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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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Brian Meyer to face Michael Young in Iowa House district 33 special

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 08:54:19 AM CDT

Democrat Brian Meyer and Republican Michael Young were both unanimously chosen as candidates for the October 22 special election in Iowa House district 33 during nominating conventions on September 4. Background on Des Moines City Council member Meyer is after the jump; he became the consensus candidate in this heavily Democratic district two weeks ago, preventing a potentially messy nominating process.

Young is a Marine Corps veteran who has lived on the south side of Des Moines for most of his life. He serves on the city's Access Advisory Board, dealing with implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

It would be a monumental upset for Meyer to lose this election. Not only do Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 5,000 in House district 33, south side voters have elected Meyer to the Des Moines City Council twice. Democrats would be wise to take nothing for granted in a low-turnout special, though.

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Brian Meyer only Democrat competing for Iowa House district 33

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 14:15:00 PM CDT

Following up on yesterday's news, Des Moines City Council member Brian Meyer will be unchallenged for the Democratic nomination in Iowa House district 33, where a special election is set for October 22. The two Democrats who had announced campaigns, Karl Schilling and Joe Henry, both endorsed Meyer yesterday. Felix Gallagher confirmed by telephone today that he had considered running for the House seat but decided against the race. By the way, I forgot to mention that Gallagher was the treasurer for Desmund Adams' campaign in Iowa Senate district 22 last year.

Meyer's press release spoke of entering the race "in the hopes of unifying the party and continuing the good work of former Representative [Kevin] McCarthy." I don't see any urgency to unify the party in a district Republicans have no realistic hope of winning. The latest Civic Skinny column in the Des Moines weekly Cityview suggests another reason for Meyer to get into the race:

Word is that Marshalltown's Mark Smith, who bested Des Moines' Rick Olson, 24-20, in the caucus vote to succeed Kevin McCarthy as head of the Democrats in the Iowa House, has let go McCarthy's key aide, Des Moines City Councilman Brian Meyer. The move has surprised - and upset - some Democrats. ...

In all likelihood the Iowa House seat will be Meyer's for as long as he wants it. That would force a special election to replace Meyer as the Des Moines City Council member representing Ward 4. Bleeding Heartland user Columcille raises the interesting possibility of Chris Diebel running for that seat, instead of challenging incumbent Skip Moore for the at-large council seat. UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland reader alerted me to a big problem with that scenario: Diebel lives in Ward 3, not Ward 4 (city council map here).  

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Iowa House district 33 special election update

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 07:20:00 AM CDT

Three candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination in Iowa House district 33, which Kevin McCarthy has vacated to take a position in the Attorney General's Office. Because this district contains 8,142 registered Democrats, 3,334 Republicans, and 5,273 no-party voters, the Democratic nominee is almost guaranteed to win the October 22 special election.

After the jump I've posted background on Karl Schilling, Joe Henry, and Felix Gallagher, who are seeking to replace McCarthy, plus details on how the Democratic nominating convention will be conducted on September 4. Regardless of who wins the nomination, I hope all three candidates will compete in next year's Democratic primary. On principle, I don't believe ten people on a party central committee should decide who represents 30,000 people in the Iowa House.

I also enclose below a map of House district 33, which covers parts of south and southeast Des Moines.

UPDATE: On August 20 Schilling and Henry dropped out of the race after Des Moines City Council member Brian Meyer announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for House district 33. Meyer will be the heavy favorite going into the September 4 convention, even if Gallagher stays in the race. I've enclosed Meyer's press release at the end of this post.

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Iowa House Democrats choose Mark Smith as minority leader (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 17:25:00 PM CDT

The Iowa House Democrats elected seven-term State Representative Mark Smith as their new minority leader at a caucus in Des Moines today. Although it's not made clear in the news release I've posted below, I have the impression that no one else's name was formally placed in nomination. Kevin McCarthy had served as minority leader since shortly after the 2010 election but announced last week that he is resigning from the Iowa House to take a new job in the Attorney General's office. Smith represents Marshalltown-based House district 71 and has served as an assistant minority leader during the last three legislative sessions.

After the jump I've posted more background on Smith and comments from McCarthy and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan.

UPDATE: Added more information below. Apparently State Representative Rick Smith of Des Moines also ran for minority leader. Last week State Representative Dave Jacoby of Coralville was rumored to be making phone calls to fellow lawmakers, but he did not enter his name in nomination yesterday.

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Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy resigning (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 01, 2013 at 13:24:00 PM CDT

Shocking news: Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is resigning from the state legislature to take an unspecified position in the Iowa Attorney General's Office. I've posted his announcement after the jump. McCarthy served as House Majority Leader when Democrats controlled the lower chamber from 2007 through 2010 and was elected minority leader soon after the 2010 elections. I thought he would stay in the legislature for the long haul. He original ran for the House in 2000 but relocated from Beaverdale to the south side after losing the Democratic primary to Janet Petersen.

His decision means a special election will come later this year in House district 33, covering parts of south and southeast Des Moines. It's a safe Democratic seat with nearly 5,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, so the special nominating convention will in effect decide McCarthy's replacement. UPDATE: Less than an hour after McCarthy's announcement, the Iowa House Democrats sent out a press release on Karl Schilling's candidacy for the House district 33 special election. I've posted that after the jump.

The 46 remaining House Democrats will also need to elect a new minority leader.  The obvious candidates are the current assistant minority leaders: Ako Abdul-Samad of Des Moines, Mary Mascher of Iowa City, Mark Smith of Marshalltown, and Mary Gaskill of Ottumwa. My guess is that Smith will certainly seek the position. No idea who might challenge him. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Jo Oldson of Des Moines ran against McCarthy for minority leader in 2010.

UPDATE: Oldson's name was not placed into nomination in 2010.

The rumor mill says that State Representatives Mark Smith and Dave Jacoby are both sounding out colleagues about the leadership post.

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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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Tony Bisignano first Democrat to declare in Iowa Senate district 17

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 30, 2013 at 07:35:00 AM CDT

Assuming State Senator Jack Hatch follows through on the gubernatorial bid he is exploring, one of Iowa's most Democratic-leaning Senate districts will be open in 2014.

Yesterday former State Senator Tony Bisignano announced that he plans to run for Senate district 17. After the jump I've posted background on Bisignano, a district map, and the latest voter registration figures. I expect a highly competitive Democratic primary, since Republicans have no realistic chance of winning this seat.

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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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Weekend open thread: Dangerous consensus edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 14:15:00 PM CDT

Most political junkies love a good brawl. While Congress-watchers were paying attention to fights this week over the president's proposed budget, confirming federal judges, or tightening up gun ownership regulations, a non-controversial but significant bill zoomed through the U.S. House and Senate.  
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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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New IA-Sen and IA-01 speculation thread (updated, adding IA-03)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 11:16:00 AM CST

Iowa politics watchers continue to chew over the possibilities for the open U.S. Senate race next year. To no one's surprise, Governor Terry Branstad ruled out a Senate bid this morning, saying he's never been interested in leaving Iowa to serve for six years in Washington, DC. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds told journalists that she is focused on the Branstad administration's agenda for Iowa but keeping her "options open" on the Senate race. Many other Republicans are thinking about it too, and only Representative Tom Latham has the potential to clear the field.

On the Democratic side, speculation continues to center around Representative Bruce Braley, who confirmed yesterday that he is considering running for Tom Harkin's seat. If Braley takes on the Senate race, many Democrats expect State Senator Liz Mathis to run in the first Congressional district. She is well-known among Iowans in the Cedar Rapids television market, thanks to her previous career in news broadcasting. Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque said today that the IA-01 race is "something to think about." Jochum indicated that to run and serve in Congress, she would need support for her developmentally disabled adult daughter, who lives with her.

Any comments related to the reshuffle in Iowa politics are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Also no surprise: Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy of Des Moines would consider running in IA-03 if Latham goes for the Senate seat.

SECOND UPDATE: Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix ruled out running for either the U.S. Senate or IA-01 in 2014. Dix left the Iowa House in 2006 to run for the open seat in IA-01, but finished second in the GOP primary. Further updates are after the jump.

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Branstad's new property tax plan and other Condition of the State news (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 10:47:01 AM CST

Governor Terry Branstad just finished delivering his annual Condition of the State speech to Iowa House and Senate members. He unveiled a new property tax reform plan, which would cut commercial property taxes by 20 percent over four years. Previously the governor had called for cutting commercial property taxes by 40 percent. Branstad also urged legislators to approve the key points of education reform proposals he released yesterday. Finally, he outlined three policies that, in his view, would help Iowa become the healthiest state in the country.

Links and more details are after the jump. I will update this post later with more information and reaction. The video of Branstad's speech will be available on IPTV.org and will be broadcast statewide on Iowa Public Television at 6:30 pm on January 16.

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Themes from the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2013

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:05:00 AM CST

The Iowa House and Senate began their 2013 session yesterday with the usual welcoming speeches from legislative leaders and the ritual of choosing desks for each lawmaker in the chambers. Judging from this photo, returning legislators get first dibs.

As was the case in 2012, social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were absent from the opening-day speeches. Republican leaders emphasized the need to cut both property and income taxes. Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen also claimed credit on behalf of Republicans for Iowa's improving fiscal condition. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer spent a fair amount of time criticizing Congress before calling for state action to improve education and cut taxes. House Speaker Pro Tem Steve Olson repeated some themes of last year's election campaign and quoted U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix concentrated on tax reforms.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal focused on education and workforce training programs to address "Iowa's skill shortage." Senate President Pam Jochum focused on health-related issues: improve mental health services, helping elderly people stay in their own homes, and expanding Medicaid, which she described as "the biggest opportunity for this session to make a positive difference for Iowans." Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy emphasized the need for bipartisan work on a range of issues: education, mental health care delivery, the transition to a new maximum security prison, and protecting natural resources.

Follow me after the jump for excerpts from the opening-day speeches by legislative leaders (as prepared for delivery). I included the full text of Jochum's remarks, because her personal journey says a lot about who she is. Jochum also paid a lovely tribute to former Republican State Senator Pat Ward, who died last year.  

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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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More proof smoking bans save lives

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 17:09:58 PM CST

How about a little good news on a lousy day? A new study confirms previous research, which showed public smoking bans reduce hospitalizations for heart attacks and other life-threatening problems. The Iowa Smokefree Air Act, which went into effect in July 2008, has likely prevented many premature deaths.

UPDATE: The smoking ban was controversial while it was debated in 2008. Below I've listed all of the state legislators who had the courage to send that bill to Governor Chet Culver's desk.  

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Full list of Iowa House Democratic leaders, ranking members

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 08:57:29 AM CST

Yesterday the Iowa House Democrats announced ranking members for all the standing and appropriations committees for the 2013 legislative session. Below I've posted the full list of House minority leaders and ranking members. Where relevant, I've noted changes since last year. House Democrats will start the session with 46 caucus members, because State Representative Brian Quirk just resigned his seat.

House Republicans named all the committee chairs earlier this week.

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Iowa reaction to Supreme Court upholding health care reform law

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 09:30:31 AM CDT

The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the 2010 Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, better known as health care reform. I am shocked not only by the decision, but by the 5-4 breakdown with Chief Justice John Roberts (not Justice Anthony Kennedy) being the swing vote in favor of upholding the law. Most commentators and the betting site Intrade thought the court would strike down at least the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, if not the whole law. To her credit, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times consistently predicted that Roberts would vote to uphold the law.

Any comments related to health care reform are welcome in this thread. I will update this post frequently during the day as Iowa elected officials, candidates, and activist groups weigh in on the decision.  

There's More... :: (18 Comments, 8182 words in story)
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