John Norris: Why he may run for governor and what he would bring to the table

With the exhausting battles of the 2017 legislative session behind us, Iowa Democrats can turn their attention to the most pressing task ahead. Next year’s gubernatorial election will likely determine whether Republicans retain unchecked power to impose their will on Iowans, or whether some balance returns to the statehouse.

A record number of Democrats may run for governor in 2018. Today Bleeding Heartland begins a series of in-depth looks at the possible contenders.

John Norris moved back to Iowa with his wife Jackie Norris and their three sons last year, after nearly six years in Washington and two in Rome, Italy. He has been touching base with potential supporters for several weeks and expects to decide sometime in May whether to become a candidate for governor. His “concern about the direction the state’s going” is not in question. Rather, Norris is gauging the response he gets from activists and community leaders he has known for many years, and whether he can raise the resources “to make this a go.”

In a lengthy interview earlier this month, Norris discussed the changes he sees in Iowa, the issues he’s most passionate about, and why he has “something significantly different to offer” from others in the field, who largely agree on public policy. The native of Red Oak in Montgomery County (which happens to be Senator Joni Ernst’s home town too) also shared his perspective on why Democrats have lost ground among Iowa’s rural and small-town voters, and what they can do to reverse that trend.

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KWWL won't correct error-filled story on Stand Your Ground

Generally accepted journalism guidelines call for acknowledging mistakes in news reports, setting the record straight quickly, and doing so “in a way that encourages people who consumed the faulty information to know the truth.” The Online News Association’s “Build Your Own Ethics Code” project lists “promptly correct errors” among a short list of “fundamentals” that “should apply to all journalists.” The Radio Television Digital News Association’s code of ethics states, “Ethical journalism requires owning errors, correcting them promptly and giving corrections as much prominence as the error itself had.”

KWWL, the NBC affiliate in Waterloo, doesn’t hold its reporters to that standard.

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Two more Democrats support gun bill in final Iowa House vote

This afternoon the Iowa House approved the amended omnibus gun bill state senators approved earlier this week. House File 517 passed by 57 votes to 35, mostly along party lines. Four Democrats (Bruce Bearinger, Scott Ourth, John Forbes, and Tim Kacena) voted for the bill. Bearinger and Ourth also supported the legislation the first time it came before the House. They explained their reasoning in comments I published here. I have asked Forbes and Kacena why they changed their minds and will update this post as needed.

Only two Republicans voted against the gun bill today. Dave Heaton and Michael Bergan also opposed last month’s version. Heaton could not abide the provisions making it more difficult for local governments to keep guns out of public buildings. His district includes Mount Pleasant, where a fatal shooting occurred during a city council meeting three decades ago. I have not seen public comments from Bergan about this issue, but will update this post if he responds to my inquiry.

Before the final vote, House members debated the Senate amendment to House File 517. Bleeding Heartland discussed the changes to various provisions here. Democratic State Representative Mary Wolfe offered an amendment to the amendment, which would have delayed until July 1, 2018 the implementation of the section allowing Iowans to carry concealed weapons on the state Capitol grounds. Her thinking: while it’s “fine” to let law-abiding Iowans carrying handguns in Capitol, the legislature has a “responsibility to visitors to ensure all permits to carry [are] valid.” The bill calls for the Department of Public Safety to create a statewide verifiable uniform permit to carry, but that process will take much longer than three months. Wolfe pointed to the risk that Iowans without permits might take advantage of the current non-uniformity of carry permits issued by county sheriffs (some with no photo). The state legislature will be held liable “if innocent people are killed by a person who is allowed to carry” a gun in the Capitol building.

Wolfe’s amendment was ruled not germane, and her motion to suspend the rules to force a vote on it failed along party lines. After that, House members approved the Senate amendment by voice vote, leading to closing speeches and the 57-35 vote on final passage mentioned above.

Matt Windschitl, who floor managed House File 517, used part of his closing remarks to go on a riff about Iowans “being lied to.” I expected a diatribe against people like me, who have raised concerns about Stand Your Ground and local pre-emption language facilitating more homicides. But in a plot twist, Windschitl’s target was Aaron Dorr, the none-too-ethical leader of Iowa Gun Owners. That group claims to be “Iowa’s only No Compromise gun rights organization.” On the House floor (beginning around the 4:42:15 mark here), Windschitl hammered Iowa Gun Owners for taking credit for a bill they did nothing to advance. “You need and you deserve the truth. Aaron Dorr is a scam artist, a liar, and he is doing Iowans no services and no favors. I feel better now,” Windschitl said, just before moving for a final vote on his bill.

UPDATE: Forbes commented via e-mail on April 7, “There were several changes made in the Senate that improved the bill and led to my support. While it is still not perfect, the Senate changes give the Governor more flexibility to restrict weapons in emergency situations, adds more safeguards for kids, and adds new protections to keep people who have committed a firearms-related crime behind bars.”

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Republican strategy and divisive bills in the Iowa legislature

Matt Chapman wades into what is sure to be an intense debate over how Democrats should communicate with Iowans about this disastrous legislative session. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s no surprise that bills to regulate women’s rights and the gun omnibus were passed in the first week of April, right before the budget and when the end of session is looming.

These are very divisive laws, supported by the majority of the Republican base. The same folks who many of whom were hurt by laws stripping workers of bargaining rights, mandatory wage raises and even watering down workers’ compensation.

It will be interesting to see if this strategy works. My advice to anyone outraged by this session (and I acknowledge that it is too soon to do this now) would be to try to avoid the divisive issues. We have common ground with all workers in Iowa, and if we spend a lot of energy on guns or women’s rights, we will have a hard time trying to get change in our state.

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Iowa Senate passes major gun bill: what changed, plus debate highlights

Legislation to make sweeping changes to Iowa’s gun laws is headed back to the state House, after the Senate approved an amended version of House File 517 on Tuesday.

All 29 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, joined by Democrats Chaz Allen, Tod Bowman, Rich Taylor, and Wally Horn. The other sixteen Democratic senators and independent David Johnson voted against it. (Taylor and fellow Democrat Kevin Kinney had backed the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Kinney voted against final passage on the floor.)

Follow me after the jump for details on what changed and stayed the same in the omnibus gun bill, as well as highlights from the Senate debate.

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