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Iowa House Speaker Upmeyer plans to deal with education funding "quickly"

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 21:00:00 PM CDT

During this year's legislative session, Iowa House Republicans refused for months to budge from their initial position on education funding, forcing public school districts to approve budgets for the coming year without knowing how much state aid to expect. Then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal finally rolled out a deal on education spending and other state budget issues more than a month past the Iowa legislature's scheduled adjournment date.

Incoming House Speaker Linda Upmeyer plans to handle things differently, Cristinia Crippes reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, after hearing Upmeyer's remarks to a group of Republican women in Cedar Falls.  

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Linda Miller retiring, opening up Iowa House district 94

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 15:14:24 PM CDT

Five-term State Representative Linda Miller will not seek re-election in 2016, Ed Tibbetts reported for the Quad-City Times on October 1. Since Republicans regained an Iowa House majority in 2010, Miller has chaired the Human Resources Committee. She told Tibbetts she wants to retire in order to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Miller represents Iowa House district 94, covering part of the Quad Cities area in Scott County. I've enclosed a district map after the jump. The seat leans strongly to the GOP, with 5,520 active registered Democrats, 8,403 Republicans, and 9,608 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. Mitt Romney won nearly 54 percent of the vote in the district in 2012, and Joni Ernst won nearly 58 percent here in last year's U.S. Senate race. So while Democrats should always contest an open state legislative district, Republicans will be favored to hold Miller's seat.

The GOP primary to replace Miller bears watching. Tibbetts reported that Bettendorf alderman Gary Mohr will run for this seat, but I doubt he will get a free pass. Scott County Republicans don't shy away from competitive primaries. Miller knocked off State Representative Joe Hutter here in the 2006 GOP primary, the same year Dave Hartsuch beat sitting State Senator Maggie Tinsman in the Iowa Senate district that covers this area. Hartsuch served a term but lost the 2010 GOP primary to Roby Smith.

I give Miller credit for announcing her plans so early. One of my pet peeves--too common in Iowa on both sides of the aisle--is when entrenched state legislative incumbents keep their retirement plans secret until a day or two before the March filing deadline. In that scenario, only a hand-picked successor or tipped-off party insider has time to reflect on a possible candidacy. Other politically active, talented people in the district might be able to scramble for 50 signatures in a day to submit the necessary paperwork, but they would lack the ability to talk over such a big decision with friends and family.  

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What's the end game for conservation funding in Iowa?

by: mhauge

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 21:57:33 PM CDT

(Thanks to Matt Hauge for flagging this little-noticed but significant shift by the Iowa Corn Growers.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(Author note: Thanks to DesMoines Dem for permitting this cross-post originally published on Medium.) 

At its annual policy conference in August, the Iowa Corn Growers Association joined the Iowa Soybean Association in supporting Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWLL), a sales tax increase that would provide in excess of $150 million annually to environmental protection and natural resources in Iowa.

Official support for IWLL from both the corn and soybean organizations is significant because a bill in this year’s legislative session to enact the tax increase, SSB1272 (succeeded by SF504), drew opposition from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s agribusiness lobbying powerhouse.

While it received very little attention in the media, this action by the Corn Growers — just maybe — is a sign that something is changing in a good way for clean water in Iowa.

Even if not, at least the Corn Growers’ decision presents a good opportunity to look at what’s going on as Iowa struggles for better conservation performance of its globally significant soil and water resources.

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Charles Holz set to replace Chuck Soderberg in Iowa House district 5

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 09:18:55 AM CDT

Charles Holz won a special nominating convention last night in Iowa House district 5, where former House Appropriations Committee Chair Chuck Soderberg resigned his seat last month. Two Republicans sought the nomination for the November 3 special election. Holz is retired after a long career as a large animal veterinarian in Le Mars; he has also published work in his field. Citing a press release from the Plymouth County GOP, the Sioux City Journal reported earlier this month that Holz "served on the Le Mars school board for 18 years, including two years as board president." UPDATE: Added below a Republican Party of Iowa statement containing more biographical information.

According to The Iowa Statesman blog, Holz "defeated rural Woodbury County small business owner and homeschool parent Brad Hopp on the first ballot" at the nominating convention.

To my knowledge, no Democrat has announced plans to run for House district 5, which covers all of Plymouth County and some rural areas of Woodbury County. Click here to view a district map. Ideally, Democrats would compete for every state legislative district, but House district 5 is one of the safest for Republicans. Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the presidential vote here in 2012, and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of the 2014 votes for U.S. Senate. The district contains 3,819 active registered Democrats, 9,015 Republicans, and 6,697 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.

Five-term State Representative Pat Grassley is set to replace Soderberg as chair of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee for the 2016 legislative session. Although that's a plum committee assignment, working out a deal with Iowa Senate Democrats on the state budget will likely be more difficult than usual next year, because of the fallout from Governor Terry Branstad's latest line-item vetoes. The key Republicans involved in this year's budget deal-making quit their jobs this summer.

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Dear U of I, backroom dealings are nothing new.

by: ahawby

Sun Sep 27, 2015 at 12:42:57 PM CDT

(Many thanks for this detailed analysis of machinations behind the scenes to orchestrate and sell the public on closing the Malcolm Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Malcolm Price Laboratory School was a small K-12 school attached to and operated by the University of Northern Iowa.  MPLS was primarily used by the teacher education program to train teachers.  It was a critical part of UNI, "the teacher's college".  Year after year, however, with mounting budget pressures at UNI, talk would take place about closing MPLS.  Tired of this annual worry, supporters of MPLS through the help of their local legislatures, pushed for and obtained legislation creating the Iowa Research & Development School at MPLS.  This group thought the days of threats of closure were over since their existence was now statutory.  In 2012 they found out they were wrong.

In light of the recent events at the University of Iowa regarding the president selection process, I think it appropriate to share a narrative I drafted back in 2012 when UNI closed MPLS and other programs.  It was the fruit of an open records request for email.  The intended audience was the parents and supporters of MPLS.  

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Prominent Iowa Republican moderate switches parties

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 13:21:58 PM CDT

Todd Dorman has big news in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette: Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson changed his party registration to Democratic last week.

As a Democrat, I welcome any fair-minded person to our party. But as the daughter of a Rockefeller Republican, I'm saddened by yet another sign GOP moderates are a vanishing breed.  

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Pat Grassley will chair the Iowa House Appropriations Committee

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 16, 2015 at 12:20:00 PM CDT

Five-term State Representative Pat Grassley announced on Twitter this morning that he will chair the Iowa House Appropriations Committee. The previous chair, Chuck Soderberg, retired from the legislature last month. I don't know who else lobbied Speaker-Select Linda Upmeyer for this prize committee assignment, but I will update this post if I learn more.

The grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Pat Grassley was first elected to the Iowa House in 2006. He chaired the House Economic Growth and Rebuild Iowa committee in 2011 and 2012 and has chaired the House Agriculture Committee since the 2013 legislative session. He represents a safe Republican district covering Grundy County and parts of Hardin and Butler counties. Grassley's most competitive re-election bid was the 2012 Republican primary in House district 50, after redistricting pitted him against then-colleague, State Representative Annette Sweeney.

Many Iowa politics watchers expect Grassley to run for secretary of agriculture in 2018, assuming the current incumbent Bill Northey seeks the Republican nomination for governor.

OCTOBER UPDATE: Upmeyer selected three-term State Representative Lee Hein to chair the House Agriculture Committee for the 2016 legislative session. Hein had previously been one of four assistant majority leaders.  

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Jon Neiderbach is second Democrat to challenge Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 16, 2015 at 11:59:52 AM CDT

This morning Jon Neiderbach officially launched his candidacy in Iowa House district 43. The former Iowa legislative fiscal analyst, Des Moines School Board president, and Democratic nominee for state auditor in 2014 said he is running

because the current Representative from District 43 is financed by special interests and is more interested in advancing his political career than fighting inefficient and ineffective government. Residential property taxes have soared since he has been in office, and education funding has been inadequate.

My experience with the Iowa Legislature and in state and local government allow me to understand how bureaucracy and special interests resist change. I am a fiscal conservative committed to open and transparent government, and I will not be sidetracked by campaign money, other politicians, or building a political career.

Neiderbach's key issues will be limits on campaign contributions, "accountable government" with no more tax increases or "corporate welfare," investing more in K-12 education, and reducing student debt. His campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and on Twitter @neiderbach2016.

The full news release from Neiderbach is after the jump, along with a detailed map of the district covering Windsor Heights, Clive, and parts of West Des Moines. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, House district 43 contains 6,678 active registered Democrats, 7,454 Republicans, and 5,954 no-party voters.

Four-term Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow was recently chosen to be the new Iowa House majority leader. Challenging him will be an uphill battle, as Republicans will spare no expense to hold this seat. On the other hand, as Bleeding Heartland discussed here, this once-heavily Republican suburban district has been trending toward swing status. President Barack Obama won 50.6 percent of the vote in 2012 in the HD-43 precincts, while Mitt Romney won 48.3 percent. Joni Ernst beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43--a lot less than her statewide winning margin in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Hagenow narrowly won this House seat in 2008, by 93 votes. He had an easy re-election in 2010 but had to spend money on push-polls and negative tv ads to eke out a 23-vote margin over Susan Judkins in the last presidential election cycle.

Last month, Jennifer Konfrst became the first Democrat to launch a campaign in House district 43. The party establishment seems to favor Konfrst, who already has the official support of State Senator Janet Petersen and State Representative Jo Oldson. I'm happy to see two qualified, dedicated people ready to take on Hagenow. May Konfrst and Neiderbach work hard and fight fair as they seek Democratic votes across the district. Bleeding Heartland is unlikely to endorse in this primary.  

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Iowa House district 5 special election coming on November 3

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 15, 2015 at 14:55:11 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad has set the special election to replace Chuck Soderberg in Iowa House district 5 for November 3, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate told KTIV news today. Last month, Soderberg announced plans to resign in order to become general manager for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives in Des Moines.

A map of House district 5 is after the jump. Even in a low-turnout special election, Democrats don't have a realistic chance of winning this seat, where Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the vote in 2012 and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of vote in last year's U.S. Senate race. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office show that House district 5 contains 3,819 active registered Democrats, 9,015 Republicans, and 6,697 no-party voters.

The special election in House district 5 will still be important, though. Whoever wins the Republican district nominating convention could be set up for a long legislative career. UPDATE: The GOP special nominating convention will take place on the evening of September 28 at the Farm Bureau Building in Le Mars.

Soderberg's retirement will allow newly-selected Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer to choose someone new to chair the House Appropriations Committee. I expect the 2016 Iowa legislative session to be largely unproductive, not only because it's an election year but also because Branstad's funding vetoes this summer destroyed any incentive toward bipartisan cooperation. That said, lawmakers cannot adjourn without passing a budget for the next fiscal year, so the Appropriations Committee chair will be an important player at the Capitol next year.

Notably, four key Republicans who were involved in this year's budget negotiations (including Soderberg) have quit their jobs since Branstad exercised his veto power. The governor's communications director Jimmy Centers announced last week that he too will soon leave the administration for an unspecified private-sector job.

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Regents' gesture on funding won't stop backlash against new University of Iowa president

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 08, 2015 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

Contradicting official documents released less than a week ago, Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter announced yesterday that "he will seek $4.5 million in additional funding for the University of Iowa" during the 2017 fiscal year after all.

The three-sentence news release is intriguing on several levels:

1. The way it conflates Rastetter's personal opinion with a shift in Board of Regents policy.

2. The unusual timing of a state government body announcing a policy change on a public holiday.

3. The unconvincing attempt to give newly-appointed University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld some credit for the conciliatory move.

4. The effort to spin a relatively small funding increase as a significant investment in the university's "strengths" and "core mission."

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Iowa AG Miller to GOP lawmakers: No authority to investigate fetal tissue transfers

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 04, 2015 at 17:59:34 PM CDT

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has informed 56 Republican state legislators that his office has neither "jurisdiction over transfers of fetal tissue" nor the "authority to investigate or demand information about the transfer of fetal tissue." In a letter dated today, Miller noted that "Iowa does not have any state laws governing the transfer of fetal tissue," which means that only offices of U.S. Attorneys are able to enforce federal laws in this area.

Last month, the GOP lawmakers asked Miller's office "to investigate current and planned abortion operations within Iowa to ensure compliance with the law." Their letter set out ten detailed questions regarding the disposal, donation, or possible sale of body parts following abortions. Miller directed the legislators to contact U.S. attorneys' offices in Iowa if they "have reliable information that federal laws relating to fetal tissue are being violated."

I enclose below the August 24 letter from Iowa House and Senate Republicans, today's written response from Miller, and a two-page letter Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided to the Attorney General's Office regarding the lawmakers' query. Planned Parenthood's response noted that the organization "does not now, and has not in the past, participated in" any fetal tissue donation programs but adheres to "rigorous standards of care" and "compliance with all applicable laws and regulations" in every area of its work, including abortion services.

Many Iowa Republicans will be furious, not only because Miller will not act on their unfounded suspicions, but also because the Attorney General's Office responded to their query in what appears to be a textbook late-afternoon, pre-holiday-weekend news dump.

Also worth noting: Iowa House Speaker-select Linda Upmeyer and incoming House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow did not sign the August 24 letter to Miller, but House Speaker Pro-Tem Matt Windschitl, incoming Majority Whip Joel Fry, and Assistant Majority Leaders Zach Nunn, Jarad Klein, and Walt Rogers did. Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix did not sign the letter, but Minority Whip Jack Whitver and Assistant Minority Leaders Rick Bertrand, Randy Fenestra, Charles Schneider, and David Johnson did.

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Insurance company insiders knew about Iowa's Medicaid privatization plans long before public

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 01, 2015 at 15:51:15 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad didn't run for re-election last year on a plan to let private insurance companies manage health care for some 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid. He didn't work with key state legislators to draw up his administration's "Medicaid Modernization" plans. The governor's draft budget, submitted in January, projected some $51 million in savings on Medicaid for the 2016 fiscal year. But key lawmakers like the chair of the Iowa Senate Health and Human Resources Appropriations subcommittee didn't learn that four private companies would be selected to handle almost all Medicaid services until the Iowa Department of Human Services made its request for proposals public in February.

Recent accusations of bias and conflicts of interest, as well as allegedly inaccurate scoring of insurers' proposals, have raised many questions about how the Iowa DHS selected the four companies now negotiating contracts to manage Medicaid for one-sixth of Iowans. Reports of campaign contributions by lobbyists and political action committees representing firms that sought Iowa's Medicaid business prompted one watchdog to decry "pay to play" politics.

Those news stories point to a conclusion that isn't getting enough attention: various insurance companies and their paid representatives knew what was coming down the pike long before the Branstad administration disclosed its plans to privatize Medicaid.

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Jennifer Konfrst running against Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 28, 2015 at 10:45:35 AM CDT

Jennifer Konfrst announced this morning that she will challenge four-term GOP incumbent Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43. The swing district covers Windsor Heights, Clive, and part of West Des Moines. A detailed map is after the jump, along with Konfrst's press release and official bio. Her campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

As the newly-elected House majority leader, Hagenow will have virtually unlimited financial resources backing his re-election bid. On the other hand, this part of the Des Moines suburbs, solidly Republican for decades, has been trending toward Democrats for some time. President Barack Obama won 50.6 percent of the vote in 2012 in the HD-43 precincts, while Mitt Romney won 48.3 percent. Although Joni Ernst carried the district in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, she beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43--a lot less than her winning margin statewide. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that 6,682 active registered Democrats, 7,493 Republicans, and 5,897 no-party voters live in the district.

Hagenow won his first election to the House in 2008 by 93 votes against then Windsor Heights Mayor Jerry Sullivan. After being re-elected comfortably in the 2010 midterm, Hagenow got a scare in the last presidential year. Despite paying for push-polls and negative tv ads against a challenger who was massively outspent, the incumbent defeated Susan Judkins by only 23 votes in 2012.

Judkins now serves on the Clive City Council. Last week she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that she will not run for the Iowa House in 2016.

Konfrst may face a competitive primary anyway, because Jon Neiderbach is seriously considering a campaign against Hagenow. He was the Democratic nominee for state auditor in 2014. I think highly of both Konfrst and Neiderbach. The Iowa Democratic establishment sometimes hyperventilates about contested primaries, but assuming the candidates fight fair, I see little downside to two people pounding the pavement to get out the vote in my home district before next June's primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Bonus political trivia: To my knowledge, HD-43 is one of just two Iowa House seats where voters registered with each major party currently outnumber independents. The other is Democratic State Representative John Forbes' territory in House district 40 (part of Urbandale).

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Throwback Thursday: How Iowa women almost got the right to vote, years before the 19th Amendment

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 27, 2015 at 23:52:28 PM CDT

Yesterday was Women's Equality Day, marking the anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote in 1920 under the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Iowa nearly adopted a state-level woman-suffrage amendment on two occasions before that time. Inspired to learn more about those close calls, this week I read part of Louise Noun's 1969 book Strong-Minded Women: The Emergence of the Woman-Suffrage Movement in Iowa. The short version of what I learned is after the jump.

Spoiler alert: Republicans in the Bleeding Heartland community may enjoy this post more than Democrats.  

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Chuck Soderberg's retirement creates opportunities for upwardly-mobile Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 25, 2015 at 15:35:00 PM CDT

Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal today that State Representative Chuck Soderberg will soon resign in order to become general manager for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives in Des Moines. He has worked for the Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative in Le Mars for more than 35 years.

First elected to the statehouse in 2004, Soderberg chaired the House Commerce Committee for two years beginning in 2011 and has led the powerful Appropriations Committee since January 2013. No doubt quite a few members of the Iowa House GOP caucus would love to take on that role next year. Given the atmosphere of distrust that Governor Terry Branstad exacerbated by blowing apart this year's spending compromises, I expect little constructive work to happen during the 2016 legislative session. But passing a budget is one thing lawmakers can't leave town without doing, so the next person to do Soderberg's job will exert considerable influence.

Surely Speaker Linda Upmeyer will give the Appropriations chair to someone with more experience than current vice chair Ken Rizer, who is in the middle of his first legislative term.

Soderberg's retirement also opens up Iowa House district 5, covering all of Plymouth County and some rural areas of Woodbury County. I enclose a detailed map after the jump. This seat isn't realistically within reach for Democrats; Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the presidential vote here in 2012, and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of the 2014 votes for U.S. Senate. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office show that House district 5 contains 3,820 active registered Democrats, 8,988 Republicans, and 6,659 no-party voters.

A safe legislative seat will be tempting for many ambitious Republicans in Plymouth or Woodbury County. The GOP district nominating convention, likely to happen sometime in September, should be highly competitive.

This thread is for any speculation about Soderberg's successor on the House Appropriations Committee or as the lawmaker representing House district 5.

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Solution to Planned Parenthood Video Thing

by: Mike Draper

Mon Aug 24, 2015 at 16:18:19 PM CDT

(A modest proposal to apply the probably unconstitutional logic behind Iowa's "ag gag" law to undercover videos targeting a leading provider of affordable health care to women. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Can we please treat women's health like industrial agriculture?

The latest attack on Planned Parenthood came in the form of an edited video, secretly taped, claiming to "expose" the practice of selling "baby parts." But if Planned Parenthood had been a factory farm, that video wouldn't have happened, because that video would have been illegal to make!

Since that video, Iowa governor Terry Branstad, like the internet, has been shocked! Outraged! He joined the "Truth Exposed" rally and called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood. Though no federal or state money goes to abortions, Branstad wanted to look into all money going to Planned Parenthood because he wants "to protect the interest of the taxpayers."

Ironically, Branstad applauds an undercover video from a state that was an early "Ag Gag" law adopter, a law that essentially prevents videotaping industrial agriculture facilities in America. Violators could be charged with a Class D Felony, "Animal Facility Interference."  

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Linda Upmeyer will be first woman Iowa House speaker; Chris Hagenow to be majority leader

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 20, 2015 at 18:59:16 PM CDT

Iowa House Republicans chose Linda Upmeyer to replace Kraig Paulsen as House speaker today. First elected to the legislature in 2002, Upmeyer has served as majority leader since 2011. House leaders did not release details on today's vote. State Representative Josh Byrnes was the only other candidate to seek the speaker's post, despite rumors that one or more other Republicans were sounding out colleagues about the race. All credit to Byrnes for putting himself out there against the party establishment favorite. That takes guts.

O.Kay Henderson posted highlights from Upmeyer's remarks to reporters today, as well as the audio clip. Not known for showing a lot of emotions in public, Upmeyer's voice broke as she talked about her late father, Del Stromer, who served as House speaker during the 1980s. She doesn't sound inclined to change much about how Paulsen was running the lower chamber, but joked, "I use more words than Speaker Paulsen, and I will try to curb that temptation going forward."

Chris Hagenow will move up from majority whip to replace Upmeyer as majority leader, and Joel Fry will move from an assistant majority leader position to majority whip. Matt Windschitl will continue to serve as House speaker pro-tem. Hagenow told reporters that no one else sought the majority leader post. Bobby Kaufmann ran for majority whip.

Henderson quoted Byrnes as saying,

"I feel like I'm in that movie, Groundhog Day....It's the same leadership in the House, the same leadership in the Senate. It's the same governor and the parameters just feel like they're just set and we can't move from them. We need new ideas. We need new energy, we need to be able to accept other people's concepts and infuse those in and I hope that, you know, she can do that."

According to Byrnes, rank-and-file legislators are upset with missed deadlines, as the legislature has failed to set state school aid levels on time and met for weeks past its scheduled adjournment date. Byrnes also said Iowans are soured by the hyper-partisanship they see from statehouse politicians. [...]

Upmeyer told reporters she'll address the concerns Brynes raised.

"We never should be comfortable with where we're at," Upmeyer said. "We always should be striving for innovation and to do things smarter and better and so I absolutely applaud that."

No need for a lot of innovation here, Madam Speaker: just accept reasonable compromises instead of refusing to budge from your initial negotiating position, and approve school funding bills on time, as happened for a decade and a half before Iowa House Republicans decided to stop following state law a few years back.

After the jump I've enclosed official comments on the House leadership election from the Republican Party of Iowa and House Minority Leader Mark Smith, as well as a Facebook status update Byrnes posted after today's vote.

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Throwback Thursday: Curt Hanson's crucial Iowa House special election victory

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 13, 2015 at 21:00:00 PM CDT

Today is State Representative Curt Hanson's birthday. Six years ago at this time, he was in the thick of the first state legislative campaign following the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage equality. Hanson's win in a highly competitive House district was probably the second most important special election in recent Iowa history (after Liz Mathis's victory in November 2011, which protected the Democratic Iowa Senate majority).

Kicking off an occasional "throwback Thursday" series, Bleeding Heartland takes a look at Hanson's first campaign for the Iowa House.

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Update on the race to replace Kraig Paulsen as Iowa House speaker

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 12, 2015 at 09:57:12 AM CDT

Iowa House Republicans will meet in Des Moines on August 20 to choose a new speaker, Erin Murphy reported earlier this week. Outgoing Speaker Kraig Paulsen surprised mtost Iowa politics watchers when he announced last week that he will step down from leadership before next year's legislative session and will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2016.

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and State Representative Josh Byrnes quickly let it be known that they will run for speaker. The rumor mill expects another House Republican to seek the position, but to my knowledge, no one has gone public with that ambition. Several House members have not responded to my request for comment, including Representative Peter Cownie, who was rumored to be interested in the speaker's post two years ago. I've heard rumblings about Representative Guy Vander Linden, but speaking by phone on August 10, he told me, "I don't intend to run for speaker. I don't feel prepared to run for speaker." He said he undecided on whom he will support to replace Paulsen but inclined to back Upmeyer, because "continuity is important."

House Majority Whip Chris Hagenow is supporting Upmeyer for speaker and formally announced on Monday that he will seek the post of majority leader. Current House Speaker Pro-Tem Matt Windschitl is also backing Upmeyer and does not appear interested in moving up to majority leader.

According to the Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich, over the weekend WHO talk radio host Simon Conway referred to State Representative Walt Rogers (currently one of four assistant majority leaders) as "quite probably the next majority leader" of the Iowa House. However, Rogers told me he will not run for majority leader, because he's "having fun and working hard" with Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. Rogers was an early Santorum endorser during the last election cycle, and Santorum in turn supported Rogers' short-lived Congressional campaign.

Rogers declined to comment when I asked whether he will support Upmeyer for speaker.

As for whether Vander Linden might run for majority leader, he told me, "I haven't given it any serious consideration," adding, "I would give a politician's 'Never say never.'"

Governor Terry Branstad is wisely staying out of the speaker's race.

Spin your own scenarios in this thread, and please contact me if you know of another House Republican actively seeking the post of speaker or majority leader.  

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Weekend open thread: "Serious mismanagement" edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 09, 2015 at 12:15:00 PM CDT

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

Ryan Foley's August 3 story for the Associated Press was disturbing on several levels. A "Serious Mismanagement Report" described a "decade of dysfunction" at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa. Between 1999 and 2010, "78 construction projects costing a total of $3.4 million were approved there in violation of federal laws meant to protect archaeological resources and historic sites." Also troubling: National Park Service officials have suppressed the report's publication and recently denied that it existed. They have commissioned another team to write a separate (less critical) review of Effigy Mounds operations. National Park Service deputy regional director Patricia Trap delivered some unintentional comedy when she said, "I'm not denying some serious mismanagement [...] But also there were actions taken along the way that were actually appropriate management." I'm so relieved to know that Effigy Mounds officials handled some matters appropriately in addition to the seventy-eight projects that failed to comply with federal law.

Iowa Public Radio's Morning Edition with Clay Masters interviewed Foley about the mismanagement and next steps at Effigy Mounds. Click through for the audio and transcript.

The Des Moines Register published a front-page piece by Grant Rodgers on August 5 about the "uncertain future" for Iowa's regional drug courts. Those courts steer defendants into treatment rather than prison, turning lives around at lower cost than incarceration. "Yet despite their popularity among prosecutors, judges and community leaders, several Iowa drug courts have experienced sluggish legislative funding - so much so that they now are in jeopardy," Rodgers reports. What a classic case of penny-wise and pound-foolish budgeting by state legislators who brag to their constituents about fiscal responsibility. With an ending balance (surplus) of at least $300 million expected for Iowa's budget in the 2016 fiscal year, it's ridiculous that the drug court in Council Bluffs will shut down on October 1, with courts in Burlington and Ottumwa "at risk of closing" later this year.

The front page of today's Sunday Des Moines Register features a depressing must-read by Tony Leys about former residents of the now-closed Iowa Mental Health Institute at Clarinda, which "cared for some of the frailest and most complicated psychiatric patients in the state." Of the eighteen people who lived in the Clarinda facility earlier this year, eight

were transferred to four traditional nursing homes, all of which are rated "below average" or "much below average" on a federal registry. The four facilities are in the bottom 29 percent of Iowa nursing homes for overall quality, according to the Medicare registry. Two of those eight patients died shortly after their transfers.

I've enclosed excerpts from all of the above stories after the jump, but I recommend clicking through to read the articles in their entirety.

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