A Word of Caution on Local Control

Pete McRoberts describes how some local officials in Iowa lobbied against a 2016 bill designed to protect domestic violence victims from eviction. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s impossible to spend any time at the state legislature this year without hearing phrases like “local control” and “home rule” discussed in concert with any number of progressive questions. At yesterday’s public hearing on a statewide preemption bill, many people based their opposition on these same ideas, specifically, that a local government “knows best for its residents,” and that city councils are where big decisions should be made.

The Iowa Constitution, and state law, both support this idea – within some clearly defined boundaries. Home rule is simple; it generally means local governments are in charge when there’s no contrasting state law, or when they are acting to execute an identified city power.

These rights exist for a reason; there are more than 900 cities in Iowa, each with their own local issues. The boundaries exist for that same reason, but on the other side of the ledger – a person’s rights can never be diminished because of a local decision. Home rule and local control work when both of those parts are understood.

An example of local control and home rule falling apart came to my attention in 2014, when activists began a multi-year response to abusive local ordinances in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines which hurt survivors of domestic violence, and set them up for eviction upon calling the police when they needed to. It was a full-blown battle. Those cities spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to defend their corrupt ordinances, all in the name of “home rule” and local control. They nearly won.

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Weekend open thread: Bad signs for education

The next few years won’t be a good time to be a public school student in the U.S. generally or in Iowa specifically. Betsy DeVos is likely to be confirmed as secretary of education, despite bombing in her confirmation hearing, where she dodged some important questions and revealed shocking ignorance about basic education policy matters. Only two GOP senators say they will vote against the billionaire, who has given generously to Republican candidates and causes and worked to undermine public schools for decades.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have yet not published statements about DeVos, but I enclose below comments confirming they will support her nomination.

Meanwhile, in a party-line vote on February 2, Iowa Senate Republicans approved a bill to increase state funding for K-12 school districts by just 1.11 percent for the year beginning on July 1. Under state law, the Iowa House and Senate should have set school funding for fiscal year 2018 more than a year ago. However, statehouse Republicans have refused to follow that law for the past several years. Last year was no exception: despite action by Iowa Senate Democrats, House Republicans did not vote on fiscal year 2018 “allowable growth” (now officially known as “supplemental state aid”) during the 2016 legislative session.

If Senate File 166 is approved by the Iowa House and signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad, next year’s 1.11 percent growth in K-12 funding would be the third-smallest increase in more than 40 years. I enclose below a chart showing allowable growth levels approved by the state legislature since 1973. Branstad requested 2 percent more funding for K-12 schools in his draft budget. To my knowledge, the governor has not said whether he would sign Senate File 166 in its current form.

Recruiting and retaining educators to work in Iowa may become a lot more difficult after Republicans destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees, including thousands of teachers. House and Senate leaders have indicated that they will make the first significant changes in Iowa Code Chapter 20 since 1974. Details about the plan have been hidden from public view up to now, but a bill on collective bargaining is expected to appear on the state legislature’s website on February 6.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Republicans hope money will bail out lazy Peter Cownie in Iowa House district 42

Some Iowa statehouse Republicans are more extreme, more ignorant, more unhinged, more dishonest, or more mean-spirited than Peter Cownie.

But few lawmakers make less effort than Cownie to demonstrate that they deserve to be in a position of power.

A television commercial in heavy rotation on Des Moines stations doesn’t name even one legislative accomplishment from Cownie’s eight years in the Iowa House, including two years leading the State Government Committee and two as Commerce Committee chair. Cownie has rarely if ever knocked doors to talk to his constituents in West Des Moines. He doesn’t show up at many local public forums. He doesn’t consistently answer e-mails. He doesn’t follow through on some of his promises.

Recent campaign disclosure forms show the Iowa GOP has spent more than $300,000 on tv ads promoting Cownie or trashing his Democratic challenger, my friend Claire Celsi. Tens of thousands more went toward direct mail to benefit Cownie’s campaign.

Why did Republicans hit the panic button?

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The Medical Cannabis Debate in Dallas County, Iowa

Erin Miller shares her family’s experience with a rare medical condition at the Abram Mayhem blog. You can find her past contributions to Bleeding Heartland here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This blog is specifically regarding medical cannabis and what happened during the recent debate in Iowa House district 19 between State Representative Ralph Watts and his opponent, Bryce Smith. Please watch the enclosed video first, then read the following story.

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Legislative Attacks on Women’s Health Threaten Women’s Lives

Maridith Morris is a registered nurse and the Democratic challenger to State Representative Jake Highfill in Iowa House district 39. -promoted by desmoinesdem

A recent American College of Gynecology study uncovered concerning data about maternal mortality from Texas. Since 2011 the number of women dying during the time of pregnancy and childbirth doubled in only two years, from 18.8 to nearly 40 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The study’s authors found the data “puzzling,”-stating that-, “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.” However, when we compare the shift in data to Texas’ legislative attacks on women’s healthcare, the trend makes sense.

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More hidden costs of Iowa's generous business tax breaks

The excellent lead editorial in today’s Des Moines Register reminded me of a topic I didn’t manage to cover during the run-up to last week’s primary: the coming belt-tightening in Iowa’s judicial branch, which will affect thousands of Iowans who use the court system.

As with the under-funding of K-12 schools and higher education, the “crisis” in the judiciary is happening because state legislators and Governor Terry Branstad keep approving and extending unaffordable business tax breaks.

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