Weekend open thread: Dark days for Iowa doves

Iowa will soon introduce a season for hunting mourning doves, which had been protected for nearly 100 years as a symbol of peace. Last week, with no debate in the Iowa House or Senate, Senate File 464 passed both chambers easily. Governor Terry Branstad signed the bill into law with the usual photo-op for key backers, but he didn’t seem keen on media attention. The official press release on signing Senate File 464 lacked any quotes about how great the new law will be.

Over the decades, many Iowa lawmakers introduced dove-hunting legislation, and the Republican-controlled House and Senate approved a bill in 2001, but Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed it. Feelings on this issue have never broken down strictly on party lines; Democratic Senator Dick Dearden of Des Moines has been one of the most committed dove-hunting advocates. Senate File 464 passed the Iowa Senate on a bipartisan 30-18 vote; 19 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted yes, while 15 Democrats and three Republicans voted no. The bill cleared the House by 58 to 39; 48 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted yes, while 11 Republicans and 28 Democrats voted no. You can find the Iowa Senate roll call here and the House roll call here.

The Des Moines Register’s editorial board argued that legislators should have respected tradition and left the ban in place. In a Mason-Dixon poll of 625 Iowa voters between March 17 and 19, 54 percent of Iowans were against legalizing dove-hunting, while just 25 percent supported it. The Humane Society of the United States commissioned the survey, which found majority opposition in the Republican, Democratic and independent sub-samples.

Although I don’t hunt, I don’t feel more connected to mourning doves than to other wild birds. On the other hand, I believe legislation to expand hunting should have included provisions to protect wildlife from lead poisoning, which is a significant problem in Iowa.

Other news that caught my eye this week:

The Des Moines Register’s chief political reporter since 2002, Tom Beaumont, took a new job as the Des Moines correspondent for Associated Press.

As Des Moines Correspondent, Beaumont will join a political coverage team that includes state government reporter Mike Glover and Iowa City Correspondent Ryan J. Foley. Along with reporters from across the region and the AP’s Washington staff, they will ensure the AP’s report on the caucuses and the 2012 election is consistently first and always complete.

With only nine or ten months remaining before the Iowa caucuses, that’s not a timely departure for the Register.

Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy informed the Board of Regents that he will step down in the summer of 2012. He’s held the job since July 2001. I hope that before he leaves, Geoffroy will do the right thing and help the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture find strong leadership and more independence within the university. His successor won’t want to rile up the corporate interests that helped ISU set fundraising records during the past decade.  

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: Todd Dorman goes over the unusual process through which the dove-hunting bill passed:

Dove hunting did not soar to passage on gossamer wings, folks. It was more like a roach skittering across the kitchen floor in the dark, shielded from scrutiny by quick, deft maneuvers.

The dove bill was off the radar until just before a legislative funnel deadline that exterminates bills that don’t clear a committee. At the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee’s final meeting before the deadline, its chairman, Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, sprung the bill and pushed it through. The bill was not on the committee’s published agenda. Surprise.

It passed the full Senate. That sent the bill to the House, where, normally, it would go through a House committee before being taken up on the floor. That provides some time for input and deliberation. Lawmakers can even call a public hearing.

Instead, just one day after Senate passage, House Republican leaders called up another Senate bill having to do with raccoon hunting. The House amended the raccoon bill so that it actually became the Senate dove bill. That very unusual bit of procedural crossbreeding allowed the dove bill to skip the House committee process entirely. Soon, the bill flew to Gov. Terry Branstad, who signed it fast and in private.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Please, somebody make him stop

Why is Iowa Senator Dick Dearden so obsessed with legalizing dove-hunting? I know he’s introduced this bill many times before.

It doesn’t seem smart to let the state legislature get tied up in a divisive debate over mourning doves. We don’t want to give the impression that Democrats are wasting time on trivia during an economic meltdown.

Apparently Democratic statehouse leaders need to find non-spending issues to debate while they’re waiting for revised budget forecasts. Great–there are lots of things they could consider that would either boost the economy or improve the quality of life.

For instance, they could pass an ambitious renewable electricity standard to create more incentives for increasing wind and solar-power generating capacity.

Or, they could give county officials zoning authority over agricultural operations. After all, the Iowa Democratic Party’s platform does endorse the concept of “local control” over large hog lots. This measure would be popular and would address a significant issue in the lives of many Iowans.

If Senator Dearden is suffering from a shortage of winged animals to hunt, put him to work on preserving and expanding the habitat for other game birds in Iowa.  

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