Iowa Democrats, mark your calendars for February 6, 2012

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee has recommended Monday, February 6, 2012 as the date for the next Iowa caucuses, according to Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who attended the meeting. The same body recommended February 14 for the New Hampshire primary, February 18 for the Nevada caucuses and February 28 for the South Carolina primary. All other Democratic nominating contests would occur in March or later.

Although we are unlikely to have real competition on the Democratic side in 2012, it’s good precedent to start the presidential nominating process in February rather than January. Having to knock on doors and phonebank between Christmas 2007 and New Year’s Day 2008 was insane.

The big question is how many states will try to jump ahead of the early states. The DNC rules committee recommends that states violating the proposed calendar would lose half of their delegates. The Republican Party adopted similar sanctions before the 2008 campaign, which didn’t deter Florida and Michigan from holding their primaries “too early.”

The 2010 Iowa caucuses were held on a Saturday afternoon, but off-year caucuses always have light attendance. A Saturday afternoon caucus in a presidential year was never likely, because observant Jews would be unable to participate.

I would like to see more reforms to the Iowa Democratic caucus process, including an absentee ballot option for shift workers who can’t get the night off or voters who are housebound. In Maine, Democrats can participate in the caucuses by absentee ballot.

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Iowa likely to go first again in 2012 presidential race

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee met yesterday in Washington and approved a proposed calendar for the 2012 presidential nominating process. The DemRulz blog noted that the calendar “tracks the DNC Change Commission recommendations,” which state that all primaries and caucuses must be held in March 2012 or later, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, which may schedule their nominating contests in February 2012. In a statement released to the media, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan hailed the vote as “another important step” that “will help us ensure that Iowa is First-in-the-Nation once again.”

The Republican National Committee has moved toward a similar calendar in 2012, with the same four states allowed to schedule primaries or caucuses in February, and all other states allowed to go beginning March 1. The final calendar may not reflect the RNC’s wishes, though; some states may try to jump ahead the way Florida and Michigan did in 2008.

I suspect Iowa’s representatives will have to fight hard to maintain our early position for the 2016 campaign. Democrats in several larger states resent the outsized influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are small and predominantly white. The calendar doesn’t matter much on the Democratic side for 2012, because it’s unlikely anyone will challenge Barack Obama for the nomination, but the next cycle will certainly be competitive, whether or not Obama wins a second term.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Lots of links for a snowy day

Many Iowans will be leaving work or school early today, or perhaps not going in at all, as the season’s first big winter blast rolls in. Here’s plenty of reading to keep you busy if you are stuck at home.

Global news first: The United National Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen opened yesterday. To follow news from the proceedings, I’m reading the team of Mother Jones bloggers in Copenhagen. The Open Left blog will also post regular updates from Natasha Chart and Friends of the Earth staff who are on the ground. If you prefer a mainstream media perspective, check out The Climate Pool on Facebook, which is a collaboration among major news organizations.

Also on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed off on two findings that will pave the way to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. This action follows from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. More background and details can be found on the EPA’s site. Environment Iowa explains the significance of the EPA’s action here. An expert panel surveyed by Grist disagreed on whether the EPA’s “endangerment finding” would affect the Copenhagen talks.

The most important reason I oppose the current draft bills on climate change kicking around Congress is that they would revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Chris Bowers explains why that would be disastrous here.

Uganda is considering a horrific law that would subject homosexuals to long prison terms or even the death penalty. One Iowa is collecting signatures on a petition to Senator Chuck Grassley, asking him to speak out against this law. Grassley’s never going to be a gay rights advocate, but he should agree that criminalizing homosexuality is wrong. Grassley is involved with “The Family,” which is connected to the proposed bill in Uganda.

On the economic front, President Obama is expected to announce plans to use about $200 billion allocated for the Wall Street bailout to fund a jobs bill Congress will consider soon.. The Hill previewed some of the measures that may end up in that bill.

Some economists who met with Governor Chet Culver yesterday think Iowa has already reached the bottom of this recession. I hope they are right, but either way, policy-makers should listen to their ideas for reforming Iowa’s budget process. I’ll write a separate post on this important development soon. Here is the short take:

The state could base its spending on a multi-year average, such as the previous three years, or five years or seven years, said Jon Muller, president of Muller Consulting Inc., a public policy and business development consulting firm based in Des Moines.

“The way it’s always worked, when times are really good, we increase spending and we cut taxes,” Muller said. “And when times are bad, there’s pressure to increase taxes and decrease spending. And that all happens when the demand for government is at its highest,” Muller said.

The multi-year idea would flip, he said.

“In good times you would be squirreling money at way a little at a time. And in bad times, you could continue to increase spending to service the growing demands of a recession.”

It would require state lawmakers to not touch the reserves, even in times of plenty. But it would also reduce the need to tap into reserves just to get by during rainy days, the advisers said.

Regarding budget cuts, the Newton Independent reports here on a “plan to reorganize the Iowa Department of Human Services operations under two deputy directors, six rather than nine divisions, five rather than eight service areas, more part-time offices and the elimination of 78 currently vacant positions” (hat tip to Iowa Independent). Click this link for more details about the proposed restructuring.

On the political front, John Deeth analyzes possible changes the Democratic National Committee is considering for the presidential nomination process. Jerome Armstrong had a good idea the DNC won’t implement: ban caucuses everywhere but Iowa. No other state derives the party-building benefits of caucuses, but just about every state that uses caucuses for presidential selection has lower voter participation than would occur in a primary.

I haven’t written much on health care reform lately, because recent developments are so depressing. Our best hope was using the budget reconciliation process to pass a strong bill in the Senate with 51 votes (or 50 plus Joe Biden). Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken reconciliation off the table, we’re left with a variety of bad compromises to get to 60 votes in the Senate. I am not convinced the final product will be any improvement over the status quo. It will certainly be worse for millions of Americans required to buy overpriced private health insurance. If there’s a quicker way to neutralize the Democrats’ advantage with young voters, I don’t know what it is.

Speaking of health care reform, Steve Benen wrote a good piece about Grassley’s latest grandstanding on the issue.

Speaking of things that are depressing, John Lennon was shot dead 29 years ago today.  Daily Kos user noweasels remembers him and that night. Although Paul’s always been my favorite Beatle, I love a lot of John’s work too. Here’s one of his all-time best:

Share any relevant thoughts or your own favorite Lennon songs in the comments.

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Three Iowans gain new posts at DNC

I received this news release from the Iowa Democratic Party on September 11:

DES MOINES — Longtime Democratic activist Jan Bauer of Ames is one of 75 new at-large members of the Democratic National Committee following a vote Friday at the party’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas.  Bauer also will serve on the DNC Resolutions Committee.

Other appointments Friday included: Sandy Opstvedt of Story City to the the Resolutions Committee, and Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan to the Rules and Bylaws Committee.  In addition, members re-elected Opsvedt to the DNC executive committee.

Kiernan’s post is expected to give him important clout in protecting Iowa’s first in the nation caucuses. “We have a stronger Iowa delegation than at any time in memory,” Kiernan said Friday.  “This is great for Iowa Democrats and for our state.”

Iowans serving on the Democratic National Committee are Bauer, Kiernan, Opstvedt, Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, State Sen. Michael Gronstal, Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston, Sue Dvorsky and Leroy Williams.

Since last November’s election, I haven’t worried at all about Iowa’s place in the nominating process. As long as Barack Obama is president, I don’t think he will let the DNC allow any state to jump ahead of Iowa. For what it’s worth, I don’t think any number of influential Iowans could have saved our first-in-the-nation status if Obama had lost to John McCain.

I’m more concerned about reforms that would improve the integrity of the caucus process and the ability of interested voters to participate. I also would like to see changes to the rules allocating pledged delegates, so that in 2016 one candidate won’t be able to net as many pledged delegates from, say, winning the Wyoming caucuses as another candidate nets from, say, winning the Ohio primary by 10 percent.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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Patrick Dillon will be the White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs

President-elect Barack Obama has appointed Patrick Dillon to be the White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs, according to an Iowa Democratic Party press release on January 16.

The news completes Dillon’s transition from one-half of an Iowa power couple to one-half of a Washington power couple. Dillon managed Chet Culver’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and served as the governor’s chief of staff until a few days ago.

Dillon’s wife, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, directed John Edwards’ presidential campaign in Iowa and then served as battleground states director for Barack Obama’s campaign before Obama chose her to be the new executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

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