Weekend open thread: Short-sighted elected officials edition

Who knew that when you tell a state agency leader to save another $1.3 million somehow, he might cut some important programs and services? Not State Representative Dave Heaton, the Republican chair of the Iowa legislature’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Who knew that when you impeach a mayor using a kangaroo court proceeding, a judge might order the mayor reinstated while her appeal is pending? Not Muscatine City Council members.

Follow me after the jump for more on those stories. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I’m also interested to know what readers think about Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen’s request to waive certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act in order to bring Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield back to Iowa’s individual insurance market for 2018. Elements of the “stopgap” measure violate federal law; health care law expert Timothy Jost told the Des Moines Register’s Tony Leys that some parts of Ommen’s proposal are “extremely problematic” and not likely “doable.” Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Anna Wilde Mathews and Louise Radnofsky saw the Iowa developments as “a key test of the ability to modify the [Affordable Care Act] through executive authority.” Slate’s Jordan Weissmann agreed.

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Friends and former colleagues remember Rich Olive

Former State Senator Rich Olive died of cancer yesterday at the age of 66. He represented Wright and Hamilton counties, along with some rural areas in Story and Webster counties, from 2007 through 2010. During that time, he chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Many Iowans who knew Olive through his work in the legislature agreed to share some of their memories with Bleeding Heartland readers.

Photo of Rich Olive at the capitol taken by Senate Democratic staff; used with permission.

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Where are they now? Brad Anderson edition

Brad Anderson, the Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state in 2014, has taken a new job as executive director of the Des Moines-based non-profit Above + Beyond Cancer. The official announcement is after the jump. The organization “takes cancer survivors on incredible adventures” in order “to elevate the lives of those touched by cancer” and provide “an example for healthy living and cancer prevention in their communities.”

A former staffer for Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Chet Culver, Anderson has worked on many Iowa campaigns, most famously as manager of President Barack Obama’s 2012 effort in Iowa. Although he lost last year’s secretary of state race to Republican Paul Pate, Anderson proposed a lot of good ideas and ended up winning more votes statewide than the top of the Democratic ticket. I’m sure the whole Bleeding Heartland community (regardless of partisan affiliation) wishes Anderson success in his new position. Most Iowans have been affected by cancer in some way, and there’s no question that “health, fitness and good nutrition” are important for preventing or surviving the disease.

UPDATE: On February 11, Anderson sent an e-mail blast to supporters of his campaign for Iowa secretary of state. Scroll down to read.

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When lobbyist declarations speak louder than headlines

The working of Iowa’s state legislature is transparent in many ways. The official legislative website provides thorough, timely and permanently accessible information about bills, legislators, committees, votes, and other events. Most Iowa House and Senate members are accessible to interested constituents, even listing their home and/or cell phone numbers on the web. When the legislature is in session, members of the public can come to the Capitol during working hours and often speak to key lawmakers about the issues they care about.

Nevertheless, it can be hard for those on the outside to figure out what is really going on at the statehouse. So it was last week when the Iowa House approved House File 2109, “An Act relating to vapor products and alternative nicotine products, and providing penalties.” Following the lead of the bill’s sponsor, news headlines made this legislation sound like a step toward protecting children’s health: “Iowa House approves ban on sale of e-cigarettes to minors”; “Iowa House passes ban on e-cigarettes for minors”; “House votes to ban e-cigarette sales to minors.”

The lobbyist declarations told a different story.  

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"Alarm bells" over impact of new trade agreement on states' rights

“States’ rights” has typically been a rallying cry among American conservatives, but six Democratic Iowa legislators are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership now being negotiated may infringe on local control and states’ ability to legislate in the public interest. In an open letter, 43 state lawmakers have asked 23 state attorneys general, including Iowa’s Tom Miller, to analyze the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s possible impact on state and local governments.

I’ve enclosed the text of the letter below, along with a news release on the initiative from the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. The Iowans who signed are State Representatives Chuck Isenhart, Marti Anderson, Dan Kelley and Curt Hanson, and State Senators Bill Dotzler and Joe Bolkcom. The letter spells out ten areas of state regulation that signers fear could be undermined by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Isenhart stressed that the lawmakers’ concerns go beyond environmental issues, citing Iowa’s support for the biofuels industry as well as state policies to protect consumers and discourage smoking.

President Barack Obama is seeking to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Activists who oppose the trade agreement have criticized the secrecy surrounding the negotiations as well as the agreement’s tilt toward corporations and potential to undermine environmental and public health protections.

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user cocinero notes in the comments that the American Cancer Society is concerned about this trade agreement. At the end of this post I’ve enclosed a joint statement from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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