Court judgeships] were shrinking not only in terms of quantity but in quality, too."

Applications for court vacancies are down by about half of what they were 10 years ago in four of the eight judicial districts, and down by a third in another two, according to Boyd's figures.

Wiser's article identifies three main reasons for the trend. First, District Court judges earn an annual salary of $138,130, which is well above the state average but below what high-performing attorneys can earn in private practice. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady asked state legislators to increase judges' pay by 4.5 percent, but State Representative Gary Worthan, who chairs the Iowa House Appropriations subcommittee on the judicial system told Wiser, "we've got other priorities this year."

Second, years of state budget cuts to court support staff have also made the work of a judge less appealing, according to several people Wiser interviewed.

Finally, University of Iowa School of Law professor Patrick Bauer and others cited the successful 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices. That crusade was the first and perhaps the last time a politically unpopular ruling ended judges' careers in Iowa. Nevertheless, it has deterred some attorneys from aspiring to become judges. Bob Vander Plaats and his fellow social conservatives failed to end marriage equality in Iowa, but they have left their mark on the judicial system.

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Do minority party state legislators need to show up for work?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 17:10:00 PM CDT

The Des Moines Register ran a front-page feature today on retiring Republican State Senator Hubert Houser. Having served for ten years in the Iowa House and twelve in the Iowa Senate, Houser stopped showing up for work at the statehouse in early March. He plans to return only for "a day or two" at the end of the session. He has taken on more responsibilities at his family farm and contends that he doesn't need to be at the capitol, since Republicans are the minority party. They can't bring their own bills to the Iowa Senate floor and don't need Houser's vote.

On the one hand, I can imagine minority lawmakers must get tired of spending days at the Capitol, not accomplishing much while thinking about all the work that needs to be done at home. On the other hand, the Iowa legislature is only in session a few months of the year. Houser's constituents elected him to do a job. He's collecting a salary for work he isn't doing.

Asked to comment on Houser's prolonged absence today, Governor Terry Branstad said, "I respect individual legislators' right to make the decisions that they make with regards to their vote and things like that," adding that Houser has been a "great representative for the people of southwest Iowa."

Missed Iowa Senate votes may become a salient issue in the U.S. Senate race. In early March, Rod Boshart was the first to start tallying GOP State Senator Joni Ernst's many excused absences during this year's legislative session. Only a few of the missed days could be chalked up to National Guard duty; others were related to campaigning or fundraising for her U.S. Senate bid. Ernst's short political career doesn't open up many lines for attack, but this will be a big one for Democratic candidate Bruce Braley if he faces Ernst in the general election. Republican blogger Craig Robinson, who is supporting Mark Jacobs in the IA-Sen GOP primary, has repeatedly called attention to Ernst missing Iowa Senate votes this year. I would not be surprised to see Jacobs' campaign, or some dark money entity supporting him, make this case against Ernst before the June primary. Nick Ryan (best known to Bleeding Heartland readers as the head of the American Future Fund) is handling direct mail for the Jacobs campaign.

UPDATE: Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Secretary of the Senate Michael Marshall said Houser is still taking both his legislator's salary ($25,000 annually) and per diem expense reimbursement payments. Marshall said Ernst "has sometimes asked not to be provided legislative per diem payments for certain days."

Speaking to WHO-TV, Ernst said she has missed five days in the Iowa Senate this year for campaign-related activities.

SECOND UPDATE: Sounds like Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix leaned on Houser, who is now planning to show up for work and indicated that he will return per diem expense payments for days he's missed.

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