Stage set for another battle over Planned Parenthood funding in Iowa

Only days ago, some Iowa legislative sources indicated lawmakers were on track to adjourn by the end of this week. That never seemed likely, with the health and human services budget not yet approved by either chamber. Disagreements over abortion-related language in that bill have been one of the last sticking points between Iowa House Republicans and Senate Democrats in recent legislative sessions. The pattern is set to continue this year.

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Weekend open thread: "The resources we have" edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. The Des Moines Register ran an extraordinary lead editorial on Saturday about a Des Moines police officer’s "pattern of misconduct" and "poor judgment." Click through to read the most strongly-worded warning about a law enforcement official I’ve seen in an Iowa newspaper.

An emerging compromise on higher education funding was one of the biggest state-level news stories of the week. The Iowa legislature’s joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee, co-chaired by Democratic State Senator Brian Schoenjahn and Republican State Representative Cecil Dolecheck, agreed on April 13 that the fiscal year 2017 budget for higher education will include an additional $6.3 million for public universities: $2.8 million for the University of Northern Iowa, $2.2 million for Iowa State University, and $1.3 million for the University of Iowa. Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell noted that the increases work out to a little less than 3 percent more state funding for UNI, 1.2 percent for ISU, and less than 1 percent for UI.

The Iowa Board of Regents had requested an extra $20 million in state funding for the coming fiscal year: $4.5 million for UI, $8.2 million for ISU, and $7.65 million for UNI. Governor Terry Branstad’s draft budget had included a combined $8 million in additional state funding for the public universities. Last month, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter said at least $8 million would be needed to avoid raising tuition. In a statement released April 14, Rastetter said the board would "immediately start discussions regarding tuition increases at our universities for Fall 2016."

More background and details on the higher education funding compromise are after the jump, but I want to highlight a couple of misconceptions. Russell quoted Dolecheck as saying "we did the best we can with the resources that we have," and quoted Schoenjahn as saying lawmakers tried to stretch "the precious resources we had" but couldn’t do more without raising taxes.

No. Just last month, the Iowa House and Senate approved a tax bill that will reduce fiscal year 2017 revenues by nearly $120 million: $97.6 million by harmonizing Iowa tax code with federal statutes, and around $21 million by reducing state sales taxes for manufacturing companies. Another $280 million was taken off the table long before this year’s budget negotiations began, when most lawmakers in both chambers approved an expensive commercial property tax cut in 2013. Leaders of both parties bragged about that tax cut at the time but did not acknowledge how the windfall for commercial property owners would affect the state’s ability to pay for other priorities down the road.

Speaking on behalf of the union that represents UNI faculty, Professor Joe Gorton said this week, "It seems clear to me that the regent universities are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate welfare." An Iowa Fiscal Partnership analysis from January shows Gorton was closer to the truth than were Schoenjahn or Dolecheck. Business tax credits are expected to cost the state around $272 million during fiscal year 2017.

Writing at Blog for Iowa this weekend, Dave Bradley argued, "Had Branstad’s administration not given tax cuts to businesses without consulting the legislature we would probably [be] OK. […] while the special interests that the Republicans have given breaks to are no longer paying what they once did, Iowa’s parents will see higher tuition fees on their kids university bills." Fact-check: mostly false. Over many years, the legislature approved and failed to revise Iowa’s generous business tax breaks. Most Democrats in both chamber joined their GOP colleagues to pass the costly property tax cut three years ago. Just six state senators and thirteen representatives voted no; I’ve listed them after the jump. The Branstad administration did try to enact the manufacturing sales tax break without legislative approval last year, and was on track to succeed. However, the tax bill lawmakers negotiated and approved last month included a scaled-back sales tax break, superseding the Department of Revenue’s proposed administrative rule.

Speaking of money for state universities not living up to expectations, Ryan Foley of the Associated Press revealed on April 15 that Rastetter has paid only $1.5 million toward his 2008 pledge of $5 million to the University of Iowa’s football program. Before 2015, Rastetter had donated just $500,000 toward that pledge, raising "questions about whether the delay was part of the pressure he put on former university President Sally Mason." Excerpts from Foley’s article are at the end of this post.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline to compete in the Democratic or Republican primaries has passed, the field of candidates is set in most of the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that will be on the ballot this fall.

It’s time for a first look at chances to increase diversity in the state legislature for the next two years. The proportion of white lawmakers is unlikely to change, while the proportion of women could move in either direction.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge thinking about challenging Chuck Grassley

The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble snagged a surprising scoop yesterday: former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is considering running for the U.S. Senate this year. Referring to Grassley’s approach to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Judge told Noble,

“Iowans have always been straight shooters, and up until the recent time I would have said the same thing about Chuck,” Judge said. […]

“I don’t like this double-speak,” Judge said. “I don’t like this deliberate obstruction of the process. I think Chuck Grassley owes us better. He’s been with us a long time. Maybe he’s been with us too long.”

To qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, Judge would need to submit nominating papers with the Secretary of State’s Office by March 18, three weeks from today. That doesn’t leave much time to collect at least 2,104 signatures, including minimum amounts in at least ten Iowa counties. But Judge could pull together a campaign quickly, having won three statewide elections—for secretary of agriculture in 1998 and 2002 and on the ticket with Chet Culver in 2006.

Three other Democrats are seeking the nomination to run against Grassley: State Senator Rob Hogg, former State Senator Tom Fiegen, and former State Representative Bob Krause. Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach launched a U.S. Senate campaign in November but ended his campaign last month, Zirkelbach confirmed by phone this morning.

Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers endorsed Hogg in January. I enclose the full list below. Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Rebecca Tuetken notes, "Patty Judge does meet one apparent Iowa requirement: she told @SenatorHarkin ‘08 steak fry that she can castrate a calf." Truly a classic moment for Judge, when Joni Ernst was still the little-known Montgomery County auditor.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2016

The Iowa House opened its 2016 session today with 57 Republicans and 43 Democrats. The 100 state representatives include 27 women (21 Democrats and six Republicans) and 73 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 state representatives are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year. All are on the Republican side, mostly following from Kraig Paulsen’s decision to step down as speaker, Chuck Soderberg’s retirement, and the passing of Jack Drake.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Millers (one from each party), two Taylors (one from each party), and two Moores (both Republicans). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), four Johns, and three Brians. There are two Lindas, two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), and two men each named Dan, Mark, Greg, Tom, Bruce, Todd, Chris, and Charles (one goes by Chuck).

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Some big 2008 Obama supporters on new list of Iowa Women for Hillary

Today Hillary Clinton’s campaign released names of "nearly 200 women from all of Iowa’s 99 counties including nearly two dozen State Legislators, County Chairs and local elected officials" who support Clinton’s presidential bid. I’ve enclosed the full list after the jump. Many of these women also backed Clinton for president before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, such as former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, former State Senator Staci Appel, and Ruth Harkin.

Nine women currently serving in the Iowa House are on the Iowa Women for Hillary list: State Representatives Marti Anderson, Timi Brown-Powers, Abby Finkenauer, Ruth Ann Gaines, Vicki Lensing, Mary Mascher, Jo Oldson, Sally Stutsman, and Phyllis Thede. Lensing and Mascher were among 21 state lawmakers who backed Clinton before the 2008 caucuses. Oldson was also in the legislature then; to my knowledge, she did not endorse a candidate before the 2008 caucuses. I am seeking confirmation and will update as needed.

The others were not in the state legislature in 2007, but Anderson and then Johnson County Supervisor Stutsman were high-profile supporters of Clinton’s campaign. Thede and Gaines were county leaders for Obama. I don’t know whether Finkenauer and Brown-Powers were active volunteers for any of the presidential campaigns that year. UPDATE: Brown-Powers told me that she caucused for Obama but was not active in the campaign.

Two current Iowa Senate Democrats are on the new Iowa Women for Hillary list: Janet Petersen backed Obama in 2007, as a member of the Iowa House. Liz Mathis was not a state lawmaker that year, and I am not aware of her publicly endorsing a candidate.

State Representatives Cindy Winckler and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell endorsed Clinton as Iowa House members in 2007 but have not done so this year. I am seeking comment from both on whether they have picked a different candidate, are undecided, or plan not to endorse before the 2016 caucuses.

Like Gaines and Thede, several other women on today’s press release were among the Obama campaign’s county leaders in 2007, such as Peggy Bramman (Delaware County), Clara Oleson (Cedar County), and Debbie Gitchell and Jan Bauer (Story County).

I got a kick out of seeing Bauer’s name, because earlier this year, she told the Washington Post that she was “waiting to see how aggressively pursued I am” before picking a candidate. Bleeding Heartland cited that comment as an unfortunate example of prairie prima donna behavior, which hurts the Iowa caucuses.

The best-known onetime John Edwards supporter on the new Women for Hillary list is Roxanne Conlin, a former U.S. attorney and Democratic nominee for governor and U.S. Senate. She came out for Clinton a few months ago.

Two other prominent Iowa women who weren’t on today’s press release are worth noting as once-dedicated Obama supporters backing Clinton for president in 2016. Jackie Norris was an early Obama campaign staffer in 2007 and ran Obama’s 2008 general election campaign in Iowa. Early last year, she showed up for the “Ready for Hillary” super PAC’s first event in this state. Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky announced in June that she will be helping Clinton’s campaign build support for next year’s caucuses.

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