Fixed it for ya: An update and correction to Bobby Kaufmann's newsletter about Iowa's voter ID bill

Local activist Lauren Whitehead wasn’t fooled by an Iowa House Republican’s spin on House File 516, the voter suppression bill. See also John Deeth’s take on Kaufmann’s “worse than cynical” newsletter. -promoted by desmoinesdem

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann has made it clear that he is swamped with emails and other duties, so in the interest of participatory government, I’ve taken it upon myself to help him by correcting a few errors that appeared in his recent Your Capitol Voice newsletter, which focuses on the voter ID bill that is making its way through the Iowa legislature, because integrity is very important to him.

Please see below for the corrected version, and the text of the original at the bottom.

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Iowa House censored video of public hearing on voter ID bill

The topic at hand was supposed to be Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert announcing that he may run for Iowa secretary of state in 2018. In a March 19 press release, Weipert said, “I’ve been meeting with auditors of both parties across the state, and there’s wide agreement we need new leadership in the Secretary of State’s Office. […] We should be helping people vote, not making it harder.” Auditors are the top election administrators in Iowa’s 99 counties. Weipert has been an outspoken critic of Secretary of State Paul Pate’s proposal to enact new voter ID and signature verification requirements. The Republican-controlled Iowa House approved a version of Pate’s bill earlier this month.

Weipert has argued voter ID would disenfranchise some voters and create long lines at polling places. While working on a post about his possible challenge to Pate, I intended to include footage from the Johnson County auditor’s remarks at the March 6 public hearing on House File 516. I’d watched the whole hearing online. However, I couldn’t find Weipert anywhere in the video the Iowa House of Representatives posted on YouTube and on the legislature’s website.

Upon closer examination, I realized the official record of that hearing omitted the testimony of sixteen people, including Weipert.

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Iowa Republicans on voter ID: La la la, we can't hear you

Bare-knuckles partisanship is a running theme of the 2017 Iowa legislative session, so Thursday’s party-line House vote to approve new voting restrictions was unremarkable. Nor was it surprising that Republicans cut off floor debate before members discussed most of the Democratic amendments to House File 516. Before last month, House leaders hadn’t invoked the “time certain” procedural maneuver since March 2011. They’ve used it twice this year already: to destroy collective bargaining rights and now for the bill containing voter ID, signature verification, and other ways to make voting more difficult.

After listening to the March 6 public hearing and about half of the twelve hours House members debated the bill, I was struck by how Republicans stayed on the message we’ve heard from Secretary of State Paul Pate. No one will be unable to vote because of this bill, and everyone who needs a new voter ID card will get one for free.

At the hearing and on the Iowa House floor, numerous speakers offered specific examples of how the GOP proposal could prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot.

They might as well have been talking to a wall.

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Follow-up Iowa licensing bill is dead

A new bill that would have named a task to study licensing requirements in Iowa will not move forward this legislative session, Republican State Representative Dawn Pettengill told representatives of the National Association of Social Workers Iowa chapter. House Study Bill 174 replaced an earlier proposal from Governor Terry Branstad, which would have eliminated licensing requirements for numerous professions. During the past week, House Study Bill 138 generated as many constituent contacts to Iowa lawmakers as the bill passed earlier this month to destroy collective bargaining rights. Among other things, the governor’s licensing bill would have reduced insurance coverage for mental health care services. On February 27, an Iowa House State Government subcommittee voted not to move that bill forward.

House State Government Committee Chair Ken Rizer introduced the replacement licensing bill on February 28. In addition to changing regulations in several other areas, House Study Bill 174 called for a new task force to review Iowa’s licensing requirements and report back to the legislature by the end of 2017.

Although Rizer’s bill would not have immediately affected marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, or social workers, the leading association representing Iowa’s social workers expressed concern that “the taskforce as outlined would mostly be selected by the Governor, who has demonstrated that he wants to de-professionalize many different important professions that serve some of our most vulnerable populations.” (You can read the task force membership provisions on on page 37.) The social workers group was seeking an amendment to give licensed professionals greater influence over the task force membership. But last night, Pettengill–one of two Republicans on the subcommittee where the new bill was assigned–said House Study Bill 174 was dead.

Most non-appropriations bills must be approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by March 3 in order to stay alive for this year. Bills need to clear a subcommittee before coming up for a full committee vote.

Whether the licensing task force language led to the new bill’s demise is not clear. The lobbyist declarations on House Study Bill 174 show substantial opposition, presumably related to other provisions on regulating hospitals and electricians.

P.S. Attention-seeking State Representative Bobby Kaufmann could have let the governor’s original licensing bill die quietly by not scheduling a subcommittee hearing, as is normal practice in the Iowa legislature. Instead, the publicity hound wasted a lot of people’s time before drawing cheers as he ripped up the bill’s cover sheet. Alas, television cameras had already left the meeting room before Kaufmann’s dramatic gesture. The young Republican lawmaker was literally not ready for prime time.

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Branstad bill would reduce insurance coverage for mental health care

Governor Terry Branstad has introduced a bill that would make Iowa the only state not to license mental health counselors. House Study Bill 138 would remove licensing requirements for a number of professions and eliminate some state boards, including the Board of Behavioral Sciences and the Board of Social Work. Mental health counselors are expressing alarm about language that would make social workers, marriage or family counselors, and mental health counselors “registered” rather than “licensed.”

The likely consequence would be insurance companies refusing to cover services by unlicensed providers, depriving Iowans of access to therapy unless they are able to pay the full cost of mental health counseling out of pocket.

I enclose below an action alert the Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association posted yesterday, which contains talking points to use when communicating with state lawmakers about House Study Bill 138. The bill has been assigned to a subcommittee of Republican State Representatives Bobby Kaufmann and Dawn Pettengill and Democratic State Representative Mary Mascher.

The lobbyist for the association representing mental health counselors said yesterday, “The bill as drafted will not be having a subcommittee next week and is taking on serious water. The speaker’s office said that [House Speaker Linda Upmeyer’s] members are getting more emails on the licensure provisions of that bill than they did on collective bargaining.” According to one rumor, the bill may be revised and reintroduced next week, so concerned citizens should call the governor’s office (515-281-5211) to share their views with Branstad’s staff.

UPDATE: A Facebook commenter reached Kaufmann, chair of the subcommittee, by phone on February 24: “He said this bill was assigned to him, he thinks it’s a bad bill and he’s going to kill it.”

SECOND UPDATE: On a different Facebook thread, someone reported speaking to House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow about this bill, having run into him while shopping. Hagenow indicated House Study Bill 138 would not advance in its current form.

Multiple sources confirmed on Friday that lawmakers have been bombarded with constituent contacts about this legislation. When the governor’s staff introduce a new and improved version of this proposal, I would guess they will leave licensing of mental health care professionals alone.

According to Claire Celsi, Hagenow announced at a February 25 legislative forum in Clive that the governor is wrong on this bill and that lawmakers do not support it.

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Organizing the Indivisible Iowa Network

Lauren Whitehead explains Indivisible Iowa‘s unique approach to acting on the wise words, “Don’t mourn, organize.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Did you know that there is a network of Indivisible chapters covering all 50 state Senate districts in Iowa? Here’s how it came about.

Like most readers of this blog, I was invited to join around a thousand progressive resistance startup groups during the weeks following 45’s election. My Facebook feed became an overwhelming and relentless stream of calls to action, warnings, memes, speeches, and existential angst as we all processed what had changed on November 8. Post-election, aside from the emotional fallout of such a horrible outcome, I was exhausted from 2 years of organizing for the election. I thought I might not be able to do it again. I thought that perhaps it was all pointless.

But unsurprisingly, I just can’t quit political activism, and over time I started to sort through the groups I had joined to find the diamonds in the rough–the groups that I felt had the most potential for focused and efficient accomplishment. Ten years into my amateur activist life, I was not in the mood for a group that couldn’t get it’s shit together, even though I felt the value in the organic gathering all around me. I wanted to be a part of group that offered something unique, and not a replication of the info every other group was sharing, one that was taking that frenetic energy we were all feeling and channeled it into a structure with goals.

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