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IA-01 4Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CST

Last week I never got around to posting highlights from the year-end Federal Election Commission reports for candidates in Iowa's open first Congressional district. Better late than never.

On the Democratic side, the money race remains highly competitive; all five candidates entered the election year with more than $100,000 to spend before the primary. The Republican race in IA-01 provided another reminder that establishment support does not necessarily translate into strong fundraising.  

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Highlights from the first day of the Iowa legislature's 2014 session

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 20:18:12 PM CST

The Iowa House and Senate convened today to begin the 2014 legislative session. All of the opening remarks reflected on key achievements of the 2013 session, such as compromise bills on commercial property tax cuts, education reform, and providing health care to low-income Iowans. All of the speeches called for more bipartisan work this year, and all stressed "pocketbook" issues such as improving education and building the middle class rather than social issues. But Republican and Democratic leaders take different priorities into the 2014 session.

I've summarized below the key points Iowa House and Senate majority and minority leaders raised today. I also enclosed lengthy excerpts and in some cases the full texts of their opening day speeches.

Click here for a tentative schedule of key dates during the 2014 legislative session. Lawmakers tend to finish their work earlier in election years than in odd-numbered years, but I highly doubt they will be ready to adjourn by March 30, as House Speaker Paulsen hopes. They will be lucky to finish work on the state budget by April 22, when lawmakers stop receiving per diem payments.

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Branstad, federal officials reach agreement on Medicaid expansion alternative

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 20:58:00 PM CST

Governor Terry Branstad announced today that his administration and officials in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have struck a deal over the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, our state's alternative to a straightforward Medicaid expansion. Earlier this week, federal officials approved most of the proposal but rejected a provision that would have kicked some low-income Iowans off the plan if they failed to pay monthly premiums. Under the tentative agreement, Iowa would still be able to charge premiums to some people who did not meet wellness criteria, but those people would not lose coverage for not paying the premiums. A statement released by the governor's office is after the jump.

Branstad had the option of appealing the HHS decision, and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen suggested yesterday that Iowa officials should fight for the whole plan state legislators approved in May. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal argued that the governor should "take the deal" federal officials approved: "It wasn't the whole nine yards, but it was about 8.9 yards. It was most of what we asked for." Commenting on this evening's news, Senate President Pam Jochum said, "Hallelujah. Amen. [...] I can't imagine the governor would have wanted to be held responsible for 55,000-plus people losing coverage come Jan. 1."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Charging even small health insurance premiums to people making less than $11,000 a year is stupid in my opinion, but this compromise is better than no coverage for tens of thousands of Iowans.

P.S.- Can't help noticing how just like the messaging from his re-election campaign, the governor's press releases invariably mention Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds whenever possible. I doubt she played any role in these negotiations or the governor's decision not to appeal the HHS decision on the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.

UPDATE: Added comments from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) below. Last week he wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging the federal government to approve a waiver for Iowa.

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Federal government approves most of Iowa's Medicaid expansion alternative

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 18:39:21 PM CST

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted a waiver for Iowa's alternative to the Medicaid expansion foreseen under the 2010 health care reform law. Governor Terry Branstad signed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan compromise into law in June, and state officials submitted a formal request for a waiver in August. Iowa elected officials from both parties as well as many non-profit organizations with a stake in the outcome had urged Health and Human Services to approve the plan.

However, Governor Terry Branstad may appeal today's decision, because federal officials rejected a provision he insisted on during negotiations with Democrats in the Iowa legislature.

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IA-Gov: Democrat Pam Jochum declines for family reasons

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 08:42:00 AM CDT

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum has decided against running for governor in 2014, she confirmed by telephone yesterday. Although she has been "overwhelmed by encouragement from people" across Iowa, she sad her most important priority is her daughter Sarah. Jochum is the primary caregiver for Sarah, an adult with developmental disabilities, and she decided it would be difficult to balance her daughter's needs with an "18/7" statewide campaign for governor. Jochum added that she greatly enjoys being president of the Iowa Senate, a position to which she was elected last November.

Similar considerations prompted Jochum to opt out of the first Congressional district race earlier this year. Raising money for a Congressional bid and campaigning across 20 counties would have been almost as time-consuming as running for governor. Jochum is not up for re-election in the Iowa Senate until 2016, and her Dubuque-based district 50 is safe as long as she desires to serve.

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IA-Gov: More Branstad campaign hires, Tyler Olson ready to announce

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 13:15:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad's re-election campaign announced four hires today in preparation for next year's election. I've posted the campaign press release after the jump. Phil Valenziano, who will serve as political director, joined the Branstad campaign full-time two months ago to focus on grassroots organizing and public events. Jake Ketzner and Jimmy Centers will serve as campaign manager and communications director, respectively. Both have worked in the governor's office for some time but left for a while to help run Representative Steve King's 2012 re-election campaign. Vonna Hall will be the Branstad campaign's office manager after doing the same job for the Republican Party of Iowa since 2010. So far, Branstad's campaign has $2 million cash on hand. When the fundraising reports are available online, Bleeding Heartland will take a closer look at the donors.

Meanwhile, State Representative Tyler Olson has scheduled public events for July 9 in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Mason City. Of those cities, only Cedar Rapids is in the first Congressional district, making it a near-certainty that Olson will announce his campaign for governor tomorrow. The four-term Iowa House Democrat is roughly the same age Branstad was when he first ran for governor in 1982. Two other Democrats have previously announced plans to run for governor: State Senator Jack Hatch and former State Representative Bob Krause.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are replete with jokes about Branstad racing "full speed ahead" on his campaign--a reference to the speeding incident that prompted a 25-year veteran of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to file a formal complaint. There is no excuse for state troopers driving the governor at 20-25 mph over the speed limit. He's not above the law and shouldn't endanger people's lives to get back on what Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds calls an "ambitious schedule." It's not credible to suggest that Branstad has no input on the driving or didn't realize his SUV he was riding in was speeding.

The Iowa Democratic Party launched an anti-Branstad "Iowa Problem Causer" website today. Republicans (not clear whether in Iowa or on the National Republican Senatorial Committee) have registered a similarly named Iowa Problem Causer site to shine an unflattering spotlight on Representative Bruce Braley. The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate is presenting himself as an "Iowa Problem Solver."

UPDATE: Senate President Pam Jochum told the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald that she is not likely to run for governor next year, "but I haven't made up mind for sure."

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Tom Vilsack rules out IA-Gov candidacy

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 09:25:00 AM CDT

Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson just tweeted a few minutes ago that according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's spokesman Matt Paul, Vilsack "considered it" but won't run for governor of Iowa next year. No one will be surprised by this news. It's good for Vilsack to make it official as other Democrats consider challenging Governor Terry Branstad: Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, State Senator Jack Hatch, Senate President Pam Jochum, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, State Representative Tyler Olson, and former State Representative Bob Krause.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread.

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IA-Gov speculation thread: Mike Gronstal, Tyler Olson and ... Mike Fitzgerald?

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 10:05:00 AM CDT

Two Democrats are already exploring running for governor next year: State Senator Jack Hatch and former State Representative Bob Krause.

After the jump I've posted some recent signals surrounding other possible Democratic challengers to Terry Branstad.  

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Last-minute Iowa legislative scramble is nothing to brag about

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 24, 2013 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Senate wrapped up its work for the year shortly after midnight on May 23, and Iowa House members adjourned about 11 hours later. Lawmakers in both parties have been congratulating themselves for compromising on some big issues that ended in stalemate the previous two years. Rod Boshart compiled an excellent list of what the legislature did and didn't approve during 2013.

We all can appreciate the desire to finish a big project before a holiday weekend, and since legislators stopped receiving per diem payments weeks ago, they understandably wanted to get out of town as quickly as possible. However, I found it disturbing that votes were held before most lawmakers, let alone members of the public, had time to digest final conference committee deals on education reform, an alternative to Medicaid expansion, property taxes, and the health and human services budget. Transparency isn't just a buzzword. Had journalists and advocacy groups been able to look over the last-minute compromises, people might have discovered problematic language or even simple drafting errors, which could produce unintended consequences after Governor Terry Branstad signs these bills into law.

I have a lot of questions about the final education reform bill and the plan to provide health insurance to low-income Iowans, particularly those earning between 101 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level. I also need more time to sort through the budget numbers and final changes to the standings bill. After the holiday weekend Bleeding Heartland will examine the important results of the legislative session in more detail. For now, I've posted after the jump details on who voted for and against the major bills approved this week.

UPDATE: In the May 24 edition of the On Iowa Politics podcast, statehouse reporters Mike Wiser and James Lynch discussed how the big issues came together "behind closed doors," with no public scrutiny or oversight. Lynch commented that to his knowledge, the conference committee named to resolve the impasse over Medicaid expansion never formally met, except perhaps for one organizational meeting. Lynch recounted one occasion when Iowa House Republican Dave Heaton was briefing journalists about the health care talks, and the journalists asked when that happened, since there hadn't been any public notices of conference committee meetings. According to Lynch, Heaton replied, "We're not having meetings, but we're meeting." Senate President Pam Jochum said that negotiations between Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer produced the "key to Iowa's health care compromise." Notably, Upmeyer didn't have a prominent role in passing the House health insurance plan, nor was she named to the conference committee assigned to merge the House and Senate proposals.

Speaking to journalists on May 22, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Jochum weren't able to answer a specific question about compromise wording reached regarding Medicaid coverage of abortions. That was no minor issue--it was the last sticking point holding up approval of the health and human services budget. In effect, Gronstal told journalists, you can see the wording after the final bill is published.

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New hope for Medicaid expansion in Iowa?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon May 20, 2013 at 17:29:00 PM CDT

When news broke last week of a tax compromise skewed toward business, I wondered why Senate Democrats would agree to pass that bill without progress toward Medicaid expansion, one of their top priorities. Governor Terry Branstad was saying legislators should adjourn after approving a budget, education reform and the tax deal, returning later this year for a special session on health insurance coverage for low-income Iowans. In my opinion, Democrats would be insane to give Republicans what they want on taxes now, hoping for Medicaid expansion later.

Today several signs point toward a possible deal on Medicaid coverage before the end of the legislative session.

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Iowa Senate GOP staffer alleges hostile work environment, sexual harassment (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 19, 2013 at 19:30:00 PM CDT

Kirsten Anderson lost her job on Friday afternoon as communications director for the Iowa Senate Republicans. Today she went public alleging that she was fired after documenting sexual harassment by GOP state senators and staffers. WHO-TV broadcast Dave Price's exclusive interview with Anderson Sunday morning, and I recommend watching the whole clip at their website. After the jump I've posted highlights from Anderson's claims and a denial from Ed Failor Jr., a top staffer for Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix.

As a bonus, I enclose below your laugh for the day: a screenshot from the official Iowa Senate GOP website as of 7 pm on Sunday. The front page includes a link to the Des Moines Register's blog and the headline, "Iowa Senate GOP staffer claims she was fired for protesting sexual harassment; Dix aide issues strong denial." I wonder whether Anderson was the only person on that staff who knew how to update the website. It's also possible that the Des Moines Register political blog headlines automatically feed into that box on the front page, and no other Senate GOP staff checked the site over the weekend.  

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Latest tactics to bring Republicans around on Medicaid expansion

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:20:00 AM CDT

The Iowa legislature's 2013 session is already in overtime, and the standoff over whether to expand Medicaid is one of the last obstacles to adjournment. A conference committee including five lawmakers from each party has been seeking middle ground between Medicaid expansion, a priority for the 26 Senate Democrats, and the "Healthy Iowa Plan" that barely cleared the Iowa House but failed in the Senate.

This week Senate Democrats offered another gesture toward the Republican desire for low-income Iowans to have more "skin in the game" when they obtain health insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, three major advocacy groups stepped up their efforts to persuade lawmakers that the Healthy Iowa Plan offers inferior access for patients while incurring substantially higher property tax costs.

Finally, a coalition of progressive organizations announced that it will run a television commercial this Sunday targeting GOP State Representative Dave Heaton, the weakest link among House Republicans trying to pass Governor Terry Branstad's alternative plan. Details on all those developments are after the jump.

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Another Iowa legislative victory for Big Ag

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 08, 2013 at 09:49:00 AM CDT

Factory farm advocates failed in 2009 to circumvent the Iowa DNR's rulemaking on applying manure over frozen and snow-covered ground. Then they failed in 2010 to win passage of a bill designed to weaken Iowa's newly-adopted regulations on manure storage and application.

But this year, the Iowa Pork Producers Association succeeded in convincing state lawmakers to relax requirements for CAFO operators to be able to store their own manure properly. All they had to do was dress up their effort as an attempt to help families with aspiring young farmers.

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Iowa Senate rejects Branstad's alternative to Medicaid expansion

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 01, 2013 at 20:15:00 PM CDT

Less than 24 hours after the Republican-controlled Iowa House approved language to enact Governor Terry Branstad's Healthy Iowa Plan, the Iowa Senate voted on party lines today (26 to 24) to reject the House version of Senate File 296. A conference committee will now attempt to work out a compromise on whether to expand Medicaid to all Iowans earning up to 138 percent of the poverty line, as the 2010 federal health care reform law envisioned.

After the jump I've posted a video of Senate President Pam Jochum speaking on the Senate floor today to contrast Medicaid expansion with the governor's plan. I've also enclosed details on Branstad's highly implausible claim that his plan would cost poor Iowans less out of pocket than expanding Medicaid. Senate Democrats have pointed out that Iowans living in poverty could never afford the co-pays and premiums envisioned in the Healthy Iowa Plan.

Finally, I've added below excerpts from the Iowa Hospital Association's latest blog post explaining why Medicaid expansion is a better choice than the governor's plan.

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UPDATED: Three Democrats planning to run in Iowa House district 99

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 11:45:00 AM CDT

Several Democrats have already announced plans to run for Iowa House district 99 in Dubuque next year. State Representative Pat Murphy has represented part of that city for more than 20 years. He is leaving the state legislature to run for Congress in Iowa's first district.

After the jump I've posted background on Kevin Lynch, Steve Drahozal, Abby Finkenauer and Greg Simpson, along with a map of House district 99 and the latest voter registration totals. More candidates may emerge in this strongly Democratic House seat before the filing deadline in March 2014. One or more of the current candidates may opt out of the race before the filing deadline.

APRIL 5 UPDATE: Erin Murphy of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald reports that Lynch has decided not to pursue this campaign. According to a Bleeding Heartland reader in Dubuque, both Drahozal and Finkenauer (but not Lynch) addressed county Democrats at the off-year caucus in March.

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IA-Sen: Most Democratic state legislators endorse Braley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:10:00 AM CDT

Representative Bruce Braley's campaign for U.S. Senate rolled out its largest batch of endorsements today: 71 state legislators. All 26 Iowa Senate Democrats plus 45 of the 47 Iowa House Democrats are named in the press release I've posted after the jump. For some reason, Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy are not in this group. Murphy is running for the first Congressional district seat Braley is vacating.

Earlier this week, Braley's campaign announced that it raised more than $1 million during the first quarter. That is a solid number, and I'll be interested to see how the numbers break own (contributions from individuals vs PACs, for instance). Bleeding Heartland will publish a detailed roundup of Iowa Congressional fundraising after all the candidates have filed their reports with the Federal Election Commission. Those reports are due April 15.

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Iowa House votes to relax manure storage rules for CAFOs (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

In an ideal world, evidence that more than half of Midwest rivers and streams can't support aquatic life would inspire policy-makers to clean up our waterways. Rivers that are suitable for swimming, fishing, and other recreation can be a huge economic engine for Iowa communities.

We live in Iowa, where most of our lawmakers take the Patty Judge view: "Iowa is an agricultural state and anyone who doesn't like it can leave in any of four directions."

Yesterday the Iowa House approved a bill to relax manure storage regulations for large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). All of the House Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats supported this bad legislation. Details on the bill and the House vote are below.

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IA-Gov: Sounds like Tom Vilsack is out

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

Iowa Democrats hoping that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack would come home to challenge Governor Terry Branstad next year will be disappointed by the latest news out of Washington.
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Iowa Senate approves Medicaid expansion along party lines

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 12:55:00 PM CDT

Last night the Iowa Senate approved Senate File 296, a bill to expand Medicaid, on a strictly party-line vote of 26 to 23. You can listen to the entire Senate debate (approximately 90 minutes) at Radio Iowa. I've posted highlights from the debate after the jump, along with the full list of 52 organizations that have registered their support for Senate File 296. Some corporations and organizations have have registered their lobbyists as undecided on Senate File 296, but at this writing, not a single organization is registered against the Medicaid expansion.
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New thread on the Iowa Congressional races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 07:05:00 AM CDT

Dubuque business owner Rod Blum told the Marshall County Republican Central Committee this week that he plans to enter the GOP primary to represent the open first Congressional district. Blum finished a close second to Ben Lange in the 2012 IA-01 primary. Cedar Rapids business owner Steve Rathje was the first Republican to announce in IA-01. I haven't heard any news lately about other possible Republican candidates in the first district, like State Representative Walt Rogers or former Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer predicted on Sunday that the first Iowa woman elected governor or to Congress will be a Republican. If no Democratic woman steps up in IA-01, I believe Upmeyer will be proven right. I have heard from several independent sources that State Senator Liz Mathis is privately telling Democrats she won't run for Congress. Senate President Pam Jochum took herself out of the running last month. Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate so far. State Senator Steve Sodders is talking with potential supporters about the race.

I haven't heard about any Republican planning to run against four-term Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02. For now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not appear worried about holding this district.

According to the Des Moines rumor mill, former State Senator Staci Appel is considering a run for Congress in IA-03. Appel lives in Warren County and served one term in the Iowa Senate before losing to Republican Kent Sorenson in 2010. Mike Sherzan is currently the only declared Democratic challenger to ten-term Republican Tom Latham.

I haven't heard of any Democrats planning to challenge six-term incumbent Steve King in IA-04. I'm still confident King will not run for the U.S. Senate. But if King does leave the fourth district open, many Republicans are rumored to be thinking about that race, including Upmeyer and State Representative Chip Baltimore.

Any comments about next year's Congressional races in Iowa are welcome in this thread. A Congressional map is after the jump, along with the latest voter registration numbers in each district and Stuart Rothenberg's comments on why he does not consider Latham or King vulnerable in 2014.

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