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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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Q: When do Iowa Democrats talk like Steve King?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 11:55:00 AM CDT

A. When doing so serves Big Ag's interests.

Yesterday the Iowa House approved House Resolution 123, which requests "that all necessary and immediate action be taken by the State of California, the United States Congress, the United State Attorney General, state legislatures, state governors, and state attorneys general to effectuate the repeal of California legislation enacted as AB 1437 that unconstitutionally infringes upon the Commerce Clause of the Constitution of the United States to the detriment of this nation's consumers and farmers."

U.S. Representative Steve King has been on the warpath against the supposedly "unconstitutional" California law for some time. After he failed to get language overriding the egg regulations into the new Farm Bill, several state attorneys general filed suit in federal court. Last month Governor Terry Branstad joined that lawsuit, saying the California law "discriminates against Iowa's egg producers."

Thirteen Iowa House Democrats joined all 53 Republicans to co-sponsor House Resolution 123 (full text here). The Democrats were Bruce Bearinger, Nancy Dunkel, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelley, Helen Miller, Dan Muhlbauer, Joe Riding, Patti Ruff, Sally Stutsman, Roger Thomas, and Frank Wood. Reading from the resolution on the Iowa House floor yesterday, State Representative Helen Miller parroted the same talking points we've heard from King before. Supposedly Iowa egg farmers "can't" sell their products in California anymore, which "unconstitutionally infringes upon the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States." Sorry, no. That law does not establish a higher bar for out-of-state producers than for in-state producers. Nor does it force any course of action on Iowa egg farmers. They will simply face the same choice any number of manufacturers face regarding any number of state laws: either comply with the relevant state's requirements, or sell your products elsewhere.

Some of the House Democrats who co-sponsored this resolution represent rural or suburban districts that will be competitive this year. Others, including Miller, are unopposed or represent urban districts that Republicans have no prayer of winning. Before taking Steve King's word for it on matters of constitutional law, they should have consulted Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. He didn't sign on to the lawsuit Branstad joined, I suspect because he sensed the case is weak. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was not a fan of King's efforts to overturn the California law either.  

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Democratic incumbent Dennis Black retiring in Iowa Senate district 15

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 10:15:00 AM CDT

Democratic State Senator Dennis Black announced this morning that he is retiring from politics after 32 years in the Iowa legislature, including five terms in the Iowa Senate. His retirement opens up Senate district 15, covering most of Jasper County and parts of eastern Polk County. As of March 2014, this district contained 15,238 registered Democrats, 13,184 Republicans, and 15,064 no-party voters. After the jump I've posted a district map and Black's open letter to colleagues and the media.

In late January, it appeared that three Republicans would compete for the chance to run against Black this year. But the highest-profile candidate, former Iowa GOP Co-Chair David Fischer, opted against running last month. Meanwhile, the first Republican candidate to declare against Black, Patrick Payton, decided to run for Iowa House district 29 instead. That leaves Crystal Bruntz, a human resources executive for the convenience store chain Kum & Go, as the likely GOP nominee in Senate district 15. So far she is the only Republican who has filed nominating papers in the district.

Democrats have until this Friday to find a new candidate for the seat Black is vacating. I am seeking comment from two-term State Representative Dan Kelley of Newton. He currently represents Iowa House district 29 but has not filed for re-election yet. First-term Democrat Joe Riding has already filed for re-election in House district 30, the western half of Senate district 15. UPDATE: Riding confirmed by telephone that he is committed to continuing to represent residents of House district 30.

Although Black's district wasn't initially on my radar or Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal's radar as one of the most competitive 2014 Senate races, opposing parties typically have a better chance of winning open seats than defeating state legislative incumbents. Senate district 15 will surely be a race to watch this year.

PROCESS GEEK UPDATE: Although it's not relevant in this instance, since Riding will stick with the House race, a candidate who had already filed papers to run for an Iowa House district could file for a newly open Senate district. Scroll to the end of this post for the explanation.  

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What could go wrong? Less training for manure spreaders edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CDT

More than 800 manure spills have occurred on Iowa farms during the past two decades. At least 262 manure spills reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011 alone, affecting the vast majority of counties.

More than half of rivers and streams in the region including Iowa are in "poor condition for aquatic life." Manure spills are a major contributing factor to this problem, and they are happening more often. The number of recorded manure spills in Iowa grew from 46 in 2012 to 76 in 2013.

How should state government respond to this set of facts? Various policies might address the explosion in waterways officially recognized as "impaired."  

But this is Iowa, where it's a minor miracle to get state lawmakers to take any steps against water pollution, and agricultural interests have repeatedly moved to undermine regulations related to the handling of manure on large-scale farms.

Last week, two-thirds of Iowa House members saw fit to reduce continuing education requirements for people certified to spread liquid manure on farm fields.  

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What could go wrong? Iowa House legalizes silencers (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 09:54:36 AM CST

Most gun-related bills failed to make it through in the Iowa legislature's first "funnel" last week. The list of proposals that are dead for this year included efforts to restrict access to firearms (such as Senate File 2179 to close the gun show loophole) and several bills aimed at making guns more available: House File 384 to authorize possession of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns; House File 169/Senate File 251 to allow Iowans with permits to carry concealed weapons on school grounds; House File 172 to allow school employees to carry guns in school; and House File 2012 to allow children as young as 12 to possess handguns.

The trouble is, many incumbents don't want to face the gun lobby's wrath in an election year. Many lawmakers want to have something to brag about when pro-gun activists compile scorecards and endorsement lists. Such concerns prompted Iowa House and Senate leaders to revive and eventually pass a 2010 bill to make it easier for Iowans to carry concealed weapons.

I believe the same dynamic prompted Iowa House members to vote overwhelmingly yesterday to legalize firearm suppressors, better known as "silencers" popular for many decades among snipers and assassins.

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What could go wrong? 12-year-olds with handguns edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:51:25 AM CST

Every year I'm amazed by some of the bills Iowa House and Senate members introduce. An Iowa House Public Safety subcommittee provided the latest head-scratching example yesterday, when two Republicans and a Democrat unanimously advanced a bill to lower from fourteen to twelve the age at which Iowans can "possess a pistol or revolver or the ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose" while being supervised by a parent or guardian or an instructor authorized by a parent or guardian. Details are after the jump.  
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Three Republicans challenging Dennis Black in Iowa Senate district 15

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 14:04:09 PM CST

Iowa Senate district 15 wasn't on my top tier of Iowa Senate races to watch or among the competitive seats recently mentioned by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. However, I am revising my view amid new signs that Republicans will make a strong push against five-term Democratic incumbent Dennis Black.

After the jump I've posted background on Black and the three Republicans who plan to challenge him, along with a district map and the latest voter registration totals.  

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IA-Gov: Hatch rolls out campaign, Olson rolls out endorsements (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 14:19:52 PM CDT

State Senator Jack Hatch made his candidacy for governor official in Des Moines this morning, en route to campaign stops in five other Iowa cities. A few days ago, State Representative Tyler Olson sought to build momentum by revealing a long list of state lawmakers who support his gubernatorial campaign.

After the jump I've posted Hatch's announcement, the full list of Iowa House and Senate Democrats backing Olson, and a few thoughts on the big question each candidate will have to answer before next June's primary.

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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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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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IA-Sen: Most Democratic state legislators endorse Braley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:10:00 AM CDT

Representative Bruce Braley's campaign for U.S. Senate rolled out its largest batch of endorsements today: 71 state legislators. All 26 Iowa Senate Democrats plus 45 of the 47 Iowa House Democrats are named in the press release I've posted after the jump. For some reason, Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy are not in this group. Murphy is running for the first Congressional district seat Braley is vacating.

Earlier this week, Braley's campaign announced that it raised more than $1 million during the first quarter. That is a solid number, and I'll be interested to see how the numbers break own (contributions from individuals vs PACs, for instance). Bleeding Heartland will publish a detailed roundup of Iowa Congressional fundraising after all the candidates have filed their reports with the Federal Election Commission. Those reports are due April 15.

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Iowa House votes to relax manure storage rules for CAFOs (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

In an ideal world, evidence that more than half of Midwest rivers and streams can't support aquatic life would inspire policy-makers to clean up our waterways. Rivers that are suitable for swimming, fishing, and other recreation can be a huge economic engine for Iowa communities.

We live in Iowa, where most of our lawmakers take the Patty Judge view: "Iowa is an agricultural state and anyone who doesn't like it can leave in any of four directions."

Yesterday the Iowa House approved a bill to relax manure storage regulations for large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). All of the House Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats supported this bad legislation. Details on the bill and the House vote are below.

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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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A closer look at the Iowa counties Obama and Romney won

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 07:20:00 AM CST

Preliminary results from the Iowa Secretary of State's website show that President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Iowa by 807,146 votes to 720,323 (51.89 percent to 46.31 percent) amid record participation of 1,555,570 voters statewide.

As expected, the president won a plurality of the vote in fewer Iowa counties this year than in 2008, but he did pick up one county that was a big surprise for me. Some thoughts about the presidential vote in Iowa are after the jump, along with maps showing which counties Obama, Romney, and John McCain carried. You can find vote totals for every county on the Iowa Secretary of State's website.

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First look at the Obama and Romney ground games in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

At this time four years ago, Barack Obama's campaign had about 30 field offices up and running in Iowa, compared to six offices for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Obama's campaign has had eight Iowa field offices open this summer and is rolling out another 26 offices around Iowa this weekend. So far, Mitt Romney's campaign has ten Iowa field offices, in addition to the unified Republican headquarters in Urbandale.

After the jump, I compare the field office locations for each presidential campaign, grouped by Iowa Congressional district. Where relevant, I've also noted competitive Iowa House and Senate districts near the Obama and Romney field offices, although I doubt either presidential campaign will do much for down-ticket Democratic or Republican candidates.

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Iowa primary election results thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 21:18:02 PM CDT

Polls closed across Iowa at 9 pm, and I will update this post periodically as results come in from around the states. Any comments related to today's elections are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- As expected, Wisconsin Democrats fell short in their effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.

UPDATE: Results are after the jump.  

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First look at Democratic prospects for Iowa House gains

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 06:15:00 AM CDT

The redistricting process and several Republican retirements have created many pickup opportunities for Iowa House Democrats. The devastating 2010 election left them nowhere to go but up in the lower chamber, where Republicans currently enjoy a 60 to 40 majority. Relatively few sitting House Democrats represent vulnerable districts.

Speaking to activists at the Polk County Democratic convention on March 10, I heard lots of optimism about the House races. After the jump I've posted some early thoughts on the seats up for grabs.

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Weekend open thread: 2012 Iowa county conventions edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 17:38:35 PM CST

The Iowa Democratic Party and Republican Party of Iowa held county conventions today. After the jump I've posted some notes on where Iowa politicians and candidates spent the day, and which Democrats addressed the Polk County Democratic convention. I left the convention during the lunch break, because delegates had finished most of the day's business, including all work on the platform. However, the Polk County Republican convention was still going strong at this writing (around 5 pm).

This is an open thread; all topics welcome, especially county convention stories from today or years past.

Rick Santorum destroyed the competition in today's Kansas caucuses, winning 52 percent of the vote to 21 percent for Mitt Romney, 14 percent for Newt Gingrich and 13 percent for Ron Paul. Romney swept the delegates at stake yesterday and today in the Guam and Northern Marianas Islands caucuses. Romney also won the Wyoming caucuses and most of the delegates from the Virgin Islands.

BONUS POTENTIAL FLAMEWAR TOPIC: Kevin Drum makes a counter-intuitive case: Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars movie, especially if you take out the 10 minutes of horrific Ewok sequences. Thoughts?

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Kim Pearson not seeking re-election in Iowa House district 30

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 21:48:36 PM CST

First-term State Representative Kim Pearson announced today that she will not seek re-election in the new Iowa House district 30.
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