Bleeding Heartland is a community blog about Iowa politics: campaigns and elections, state government, social and environmental issues. Bleeding Heartland also weighs in on presidential policies and campaigns, federal legislation and what the Iowans in Congress are up to. Join our community, post your thoughts as comments or diaries, help keep our leaders honest and hold them accountable.
What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I'm not big on "Hallmark holidays," but if Valentine's Day (or "co-opting Valentine's Day") is your thing, I hope you enjoyed February 14. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.
I wanted to catch up on news from a couple of weeks ago, which may continue to reverberate during the Republican Iowa caucus campaign. The owners of Görtz Haus agreed to settle with a gay couple who had wanted to get married at their venue in Grimes. Betty and Richard Odgaard are Mennonites who don't believe in same-sex marriage. Since the law doesn't allow them to discriminate against LGBT couples, they have decided not to hold any weddings at their place of business. They also dropped their own doomed-to-fail lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Clips with background on the episode and reaction to its resolution are after the jump.
What these folks can't acknowledge is that no one is forcing the Odgaards or anyone else to approve of or "celebrate" gay weddings. Many of us have ethical or religious objections to some marriages; for instance, if the couple began dating while married to other people, or if one person appears to be marrying solely for money, or if there is a large age gap between the spouses. Plenty of Jews and Christians would disapprove of my own interfaith marriage. No one is demanding that the whole world applaud every marriage, only that the religious beliefs of some don't interfere with the civil rights of others.
Additionally, it's important to note that no house of worship in Iowa has ever been forced to hold same-sex weddings. If the Odgaards ran a church, they would be fully within their rights to refuse to serve LGBT couples. Görtz Haus is a for-profit business, subject to the same civil rights statutes as other public venues.
Sometimes bills left for dead rise again in the final hours of the Iowa legislature's work. So it was for Senate File 2297, an "act relating to the criminal transmission of a contagious or infectious disease." If signed into law, this bill would replace current Iowa law on HIV transmission, under which a person can be sentenced to 25 years in prison, even if the virus that causes AIDS was not transmitted to anyone. For background on the old law, one of the harshest in the country, click here or here, or listen to this Iowa Public Radio program from March. (Incidentally, the Iowa Supreme Court has heard but not yet ruled on a case related to that law but not challenging its constitutionality.)
under the new bill, Iowans would no longer be sentenced as sex offenders and a retroactive clause in the bill would remove anyone sentenced under 709c from the sex offender registry. Prosecutors would also have to prove substantial risk, rather than the current law which simply requires non-disclosure.
Senate File 2297 passed the Iowa Senate unanimously in February. Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg said it would update Iowa law to reflect modern medicine and replace a "badly outdated and draconian" part of the code. Republican State Senator Charles Schneider agreed that current law was "not always proportionate" to the crime committed.
I hadn't heard anything about this bill for some time, until I saw this morning that it came up for debate in Iowa House a little before 2 am. It passed by 98 votes to 0. After the jump I've posted a statement from the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, which has pushed for similar legislation for years.
After the jump I've posted an excerpt from the commission's announcement, including short bios of Judge and the three other inductees for 2013: Dr. Mary Louise Sconiers Chapman, a superstar advocate for vulnerable populations; Barbara Mack, a journalism legend who passed away last year; and Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, who has advocated for education and social justice as an attorney as well as a medical doctor.
In a decision announced on Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Iowa Department of Public Health to refuse to list a non-birthing lesbian spouse on a child's birth certificate. Details on this nearly unanimous ruling are after the jump. I was intrigued by how Governor Terry Branstad's three appointees from 2011 handled this case.
Also today, the Iowa Democratic Party announced that Troy Price will be the new executive director. He replaces Norm Sterzenbach, who held that position for six years. Price worked for Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver and later became executive director of the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa. He left that group to serve as political director for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in Iowa.
Olson and Price have their work cut out for them, with an open U.S. Senate seat to defend and a tough race against Governor Terry Branstad in a midterm election year. The Obama campaign ran a fantastic ground game, but no database or micro-targeting expertise will magically transform a midterm electorate into the presidential-year electorate more friendly to Democratic candidates.
The Iowa Democratic Party's press release announcing its new officers is after the jump. Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.
A Polk County District Court Judge has ordered the Iowa Department of Public Health to list a birth mother's same-sex spouse on the child's birth certificate without requiring the non-birthing mother to go through the adoption process.
However, the ruling does not automatically apply to all Iowa same-sex couples seeking to have both parents listed on their children's birth certificates.
Any comments on today's election results are welcome in this thread. Polls closed at 9 pm in Iowa, but returns from the special election in Senate district 18 are coming in slowly. I will update this thread later as the outcome becomes clear. With six out of 40 precincts reporting, Democrat Liz Mathis leads Republican Cindy Golding by 5859 votes to 2474. UPDATE: Looks like a big win for Mathis. With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Mathis leads by 10,651 votes (58 percent) to 7,613 votes (41 percent).
SECOND UPDATE: The Linn County Auditor's office posted unofficial results here (pdf). With all 40 precincts reporting, Mathis received 13,184 votes (55.8 percent), Golding received 10,283 votes (43.5 percent), and Constitution Party candidate Jon Tack received 151 votes (0.64 percent).
Democrats have retained control of the Iowa Senate with a 26-24 majority for the 2012 legislative session. It may even be a "stronger" majority if Mathis turns out to be less conservative than her predecessor, Swati Dandekar. Iowa Senate Republicans won't be in a good mood when they elect a new minority leader on Thursday.
Nationally, Democrats have had good election results in Ohio (repealing a law that restricted collective bargaining rights) and Kentucky (holding the governor's chair). It's not yet clear whether Democrats will retain a Virginia Senate majority. I was surprised to see that Mississippi voters defeated a "personhood" ballot initiative stating that life begins at conception.
What races are you watching tonight? The incumbents on the Des Moines City Council easily won re-election. My two preferred candidates lost the Windsor Heights City Council election. Other Polk County results are here.
FOURTH UPDATE: An amazing result from Arizona tonight: voters recalled State Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the notorious "show me your papers" immigration law (which is being litigated in federal court). Apparently no state senator has ever been recalled in Arizona before. Pearce had been a leading opponent of the state's "clean elections" public financing system.
FINAL UPDATE: The official canvass showed 13,324 votes for Mathis (56.0 percent), 10,322 votes for Golding (43.4 percent), 151 votes for Tack, and nine write-in votes.
UPDATE: More recent absentee ballot numbers are here, and a precinct-level analysis of the early voting is here.
Two weeks before the special election in Iowa Senate district 18, the number of absentee ballots requested and returned favored Democratic candidate Liz Mathis over Republican Cindy Golding by a two to one margin. Details are after the jump, along with other recent news about the race.
Lots going on at the state capitol this Tuesday: first, rival lobby days for the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa and Bob Vander Plaats' umbrella organization FAMiLY Leader, which is reportedly bringing in ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Later in the day, another pro-labor rally will be held on the west steps outside the capitol building. More details on those and other events coming up this week are after the jump.
As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know of public events that should be included on this calendar.
A busy week at the Iowa legislature kicks off Monday evening with what's sure to be a packed Iowa House hearing on a constitutional amendment to ban legal recognition for same-sex relationships. Groups supporting conservation of Iowa's natural resources have several rallies and lobby days planned during the next two weeks. Those and other event details are after the jump. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of an event that should be included on this calendar.
Yet another winter storm is heading for Iowa this week, but spring rains aren't too far off. Gardeners and anyone who cares about conserving water and reducing runoff may be interested in a sale of rain barrels (all repurposed to keep waste out of landfills). Proceeds benefit the non-profit 1000 Friends of Iowa, specifically to "support the development of an educational exhibit which focuses on land use and water as it relates to run-off from non-porous surfaces as well as to bring attention to the many uses for collected rain water." Those uses include watering gardens, washing cars and general housecleaning. Click here for more information about the rain barrels and here to order by February 11.
Tuesday is shaping up to be the big day in Iowa politics this week, with a special election to fill a state Senate seat and a public hearing on the first bill to clear a House committee during the 2011 session.
Details on those and other events are after the jump. Activists and politicians, send me your public schedule so I can add the information to these calendars.
This week is a big one in Iowa politics, with the state legislature's 2011 session starting Monday and Terry Branstad's inauguration for a fifth term as governor on Friday. Several non-profits are organizing members and supporters to lobby legislators as well. Event details are after the jump.
One of my new year's resolutions is to post event calendars regularly at Bleeding Heartland. Activists and politicians can help by sending your event notices to me: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. Please post a comment if you know of something I've left out.
On Monday, Family Research Council Action and the National Organization for Marriage will launch a "Judge Bus Tour" to campaign against retaining Iowa Supreme Court justices Marsha Ternus, Michael Streit and David Baker. Organizers will take their bus through 45 Iowa counties, stopping at 20 planned rallies. Featured speakers at the rallies will include nationally-known heroes on the religious right: Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, Representative Steve King of Iowa's fifth Congressional district, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
My hunch is the big purple judge-hating bus will drive more votes toward retaining than ousting the Supreme Court justices.
Governor Chet Culver kicks off his re-election campaign on Monday, May 17. The governor, First Lady Mari Culver, and Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge will hold events in 41 counties over five days. Members of the public can RSVP to attend the Culver campaign events here.
Details on those and many other events can be found after the jump.
Bike to Work week also begins next Monday and runs through May 21. According to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition,
In 2009, 716 employers, 114 cities, and 2,395 commuters (22% first-timers) participated. Approximately 63,188 commuting miles were pledged, 3,510 gallons of gas saved, and $7,336.83 saved in fuel costs. Contact Mark Wyatt at (515) 309-2867 or email@example.com.
Here's hoping the bicycle commuters will get warm, dry weather next week.
I haven't posted any job listings here in a while, but I recently learned of a few opportunities in the environmental area. Those are posted below. If you know of political or progressive advocacy jobs available, feel free to send details to me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com), and I will try to spread the word.
The big political event this week is the March 19 deadline for Iowa candidates to file nominating papers for statewide and federal offices. John Deeth has been covering the filings so far at his blog. Follow me after the jump for details on other things going on around the state, and post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of something I've left out.
I didn't have time to pull this together yesterday, but here's a late weekend open thread. Share whatever's on your mind.
(UPDATE: If you think you know American history, see how well you do on Charles Lemos' Presidents' Day trivia quiz. Each president is the correct answer to only one question.)
After the jump I've posted details on many events coming up this week. I hope to attend the screening of the "Big River" documentary in Des Moines on February 18. It's a sequel to the must-watch "King Corn," and the screening is a joint benefit for the Iowa Environmental Council and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
If you are a Democratic candidate in Iowa, please e-mail me your list of upcoming events so I can include them in these threads. (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com)
Oxfam America "is seeking Des Moines area volunteers to lend 5-8 hours of time per week to help them raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on global communities and encourage action to alleviate it." If you're interested, you need to contact them by February 15 (information below).
The coming week will be busy at the state capitol, because February 12 is the first "funnel" date. All bills excluding appropriations bills that have not been approved by at least one committee by February 12 will be dead for the 2010 session, unless something extraordinary happens.
Also, Iowa House Republicans are expected to try to suspend the rules this week to force consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. If last April's events are any guide, they can expect help from two Iowa House Democrats: Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz. Meanwhile, Mertz is working with a group of Republicans on a constitutional amendment that would "recognize human eggs as persons worthy of legal protection." Such an amendment would outlaw abortion and probably some forms of birth control as well.