Weekend open thread: Veterans Day do's and don'ts

Thanking a veteran is easy. Tackling problems that face veterans is hard.

At no time is that political reality more apparent than on the 11th day of the 11th month.

The usual expressions of respect and gratitude can be found in the latest batch of Veterans Day tweets by Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Representatives Rod Blum (R, IA-01), Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02), David Young (R, IA-03), and Steve King (R, IA-04).

After the jump I’ve posted some concrete ways members of Congress could show they care about veterans. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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IA-Gov: Read the messages Fred Hubbell is testing with Iowa Democrats

Are Iowa Democrats more likely to support a successful businessman who is not a politician? Are they sympathetic to the argument that a self-funding candidate for governor is less susceptible to influence by special interests? Are they more impressed by private- or public-sector jobs Fred Hubbell has held, or by his charitable giving to causes like Planned Parenthood?

A recent survey of Democratic voters appears to be the Hubbell campaign’s first attempt to answer those and other questions.

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Major battle shaping up for Iowa House district 82 (updated)

Curt Hanson won the most important Iowa legislative special election of the last decade. So it’s fitting that the election to replace the Iowa House Democrat, who passed away last month after a long battle with cancer, is shaping up to be our state’s most consequential special legislative race in years.

What happens here on August 8 won’t determine the outcome of Iowa’s 2018 elections but could have political repercussions beyond the three counties in House district 82.

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Let's not forget who made Iowa's new medical cannabis law so useless

Iowa’s new medical cannabis law goes into effect on July 1, but “obtaining the medicine will be difficult and manufacturers said it’s unclear if the state’s effort will be viable,” Linley Sanders reported for the Associated Press this week. Her story illuminated a few reasons the law won’t help most of the people who could potentially benefit from access to cannabis derivatives.

Iowa lawmakers closed out the session with all-nighter so as not to adjourn without doing something on this issue. The previous medical cannabis law, adopted in similar last-minute fashion three years earlier, was due to expire this summer. Even for people with seizure disorders, the only conditions for which cannabis oil was allowed, the old law was too limited and unworkable.

As the new law’s defects become more obvious, we need to remember that most state legislators favored a better alternative. House Republicans thwarted their efforts.

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24 things that won't happen under Iowa's new medical cannabis law

In one of his final official acts before he departs for China, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the last bill approved during the 2017 legislative session.

House File 524 has been portrayed as a major expansion of medical cannabis in Iowa. Whereas the 2014 law permitted the use of only one cannabis derivative (CBD oil) to treat certain seizure disorders, the new law allows the same product (cannabidiol with no more than 3 percent THC) to be used for nine medical conditions: cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, untreatable pain, or “any terminal illness with a life expectancy under one year associated with severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, cachexia or severe wasting.” Threase Harms, who lobbied for the bill, described it as a “great next step in the process of making medical cannabis available for many folks here in Iowa who need access to it as a medical treatment.”

A more comprehensive bill, which had gained broad bipartisan support in the Iowa Senate, had the potential to improve the quality of life for thousands.

I see little evidence anything “great” will come out of legislation finalized during an all-nighter by House Republican lawmakers who refused to take up that Senate bill.

As Iowa implements the new law, the following outcomes are predictable.

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A shameful end to the most destructive Iowa legislative session of my lifetime

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year around 7:15 am on Saturday, after staying up all night while Republican leaders tried to hammer out last-minute deals on medical cannabis and water quality funding.

The medical cannabis compromise passed with bipartisan majorities in both chambers, but I’m not convinced the revised House File 524 will be an improvement on letting the current extremely limited law expire on July 1. The bill senators approved last Monday by 45 votes to five would have provided some relief to thousands of Iowans suffering from nearly 20 medical conditions. House Republican leaders refused to take it up for reasons Speaker Linda Upmeyer and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow never articulated.

The new bill thrown together during the all-nighter theoretically covers nine conditions, but as Senator Joe Bolkcom explained in a video I’ve enclosed below, the only form of cannabis allowed (cannabidiol) will not be effective to treat eight of those. Although few if any Iowans will be helped, Republicans can now claim to have done something on the issue and will consequently face less pressure to pass a meaningful medical cannabis bill during the 2018 legislative session.

Republicans shut down the 30-year-old Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which supported research on farming practices that could preserve our soil and water resources. But on Friday night, they gave up on doing anything serious to clean up our waterways, 750 of which are impaired, according to the latest data released by the Department of Natural Resources. CORRECTION: More recent DNR data indicate Iowa “contains 608 waterbodies with a total of 818 impairments.” (Some waterways have more than one impaired segment.) On the opening day of this year’s session, Hagenow promised “significant new resources to water quality efforts.” Why not come back next week and keep working until they find some way forward?

I’ll tell you why: lawmakers’ per diems ran out on April 18. Heaven forbid Republicans should work a few more days with no pay to address our state’s most serious pollution problem. Incidentally, this crowd just passed an education budget that will force thousands of students to go deeper in debt. They voted earlier this year to cut wages for tens of thousands of Iowans living paycheck to paycheck in counties that had raised the minimum wage. These “public servants” also handed more than 150,000 public workers an effective pay cut by taking away their ability to collectively bargain over benefits packages. As if that weren’t enough, they made sure many Iowans who get hurt on the job will be denied access to the workers’ compensation system or will get a small fraction of the benefits they would previously have received for debilitating shoulder injuries.

Lives will be ruined by some of the laws Republicans are touting as historic accomplishments.

Even worse, lives will likely end prematurely because of cuts in the health and human services budget to a wide range of programs, from elder abuse to chronic conditions to smoking cessation to Department of Human Services field operations. I enclose below a Democratic staff analysis of its provisions. During House and Senate floor debates, Republican floor managers offered lame excuses about the tight budget, which doesn’t allow us to allocate as much money as we’d like to this or that line item. Naturally, they found an extra $3 million for a new family planning program that will exclude Planned Parenthood as a provider.

Different Republican lawmakers used the same excuses to justify big cuts to victims assistance grants in the justice systems budget. That choice will leave thousands of Iowans–mostly women–without support next year after going through horrific assaults or ongoing abuse.

Despite some big talk from House Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Grassley, Republicans didn’t even try to rein in business tax credits, which have been the state’s fastest-growing expenses in recent years. The budget crunch is real and may get worse. But no one forced Republicans to inflict 100 percent of the belt-tightening on those who rely on public services.

More analysis of the 2017 legislative session is coming to Bleeding Heartland in the near future. All posts about this year’s work in the Iowa House and Senate are archived here. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel summarized some of the important bills that passed this year.

After the jump you’ll find Bolkcom’s commentary on the medical cannabis bill that offers “false hope” to Iowans “who have begged us to help,” along with closing remarks on the session from House Minority Leader Mark Smith and Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg.

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