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Iowa Senate

IA-02: State Senator Mark Chelgren makes campaign against Dave Loebsack official

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:46:36 PM CDT

After dropping some unsubtle hints in recent days, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren confirmed today that he will run for Congress in Iowa's second district, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register. He will launch the campaign in Iowa City this afternoon on October 6 before appearing at the Scott County Republican Party Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf. Scott County has the largest population and Johnson County (containing Iowa City) the second-largest among the 24 counties in IA-02.

Speaking to the Register, Chelgren said he doesn't dislike five-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack, but "This is a question of who is better suited to change Washington, D.C. [...] you are not going to do it by following party lines and doing what you are told." In reality, Loebsack has not blindly followed the lead of his fellow House Democrats. The Progressive Punch database of Congressional voting indicates that Loebsack is only the 157th most progressive current member of the House. He has also voted with Republicans rather than with most of his own caucus on more than 30 percent of the "crucial votes" tallied by Progressive Punch since 2007.

A business owner in Ottumwa, Chelgren told the Register he is running to represent the people of southeast Iowa and hopes to bring to Washington his experience creating jobs at the local level. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in July, Chelgren outlined other key themes of his potential Congressional campaign: changing our trade policy, upgrading our infrastructure, fixing a "massively broken" education system, and bringing more long-range planning to the federal government.

Chelgren's ten-vote victory in a 2010 Iowa Senate race neither party had its eye on still evokes unprintable words from many Democrats. Despite being the most vulnerable GOP Iowa Senate incumbent going into the 2014 election cycle, Chelgren managed to win re-election by 374 votes after calling attention to some unforced errors by the Democratic candidate. So no one should count him out.

That said, IA-02 would be a long-shot prospect for any Republican candidate in 2016. The district leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,325 active registered Democrats, 136,237 Republicans, and 183,235 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential election year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

UPDATE: Added below Chelgren's press release announcing his candidacy.

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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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Iowa Senate district 16 primary preview: Pam Dearden Conner vs. Nate Boulton

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 20:00:00 PM CDT

A generational battle is shaping up in the Democratic primary to replace State Senator Dick Dearden, who has represented parts of Des Moines in the legislature since 1995. Dearden recently disclosed plans to retire in 2016. Like last year's campaign to replace Jack Hatch in Iowa Senate district 17 on the south side of Des Moines, the June primary will determine Dearden's successor.

Senate district 16 covers heavily Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of Des Moines, and also the growing suburb of Pleasant Hill. A detailed map is after the jump. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office indicate that the district contains 14,624 active registered Democrats, 6,978 Republicans, and 10,106 no-party voters. Dearden was unopposed in 2004 and defeated his Republican challengers by wide margins in 2008 and in 2012.

More candidates may enter the race later, but for now the primary will pit the incumbent's daughter Pam Dearden Conner against labor attorney Nate Boulton. Iowa Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Michael Mauro endorsed Conner on Facebook this past weekend. She is his administrative assistant and also worked for him in the Polk County Election Office and the Secretary of State's Office. Many other longtime friends and backers of Senator Dearden have expressed their support for Conner's campaign on social media.

Nate Boulton is a partner in a law firm that has represented Iowa's largest pubic employee union (AFSCME) in several high-profile cases against Governor Terry Branstad's administration. Since last Friday, many Democratic activists in their 20s and 30s have promoted his candidacy on social media. Bouton's on Twitter here, and his campaign is on Facebook here.

I enclose below press releases from each candidate, containing short biographies and statements of values. Both Conner and Boulton have strong pro-labor credentials and are pledging to support consensus Democratic priorities like education. Boulton's statement hints at the case he will make in the primary, promising to "be an active and engaged representative of district interests" and to "bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate." Such phrases allude to the fact that Dearden, while a solid vote in the legislature, has never been at the forefront of progressive fights. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a cause he has led on, besides bringing back dove hunting, which isn't a partisan issue. Dearden didn't accomplish that longstanding goal until Governor Terry Branstad was back in office.

Two (or perhaps more) committed candidates working hard to identify and turn out supporters next June can only help Democratic GOTV in the general election. Here's hoping for a competitive race that doesn't turn bitter and negative, as happened in Senate district 17 last spring.

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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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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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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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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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Fallout from state's selection of companies to manage Medicaid for half a million Iowans

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 12:49:37 PM CDT

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Human Services announced the four private insurance companies selected to manage care for almost all of the 560,000 Iowans on Medicaid. Pending successful contract negotiations, Amerigroup Iowa, AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa, UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, and WellCare of Iowa will start managing care for Iowans on January 1, 2016. It's too early to say how the change will affect medical services. Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan expressed concern "that people will fall through the cracks" and said she hopes Iowans will contact state lawmakers "if problems develop" under the new system.

Some losers have emerged from the process already: namely, two companies now managing care for some Iowans on Medicaid, which were not selected to continue in that role next year. Follow me after the jump for background on the Medicaid privatization plan and the fallout from the Iowa DHS not choosing Magellan Health Inc and Meridian Health Plan as managed care organizations for 2016.  

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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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Bad news for supporters of Iowa's "ag gag" law

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 05, 2015 at 11:48:09 AM CDT

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled unconstitutional an Idaho law that criminalized lying to obtain employment at an agricultural facility or making unauthorized audio and video recordings at such facilities. Will Potter, one of the plaintiffs challenging the "ag gag" law, has been covering the case at the Green is the New Red blog. Judge Lyn Winmill's ruling (pdf) found that the Idaho law's provisions violated both "the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution.

The Iowa House and Senate approved and Governor Terry Branstad signed our state's version of the "ag gag" law in 2012. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Although Iowa's law differed from the Idaho statute in some ways, several parts of yesterday's federal court ruling would appear to apply equally to Iowa's law. After the jump I've enclosed the relevant language from both state laws and excerpts from Judge Winmill's ruling.

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Where are they now? Mariannette Miller-Meeks edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 03, 2015 at 11:24:45 AM CDT

GOP county leaders in the second Congressional district elected Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee on August 1, the Iowa GOP announced in a press release. An Army veteran and ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks was the Republican challenger to Representative Dave Loebsack in IA-02 three times: in 2008, 2010, and 2014. She also served as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health in Governor Terry Branstad's administration from January 2011 to January 2014, when she stepped down in preparation for her third Congressional campaign. She currently lives in Ottumwa.

Although Miller-Meeks was not able to unseat Loebsack, she left a lasting mark on Iowa politics in at least one way. I am convinced that her coattails in the Ottumwa area pulled Mark Chelgren over the line in his 2010 Iowa Senate race against Democratic incumbent Keith Kreiman. Chelgren won that election by ten votes in a district considered so heavily Democratic that neither party spent any serious money there. Don't get me started on how Chelgren managed to win re-election last November. Democrats should have been able to get Iowa Senate district 41 back. Chelgren may be the GOP nominee against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

The Iowa GOP just opened a field office in Ottumwa, signaling that Republicans view that part of southeast Iowa as fertile ground. Thanks in part to a strong history of organized labor at area factories, Ottumwa has traditionally supported Democratic candidates. In fact, Wapello County was one of just five Iowa counties to vote for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election as well as one of just four counties to vote for Bonnie Campbell in her 1994 gubernatorial race against Terry Branstad.

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State Senator Mark Chelgren "seriously" considering IA-02 campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 31, 2015 at 08:39:52 AM CDT

State Senator Mark Chelgren is looking "seriously" at running against five-term Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa's second Congressional district, he told Bleeding Heartland yesterday. He said he has no timeline for making a decision. If he runs for Congress, his key issues would include:

• The economy. Chelgren said our country's manufacturing base "has been deteriorating over the past 50 years." He added that he doesn't support how the U.S. has negotiated trade agreements. Asked whether he would support giving the White House trade promotion authority, which Congress passed last month, Chelgren replied, "Hell no." While the economy and the world have "changed dramatically," American policy-makers "have done almost nothing to upgrade our infrastructure." Chelgren clarified that he was not talking primarily about 20th-century infrastructure like roads and railroads but about 21st-century needs such as high-speed internet access "to every community." Meanwhile, the federal government is keeping interest rates "artificially low" and "diluting the strength of the economy" by printing money.

• Education. Chelgren believes "our education system is massively broken." It "was designed to create assembly-line workers" or people working in office cubicles, rather than to prepare students for the modern economy.

• Long-range planning. "We have politicians at the state and federal level that think in two-year increments," whereas we need "better vision" looking five to ten years ahead, according to Chelgren.

By this point in the 2012 election cycle, three Republicans had announced plans to run against Loebsack. Not only has no GOP candidate launched a campaign in IA-02 yet, I haven't heard rumors about any prospective candidates other than Chelgren. Loebsack's last general-election opponent, Marionette Miller-Meeks, is unlikely to run again after losing to Loebsack three times, twice in Republican wave years (2010 and 2014). Former State Representative Mark Lofgren, who lost last year's GOP primary to Miller-Meeks, is running for Iowa Senate district 46 in 2016. Chelgren doesn't need to choose between serving in the state legislative and running for Congress, because he was just re-elected to a second four-year term and won't be on the ballot in Iowa Senate district 41 again until 2018.

IA-02 leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,562 active registered Democrats, 136,215 Republicans, and 182,047 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

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Branstad vetoes will stand: not enough support for Iowa legislative special session

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 30, 2015 at 16:58:51 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad's vetoes of education and mental health funding will stand, as the two-thirds majority needed to call a special legislative session has failed to materialize in either the Iowa House or Senate.

A special session always looked like a long-shot, given that Iowa House Republican leaders didn't want to spend extra money on education and only reluctantly agreed to extend funding for mental health institutions. In addition, 23 of the 24 Iowa Senate Republicans voted against the supplemental spending bill. They had no stake in the compromise the governor blew apart.

Still, the outcry over school funding (including dozens of normally non-political superintendents speaking out) created an opening for Republican lawmakers. Even if they didn't believe in the substantive value of additional education or mental health funding, they could have taken a big issue off the table for next year's statehouse elections. So far, very few Republicans seem worried about the political fallout from not overriding Branstad's vetoes. Democrats appear ready to remind voters at every opportunity who created the holes local education leaders are scrambling to fill.  

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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 11:52:06 AM CDT

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

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I've posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It's a shame the venue couldn't accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who's a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn't take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she's relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of "ignoring" Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I'm amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton "bombed" in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump's remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump's comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he's done something wrong, "I don't bring God into that picture."

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Where are they now? Non-existent heated sidewalks edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 15, 2015 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland's "Where are they now?" posts usually focus on new jobs for former elected officials, candidates for high office, or other prominent individuals in Iowa politics.

Todd Dorman's latest commentary for the Cedar Rapids Gazette prompted me to follow up on a smear from the 2010 state legislative elections.

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A close look at the status of abortion regulations in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 14, 2015 at 09:19:20 AM CDT

Anti-abortion activists suffered a setback last month when the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional the state ban on using telemedicine for medical abortions. But the health and human services budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1 contained two provisions sought by those who want to reduce the number of abortions performed in Iowa.

The first part of this post examines new language in the Iowa Code related to ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Who was closer to the mark: Iowa Right to Life, which hailed the "HUGE life-saving victory" as the anti-choice movement's biggest legislative success in two decades? Or Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which countered that the ultrasound language would neither change the standard of care at their clinics nor "directly impact a woman's access to abortion"?

Next, the post addresses language lawmakers first adopted in 2013 and renewed in the just-passed human services budget, which allows the Iowa governor to determine whether Medicaid should reimburse for abortion services. No other state has a similar provision.

Finally, I offer some thoughts on an odd feature of anti-abortion activism in the Iowa legislature. State Senate Republicans advocate more for restrictions on abortion rights and access than do GOP representatives in the House, even though "pro-choice" Democrats control the upper chamber, while all 57 members of the House majority caucus are nominally "pro-life." Iowa House leaders have not been eager to put abortion bills on the agenda. This year, rank-and-file House Republicans didn't even introduce, let alone make a serious attempt to pass, companion bills to most of the abortion-related legislation their counterparts filed in the state Senate.

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State Senator Jason Schultz has a strange view of treachery

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jul 11, 2015 at 09:56:23 AM CDT

State Senator Jason Schultz weighed in last night on the controversy over Confederate flag displays: "I'm now convinced the whole Confederate flag issue is simply about progressives teaching the establishment R's how to jump through hoops."

During our ensuing dialogue, Schultz revealed the level of nuanced thinking and temperate choice of words one would expect from a Ted Cruz endorser.  

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"Quit whining" wasn't the most outrageous thing Iowa State Senator David Johnson said yesterday

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 10, 2015 at 09:43:05 AM CDT

Waterloo high school teacher Vaughn Gross e-mailed 23 Iowa Republican state senators this week, urging them to "help call a special [legislative] session to fund our schools." State Senator David Johnson sent back a dismissive reply, telling Gross to "Quit whining" and complaining that Democrats had cost him money by sending the Iowa legislative session into overtime.

I'm surprised an experienced politician would respond in that tone to Gross's respectful, heartfelt appeal. But Johnson outdid himself later in the day, after his message to the teacher went viral. Far from seeking a graceful way out of the situation, Johnson defended his choice of words and indicated that he sees GOP legislators as the victims of a "concerted attack" on their votes. In his view, Republicans should not be criticized for education funding levels.


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