Events coming up during the next two weeks

Last month was so busy that I didn’t manage to post any event calendars here, but I am back on duty now. The highlight of this month for Democrats is the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday, November 21, featuring Vice President Joe Biden. You can buy tickets online.

Please note that November 10 is the deadline for public comments to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about protecting our Outstanding Iowa Waters. The Farm Bureau is mobilizing public comments against these regulations. The DNR needs to hear from Iowans committed to preserving our highest-quality waterways. Click here for background and an easy to use comment form.

State Senator Staci Appel will officially announce her re-election campaign on November 12, and I’ve posted details about a fundraiser for her campaign below the fold. Appel’s Republican opponent, State Representative Kent Sorenson, is already gearing up for next year’s election. He spent the weekend in Texas attending the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislators Conference. Here’s some background on David Barton’s vision for America, chock full of Biblical interpretations supporting right-wing public policies. Barton spoke to the Iowa Christian Alliance not long ago (click that link to watch videos). Former presidential candidate Ron Paul is headlining a fundraiser for Sorenson on November 14, by the way.

Many more event details are after the jump. As always, please post a comment about anything I’ve left out, or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

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Congratulations to Staci Appel

The assistant Iowa Senate majority leader and chair of the State Government Committee has taken on a new responsibility:

February 6, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

State Legislator Network Names Staci Appel Iowa State Director

State Senator Staci Appel of Ackworth has been selected to serve as Iowa State Director for the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL).

WiLL President Sen. Nan Grogan Orrock (GA) announced the State Director appointment in Washington, DC, saying “Since her election to the Iowa Senate in 2006, Staci Appel has provided exemplary leadership on a number of issues important to her constituents and to Iowa.  Senator Appel has a legislative record that demonstrates a commitment to issues affecting children and senior citizens and the disadvantaged, as well as state budget and infrastructure needs.”

Orrock said that as a State Director of WiLL, Appel will work with the national non-partisan network of women legislators to influence federal legislation and budgetary policy.  Appel will work with women from all fifty states to amplify women’s voices, promote women’s leadership, and support a national agenda that promotes true homeland security and prosperity.

“With a membership base of one out of every three women legislators, WiLL is a strong voice for national policy to address family violence, to promote the health and well-being of women, children and families, to protect our environment, and to oppose bloated military spending that builds too many weapons and not enough schools,” stated Senator Orrock.

Staci Appel of Ackworth is a member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL).  For more information about WiLL, contact Staci Appel (515) 961-6982 or the WiLL office at 202-544-5055.

WiLL | WAND

Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL), a unique program of WAND, is a non-partisan network of women state legislators working to influence federal policy and budget priorities.

Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) empowers women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism, and redirect excessive military resources toward unmet human and environmental needs.

Appel has already made a mark during her first term in the Iowa Senate. She helped get the Farm to School program funded during the 2007 legislative session. Last year she secured more funding for after-school programs (although those funds unfortunately got “swept” for flood relief in the summer). She also managed the smoking ban bill in the Iowa Senate and chaired the conference committee that resolved the differences between the House and Senate versions of that legislation.

I don’t know how she finds enough hours in the day, because she is also a mother of six children at home. I will look forward to learning more about her work with WiLL.

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Farm to School Program slips in under the wire

We environmentalists have been pretty downbeat about the 2007 legislative session. Even with Democrats in power, there was no action on local control over the siting of CAFOs and little progress on other issues related to water and air quality.

Some good news arrived in my in-box today, however. I had not realized that on the last day of the session, the legislature had approved and funded the Farm to School program, which will make locally-produced, nutritious food available in more Iowa schools while increasing the market for farmers using sustainable methods.

Stephanie Weisenbach, program coordinator for 1000 Friends of Iowa (website under reconstruction), fills us in on the details:

Senate File 452, introduced by Senator Joe Bolkcom from Iowa City, was stalled out for many weeks at the  legislature but ended up being amended onto other legislation at the end of the session last week.

Policy language creating the program and establishing a Farm to School Council was added to the “standings bill,” SF 601, the last bill of the session. An $80,000 appropriation to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) was added to Agriculture and Natural Resources budget bill, Senate File 551. IDALS will administer the program with two full-time staff.

The Farm to School program was established to encourage and promote the purchase of locally and regionally produced or processed food in order to improve child nutrition and strengthen local and regional farm economies. A seven-member Farm to School Council will seek to establish partnerships with public agencies and non-profit organizations to foster communication between farmers and schools, and will seek financial or in-kind contributions to support the program.

The Farm to School Program is a wonderful starting point that will address many of 1000 Friends of Iowa’s concerns about how we use our land in Iowa and pass the benefits of that knowledge on to our most precious resource…future generations.

Although I know quite a few people in the sustainable agriculture community, I wasn’t following this bill closely. Last I heard, it wasn’t going anywhere. Weisenbach lets us know who helped the most at the statehouse:

Big thanks should go to Senator Joe Bolkcom from Iowa City and Senator Robert Dvorsky from Coralville for getting the policy language in the standings bill. Representative Mark Kuhn from Charles City advanced the $80,000 appropriation and Senator Staci Appel from Carlisle was a persistent supporter during key times in the legislative process.

To thank these legislators, you can e-mail them at:

firstname.lastname AT legis.state.ia.us

I’m posting the relevant language from the bill after the jump, but I want to call particular attention to one point.

The bill establishes a farm to school council with seven members, one of whom has to be an “Iowa organic meat producer.”

Sounds like the Farm Bureau isn’t going to be able to sabotage this program by putting a CAFO operator on that council!

Also sounds like we’ve got a better chance of getting organic meat products in Iowa schools.

I’m still fairly disappointed in the legislative session overall, but this is a great step for farmers, kids, local economies and the environment.

Wonks who like to read legislative text, you’ll find the relevant portions after the jump.

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