Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsing Hillary Clinton is a big deal

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today in a guest column for the Des Moines Register. This afternoon, she will elaborate on her reasons at a Women for Hillary event in Dubuque.

Jochum joins the list of prominent Iowa supporters of Barack Obama before the 2008 caucuses who are now backing Clinton. An Iowa House Democrat at that time, Jochum headed Obama’s leadership team in Dubuque County. Obama easily won a plurality of delegates in Dubuque and carried all of the neighboring counties too.

More important, Jochum is a hero to many on what you might call “the Democratic wing of the Iowa Democratic Party.” I’m thinking of the 26 percent who voted for Ed Fallon in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, as well as people who have long advocated for campaign finance reform at the state level. Although I think highly of Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, he’s not the progressive champion Jochum is—not by a long shot. She has helped fight some very tough fights, where powerful interest groups were lined up on the other side. I can’t think of an Iowa state legislator in my lifetime who has reached such a senior leadership position while being as consistently progressive as Jochum.

My impression is that many on the “Democratic wing” of the party have already committed to caucus for Bernie Sanders. Others feel conflicted as I do, drawn to Sanders for his passion and his uncompromising policy agenda, while recognizing Clinton’s strengths as a candidate and what it would mean for this country to elect a woman president. That Jochum is on board with Clinton could carry a lot of weight with undecided Democrats like me.

Before today, eight Democratic state senators and nine state representatives had already endorsed Clinton for the 2016 caucuses. I’ve enclosed the full list after the jump, along with excerpts from Jochum’s Des Moines Register op-ed.

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Iowa reaction to Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality

In a 5-4 decision announced Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states and ordered state governments to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges, joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Each of the dissenting justices wrote a separate opinion; all are available in this pdf file after Kennedy’s opinion. Amy Howe explained the majority opinion in "Plain English" while Lyle Denniston posted a brief analysis.

Follow me after the jump for Iowa reaction on both sides of the marriage debate. Two years ago, Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa politicians’ comments on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriages but left state bans intact.

As a group, Iowa Democratic politicians are more enthusiastic and less cautious about welcoming marriage equality now than was the case in 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Many Iowa Republicans called for elected officials to overturn the 2009 Varnum v Brien ruling by passing a constitutional amendment, but reacting to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, few in the Iowa GOP sounded hopeful that there was any chance to reinstate state bans on same-sex marriage.

I will update this post as needed.  

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No single issue is worth risking the Iowa Senate majority

Shortly before the end of this year’s legislative session, former State Representative Ed Fallon announced "political action" to stop the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline. He warned that if the Iowa House and Senate did not approve a bill to block the use of eminent domain for the project, he would organize and fundraise "to help defeat one or two Democratic Senators and one or two Republican Representatives" who oppose the bill.

On June 5, the Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year without passing an eminent domain bill in either chamber. Last week Fallon confirmed that he is sticking to his goal of defeating one or two majority party members in both the House and Senate, adding that he had already raised $4,500 toward the cause.

All I can say is, count me out of that political crusade.

Come to think of it, I have a few more things to say on the subject.

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Ed Fallon arrested after sit-in at governor's office over Bakken pipeline (updated)

Former state lawmaker Ed Fallon is in police custody tonight after he refused to leave Governor Terry Branstad’s office at the close of business today. Fallon went to the governor’s office this afternoon demanding a meeting to discuss "eminent domain legislation that would help landowners along the path of the Bakken Oil Pipeline." More details are in a press release I’ve enclosed after the jump. Branstad’s legal counsel Michael Bousselot came out to talk with Fallon, who insisted on a meeting or phone conversation with the governor himself. Brianne Pfannenstiel reported for the Des Moines Register,

When the statehouse closed at 5 p.m., Iowa State Patrol troopers approached Fallon and asked if he would be willing to leave, or be arrested for criminal trespassing. Fallon declined to leave, so he was escorted out of the building and arrested outside.

A supporter posted on Facebook this evening that Fallon has a “jail support team attending to all his needs” and “will probably be released sometime tomorrow.” When Fallon served in the Iowa House from 1995 through the 2006 session, land use issues were a focal point of his legislative efforts. During and since that time, Fallon has opposed various proposals to use eminent domain to seize farmland for use in for-profit ventures. Earlier this year, he walked from the southeast corner of Iowa to the northeast corner along the proposed pipeline route to raise awareness and mobilize landowners and others who oppose the project. The No Bakken website and Facebook page represent a coalition of some two dozen non-profit groups that oppose the project.

The eminent domain bill Fallon wants Branstad to support is Senate File 506 (previously Senate Study Bill 1276), which passed the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee on May 6 with support from Democratic State Senators Rob Hogg, Brian Schoenjahn, and Kevin Kinney, and Republican Jack Whitver. Branstad warned state lawmakers in January not to “get politics into this” debate over the pipeline. The governor wants to leave the decision to the Iowa Utilities Board, which is considered likely to approve the pipeline. The Sierra Club Iowa chapter plans to fight the project before every state and federal agency that would be involved.

UPDATE: Fallon was released from jail the same evening he was arrested. In a press release I’ve posted below, he says he’s due in court on May 27 and hasn’t decided “what legal route to take yet.”

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Weekend open thread, with more marriage equality links

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

Marriage equality has been all over the news, with the sixth anniversary of legal same-sex marriage in Iowa arriving the same week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments related to state bans on marriage for LGBT couples. The Des Moines Register published charts showing Iowa poll findings on same-sex marriage going back to 1996. In that year, the Iowa House and Senate approved the Defense of Marriage Act, which the state Supreme Court struck down in the 2009 Varnum v Brien decision. Then State Representative Ed Fallon was the only Iowa lawmaker to vote against the DOMA; click here to read his passionate floor speech against the bill. I’ve posted excerpts after the jump.

The Washington Post compiled five charts showing “gay marriage’s road to popularity.” The most fascinating data point to me was that 34 percent of Republican respondents in an April 2015 nationwide Washington Post/ABC News poll now support marriage equality. Another chart shows that “Same-sex marriage attitudes also continue to be divided along religious lines.” That data set did not include Jews, however, who overwhelmingly support marriage equality.

Today’s Sunday Des Moines Register includes two good features by Mike Kilen following up on the six couples who were plaintiffs in the Varnum case. In a separate piece, Bob Vander Plaats and State Senator Dennis Guth told Kilen why they still believe it was a mistake to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger believes the decline in Republican voter registrations in his state is linked to “divisive battle over Proposition 8,” a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. California voters approved Prop 8 by ballot initiative in 2008, but it ceased to be in effect in June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 supporters did not have standing to appeal a lower-court ruling striking down the marriage ban.

Final note: Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines approved a request by a group of students to form a non-religious LGBT support club. The school recently made national news by withdrawing a contract offer made to an openly gay teacher. The new gay-straight alliance, “One Human Family,” will help provide “support, respect, and guidance” for students who either identify as LGBT or have questions about their sexual orientation.  

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Bakken pipeline links and discussion thread

The proposed Bakken pipeline is one of the most urgent issues facing Iowa’s environmental community. The Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners wants to build the pipeline to transport crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois, crossing eighteen Iowa counties in the process. Governor Terry Branstad has made clear he won’t support any legislative action to stop the pipeline. That will leave the initial decision up to the Iowa Utilities Board, though approval by other state and federal agencies would be needed later; more details on that are below.

Two dozen non-profit groups have formed a coalition to fight the pipeline. You can keep up with their work on Facebook or at the No Bakken website. I’m active with several of the coalition members and enclosed the full list after the jump. The Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter outlined some of the key concerns concisely and explained how members of the public can submit comments.

Former state legislator Ed Fallon, who ran for governor in 2006 and for Congress in 2008, is kicking off a 400-mile walk along the proposed pipeline route today, starting from southeast Iowa and heading northwest over the next several weeks. I’ve enclosed below an excerpt from his first e-mail update about the walk, in which Fallon recounts a conversation with Lee County farmers whose land lies along the proposed pipeline route. Click here to view upcoming events, including a public meetings for residents of Lee County this evening, for Van Buren County residents in Birmingham on March 5, and for Jefferson County residents in Fairfield on March 6.

The latest Iowa poll conducted by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics found that a majority of Iowans support the Bakken pipeline, but a larger majority oppose using eminent domain to seize land for the pipeline. Excerpts from the Iowa poll findings are at the end of this post.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – The company that wants to build the pipeline has claimed “the project would have an Iowa economic impact of $1.1 billion during two years of construction, creating enough work to keep 7,600 workers employed for a year.” Economist Dave Swenson explained here why such estimates are misleading.

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