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Will Branstad fix the mess his mental health funding veto created?

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 07:45:00 AM CDT

Iowa's constitution allows the governor to line-item veto provisions in appropriations bills, and Governor Terry Branstad has used that power to overrule legislative decisions on many spending proposals, large and small. Among this year's line-item vetoes, perhaps the most controversial was Branstad's surprising decision to ax $13 million for mental health services. That line item was intended to cushion the blow for counties as Iowa reorganizes its mental health care delivery system. (In the past, available care depended greatly on a patient's county of residence.) Despite broad bipartisan support for this appropriation and a large state budget surplus, Branstad decided that counties didn't need extra help with mental health services.

This week four Democratic state senators and one Republican asked Branstad to help fix the mess he created, which has already led to some service cuts.

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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.

There's More... :: (5 Comments, 2326 words in story)

Ethics board to investigate National Organization for Marriage spending on retention votes

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 16:40:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted unanimously on August 8 to investigate the National Organization for Marriage's spending in Iowa during the 2010 and 2012 judicial retention elections. Details are after the jump.

UPDATE: Added details below on the National Organization for Marriage demanding that the ethics board's executive director recuse herself from any investigation.

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IA-01: Patty Judge advising Swati Dandekar's campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 14:25:00 PM CDT

Former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is advising former State Senator Swati Dandekar's campaign for Iowa's first Congressional district, James Q. Lynch reports for the Cedar Rapids Gazette today. The article also includes comments from Dandekar and Judge on perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Dandekar's candidacy: the perception that she risked the Iowa Senate majority in 2011.

After the jump I've posted excerpts from Lynch's article and a few thoughts about why accepting a position on the Iowa Utilities Board will likely be a problem for Dandekar in the IA-01 primary.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 596 words in story)

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-01: State Senator Jeff Danielson keeping options open

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 09:00:00 AM CDT

Democratic State Senator Jeff Danielson has not ruled out running for Congress in the open first district next year. I contacted Danielson after State Senator Liz Mathis confirmed on Saturday that she will not seek to replace Bruce Braley. Danielson responded on April 7, "I'm not actively seeking any other office at this time. I'm focused on the work of the Cedar Valley in the [legislative] session." When I asked whether he might consider a Congressional bid after the session ends, Danielson responded yesterday, "I am keeping all options open for 2014."

Danielson represents Iowa Senate district 30, covering most of Cedar Falls and part of Waterloo in Black Hawk County. He was just re-elected to a third four-year term in 2012, so he would not have to give up his current position to run for Congress next year. If he won the Democratic primary and the general election in IA-01, there would be a special election in Senate district 30 in early 2015. Republicans have a slight voter registration advantage in that district, but no-party voters have a plurality.

Danielson's district includes the University of Northern Iowa campus, so he has been a vocal advocate for higher education funding in the Iowa Senate. He has also been a leading voice for better disclosure of campaign contributions. He supports a federal constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and limit corporate campaign gifts. In Danielson's latest re-election campaign, he focused on bipartisan work to support main street businesses and fully fund services Iowans depend on. He also emphasized his commitment to "protecting health care choices for women."

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

IA-01: Liz Mathis not running

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 14:40:00 PM CDT

Confirming rumors that have circulated for the last two months, State Senator Liz Mathis told the Associated Press this morning that the timing isn't right for her to run for Congress in 2014.
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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.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 557 words in story)

Iowa Senate approves Medicaid expansion along party lines

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 12:55:00 PM CDT

Last night the Iowa Senate approved Senate File 296, a bill to expand Medicaid, on a strictly party-line vote of 26 to 23. You can listen to the entire Senate debate (approximately 90 minutes) at Radio Iowa. I've posted highlights from the debate after the jump, along with the full list of 52 organizations that have registered their support for Senate File 296. Some corporations and organizations have have registered their lobbyists as undecided on Senate File 296, but at this writing, not a single organization is registered against the Medicaid expansion.
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New thread on the Iowa Congressional races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 07:05:00 AM CDT

Dubuque business owner Rod Blum told the Marshall County Republican Central Committee this week that he plans to enter the GOP primary to represent the open first Congressional district. Blum finished a close second to Ben Lange in the 2012 IA-01 primary. Cedar Rapids business owner Steve Rathje was the first Republican to announce in IA-01. I haven't heard any news lately about other possible Republican candidates in the first district, like State Representative Walt Rogers or former Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer predicted on Sunday that the first Iowa woman elected governor or to Congress will be a Republican. If no Democratic woman steps up in IA-01, I believe Upmeyer will be proven right. I have heard from several independent sources that State Senator Liz Mathis is privately telling Democrats she won't run for Congress. Senate President Pam Jochum took herself out of the running last month. Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate so far. State Senator Steve Sodders is talking with potential supporters about the race.

I haven't heard about any Republican planning to run against four-term Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02. For now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not appear worried about holding this district.

According to the Des Moines rumor mill, former State Senator Staci Appel is considering a run for Congress in IA-03. Appel lives in Warren County and served one term in the Iowa Senate before losing to Republican Kent Sorenson in 2010. Mike Sherzan is currently the only declared Democratic challenger to ten-term Republican Tom Latham.

I haven't heard of any Democrats planning to challenge six-term incumbent Steve King in IA-04. I'm still confident King will not run for the U.S. Senate. But if King does leave the fourth district open, many Republicans are rumored to be thinking about that race, including Upmeyer and State Representative Chip Baltimore.

Any comments about next year's Congressional races in Iowa are welcome in this thread. A Congressional map is after the jump, along with the latest voter registration numbers in each district and Stuart Rothenberg's comments on why he does not consider Latham or King vulnerable in 2014.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 184 words in story)

IA-01: Democrat Steve Sodders thinking about it

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 07:35:00 AM CST

State Senator Steve Sodders will "take a serious look" at running for the first Congressional district seat Bruce Braley is vacating. Speaking by telephone yesterday, Sodders said he is in the "very exploratory" phase, talking with different groups and individuals. He currently has no deadline for announcing his plans, but he expects to decide sometime before this summer whether to run in next year's Democratic primary.

Marshall County Deputy Sheriff Sodders was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008. He was just re-elected to a four-year term in Senate district 36, covering Marshall and Tama counties and a small area in Black Hawk County. Consequently, he would not need to give up his Senate seat to run for Congress. In addition to serving as Senate president pro-tem, Sodders chairs the Economic Growth Committee. I've posted his official bio after the jump.

So far State Representative Pat Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate in the first Congressional district, and Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje is the only declared Republican.

I continue to believe that Iowa Democrats should nominate a woman for this very winnable seat--preferably someone other than the woman who just voted herself a 25 percent raise. I wish Senate President Pam Jochum had not taken herself out of the running so early.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that the 20 counties in IA-01 contain 165,428 active registered Democrats, 137,943 Republicans, and 193,674 no-party voters.

UPDATE: Sodders posted on Facebook on March 11, "Headed to Wash DC next week to talk to several groups and individuals about District 1." At the end of this post I've added more recent comments from Sodders.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 375 words in story)

IA-01: Steve Rathje's in and other news on possible candidates

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 10:57:33 AM CST

Cedar Rapids business owner Steve Rathje announced his candidacy  for the open seat in Iowa's first Congressional district last Friday. Background on Rathje and thoughts about other possible candidates in IA-01 are after the jump. A district map and the latest voter registration numbers in all 20 counties can be found here.
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Exclusive: Pam Jochum not running for Congress, may run for governor

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:43:28 AM CST

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum does not plan to run for the open seat in Iowa's first Congressional district but is considering a run for governor in 2014, she confirmed in a telephone interview today.
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New IA-01 discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 21:35:00 PM CST

All signs point to Representative Bruce Braley running for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat in 2014, so I thought I'd put up a new thread to discuss scenarios in the first Congressional district.

Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy plans to run in the Democratic primary for IA-01. I don't think he's as strong a candidate as either Senate President Pam Jochum or State Senator Liz Mathis would be, and it is long past time for Democrats to nominate a woman in an open seat that leans Democratic. The latest numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State's office show that IA-01 contains 167,987 active registered Democrats, 140,227 Republicans, and 196,078 no-party voters.

On the Republican side, I am seeking comment about a possible Congressional bid from both Ben Lange and Rod Blum. Both ran against Braley in 2012; Blum narrowly lost the primary. Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix ran for IA-01 when it was last an open seat in 2006, but he has ruled out running for Congress next year as he tries to take back the Senate majority for the GOP. CORRECTION: Dix lives in Butler County, which used to be in IA-01 but is now in IA-04 under Iowa's new map.

Any comments about the IA-01 campaign are welcome in this thread. A race between Blum and either Jochum or Murphy would be an all-Dubuque affair.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

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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IA-Sen: Harkin retiring (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:49:52 AM CST

Terrible news for Iowa Democrats: Senator Tom Harkin told Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press that he will retire rather than seek re-election in 2014. Not only will there be an open seat at the top of the ticket, the Iowa Democratic Party won't be able to count on Harkin's millions to fund a decent coordinated GOTV campaign in a midterm election year. Even if Democrats manage to win that statewide race while Governor Terry Branstad's also on the ballot, we will lose an Iowan in charge of a powerful Senate committee. Incoming Iowa Democratic Party Chair Tyler Olson has a difficult road ahead.

Representative Bruce Braley is likely to run for Harkin's seat, and unless either Tom or Christie Vilsack is interested, the primary would probably be uncontested. The silver lining here is a chance to elect a woman to Congress in IA-01. Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum would be my first choice, but there are many capable Democratic women in those 20 counties.

An excerpt from Braley's appearance on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" this weekend is after the jump. I'll post further updates there. UPDATE: Much more is below, including the statement from Harkin's office.

There's More... :: (18 Comments, 4282 words in story)

Where are they now? Renee Schulte and Stew Iverson edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 16:42:00 PM CST

Two former Republican members of the Iowa House recently accepted new positions that will allow them to continue state policy work.
There's More... :: (1 Comments, 826 words in story)

Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2013

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 13:18:54 PM CST

The Iowa legislature's 2013 session opened today. After the jump I've posted details on the Iowa Senate majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Senate committees. Where relevant, I've noted changes since last year. Click here for a similar post on the new Iowa House.

Democrats hold a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber. The huge experience gap between the Iowa Senate caucuses is striking. Only seven of the 24 Republicans have served as lawmakers in either the House or Senate for more than four years, whereas 19 of the 26 Democrats have more than four years of legislative service. Click here for details on the tenure of all 50 Iowa senators.

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Iowa Senate Democrats announce committee chairs

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:20:00 AM CST

One day after a special election confirmed there will be 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans in the Iowa Senate next year, Senate Democrats released updated committee assignments. After the jump I've posted the full list of committee chairs as well as the leadership team chosen a few weeks ago. Most committees have the same leaders as in 2012, but where relevant I've noted changes.
There's More... :: (2 Comments, 982 words in story)
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