Why I support the local option sales tax

A government that does not provide adequate services is more regressive than a sales tax, writes Des Moines City Council member Josh Mandelbaum in this case for Polk County residents to support the measure on the March 6 ballot. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There is a cliché that the start of one’s term in public service is like drinking from a fire hose. My experience the last few months definitely shows the merit of the cliché. More comes at you quickly than you can possibly absorb. The budget is a perfect example of this, but in the case of the budget, I don’t have the luxury of time because local budgets must be certified by the end of March. I want to share with all of you some of what I have learned.

In examining the budget, one thing becomes clear quickly: the city will not be able to maintain its current service levels without new revenue or significant increases in property taxes.

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The bill that was absolutely written by Jake Chapman, not MidAmerican Energy

Citizen lobbyist Matt Chapman (no relation to Senator Jake Chapman) digs into the politics behind a bill that has been called “the utility attack on Iowa’s clean energy leadership.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

The subcommittee hearing on Senate Study Bill 3093 was scheduled for room 315 on the south side of the capitol. Although it is a good-sized room, and the temperature was 15 degrees outside on February 1, lobbyists were packed in like sardines, and it was suffocating. Iowa Senate Commerce Committee vice chair Senator Michael Breitbach joked before the meeting, “if anyone passes out you can just lean on” the people crammed in next to them.

It would not be an exaggeration to say there were sixty people in that room. Seventy five even. SSB 3093 has more than a hundred lobbyist declarations already.

Committee chair Jake Chapman was late; you could hear the groans when someone said he was getting on the elevator and would be a few minutes. Chapman was seated and vice chair Breitbach was running the meeting. He said we would go through the legislation by section and would be considering only objections, because of time constraints. That suggested lobbyists backing the bill would keep quiet. It was also a clue that a trap was being set.

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The utility attack on Iowa's clean energy leadership

Josh Mandelbaum of the Environmental Law & Policy Center advocates for clean energy and clean water policies in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I started off my post last week lamenting that Senate Study Bill 3078 was one of the worst energy bills that I had seen at the legislature. I still believe that to be the case. Unfortunately, a new bill that has been introduced (Senate Study Bill 3093 and its companion House Study Bill 595) is even worse.

In short, SSB 3093 undermines Iowa’s clean energy leadership by significantly scaling back energy efficiency, allowing new charges on solar customers, and removing consumer protections and oversight. As state Consumer Advocate Mark Schuling explained to the Des Moines Register, “It looks like the utilities’ Christmas list was all rolled into one bill. It’s good for utilities but not for customers.”

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Who's endorsed the seven Democrats running for Congress in IA-03

Seven candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, where two-term Representative David Young will be a top target for national Democrats and outside groups. Young’s approval rating was below 40 percent in an October survey by Public Policy Polling for Patriot Majority USA. The latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register found that 36 percent of respondents in IA-03 would support an unnamed Republican running for Congress, while 35 percent would vote for a Democrat.

This race is wide open, and the nominee may be chosen at a district convention, if no contender receives at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary. To that end, several candidates are recruiting supporters to attend Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses on February 5. Those caucus-goers will select county convention delegates, and county conventions will select district convention delegates on March 24.

About two-thirds of the Democrats and more than half of all registered voters in IA-03 live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs. The district’s sixteen counties contain 161,724 active registered Democrats, 173,947 Republicans, and 171,061 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

While many Democratic activists, including myself, haven’t chosen a favorite in this strong field, others have been coming off the fence. Some labor unions or other progressive organizations have started to weigh in too. Last week I asked all seven candidates–Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, Austin Frerick, Theresa Greenfield, Paul Knupp, Eddie Mauro, and Heather Ryan–for a list of endorsements or prominent supporters.

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"We have to wake the watchdog up": Why Rob Sand's running for state auditor

The state auditor of Iowa is not a “sexy office,” former Assistant Attorney General Rob Sand told me earlier this fall. “But it’s a huge opportunity for public service, because I think that the way that it’s run right now, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for improvement.”

Sand kicked off his candidacy this morning with a website and Facebook page. He’s been tweeting for some time at @RobSandIA. His opening video is here. At the end of this post I’ve enclosed Sand’s campaign committee, including activists and elected officials from many parts of the state as well as Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell.

Sand discussed with Bleeding Heartland how he would approach the job and why he is running against Republican incumbent Mary Mosiman, a certified public accountant who has served as state auditor since 2013. Although this office is not the obvious choice for an attorney, Sand considers his experience prosecuting white-collar crime “my biggest qualification” and a key reason he could improve on Mosiman’s work. Moreover, he’s not afraid to call out a “historically irresponsible” state budget.

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Review of progressive local election victories around Iowa

Democrats around the country had a lot to celebrate last night, including a “tidal wave” in Virginia, total control of state government in New Jersey, a vote to expand Medicaid in Maine, and a special election that gave the party a majority in the Washington State Senate. Voting rights may be expanded soon in several states, Ari Berman wrote today at Mother Jones.

Many progressive Democrats scored victories in Iowa’s non-partisan local elections as well.

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