[Bleeding Heartland Logo]

About
Bleeding Heartland is a community blog about Iowa politics: campaigns and elections, state government, social and environmental issues. Bleeding Heartland also weighs in on presidential policies and campaigns, federal legislation and what the Iowans in Congress are up to. Join our community, post your thoughts as comments or diaries, help keep our leaders honest and hold them accountable.
Author
- desmoinesdem
Highlights
- Iowa politics in 2008
- Iowa politics in 2009 (1)
- Iowa politics in 2009 (2)
- National politics in 2009 (1)
- National politics in 2009 (2)
- Iowa 2012 election coverage
- Who's who in the Iowa House for 2013
- Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2013
- Iowa wildflowers
2014 Election Coverage
- IA-Sen
- IA-Gov
- IA-01
- IA-02
- IA-03
- IA-04
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of State
- State Auditor
- Iowa Senate overview
- Iowa House overview
- Senate district 5
- Senate district 7
- Senate district 9
- Senate district 13
- Senate district 15
- Senate district 17
- Senate district 27
- Senate district 39
- Senate district 41
- Senate district 47
- Senate district 49
- House district 25
- House district 28
- House district 33 (2013)
- House district 40
- House district 51
- House district 60
- House district 65
- House district 68
- House district 73
- House district 91
- House district 92
- House district 95
- House district 99
Search




Advanced Search


Paid Advertising


Bleeding Heartland
It's what plants crave.
Iowa Senate

Republicans nominate Jonathan Lochman in Iowa Senate district 17

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 07:05:00 AM CDT

After fielding candidates in every Iowa Senate district in 2012, Republicans left a bunch of low-probability seats uncontested this year. One of those districts now has a GOP candidate, however: a special convention on July 24 selected Jonathan Lochman to run in Iowa Senate district 17. I don't see a website for his campaign, but Lochman's on Facebook here. During 13 years of active duty in the U.S. Army, he served wartime tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He's now the Iowa coordinator for Team Rubicon (the Iowa chapter is on Facebook here).

Iowa Senate district 17 is open because State Senator Jack Hatch is running for governor. Tony Bisignano narrowly won a contentious three-way primary in this heavily Democratic seat covering parts of downtown Des Moines and the south side. In a press release, Lochman asserted that Bisignano would "be a rubber stamp for the radical, obstructionist agenda of Mike Gronstal," whereas the Republican would "be an independent voice for my community." Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix asserted, "Des Moines voters deserve a candidate​ like Jonathan Lochman, who has​ the integrity, honor and passion to effectively represent their interests at the State Capitol​." Judging from that comment and various Republican posts on social media, the plan is for Lochman to win by playing up Bisignano's drunk driving arrests and scandals from his previous term of service in the Iowa Senate during the 1990s.

It would be a historic upset for a Republican to win a state legislative seat here. The latest official figures show that Senate district 17 contains 16,388 active registered Democrats, 6,559 Republicans, and 9,792 no-party voters. Bisignano should have help from the Iowa Democratic Party's coordinated campaign, because other Democratic candidates (notably Hatch, U.S. Senate nominee Braley, and IA-03 nominee Staci Appel) are counting on good GOTV in strongholds like the south side of Des Moines.

Also on July 24, Polk County Republicans held a special convention to nominate Army veteran Tom Hess in Iowa House district 34, covering half of Senate district 17. Hess will challenge longtime Democratic State Representative Bruce Hunter and has about the same chance of winning as Lochman (slim to none). As of July 1, House district 34 contained 8,404 active registered Democrats, 3,497 Republicans, and 5,114 no-party voters.

P.S. - I would have posted the full press release on Lochman's campaign launch, but the "latest news" on the Iowa Senate Republicans website is a press release from mid-May.

UPDATE: Cityview's Civic Skinny published a detailed account of Tony Bisignano's drunk driving arrest and how the case unfolded from there. Many details were new to me, and I suspect that if they had been more widely known, Nathan Blake might have won the Senate district 17 Democratic primary.

The most surprising fact recounted by Civic Skinny is that Jennifer Jacobs apparently e-mailed her draft Des Moines Register story on the OWI to Bisignano before publishing. Double-checking quoted remarks is one thing, but I am not aware of any newspaper where it is standard practice to run a full draft by the public figure who is the subject of the article.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Martin O'Malley: Presidential candidate? Maybe. Clinton rival? No way.

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 14:45:00 PM CDT

It makes perfect sense for potential Democratic presidential candidates to visit Iowa, meeting activists and keeping their options open. That doesn't mean any of them would run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Case in point: Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. Having keynoted the Iowa Democratic Party's state convention last month, he's coming here again this weekend, headlining events for State Senator Rita Hart and state Senate candidate Kevin Kinney on Saturday, then Council Bluffs and Sioux City events for gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch on Sunday. Politico's Maggie Halberman notes that O'Malley "has said he's exploring a 2016 presidential run." A Des Moines Register headline writer termed him a "possible rival" to Clinton. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post speculated, "O'Malley is term limited out as governor at the end of this year and undoubtedly thinks a credible run for president might bolster his chances of a spot in a Clinton Administration."

I just don't see it. Laying the groundwork for a potential campaign is not the same thing as preparing to embark on a suicide mission. O'Malley doesn't come across as a guy like Senator Bernie Sanders, who knows he will never be president but might run to shine a light on issues important to him. O'Malley goes way back with Bill and Hillary Clinton. He stuck with Hillary for president even after Barack Obama dominated the 2008 Maryland primary. From where I'm sitting, CNN's Dan Merica had it exactly right when he described O'Malley as an "understudy," "angling to be the person who could step in" if Clinton does not run for president for whatever reason. Maryland's term limits for governors make 2016 an ideal time for O'Malley to run for president, but he's only 51 years old--young enough to wait until 2020 or 2024 if necessary.

Meanwhile, I hope all of this weekend's events are successful, because Hatch, Hart, and Kinney are very worth supporting.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - Hart's re-election bid in Senate district 49 is a must-hold for Democrats. Kinney's running in the open Senate district 39, and if he wins, it would virtually guarantee a Democratic majority in the state legislature's upper chamber for the next two years.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

July 4 weekend open thread: Iowa fireworks debate

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 12:34:00 PM CDT

Happy Independence Day to the Bleeding Heartland community. We're heading out to the Windsor Heights parade soon. Holiday parades and summer festivals are great outreach opportunities for candidates and their campaigns. Please share any favorite parade stories in this thread.

Last weekend Democratic State Senator Jeff Danielson and Republican State Senator Jake Chapman co-authored an editorial promising to work together next year to legalize fireworks in Iowa.

Senate File 2294 had several provisions that would allow fireworks to be safely regulated. Those stipulations would include prohibiting minors from purchasing fireworks, giving local municipalities the ability to restrict fireworks and the fire marshal the ability to regulate fireworks in the case of droughts.

The fireworks ban originally was a result of a Depression-era fire created by a sparkler in the middle of a drought when temperatures were nearing 100 degrees.

There also are misnomers and myths surrounding the fireworks-related injuries. In fact, the number of fireworks-related injuries in the U.S. has decreased drastically - nearly 61 percent - from 1994 to 2011, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This decrease in reported injuries is noteworthy considering the use of fireworks increased nearly 100 percent during the same time period.

We remind Iowans that as we near the celebration of our independence, fireworks remain illegal in Iowa. About 42 states have legalized some form of fireworks. We encourage all those who wish to have the same freedom to display fireworks, to please contact your legislators and let them know it is time for Iowa to join America in celebrating our Independence Day with fireworks.

Here's some background on "The Great Spencer Fire" of 1931.

I'm a bit surprised to see Danielson taking the lead on this issue, as he is not only a firefighter but also a veteran. Amateur fireworks can prompt anxiety or panic attacks for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Playing with sparklers, which are legal, as well as fireworks purchased from neighboring states, contributes to a surge in eye injuries around July 4. Interest groups representing doctors have lobbied strongly against lifting the ban on most fireworks because of the risk of burns.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Bisignano wins Iowa Senate district 17 as Blake opts against recount

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 09:51:00 AM CDT

Tony Bisignano will be the Democratic nominee in Iowa Senate district 17, as second-place finisher Nathan Blake declined to request a recount. From a Facebook status update Blake posted yesterday:

According to the official canvass from the Polk County Auditor's Office, I ended up 18 votes behind in the Democratic primary election for Iowa State Senate District 17. I congratulate Tony Bisignano on a hard-fought victory. Thank you to my supporters, volunteers, and all who voted. Thanks especially to my wife and partner, Andrea, and our two kids for their patience, support, and sacrifices over the last year. I am proud of the campaign we ran. We won over 60% of the Election Day vote, even if we came up a few votes short.

As for the future, I am committed to to electing Democrats up and down the ballot in Iowa this November. I will continue my work in public service, fighting for consumers as an Assistant Iowa Attorney General. I promise to stay involved in progressive politics and will seek future opportunities to serve in elective office. The issues we care about are too important to sit on the sidelines.

A recount wouldn't have changed the result, so I think Blake did the right thing not to go through the motions. He did manage a very strong election-day turnout, which is promising for any future candidacies.

Senate district 17 was the best chance for Democrats to elect Iowa's first Latino state legislator, but two other opportunities remain this year in House district 60 and Senate district 47.

UPDATE: In a Facebook post, Bisignano said of Blake, "I can't say enough about his poise and character. He has a very bright future in public service and I'm looking forward to helping him. His positive and respectful campaign shows what people want and expect from their public officals."

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 08:10:18 AM CDT

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1013 words in story)

Tony Bisignano's lead will hold up in Iowa Senate district 17

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 10:55:48 AM CDT

Tony Bisignano will be the next state senator representing Iowa Senate district 17, barring some extraordinary turn of events. The final election-night vote count showed him leading with 1,438 votes, to 1,425 for Nathan Blake and 1,001 for Ned Chiodo. Yesterday, officials counted six additional ballots, which all had been hand-delivered to the Polk County Auditor's office on June 3, primary election day. Bisignano gained five votes and Chiodo one. So the final unofficial result shows Bisignano leading Blake by 1,443 to 1,425.

According to the Polk County Auditor's elections office, three ballots from Senate district 17 arrived in the mail on June 4, but none will be counted, because they were postmarked June 3. In order to be counted, a late-arriving absentee ballot must be postmarked the day before the election at the latest.

On election night, Blake wrote on Facebook that his "campaign is reviewing all options to ensure that every vote is counted and accurately recorded." I haven't seen any statement since on whether he will request a recount. (There are no automatic recounts for Iowa primary elections.) I can't imagine that a recount would change an eighteen-vote margin. In recent years, recounts of various Iowa House and Senate races have typically only changed the totals by a handful of votes, at most.

No Republican has filed to run in Senate district 17, an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in terms of voter registration. I was hoping for a different outcome in this primary, but I wish Bisignano well in his Iowa Senate work and offer condolences on the loss of his mother. I've posted below his statement on his mother's passing and the primary election results. Bisignano won this race on early GOTV, building up a 102-vote margin on Chiodo and a 649-vote margin on Blake through absentee ballots. Blake had strong election-day turnout, especially considering that there were no competitive Democratic primaries for governor, U.S. Senate, or the third Congressional district, but it wasn't quite enough. No doubt he'll have other opportunities to run for office.

Final note for Iowa election trivia buffs: Patrick Rynard set a record this year that will likely never be broken. He has now managed two campaigns that spawned cases eventually reaching the Iowa Supreme Court. Rick Mullin's Iowa Senate race in Sioux City in 2010 led to the recent court ruling about negative political advertising. Bisignano's candidacy (or more accurately Chiodo's determination to drive his rival off the ballot) prompted a high court ruling that may lead to thousands of Iowans getting their voting rights back.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 333 words in story)

Labor union endorsements in contested 2014 Iowa Democratic primaries

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 21, 2014 at 12:17:37 PM CDT

With less than two weeks remaining before June 3, interest groups with a preference in competitive primaries have presumably made their views known by now. On the Democratic side, labor unions are most likely to get involved in primaries, so I wanted to compile in one place the full list of candidates in competitive Democratic races who have been endorsed by one or more organized labor group. None of the Democrats seeking statewide office in Iowa this year has a primary opponent, and I've omitted county-level races. The list below includes candidates running for Congress in the first district and seeking various Iowa House and Senate seats.

I will update this post as needed if I learn of other labor union endorsements. Note that many other Democratic candidates already have or will have organized labor's official support for the general election campaign. Blog for Iowa posted all of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO's endorsements for 2014 here. A complete list of candidates who will appear on primary ballots is on this page of the Iowa Secretary of State's website.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 710 words in story)

Cedar Rapids mayor won't give up casino dream

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 14, 2014 at 09:53:00 AM CDT

Talk about opportunity costs: Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett will not pursue any alternative development plans for a downtown parcel of land where backers hope to build a casino. Rather, he will continue to pursue the casino project despite last month's 4 to 1 vote by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to reject a gambling license for Cedar Rapids.

Speaking to Rick Smith of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, onetime Iowa House Speaker Corbett said he hopes the Iowa legislature will approve a bill granting a license for a smoke-free casino to Iowa's second-largest city. Democratic State Senator Wally Horn already tried to add such language to a bill limiting greyhound racing, but his amendment was ruled not germane.

Independent research has repeatedly shown that the hidden economic costs of casinos "far exceed their benefits and that [casinos] are a poor use of precious downtown land." But even if that were not true, why waste years trying to persuade the Iowa legislature to pass this kind of bill? What are the chances lawmakers will go along with a special deal for Cedar Rapids, when many of them represent districts with casinos that stand to lose market share? Furthermore, current Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, who represents a suburban Cedar Rapids district, screwed up Iowa's chance to get passenger rail to Iowa City (and possibly later to Des Moines and Council Bluffs).

Corbett seems to hope Jack Hatch will win the governor's race; Hatch has expressed support for a Cedar Rapids casino. If elected, he might sign a bill for this purpose, or might appoint like-minded people to the Racing and Gaming Commission. But that process would take years. Why not pursue plan B or plan C for Cedar Rapids? There are many other approaches to economic development that do not hurt other local businesses the way casinos do.

The spin about a smoke-free casino being a "healthy" option for a "Blue Zone" community like Cedar Rapids is a sick joke. Casinos are no benefit to public health. On the contrary, problem gambling increases with accessibility and incurs major hidden health costs.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Tom Miller endorses Nathan Blake in Iowa Senate district 17 primary

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 11, 2014 at 19:10:00 PM CDT

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has endorsed Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa Senate district 17. State Senator Jack Hatch is running for governor rather than seeking re-election in that heavily Democratic seat. Blake, former State Senator Tony Bisignano, and former State Representative Ned Chiodo are competing in the Democratic primary. No Republican has filed to run for the seat covering much of downtown Des Moines and the south side of the capital city (this post includes a detailed map). Several organized labor groups are backing Bisignano. Chiodo's supporters include U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.

After the jump I've posted Miller's statement, which the Des Moines Register published as a letter to the editor on May 10. I've also enclosed Blake's biography.

While Miller's public support for the assistant attorney general covering consumer protection is no surprise, it will likely enrage Chiodo. In a court challenge to Bisignano's eligibility, Chiodo argued that Miller should have recused himself from the three-member panel that originally cleared Bisignano to run for office despite an aggravated misdemeanor. Chiodo's court filing asserted that Miller had a conflict of interest, since Blake potentially would benefit from two heavyweights of south-side politics splitting the primary vote.

A Polk County District Court judge rejected that argument, and the Iowa Supreme Court did not rule on whether Miller should have recused himself when five justices determined Bisignano was eligible to run for office.

Any comments about the Senate district 17 race are welcome in this thread. From what I've heard, Chiodo was the first to go negative (against Bisignano) in direct mail. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers who live in the district to save campaign flyers or mail pieces and, if possible, send me scanned copies: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com . Before the June 3 primary, I plan to post an overview of key arguments for and against each candidate. I am encouraging my friends in the district to vote for Blake. Not only is Blake capable and progressive, I think the Iowa Senate has plenty of long-serving elected Democrats and would benefit from some new blood.

Blake's official bio also notes that if elected, he "would be the first Latino to serve in Iowa's legislature." Two Latina Democrats are running for the statehouse this year as well: Maria Bribriesco against Senator Roby Smith in Senate district 47, and Karyn Finn against Republican incumbent Walt Rogers in House district 60. CORRECTION: Bleeding Heartland user Mitch notes in the comments that I forgot to mention Maria Rundquist, a Latina who is one of two Democrats challenging incumbent Rick Bertrand in Iowa Senate district 7.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 593 words in story)

IA-03: A brilliant pander by Brad Zaun

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 09, 2014 at 09:30:00 AM CDT

I don't see State Senator Brad Zaun winning the GOP nomination in Iowa's third Congressional district. From the numbers I've seen, Republican donors and voters are looking elsewhere. But give credit where credit is due: Zaun made the most of his interview with Des Moines Register editors this week. GOP activists will eat up news that Zaun "sometimes carries a 9 mm handgun while working in the Senate chamber" or appearing at public events. Never mind that the rules are clear, and legislators are not exempt from the ban on carrying firearms or other dangerous weapons in the capitol complex. The GOP base will love Zaun's explanation of why the rules shouldn't apply to him: "I went through all the lawful procedures that were required of me [to carry a concealed weapon]. I am going to defend myself if someone attacks me, and I have a right to do that."

Click here for other highlights from Zaun's sit-down with Register staff. Explaining why he is "smarter and wiser" than during his 2010 Congressional bid, Zaun explained that he now supports government subsidies for the biofuels industry. I took issue with this whining, though:

On another note, Zaun said he doesn't think it's fair for news organizations to keep bringing up a 2001 West Des Moines police report that surfaced during the 2010 campaign. The police report detailed his conflict with a former girlfriend at a time when he was divorced. No charges were filed. Zaun has since remarried.

Zaun pointed out that the woman provided a statement to The Des Moines Register just days before the 2010 election in which she said she remained friends with Zaun and she planned to vote for him. "It is something that we have just both moved on from, and I think it is unfortunate that this keeps getting brought up," he said.

No, what's unfair is that the mayor of Urbandale was able to keep this incident covered up for so long, including during his first campaign for the Iowa Senate in 2004. When a person's harassment of someone else becomes intense enough for police to be involved, that's a red flag voters should know about. I'm glad Zaun and his onetime girlfriend have reconciled, but that "unfortunate" part of his record was newsworthy and should have been public knowledge way before he ran for Congress in 2010.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

IA-Sen: Joni Ernst has done what she needed to do (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 08, 2014 at 18:25:05 PM CDT

The more I see of the Republican race for U.S. Senate, the more I'm convinced that State Senator Joni Ernst will win the GOP nomination, barring some major gaffe or new revelation about her record.

Three reasons are after the jump.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 2692 words in story)

Highlights from this year's Iowa Senate votes on Branstad nominees

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 08, 2014 at 07:38:29 AM CDT

During the 2014 legislative session, the Iowa Senate confirmed all but a handful of Governor Terry Branstad's more than 200 nominees for state boards and commissions. It's not unusual for senators to vote down one or two appointees, but this year the Senate confirmed everyone who came up for a vote on the floor.

The only close call was former Iowa House Republican Nick Wagner, confirmed to the Iowa Utilities Board last month with just one vote to spare. Branstad originally named Wagner to the three-member utilities board in 2013 but pulled his nomination when it became clear that senators would not confirm him. Branstad named Wagner to that board anyway, right after the Senate adjourned for the year in 2013. By the time his nomination came up for consideration this year, a couple of factors that worked against him were no longer relevant. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar had resigned from the board to run for Congress, so there would no longer be two of three members from Marion (a Cedar Rapids suburb). Furthermore, Branstad named attorney Sheila Tipton to replace Dandekar, so senators could no longer object to the lack of a lawyer on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Still, most of the Democratic caucus opposed Wagner's nomination. State Senator Rob Hogg cited the nominee's support for a bad nuclear power bill that the legislature considered a few years back. Meanwhile, State Senator Matt McCoy (who incidentally wanted to pass the nuclear bill) noted that as a key Iowa House Republican on budget matters, Wagner "was not willing to listen" and "took very difficult and very hard-line positions." After the jump I've posted the roll call on the Wagner nomination; 11 Democrats joined all 24 Republicans to confirm him.

As in recent years, the governor withdrew a handful of nominees who were not likely to gain at least 34 votes (a two-thirds majority) in the upper chamber. A few nominees for low-profile boards had to go because of party imbalance issues. Chet Hollingshead, one of seven Branstad appointees to the Mental Health and Disability Services Commission, never came up for a vote, presumably because of a theft incident Bleeding Heartland user Iowa_native described here.

I am not sure why Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal informed Branstad that Jason Carlstrom was unlikely to be confirmed as chair of the Iowa Board of Parole. The governor first appointed Carlstrom to that position in the summer of 2012, to fill out the remainder of someone else's term. The Iowa Senate unanimously confirmed him during the 2013 legislative session. When Branstad reappointed Carlstrom to the parole board this year, I didn't expect him to run into any trouble. I will update this post if I learn more details.

The highest-profile nominee withdrawn by Branstad was former Iowa House Republican Jamie Van Fossen, whom the governor wanted to chair the Public Employment Relations Board. Cityview's Civic Skinny described the backstory well; I've posted excerpts after the jump. Van Fossen still serves on that board, having been confirmed to a full term in 2012. But the new chair will be Mike Cormack, a Republican who served four terms in the Iowa House and later worked for the State Department of Education. Senators unanimously confirmed Cormack last month. The outgoing Public Employment Relations Board chair, Jim Riordan, has alleged that the board faced political pressure from Branstad staffers to hire an employer-friendly administrative law judge.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 660 words in story)

Iowa legislature not serious yet about preserving soil and clean water

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:16:45 AM CDT

The Iowa House and Senate wrapped up the 2014 session during "Soil and Water Conservation Week." While certain environmental programs did well in the budget for fiscal year 2015, the legislature did not adequately address some of the biggest problems affecting Iowa's soil and water.

The Iowa Environmental Council blog linked to several recent articles by "top experts on Iowa soil conservation," who "expressed alarm about the state of our soil" and in particular the rapid rate of erosion. Along with other kinds of agricultural runoff, soil erosion contributes to toxic algae blooms in rivers and lakes, not only in Iowa and neighboring states but also across much of the U.S. Nutrient pollution is a major reason that more than half of the country's rivers and streams are "in poor condition for aquatic life."At the end of this post, I've enclosed an infographic explaining how toxic algae blooms form and how to prevent them.

Iowa lawmakers continue to throw money at the state's Nutrient Reduction Strategy, without insisting on numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorous levels in water and without the goals, timelines and monitoring needed to assure Iowans that waterways are becoming cleaner. In fact, the fiscal year 2015 appropriation for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship removed wording requiring that money for watershed projects be used to reduce nutrients. Follow me after the jump for the disturbing details.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 655 words in story)

2014: A good legislative session for Iowa environmental funding

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 06, 2014 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

During the legislative session that just ended, the Iowa House and Senate approved substantial increases in funding for some key environmental programs.

Lawmakers committed to providing $25 million to mark the 25th anniversary of the Department of Natural Resources' Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP) achieved their goal. REAP had only been funded at the $20 million level once before during the past two and a half decades. The REAP money came from three separate bills appropriating funds for the 2015 fiscal year; I've posted details after the jump. Many REAP-funded projects have a lasting positive impact on local communities for decades. Click here for more background on the kind of projects REAP has supported around Iowa.

Last month, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson posted a guest diary warning about legislative proposals that would indirectly undermine REAP by changing the program's funding formula. Fortunately, the conference committee agreement negotiated by Iowa House and Senate members did not include that language in the final bill.

Senate File 2349 allocates Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund money, which mostly comes from gambling revenues. That bill included $9.6 million for lake restoration funding during the 2015 fiscal year, a big improvement on the recent past when lawmakers approved just $5.5 million for lake restoration projects. The Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund bill also included $2 million "for the administration of a water trails and lowhead dam public hazard statewide plan." Just a few years ago, environmental groups including Iowa Rivers Revival were fighting for even $1 million in state funding for rivers. The only downside to the river funding was that the conference committee went with House-approved language allocating the whole $2 million to low-head dam removal and water trails. Iowa Rivers Revival preferred the Senate-passed bill, which contained $1 million for that purpose and $1 million to launch a new Iowa River Restoration Program. You can find the Senate-passed version of Senate File 2349 here and the conference committee report describing agreed changes in detail here (the river funding is discussed on pages 4-5 of the Senate bill).

Governor Terry Branstad hasn't signed any of these appropriations bills yet, so funding for REAP and Iowa lakes are rivers is not a sure thing. I would be surprised if he item-vetoed any of these appropriations, although in 2011, Branstad vetoed river restoration funds that lawmakers had allocated for fiscal year 2012.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 144 words in story)

Weekend open thread: End of 2014 legislative session edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:46:47 AM CDT

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

The Iowa legislature got out of town on May 2, 110 calendar days after the 2014 session began. That's ten days after lawmakers' per diem payments ran out but earlier than in any year since 2010, when Democrats held majorities in both chambers. After the jump I've posted closing remarks delivered by the top Iowa Senate Democrats (Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and President Pam Jochum) and the top Iowa House Republicans (Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer). A series of posts next week will focus on some of the more significant legislative results from the session, as well as important bills that never did pass.

I've also enclosed Gronstal's prepared remarks on the final Iowa Senate vote of the session: granting subpeona power to the Government Oversight Committee to continue investigating various scandals in Governor Terry Branstad's administration. Gronstal emphasized that the resolution is "narrowly drafted" and "not a criminal investigation. The goal is not to convict people. The only goal is to find out what went wrong [in state government] and how to fix it." The resolution passed by voice vote just before the Senate adjourned on Friday morning. Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix blasted what he called a "dangerous" and "underhanded partisan move." He claimed the "disruption of separation of powers" will invite "a state constitutional crisis," and that the Oversight Committee's investigation is politically motivated.

Finally, in non-legislative news, Patrick Caldwell reported for Mother Jones this week on a remarkably shady deal involving Danny Carroll in 1996. At the time, Carroll was a real estate agent in the Grinnell area and an Iowa House Republican. He currently chairs the Republican Party of Iowa--though probably not for much longer. After reading Caldwell's piece, I want to know why anyone supposedly committed to Christian values would participate in a scheme to take advantage of an elderly widow with debts.  

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 2911 words in story)

HIV transmission bill passes in end-of-session surprise

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 01, 2014 at 13:36:00 PM CDT

Sometimes bills left for dead rise again in the final hours of the Iowa legislature's work. So it was for Senate File 2297, an "act relating to the criminal transmission of a contagious or infectious disease." If signed into law, this bill would replace current Iowa law on HIV transmission, under which a person can be sentenced to 25 years in prison, even if the virus that causes AIDS was not transmitted to anyone. For background on the old law, one of the harshest in the country, click here or here, or listen to this Iowa Public Radio program from March. (Incidentally, the Iowa Supreme Court has heard but not yet ruled on a case related to that law but not challenging its constitutionality.)

Whereas current law takes a "one size fits all" approach to HIV transmission cases, Senate File 2297 outlines more serious penalties for those who intentionally infect a partner (not just with HIV, but with any communicable disease) than for those who either didn't mean to transmit or did not transmit a disease. In addition,

under the new bill, Iowans would no longer be sentenced as sex offenders and a retroactive clause in the bill would remove anyone sentenced under 709c from the sex offender registry. Prosecutors would also have to prove substantial risk, rather than the current law which simply requires non-disclosure.

Senate File 2297 passed the Iowa Senate unanimously in February. Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg said it would update Iowa law to reflect modern medicine and replace a "badly outdated and draconian" part of the code. Republican State Senator Charles Schneider agreed that current law was "not always proportionate" to the crime committed.

So far, so good. But instead of sailing through the Iowa House, Senate File 2297 stalled. It cleared a House Judiciary Subcommittee but not the full committee in time for the "second funnel" deadline in mid-March. The bill landed on the "unfinished business" calendar, which kept it eligible for debate.

I hadn't heard anything about this bill for some time, until I saw this morning that it came up for debate in Iowa House a little before 2 am. It passed by 98 votes to 0. After the jump I've posted a statement from the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, which has pushed for similar legislation for years.  

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 555 words in story)

Iowa legislature gives final approval to medical cannabis oil

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 01, 2014 at 10:14:00 AM CDT

Iowa legislators pulled an all-nighter at the Capitol to close out the 2014 session. The Iowa House adjourned for the year a little before 6 am, while the Senate will return briefly on Friday to authorize further investigation of Branstad administration controversies.

It will take several days for Bleeding Heartland to cover the most important news about the state budget and other bills passed toward the end of the session. I was surprised to see that Iowa House leaders did call up Senate File 2360, the limited medical cannabis bill the Iowa Senate approved last Friday. As of yesterday afternoon, that bill seemed doomed.  I saw some speculation that leaders might not even call it up for debate. A few Republicans had filed more than a dozen amendments, apparently with the goal of killing the bill on the floor. State Representative Chip Baltimore was one sponsor of the poison pill amendments. He told the Des Moines Register that

a bill legalizing marijuana - even in an extremely limited way for an extremely limited purpose - simply couldn't be introduced, debated and passed in the space of a week.

"We're being asked to take an extraordinary leap of faith," Baltimore said, referring to the reassurances [Representative Rob] Taylor and others have given on cannabidiol's safety and efficacy. "You don't do that in five days."

Lawmakers negotiated well pass midnight and agreed to make small changes to the medical cannabis bill. It will still allow only the use of cannabis oil, not marijuana in smokeable form. According to Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson, the new language also "requires patients to get an Iowa neurologist's recommendation for cannabis oil." The Iowa House approved the bill by 75 votes to 20 just after 3:30 am. The Senate approved the House version by 38 votes to 8 about an hour later. The Senate roll call is after the jump. I'll update this post with the House roll calls once it becomes available on the Iowa legislature's website.

Governor Terry Branstad indicated a few weeks ago that he is open to a cannabis oil bill, as long as it's "very limited in focus." I expect him to sign Senate File 2360.

UPDATE: Added a statement below from State Senator Joe Bolkcom, the legislature's leading advocate for medical marijuana.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 246 words in story)

Two triumphs for Iowa lobbyists: Dog racing and e-cigarettes (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 08:40:26 AM CDT

Iowa lawmakers advanced two bills yesterday that illustrate how effective corporate and interest group lobbyists can be. In the Iowa House, a bill allowing greyhound racing to end in Council Bluffs and become less costly for a casino in Dubuque won final passage by 79 votes to 16. I've posted the roll call after the jump. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, Iowa greyhound breeders and trainers, along with their paid representatives, managed to get the state legislature to insist on a massive bailout for their industry--even though public demand for dog racing is near zero these days. According to the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald's Erin Murphy, Governor Terry Branstad has not committed to signing the bill. But if he does, tens of millions of dollars from the Las Vegas-based Caesar's corporation will be divided among a relatively small group of greyhound breeders, trainers, kennel owners, and rescue organizations.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Iowa Senate approved "an act relating to vapor products and alternative nicotine products, and providing penalties." Bleeding Heartland discussed this bill in February, when it passed the Iowa House. On its face, House File 2109 looks like it is designed to protect children's health by banning e-cigarette sales to minors. But medical and public health groups opposed the bill. Lobbyists who supported it mostly represented tobacco companies or retailers. They liked the bill because it didn't classify vapor cigarettes as tobacco products and didn't ban fruit-flavored e-cigarettes. Before final passage, senators rejected an amendment offered by Senator Joe Bolkcom, which would have strengthened the bill. They then approved an amendment offered by Senator Bill Dotzler, making minor changes to the definition of "vapor product." The lobbyist declarations on the bill still show opposition from the public health community and support from the tobacco industry and retailers. On final passage senators approved the bill by 37 votes to 12. Because of the slight change in wording, this bill goes back to the Iowa House rather than straight to the governor's desk. I doubt it will run into any trouble there, given how easily it passed in February.

Incidentally, the e-cigarettes bill is a rare example of legislation that passed the Iowa Senate with more votes from the minority party (22 of the 24 Republicans) than from the majority party (15 of the 26 Democrats). Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of any similar Iowa Senate vote during the last few years. Scroll to the end of this post for the roll call.

UPDATE: On April 29, the Iowa House approved the Senate version of House File 2109, after rejecting along party lines Democratic amendments that would have strengthened the bill. The vote on final passage was 74 to 23, similar to the margin by which House members approved the e-cigarette legislation in February. I've posted details on the roll call after the jump.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1054 words in story)

Iowa legislature's quick fix to sexual exploitation statute may need to be fixed

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 16:58:00 PM CDT

In just two days, both the Iowa House and Senate unanimously approved a bill drafted in response to a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling. A majority of justices overturned the conviction of an assistant high school basketball coach who had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a student, on the grounds that he didn't meet the definition of a "school employee" under Iowa's sexual exploitation statute. House File 2474 closes that loophole, but unfortunately, State Representative Mary Wolfe identified a drafting problem that could criminalize behavior many people would not consider sexual exploitation.

Wolfe is a criminal defense attorney by trade and gave me permission to reproduce part of her blog post below. But you should head over to her Iowa House Happenings blog and read the whole thing. Click here to read the full text of the April 11 Iowa Supreme Court ruling and dissent.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 1128 words in story)

Iowa Senate approves cannabis oil bill

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 10:35:00 AM CDT

Yesterday the Iowa Senate approved by 36 votes to 12 a bill to legalize the use of medical cannabis oil for treating certain seizure conditions. You can read the full text of Senate File 2360 here. After the jump I've posted State Senator Joe Bolkcom's floor statements in support of the bill, which summarize its key points and limited scope. An Iowa Senate Democratic research staffer provided a more detailed analysis of the bill here (pdf).

The roll call in the Senate Journal shows that all 26 Iowa Senate Democrats voted for the cannabis oil bill, joined by the following ten Republicans: Mike Breitbach, Mark Chelgren, Minority Leader Bill Dix, Joni Ernst, Hubert Houser, David Johnson, Tim Kapucian, Charles Schneider, Amy Sinclair, and Brad Zaun. The twelve Republicans who voted no were Bill Anderson, Jerry Behn, Rick Bertrand, Nancy Boettger, Jake Chapman, Randy Feenstra, Julian Garrett, Sandy Greiner, Dennis Guth, Ken Rozenboom, Roby Smith, and Jack Whitver. Republicans Mark Segebart and Dan Zumbach were absent.

During the floor debate, several Republicans warned that passing the bill would send the wrong message to teenagers, leading to more recreational use of marijuana. That's hard to fathom, since the bill does not legalize smoking marijuana, even for terminally or chronically ill Iowans who could benefit from medical cannabis in that form.

Key Iowa House Republicans and Governor Terry Branstad have made clear that for now, they would consider only a bill to allow access to medical cannabis oil. I hope a study committee on broader use of medical marijuana will go forward. Senate File 2360 is a step in the right direction and will give families like this one options other than moving to Colorado. However, the bill leaves out too many suffering people.

P.S.- A sign of how far the political ground has shifted in the medical marijuana debate: Joni Ernst and Brad Zaun are in fiercely competitive GOP primaries (for U.S. Senate and IA-03, respectively). Both of them voted for this bill.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 911 words in story)
Next >>
Menu

Make a New Account

Username:

Password:



Forget your username or password?


Iowa Liberal Blogs
- Ames Progressive
- Blog For Iowa
- Essential Estrogen
- Iowa .Gif-t Shop
- Iowa Independent (archive)
- Iowa Policy Points
- Iowans for a Future That Doesn't Suck
- John Deeth
Iowa Conservative Blogs
- Hawkeye GOP
- The Bean Walker
- Caffeinated Thoughts
- The Conservative Reader: Iowa
- The Iowa Republican
Journalists' blogs and research
- 24-Hour Dorman
- Cedar Rapids Gazette government page
- Iowa Fiscal Partnership
- Iowa Policy Project
- Iowa Politics Insider
- Iowa Watchdog.org
- On Brief: Iowa's Appellate Blog
- On the Campaign Trail with Ed Tibbetts
- Newton Independent (Peter Hussmann)
- Politically Speaking
- Price of Politics, etc.
- O.Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa
Iowa Democrats
- Tom Harkin (U.S. Senator)
- Bruce Braley (IA-01)
- Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Iowa Democratic Party
- Iowa House Democrats
- Iowa Senate Democrats
Statistics


 
Powered by: SoapBlox