Heidi Heitkamp will keynote the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner

Heads up, possible future presidential candidate spotters: U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota will speak at a major Democratic gathering in Des Moines on June 17. Alternating each summer between the capital city and Cedar Rapids, the Hall of Fame is typically the Iowa Democratic Party’s second-largest event of the year, after the to-be-renamed Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

I enclose below today’s announcement from the Iowa Democratic Party and some background on Heitkamp, who was North Dakota’s attorney general before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Ticket sales (starting at $50) won’t be as brisk as for last summer’s event, which drew all five declared Democratic presidential candidates, but no doubt many activists will be interested to see Heitkamp in person. Her appearance may also draw some protesters, as she has been a "loud and proud" supporter of North Dakota’s oil extraction industry, and the proposed Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline is a hot topic in this state’s environmental community.

This year’s Hall of Fame honorees include Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the elected official category, Iowa Federation of Labor President Ken Sagar as "outstanding supporter," and State Representative Sharon Steckman for "oustanding leadership." Scroll down to read the full list.

UPDATE: Should have mentioned that Heitkamp has the most conservative voting record in the Senate Democratic caucus, according to the Progressive Punch database. You can view ratings of votes on various types of issues here. Heitkamp has a "perfect" progressive record in only one category: fair taxation. As is common among Democrats representing tough states or districts, Heitkamp’s votes have become more conservative since Republicans gained a Senate majority (and therefore control over what comes to the floor).

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Iowa's Democracy Spring

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in competitive Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the 2016 Iowa Democratic Senate primary, if we are not careful, we are going to get corporate ag anti-environment, anti-labor Patty Judge jammed down our throats. The two progressives in the race are Tom Fiegen and Rob Hogg. The purpose of this letter is to compare the two on the issues that are important to us as progressives:clean water, CAFOs, blocking the Prestage slaughter plant in Mason City, the Bakken pipeline, $15 minimum wage, family farming, economic fairness and immigrant rights.

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Landowners challenge use of eminent domain for Bakken pipeline

Pipes intended for use in the Dakota Access pipeline being stored in Jasper County, Iowa during 2015. Photo provided by Wallace Taylor, used with permission.

The Iowa Utilities Board issued a permit for the Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline on April 8, after declaring that Dakota Access LLC "has substantially complied with the requirements" of the board’s March 10 order. The same day, a group of agricultural landowners filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s use of eminent domain for the pipeline, intended to carry oil roughly 400 miles across eighteen counties from northwest to southeast Iowa. Litigation grounded in environmental concerns about the pipeline is expected later this year.

Follow me after the jump for more details on the land use lawsuit and ongoing efforts to block the pipeline at the federal level.

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IA-Sen: Judge playing down, Hogg playing up differences on water quality

Photo of Iowa stream courtesy of InIowaWater.org, a project of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

By entering the U.S. Senate race, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge ensured that environmental issues would become salient for many Iowa Democrats trying to choose among the four candidates running against Senator Chuck Grassley.

During the past two weeks, Judge has sought to minimize the daylight between herself and State Senator Rob Hogg on the need to address water pollution. But Hogg, widely considered Judge’s leading rival for the nomination, has made environmental concerns a big part of his pitch to Democrats.

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Promises Made, Never Kept for Natural Resources

A response to the Iowa House Republican plan to pay for water quality programs, which Governor Terry Branstad has endorsed. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m a long-time reader of Bleeding Heartland and a very infrequent source of posts/commentary. I am also heavily involved with Citizens for a Healthy Iowa and was the Campaign Manager for the Iowa’s Water & Land Legacy constitutional amendment campaign in 2010. Issues like water quality, wildlife habitat and protecting our public lands are near and dear to me …

Through that work I came to know Mark Ackelson of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Bob Riley, a local businessman and conservation advocate. They recently penned a piece for Citizens for a Healthy Iowa that I wanted to share with Bleeding Heartland readers.

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Turtle Protection Bill passes and is signed by the governor

When a bill passes by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, like the turtle harvesting bill did in both the Iowa House and Senate, one might assume it was easy to persuade lawmakers and the governor to act. Not necessarily. Thanks to Mike Delaney for an in-depth look at how one good idea became state law. Delaney is a founder of the non-profit Raccoon River Watershed Association. Turtle graphic produced by the non-profit Iowa Rivers Revival. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Over the years I have noticed a decline in the number of Soft-shelled turtles on my sandbars along the Raccoon River in Dallas County. When I first bought my farm in 1988 12” and 14” Soft-shells would regularly slide into the river off the sand where they were warming their cold-blooded bodies. A few seconds later you could see their noses and foreheads pop up to look around. When my son and daughter were little I showed them (as my older brothers had shown me as a child) how to walk along the shore at night, focus a flashlight at the water’s edge and spot the heads of baby Softshells sticking out of the sand. However, we have not seen these little guys for many years.

I asked around about what happened to the turtles. County conservation folks told me that the commercial turtle trappers were selling them to China. I asked some “environmentally concerned” friends. One said that the DNR was worried about Iowa’s turtles and had proposed rules to limit turtle “harvest” during egg laying season and limits on the numbers that could be taken. Iowa had no rules preventing over-harvest of turtles. I was told that the rules were being held up in the governor’s office.

I decided to act on the matter.

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