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Steve King's stand on birthright citizenship more mainstream than ever in GOP

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 19, 2015 at 11:34:17 AM CDT

Just four years ago, Representative Steve King's commitment to ending birthright citizenship was considered such a political liability for Republicans that King was passed over to chair the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration.

Now a growing number of Republican presidential candidates would end birthright citizenship for children born to parents not authorized to live in the U.S. In fact, GOP presidential contenders who share King's perspective outnumber those who are willing to defend current law, which has been settled for more than a century.

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Bad news for supporters of Iowa's "ag gag" law

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 05, 2015 at 11:48:09 AM CDT

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled unconstitutional an Idaho law that criminalized lying to obtain employment at an agricultural facility or making unauthorized audio and video recordings at such facilities. Will Potter, one of the plaintiffs challenging the "ag gag" law, has been covering the case at the Green is the New Red blog. Judge Lyn Winmill's ruling (pdf) found that the Idaho law's provisions violated both "the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution.

The Iowa House and Senate approved and Governor Terry Branstad signed our state's version of the "ag gag" law in 2012. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Although Iowa's law differed from the Idaho statute in some ways, several parts of yesterday's federal court ruling would appear to apply equally to Iowa's law. After the jump I've enclosed the relevant language from both state laws and excerpts from Judge Winmill's ruling.

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Mark Chelgren's empty birthday gesture

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 14:15:49 PM CST

State Senator Mark Chelgren celebrated his 45th birthday last week with cupcakes for fellow senators and a promise that he will try to change an obscure part of the Iowa Constitution.

Legislators often introduce bills solely to make a political statement, but even in that context, Chelgren's effort is an impressive feat of irrelevant grandstanding.  

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Steve King wants you to know he's no sellout

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:00:27 PM CST

Congressional press releases don't always tell you about important votes, but they always tell you what members of Congress want you to know about them. Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) didn't release a statement last week explaining his vote to let John Boehner stay on as House speaker. But I think he's a little worried about his street cred as a bold conservative, because he quickly moved to flaunt his work on some hopeless right-wing causes.  
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Remembering the Tinker case

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 07:55:00 AM CST

A former Iowa student whose black armband led to an important U.S. Supreme Court decision of the 1960s died last week in Florida, the Des Moines Register reported yesterday. The Iowa Civil Liberties Union sued the Des Moines Independent Community School district on behalf of Christopher Eckhardt and his friends John Tinker and Mary Beth Tinker after all three students were suspended for wearing black armbands to their schools as an anti-war protest. The case eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1969 that the school principals were not justified in limiting the students' free expression.

Tinker v. Des Moines Ind. Comm. School Dist. may be the most important case from Iowa ever to reach the Supreme Court. Judges have applied the "Tinker standard" in many other First Amendment cases. After the jump I've posted links about the case and some reflections on Eckhardt's role.

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Grassley yes, Harkin no on five more years of warrantless wiretapping

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 12:50:00 PM CST

The U.S. Senate voted today to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for five more years, allowing "electronic eavesdropping" without a warrant to continue in the U.S. and abroad. President Barack Obama (who at one time opposed the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping policy) will sign the bill sometime before the end of December 31. Follow me after the jump for details on the Senate voting, including how Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley voted on various amendments.

When the U.S. House approved this bill in September, four of the five Iowans voted yes: Democrats Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05). Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) was among 118 House members to oppose the bill.

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Iowa political reaction to the Sandy Hook school massacre (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 16:55:00 PM CST

The horrific mass killing at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut has dominated news coverage since Friday, and almost everyone I know has been talking about the tragedy. But only a few Iowa politicians have publicly discussed the events or possible ways to prevent similar crimes.

Remarks by Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Dave Loebsack, State Senator Rob Hogg, and Governor Terry Branstad are after the jump. I'm disappointed but not surprised that the governor is not open to any new restrictions on assault weapons or large ammunition clips. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who like Branstad has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, today called for moving "beyond rhetoric" on gun control. His comments are also below.

I've sought comment from other members of Iowa's Congressional delegation and will update this post if I hear back from any of them. UPDATE: Added Representative Bruce Braley's comments below.

SECOND UPDATE: Added Senator Chuck Grassley's comments during a December 17 radio interview.

LATER UPDATE: Added comments from Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass.

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Mid-week open thread: End of Prohibition edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 16:14:40 PM CST

The 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect 79 years ago today, ending the Prohibition era. Utah was the last state needed to reach the necessary three-fourths majority for approving the constitutional amendment.

Few Americans living today can remember the political environment that led to the failed Prohibition experiment. Public water fountains established by local chapters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union are perhaps the only visible remnants of the temperance movement.

At the 1874 organizing convention of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the members were urged to erect drinking fountains in their towns so that men could get a drink of water without entering saloons and staying for stronger drinks. Often the drinking fountains that were erected offered a place for horses to drink, another place for dogs, and of course, a place for humans to drink.

Two WCTU fountains remain in Iowa: in Edgewood (Clayton and Delaware Counties) and Shenandoah (Page County). UPDATE: Added a photo of the fountain in Shenandoah below.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Judge Robert Pratt legacy thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 12:05:00 PM CST

Former U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose was sworn in yesterday as a federal judge. She is the youngest federal judge currently serving as well as the first woman on the bench in the Southern District of Iowa. The Senate confirmed Rose in September by 89 votes to 1.

In remarks prepared for Rose's investiture, Senator Tom Harkin predicted her "legal skills and knowledge" and "great sense of justice and fairness" would make her a "superb judge." He recommended Rose for U.S. attorney and later put her on the short list for the federal judgeship.

I was struck by Harkin's comments about the retired Judge Robert Pratt, whom Rose replaces. I enclose those comments below, along with links on some of Pratt's most influential decisions.

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How Harkin and Grassley voted on the balanced budget amendments

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 14, 2011 at 15:41:22 PM CST

The Senate defeated Democratic and Republican versions of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution today. Details on the votes and statements from Iowa's senators are after the jump.
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PATRIOT Act 10th anniversary discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 21:11:18 PM CDT

Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush signed a bill called the "United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism," better known as the PATRIOT Act. It's a good time to reflect on the law's impact as well as how the Iowans in Congress voted on its provisions over the last decade.
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Impeachment going nowhere and other Iowa Supreme Court news

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 13:05:23 PM CDT

Last week, a group of conservative Iowa House Republicans finally made good on their promise to introduce articles of impeachment against the four remaining Iowa Supreme Court justices who concurred in the 2009 Varnum v Brien decision on marriage. The impeachment bills won't make it out of committee, let alone the Iowa House, but there may be some political fallout from the effort.

After the jump I examine the articles of impeachment, future prospects for their backers and recent news related to the 2012 judicial retention elections.

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Open letter to Kim Pearson State Representative

by: Peacock372

Fri Feb 04, 2011 at 23:47:01 PM CST

(I hope not just Pearson, but other Iowa Republicans will read this letter. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Excerpt from the post.culture.shock blog

When I was in middle school, I earned spare money by babysitting for a lot of the neighborhood kids. One of the parents I was employed by was Kim Pearson, one of the sponsors of the bill in the Iowa House to amend the Constitution to ban not only gay marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships. This is my letter to her. (edited somewhat with the recognition that this is now going to a lot of folks who don't know me as well as Kim did, and who likely don't care what I've been up to since I spent a summer taking care of her kids)

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Ten dishonest talking points on the marriage amendment in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 09:46:47 AM CST

A constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to couples of the opposite sex advanced on January 24 in both a subcommittee of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee and the full committee. House Joint Resolution 6 states, "Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state." Iowa Republicans have promised for months to approve a constitutional amendment overturning the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision striking down the state's Defense of Marriage Act. This amendment goes further, barring any kind of legal union apart from marriage and therefore any legal recognition for same-sex relationships.  

After an emotionally charged subcommittee hearing with more than 200 observers present, Republicans Dwayne Alons and Chris Hagenow voted to advance the amendment, while Democrat Beth Wessel-Kroeschell voted no. Later in the day, the full House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a 13 to 8 vote. Democrat Kurt Swaim joined all 12 Republicans in voting yes, while the other Democrats on the committee voted no. Click here for a list of House Judiciary Committee members.

Reading the news coverage of yesterday's debate, I was struck by how many misleading talking points were used to justify denying rights and privileges to thousands of Iowans.  

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Catch-up thread on the Iowa Supreme Court

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 16, 2010 at 11:49:01 AM CST

Fallout from last month's vote against retaining Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker continues to make the news almost daily.

Follow me after the jump for links and analysis on the timetable for replacing Ternus, Streit and Baker, efforts to change Iowa's system for choosing judges, political pressure on the remaining justices, and how the retention vote will affect the 2012 elections.

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Weekend open thread: Odds and ends

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 26, 2010 at 12:00:00 PM CST

Time with extended family means less time for blogging, so I'm posting the weekend open thread early. Here are some links to get the conversation going.

Rural voters were a crucial factor helping Republicans retake the U.S. House. Of the 125 most rural Congressional districts, Republicans held all 64 seats they had going into the election and flipped 39 Democratic districts (that alone would have been enough to give them a majority). Going into the election, Democrats held 61 of the 125 most rural Congressional districts. Now they hold only 22 of those districts, including IA-01 (Bruce Braley) and IA-02 (Dave Loebsack).

Smart Politics looked at what it calls "Iowa's Schizophrenic 2010 Electorate" and observed, "Never before in the history of Iowa elections have Republicans won a majority of seats in the Iowa House while Democrats won a majority of the Hawkeye State's U.S. House seats."

I listed the Iowa House and Senate Democrats before and after the election, grouped by Congressional district. Bleeding Heartland user American007 created red and blue Iowa maps showing which parties held state House and Senate districts before the election and after.

Fred Karger, a Republican political strategist and gay activist who's exploring a presidential bid, has been running this commercial on the Fox network this week in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Mason City, Ames, Burlington and Fort Dodge. Have you seen it? Hard to imagine a strong base of support for Karger in Iowa, but I'm glad a moderate may be running for president on the Republican side.

If Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels runs for president in 2012, some Iowa Republicans will not forgive him for supporting merit-based judicial selection in his state.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said all the "right" things about Iowa judges during his recent Des Moines visit. But this week Huckabee described the controversial searches of airline passengers as a "humiliating and degrading, totally unconstitutional, intrusion of their privacy." Uh oh! Social conservatives don't typically acknowledge that there is a constitutional right to privacy. That dreaded "penumbra" underlies U.S. Supreme Court rulings affirming reproductive rights.

I learned this week that New Hampshire has some elected Republican officias who support marriage equality. It's not clear whether there are enough of them to stop large GOP majorities from repealing same-sex marriage rights in that state. I wonder when (if ever) a current Republican office-holder in Iowa will defend equality.

Iowa First Lady Mari Culver says she accomplished what she set out to do during her husband's term as governor, and her kids are excited to be moving back to their West Des Moines home full-time.

What's on your mind this holiday weekend?  

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Iowa Catholic Conference backs constitutional convention, not ousting judges

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 22, 2010 at 20:57:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Catholic Conference this week endorsed a ballot initiative calling for a constitutional convention, which church leaders view as a path to banning same-sex marriages. Democrats have blocked several efforts to bring a marriage amendment to the floor of the Iowa House and Senate.

More details on Catholic advocacy against marriage equality are after the jump.  

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Case against Iowa Supreme Court justices hits tv screens

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 11:27:15 AM CDT

Iowa for Freedom, the group seeking to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices this November, began running a statewide television commercial on Monday.

The ad echoes language Iowa for Freedom chair Bob Vander Plaats used during his gubernatorial campaign, and it reflects the same failure to understand the judicial review process.

The video and transcript are after the jump, along with an update on the counter-effort to protect judicial independence in Iowa.

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Exploring Paul McKinley's fantasy world

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 06:20:00 AM CDT

If Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley believes the spin he serves up to journalists and the Republican Party faithful, he must have an active imagination.

I don't know which is most detached from reality: McKinley's take on Iowa's finances, his views on "state sovereignty" or his election predictions.

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Take a few minutes to fill out your census form

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 01, 2010 at 07:29:01 AM CDT

April 1 is the U.S. Census Bureau's target date for Americans to fill out and return their census forms. Every 1 percent increase in the census mail-back rate saves the U.S. Census Bureau about $85 million. After April 10, the bureau will start sending out census-takers to households that did not return their forms. President Barack Obama filled out his own family's form and declared today "Census Day":

The First Ladys mother lives with the family in the White House. Since the census asks for a count of everyone currently living in the household - not just immediate family - the President included his mother-in-law on his census form.

In these difficult economic times its common for extended family and friends to live with another family, yet many households mistakenly leave these individuals off their census forms.

Mr. desmoinesdem and I filled out our family's form and mailed it back a couple of weeks ago. There are no "long forms" anymore; everyone gets the short survey with just 10 questions.

As of this morning, the national census participation rate was 52 percent; you can click on this interactive map to find participation rates in your area. Today Iowa ranked fifth among the states with a 60 percent participation rate. South Dakota and Wisconsin tied for first place with a 62 percent participation rate, and North Dakota and Nebraska tied for third with 61 percent. Within Iowa, a few towns had participation rates exceeding 80 percent. About 63 percent of households in my corner of the state, Windsor Heights, have returned their census forms so far.

Although some conservatives hyperventilate about the demographic questions on the census form, recording the race and ethnicity of U.S. residents helps the government "execute and monitor laws and programs that are targeted to specific groups." Like conservative arguments about the legality of health insurance reform, objections to the census questions have no basis in constitutional law:

On numerous occasions, the courts have said the Constitution gives Congress the authority to collect statistics in the census. As early as 1870, the Supreme Court characterized as unquestionable the power of Congress to require both an enumeration and the collection of statistics in the census. The Legal Tender Cases, Tex.1870; 12 Wall., U.S., 457, 536, 20 L.Ed. 287. In 1901, a District Court said the Constitution's census clause (Art. 1, Sec. 2, Clause 3) is not limited to a headcount of the population and "does not prohibit the gathering of other statistics, if 'necessary and proper,' for the intelligent exercise of other powers enumerated in the constitution, and in such case there could be no objection to acquiring this information through the same machinery by which the population is enumerated." United States v. Moriarity, 106 F. 886, 891 (S.D.N.Y.1901).

The census does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Morales v. Daley, 116 F. Supp. 2d 801, 820 (S.D. Tex. 2000). In concluding that there was no basis for holding Census 2000 unconstitutional, the District Court in Morales ruled that the 2000 Census and the 2000 Census questions did not violate the Fourth Amendment or other constitutional provisions as alleged by plaintiffs. (The Morales court said responses to census questions are not a violation of a citizen's right to privacy or speech.) [...]

These decisions are consistent with the Supreme Court's recent description of the census as the "linchpin of the federal statistical system ... collecting data on the characteristics of individuals, households, and housing units throughout the country." Dept. of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives, 525 U.S. 316, 341 (1999).

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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