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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.

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Iowa House rejects broadband access bill

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 09:05:00 AM CDT

When bills come to the floor of the Iowa House or Senate, the outcome of the vote is typically a foregone conclusion. Leaders rarely call up bills that don't have the votes to pass. But in "the most surprising vote of the day, if not this year's session," Iowa House members on Friday rejected House File 2472, a bill designed to expand broadband access in small-town and rural Iowa. The initiative was among Governor Terry Branstad's legislative priorities this year. While the goal is uncontroversial, especially in communities where people are stuck with dialup internet, lawmakers disagreed on how to accomplish the task.

The House Journal for April 25 includes details from the floor debate, including roll calls on two Democratic amendments that failed to pass on party-line votes. One of them was a "strike" amendment replacing the entire content of House File 2472 with stronger incentives favored by House Democrats. After the routine business of rejecting minority party amendments, a vote was called on final passage. But only 42 Republicans voted yes, joined by just two Democrats. I've posted a list of yes and no votes after the jump. House Minority Leader Mark Smith said Democrats opposed the bill because it "does not go far enough in expanding broadband access to more homes and small businesses." The Republicans who voted no may have been put off by the size of the tax breaks or the lack of accountability. State Representative Guy Vander Linden told Radio Iowa, "We don't say they need to meet any requirements in terms of our capacity, speed - anything. All we say is: 'If you will put broadband infrastructure in place in any unserved or underserved area...we'll give you all these benefits.' That, to me, sounds like a blank check that I'm not willing to sign up to."

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer has already filed a motion to reconsider the vote on this bill, so leaders may believe they can find the votes they need through friendly persuasion or arm-twisting. (She was one of the "no" votes, presumably to preserve her ability to file the bill again after realizing it would not pass.) Two Republicans (Clel Baudler and Ron Jorgensen) were absent from Friday's vote. Assuming they support the broadband bill and Upmeyer changes her vote, House leaders would need to persuade four more Republicans or Democrats.

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Iowa House votes to ban "telemedicine" abortions (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 12:26:15 PM CST

Although Iowa House Republicans sought to restrict abortion rights after regaining the majority in the lower chamber in 2011, anti-choice bills were never a high priority for leadership. In fact, House leaders sometimes put the brakes on conservative efforts to bring anti-abortion legislation to the floor. During the 2013 legislative session, not a single bill restricting abortions even made it out of a committee in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.

House leaders must have gotten some flack from their caucus or outside advocacy groups, because even though restricting abortion isn't a top agenda item for House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, they made sure to move an anti-abortion bill quickly during this year's session. Yesterday the Iowa House approved House File 2175, which would ban the use of telecommunications technology for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy. (A similar bill died in the funnel last year.)

Follow me after the jump for background and details on the roll call.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa House districts

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 08:26:39 AM CDT

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district, state by state. Last week the Iowa numbers were added to the database. I took a first stab at previewing the battle for control of the Iowa Senate next year, using data including the raw vote totals and percentages for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in each district.

The Daily Kos database includes Obama and Romney vote totals and percentages for each Iowa House district here. After the jump I've incorporated that information and other factors to predict which Iowa House districts will be competitive in 2014. Writing this post has been challenging, because every election cycle brings surprises, and many more seats in the lower chamber will be in play. Unlike the Iowa Senate, where only half of the 50 members are on the ballot in each general election, all 100 Iowa House members are on ballot in every even-numbered year. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa Senate districts

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 10:57:01 AM CDT

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district. Yesterday the Iowa numbers were added to the database. You can view Google documents with raw vote totals and percentages for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by Iowa Congressional district here, by Iowa Senate district here, and by Iowa House district here.

Looking closely at the presidential vote in the legislative districts provides some insight about where the competitive Iowa statehouse races might be next year. After the jump I've highlighted some key data points related to the Iowa Senate races. Later I will post a separate diary with first thoughts about the Iowa House districts.

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Jason Schultz ready to move up to Iowa Senate district 9

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

The path appears clear for passionately conservative State Representative Jason Schultz to move up to Iowa Senate district 9 in next year's election. Longtime State Senator Nancy Boettger announced Friday that she will retire. Although she's one of the longest-serving Iowa Senate Republicans, she's never played a particularly important role. The last three Senate minority leaders haven't tapped Boettger for their leadership teams.

Boettger's retirement creates a career advancement opportunity in the strongly Republican Senate district 9. The two obvious potential candidates are State Representatives Matt Windschitl and Jason Schultz, who represent both halves of the district in the Iowa House. Within hours, Schultz announced his Senate candidacy. Windschitl told The Iowa Republican blog over the weekend that he will stay in the Iowa House. Windschitl is one of the GOP's rising stars and serves as an assistant House majority leader, but he's drawn criticism from some "pro-life" activists as not strong enough on their issue. In contrast, Schultz co-sponsored the most extreme version of "personhood" legislation and has fought to get a personhood vote on the Iowa House floor when Windschitl and others blocked a vote on that legislation. (Windschitl introduced a different "personhood" bill this year.)

After the jump I've posted a map of Senate district 9 and the latest voter registration numbers for the district, along with Schultz's official bio. It's also worth noting that Schultz chairs the Iowa House Local Government Committee and previously chaired the Appropriations subcommittee on economic development. He endorsed Ron Paul for president in 2012. In my opinion, he's a contender for most clueless Iowa legislator. His passionate opposition to marriage equality prompted him to introduce one of the dumbest bills I've heard of, which would have banned Iowa judges from citing case law or precedent in their rulings. Schultz also joined a small group of legislators who threatened to yank state funding for the Des Moines Area Community College over the Governors LGBTQ Youth Conference.

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Last-minute Iowa legislative scramble is nothing to brag about

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 24, 2013 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Senate wrapped up its work for the year shortly after midnight on May 23, and Iowa House members adjourned about 11 hours later. Lawmakers in both parties have been congratulating themselves for compromising on some big issues that ended in stalemate the previous two years. Rod Boshart compiled an excellent list of what the legislature did and didn't approve during 2013.

We all can appreciate the desire to finish a big project before a holiday weekend, and since legislators stopped receiving per diem payments weeks ago, they understandably wanted to get out of town as quickly as possible. However, I found it disturbing that votes were held before most lawmakers, let alone members of the public, had time to digest final conference committee deals on education reform, an alternative to Medicaid expansion, property taxes, and the health and human services budget. Transparency isn't just a buzzword. Had journalists and advocacy groups been able to look over the last-minute compromises, people might have discovered problematic language or even simple drafting errors, which could produce unintended consequences after Governor Terry Branstad signs these bills into law.

I have a lot of questions about the final education reform bill and the plan to provide health insurance to low-income Iowans, particularly those earning between 101 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level. I also need more time to sort through the budget numbers and final changes to the standings bill. After the holiday weekend Bleeding Heartland will examine the important results of the legislative session in more detail. For now, I've posted after the jump details on who voted for and against the major bills approved this week.

UPDATE: In the May 24 edition of the On Iowa Politics podcast, statehouse reporters Mike Wiser and James Lynch discussed how the big issues came together "behind closed doors," with no public scrutiny or oversight. Lynch commented that to his knowledge, the conference committee named to resolve the impasse over Medicaid expansion never formally met, except perhaps for one organizational meeting. Lynch recounted one occasion when Iowa House Republican Dave Heaton was briefing journalists about the health care talks, and the journalists asked when that happened, since there hadn't been any public notices of conference committee meetings. According to Lynch, Heaton replied, "We're not having meetings, but we're meeting." Senate President Pam Jochum said that negotiations between Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer produced the "key to Iowa's health care compromise." Notably, Upmeyer didn't have a prominent role in passing the House health insurance plan, nor was she named to the conference committee assigned to merge the House and Senate proposals.

Speaking to journalists on May 22, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Jochum weren't able to answer a specific question about compromise wording reached regarding Medicaid coverage of abortions. That was no minor issue--it was the last sticking point holding up approval of the health and human services budget. In effect, Gronstal told journalists, you can see the wording after the final bill is published.

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Another Iowa legislative victory for Big Ag

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 08, 2013 at 09:49:00 AM CDT

Factory farm advocates failed in 2009 to circumvent the Iowa DNR's rulemaking on applying manure over frozen and snow-covered ground. Then they failed in 2010 to win passage of a bill designed to weaken Iowa's newly-adopted regulations on manure storage and application.

But this year, the Iowa Pork Producers Association succeeded in convincing state lawmakers to relax requirements for CAFO operators to be able to store their own manure properly. All they had to do was dress up their effort as an attempt to help families with aspiring young farmers.

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Sixteen Iowa lawmakers issue dumbest ultimatum ever

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 07:45:00 AM CDT

The FAMiLY Leader's strange obsession with the Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth is well-established. Last year, the socially conservative organization led by Bob Vander Plaats was so focused on getting Governor Terry Branstad to drop his affiliation with this conference that they were too "busy" to protest as the governor wined and dined the future Communist ruler of China (world leader in coerced abortions).

The FAMiLY Leader was at it again last week, throwing a fit over the 8th Annual Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth scheduled for April 3. For this post, I don't want to focus on the "ludicrous" concerns raised by people like Chuck Hurley ("Stop coming after my kids and other people's kids with evil propaganda"). I don't want to focus on how Branstad "ducked rather than draw fire from name-callers" with this weak response to the controversy.

Today I'm more interested in sixteen Republican lawmakers who showed their solidarity with the FAMiLY Leader by making an idiotic promise they can't possibly keep.

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New contender emerges as most clueless Iowa legislator

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 11:30:00 AM CDT

Anyone who follows the Iowa legislature has frequent occasion to wonder how someone that ignorant got elected to the Iowa House or Senate. But every once in a while, a spectacularly clueless act grabs our attention. Last week a little-known first-term state representative made himself a contender for the title of Iowa's most clueless lawmaker.

UPDATE: Not so fast--see today's news, added at the end of this post.

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Iowa House: Birthplace and graveyard for marriage and abortion bills

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 07:25:00 AM CDT

During 2011 and 2012, the Iowa Senate was our state's firewall against the social conservative agenda. The Republican-controlled Iowa House passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, sweeping limits on abortion rights (twice), a "stand your ground" bill and a constitutional amendment that would invalidate virtually all restrictions on guns. All of those bills died in the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Social issues have never been a priority for Iowa House leaders. They blocked a floor vote on a "personhood" bill in 2011 and steered clear of extremist crusades like impeaching Iowa Supreme Court justices and replacing gun permit laws with "constitutional carry." Still, I expected House Republicans to cover the usual bases during this year's legislative session.

Instead, almost every high-profile bill on so-called family values failed to win House committee approval and therefore died in the legislature's first funnel deadline last Friday. That includes some mainstream conservative efforts as well as freak show bills like ending no-fault divorce or barring county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Most amazing to me, House Republicans no longer have the votes to pass a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman.  

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2013

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:15:00 AM CST

The Iowa House will begin its 2013 session next Monday with 53 Republicans, 46 Democrats and one seat to be filled in a special election on January 22.

After the jump I've posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I've noted changes since last year's legislative session.

Some non-political Iowa House trivia: three state representatives have the surname Olson (not counting Democrat Jo Oldson). There are two Millers, two Taylors, and two Smiths, one from each party in every case. David is most common first name: the new cohort contains three Daves and two Davids. Four state representatives have the first name Mark, four are called Daniel (three go by Dan) and four were given the name Robert (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby). Four women are named Mary (one goes by Mary Ann), and two are named Linda. There are two men each named Greg, Chuck, John, Kevin, Pat, Bruce, Tom, and Chris, and there would have been two Brians if Brian Quirk had not resigned shortly after winning re-election. Oddly, no current Iowa House member is named Mike or Michael.

JANUARY 28 UPDATE: Democrat Todd Prichard won the special election in House district 52, bringing the number of Todds in the Iowa House to two. I've added his committee assignments below. Republicans maintain a 53-47 majority.

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Iowa House speaker announces committee chairs

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:24:02 PM CST

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has announced who will lead all the standing and appropriations committees for the 2013 legislative session. Below I've posted the full list of Republican House leaders and committee chairs. Where relevant, I've noted changes since last year.
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Medicaid abortion funding ban a bridge too far for Branstad administration

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 09:10:00 AM CDT

Opposing all government funding for abortion is settled dogma among Iowa Republican activists and elected officials. For two years in a row, Senate Democrats have blocked attempts to write new restrictions on Medicaid abortion coverage into the budget for the state Department of Human Services. Now DHS Director Chuck Palmer has signaled that taking control of the upper chamber may not give Republicans the power to restrict the choices of low-income women.

Palmer's action puts Governor Terry Branstad in an awkward position, and a legislature completely under GOP control could create a political nightmare for Branstad, a proud "pro-lifer" throughout his career.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2012

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 13, 2012 at 17:46:35 PM CST

Although the 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats in the Iowa House haven't changed since last year, I thought it was worth updating this post, because some committee assignments have changed, and House Democrats reshuffled their ranking members somewhat.

Majority and minority leadership teams are after the jump, along with all members of standing House committees. All 100 House districts are on the ballot every two years, so I've noted the new district numbers for state representatives seeking re-election in 2012, as well as which House members have said they will retire after this year's legislative session.

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Kent Sorenson switches support from Bachmann to Paul (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 20:04:17 PM CST

Talk about your last-minute bombshells: Representative Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign chair, State Senator Kent Sorenson, just endorsed Representative Ron Paul in Des Moines this evening. Background on Sorenson's connections to prominent Paul supporters is after the jump.
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Iowa caucus poll and endorsement news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 07:23:35 AM CST

Six days before the Iowa caucuses, no Republican candidate has a clear lead, social conservatives remain scattered among several contenders, and new television commercials are launched on almost a daily basis. Numbers from the two latest opinion polls and news from the campaign trail are after the jump, along with some commercials currently showing on Iowa tv screens.

UPDATE: Added numbers from a new CNN poll and the latest Ron Paul tv ad.

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District court finds Branstad line-item veto unconstitutional

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 17:50:31 PM CST

Polk County District Court Judge Brad McCall has upheld a legal challenge to Governor Terry Branstad's veto of language intended to keep Iowa Workforce Development offices open across the state. Excerpts from the court ruling and background on the controversy are after the jump.
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Iowa Workforce Development offices as a 2012 campaign issue

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 29, 2011 at 09:00:49 AM CST

The state agency Iowa Workforce Development has replaced 36 field offices with hundreds of new "enhanced access" computer terminals this year.

Although the shuttered offices are unlikely ever to reopen, they may live on as talking points in many competitive Iowa House and Senate races next fall.

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Ron Paul's second tv ad and Iowa campaign roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 14:15:25 PM CDT

Representative Ron Paul launched his presidential campaign's second television commercial today. The 60-second spot contrasts Paul with "smooth-talking politicians" from both political parties, including his three strongest rivals for the Republican nomination.
There's More... :: (20 Comments, 2033 words in story)
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