How did Kim Reynolds crunch the numbers to avoid a special session?

Governor Kim Reynolds won’t call a special legislative session to balance the budget for the year that ended on June 30, her office announced this morning.

They haven’t explained how a fiscal year 2017 shortfall that non-partisan analysts estimated at $104 million in July and around $75 million a few weeks ago became a $14.6 million shortfall, according to the governor’s staff.

Reynolds didn’t take questions from the press today. She didn’t even attend the briefing where Department of Management Director Dave Roederer handed out a puzzling table.

Whatever the Reynolds administration did to avert a short-term political problem will likely worsen the strain on the state budget in the coming months.

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Baby steps: Iowa Senate GOP responds to sexual harassment verdict

Nearly two months after a jury awarded former Iowa Senate Republican communications director Kirsten Anderson $2.2 million in a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit, the Senate GOP caucus has finally parted ways with the man who most egregiously contributed to a hostile work environment for women.

However, senators who have claimed Anderson lost her job because of substandard writing still aren’t demanding high-caliber work from current communications staff.

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Yet another Iowa Republican budget atrocity

The hits just keep on coming from the health and human services budget Iowa Republicans enacted this year.

As if big spending cuts to public health programs, child care assistance, social worker field services, the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics, and ending on-site ombudsmen visits to nursing homes didn’t do enough to harm vulnerable people, that budget bill also called for short-changing Iowans who sign up for Medicaid.

The Reynolds administration is moving forward with the plan to end decades-long practice on covering health care for new Medicaid recipients.

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Bill Northey's heading to the USDA. Who will take his place?

President Donald Trump has officially nominated Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to a senior position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In another sign of this administration’s lack of basic competence, the USDA’s news release says Northey will be Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, while the statement from the White House says he will be Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. (See excerpts enclosed below, along with Northey’s official biography.)

Either way, U.S. Senate confirmation should be smooth sailing, clearing a path for Governor Kim Reynolds to appoint a new secretary of agriculture later this year or in early 2018. The appointee would presumably be a prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination next spring.

This thread is for any speculation about successors to Northey. A few months ago, I thought State Representative Pat Grassley was a lock for the job. He was seen as a likely candidate for secretary of agriculture in 2014 or 2018, had Northey run for higher office. His grandfather, Senator Chuck Grassley, is co-chairing the Reynolds campaign for governor.

And yet: ever since Pat Grassley tweeted last week that he was “not convinced” a state tax incentives package worth $400,000 per long-term job created by Apple was “good value for Iowa taxpayers,” I’ve been wondering whether he and the governor had a falling out. Perhaps word reached him that Reynolds is leaning toward someone else for secretary of agriculture. The governor has been talking up the Apple deal as a major accomplishment. Her chief of staff, Jake Ketzner, is not known for showing tolerance toward Republicans who criticize or question his boss.

Former State Representative Annette Sweeney could be a contender. She’s executive director of the Iowa Angus Association, having previously headed a public policy group called Iowa Agri-Women. Before that, she served as Iowa House Agriculture Committee chair and floor-managed the country’s first “Ag Gag” bill.

The political map drawn up after the 2010 census put Sweeney and Pat Grassley in the same legislative district, and she lost a tough, expensive 2012 primary widely viewed as a proxy war between Bruce Rastetter and Senator Grassley. The two Iowa Republican powerhouses were on opposite sides again during last year’s GOP primary in the fourth Congressional district.

Sweeney is a childhood friend of Rastetter, who has been a major donor to Reynolds and before that, had tremendous influence over her mentor, Governor Terry Branstad (see also here). Reynolds’ chief of staff Ketzner became a senior adviser to Chris Christie’s presidential campaign around the same time Rastetter endorsed the New Jersey governor.

Iowa Democrats do not have a declared 2018 candidate for secretary of agriculture yet. Northey narrowly defeated Denise O’Brien in his first statewide election, then won his second and third terms by comfortable majorities.

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Trump won't call out neo-Nazis. Republicans must hold him accountable

What a discouraging weekend for the country. Hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, carrying torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The next day, police mostly stood by while racists (some displaying swastika flags or calling out the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”) clashed with counter-protesters during “the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades.” One of those anti-fascist protesters, Heather Heyer, was killed after a car struck her while driving into a crowd, allegedly intentionally. Virginia state troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died in a helicopter crash while assisting in the law enforcement response to the “Unite the Right” rally.

Many Republican officials, including Iowa’s top GOP leaders, condemned this weekend’s acts of domestic terrorism and racist hatred. But President Donald Trump–long an inspiration to white nationalists and neo-Nazis–deliberately avoided calling out the instigators in Charlottesville.

Politicians who enthusiastically campaigned for Trump and continue to support him must demand much more.

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How Phil Miller won the Iowa House district 82 special election

Democrat Phil Miller won today’s special election in Iowa House district 82 by 4,021 votes to 3,324 for Republican Travis Harris (53.8 percent to 44.5 percent). It was a larger margin of victory than Miller’s good friend Curt Hanson managed in his 2009 special election, the first state legislative race after the Iowa Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in Varnum v Brien. The results will be a morale boost for Democrats, since Donald Trump won nearly 57.8 percent of the vote in the House district 82 precincts last year, compared to just 36.4 percent for Hillary Clinton.

The 7,476 votes cast in House district 82, according to the unofficial tally, is roughly three times higher than the turnout for the special elections earlier this year in heavily Republican House district 22 and heavily Democratic House district 89. The major parties spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials and direct mail to mobilize supporters of Miller and Harris (more on that spending below). On the other hand, turnout for this race was a bit lower than voter participation in Hanson’s special election win eight years ago.

Miller’s home base of Jefferson County, containing the population centers of Fairfield and Vedic City, carried him to victory.

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