Branstad nominees held accountable for violating women's constitutional rights

Iowa Senate Democrats held two members of the Iowa Board of Medicine accountable yesterday for hasty action in 2013 to approve an anti-abortion rule that had no scientific basis and was later found unconstitutional by a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court.

Iowa Board of Medicine Chair Diane Clark and fellow board member Dr. Hamed Tewfik became the first (and probably the only) nominees for state boards or commissions to be rejected by the Iowa Senate this year. Republicans are predictably denouncing the vote as “petty partisan politics.” But senators have confirmed without dissent the overwhelming majority of more than 200 people Governor Terry Branstad selected.

Clark and Tewfik have only themselves to blame for losing their prestigious positions.

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Courts will have the final say over Iowa's voter ID law

New restrictions on voting in Iowa are headed to Governor Terry Branstad after one last party-line vote in the state Senate on Thursday. The final version of House File 516 contains voter ID and signature verification requirements that will surely prevent some eligible voters from having their ballots counted. For more on those barriers, read Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert’s statement enclosed below, testimony from the public hearing in the Iowa House last month, Bleeding Heartland guest posts by representatives of One Iowa and the American Civil Liberties Union, John Deeth’s “deep dig,” and the position paper from Iowa’s Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs. That commission took its first-ever stand on pending legislation out of concern House File 516 will “impede access to the voting booth.”

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Senator nudges Iowa attorney general on Kim Reynolds succession questions

State Senator David Johnson wrote to Attorney General Tom Miller today to follow up on his request last month for answers to nine questions related to the coming transfer of power in Iowa. Governor Terry Branstad plans to resign following his expected confirmation as U.S. ambassador to China, which could happen in late April or early May.

I enclose Johnson’s latest letter in full below. The senator, who is not affiliated with any political party, noted the urgency of the question, because of Branstad’s upcoming U.S. Senate confirmation hearings. Johnson added, “My mail last month included a surprising number of cards and letters thanking me for making the request for an Official Opinion, as citizens’ attention has been drawn to the situation.”

Johnson’s February 1 letter to Miller requested a formal opinion “on an expedited basis” by February 15, because Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will assume the governor’s powers soon. However, the Attorney General’s Office has not yet responded in writing. When I last inquired about the status of the opinion, Miller’s spokesperson Geoff Greenwood told me in a February 27 e-mail, “Our office is still working on it. I’ll let you know when we have something available.”

Several readers have asked why anyone should care whether Reynolds will have the title of governor and whether she will appoint a new lieutenant governor after Branstad leaves the scene. To recap points I explained in more detail here, allowing Reynolds to appoint a new lieutenant governor would put an unelected person (rather than the Iowa Senate president) next in line to perform the governor’s duties, should anything happen to Reynolds before January 2019. In addition, a newly-appointed lieutenant governor could travel the state in an official capacity, handling public events and generating local media coverage. In effect, Reynolds would be able to use state resources to boost the political profile of her chosen running mate for 2018.

I look forward to reading the opinion from Miller, though I still believe the best outcome would be for the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices to provide a definitive interpretation of the relevant provisions in the Iowa Constitution. Nowhere in that document is it written that the lieutenant governor is empowered to a new lieutenant governor when the governor’s office becomes vacant.

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Senator asks attorney general for opinion on future title, powers of Kim Reynolds

State Senator David Johnson has asked Attorney General Tom Miller to provide an official opinion on whether Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will have the title of governor and the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor once Governor Terry Branstad resigns, as expected later this year.

Johnson asked Miller to answer nine specific questions regarding language in the Iowa Constitution stating that “the powers and duties of the office” of governor “shall devolve upon the Lieutenant Governor,” and referring to the lieutenant governor “acting as governor” and “performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor.”

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17 Iowa politics predictions for 2017

Two weeks late and humbled by the results from previous efforts to foretell the future, I offer seventeen Iowa politics predictions for the new year.

I struggled to compile this list, in part because it’s harder to come up with things to predict during a non-election year. I didn’t want to stack the deck with obvious statements, such as “the GOP-controlled Iowa House and Senate will shred collective bargaining rights.” The most consequential new laws coming down the pike under unified Republican control of state government are utterly predictable. I needed time to look up some cases pending before the Iowa Supreme Court. Also, I kept changing my mind about whether to go for number 17. (No guts, no glory.)

I want to mention one prediction that isn’t on this list, because I don’t expect it to happen this year or next. I am convinced that if the GOP holds the governor’s office and both chambers of the Iowa legislature in 2018, they will do away with non-partisan redistricting before the 2020 census. I don’t care what anyone says about our system being a model for the country or too well-established for politicians to discard. Everywhere Republicans have had a trifecta during the last decade, they have gerrymandered. Iowa will be no exception. So if Democrats don’t want to be stuck with permanent minority status in the state legislature, we must win the governor’s race next year. You heard it here first.

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