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IA-Gov: PPP poll shows cronyism/hush money scandal hurting Branstad

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 17:51:00 PM CDT

I've been meaning to catch up on the various Branstad administration scandals involving alleged politically-motivated firings, cronyism affecting state contracting and hiring for certain public positions, "hush money" paid in exchange for non-disclosure agreements with fired state employees, blacklists that prevent former employees from gaining other state jobs, interference in what should be non-political work, and possible misuse of federal funds by the Department of Administrative Services in order to make some of the unauthorized secret settlement payments. Governor Terry Branstad realized nearly two weeks ago that his quickie internal review and executive order on secret settlements were not sufficient. He fired Department of Administrative Services Director Mike Carroll after Carroll gave inaccurate testimony at a legislative hearing. But almost every day, the Des Moines Register or some other media outlet has a new angle on alleged wrongdoing.

Last week's Loras College survey of Iowa Republicans indicated that Branstad has nothing to worry about from his GOP primary challenger, Tom Hoefling. But a Public Policy Polling survey released today shows Branstad's approval as low as I can remember seeing it during his current term, and the incumbent barely ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.

Full results from the survey are here (pdf). Highlights are after the jump.  

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No casino for Cedar Rapids

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 11:36:00 AM CDT

The State Racing and Gaming Commission voted 4-1 this morning against allowing a new casino to be built in downtown Cedar Rapids. Last year Linn County voters approved a casino referendum by a 20-point margin. Even some opponents of the project believed its construction was inevitable, given the political connections of the group hoping to build in Cedar Rapids. However, today's vote is in line with the precedent of approving gambling licenses only where new casinos would not "cannibalize" from existing ones in Iowa. Four years ago, the Racing and Gaming Commission rejected applications for casino projects in Fort Dodge, Ottumwa and Tama County, despite public approval of all three plans. Multiple studies indicated that the Cedar Rapids casino would draw much of its business from Iowans who now visit casinos in Riverside or Waterloo.

I will update this post as needed with political reaction to today's vote. Although many Bleeding Heartland readers will be disappointed, I agree with economists who have argued that the "interior casinos" not near Iowa borders do not promote economic development. Meanwhile, new casinos incur significant social costs.

Already I've seen several Cedar Rapids residents asking whether the CEO of the Riverside casino will build the waterpark he promised last year, if Linn County voters rejected the casino project. Don't hold your breath.

UPDATE: In his report for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Rick Smith noted that Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett "served in the legislature with three of the five members of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission." Former Iowa House Republican and Iowa Senate Republican Jeff Lamberti both voted no this morning. Dolores Mertz, who used to be the most conservative Iowa House Democrat, was the only commissioner to vote yes.

SECOND UPDATE: Further thoughts and more reaction are after the jump.

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Don't RAPE REAP

by: Supervisor Brent Oleson

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 18:12:24 PM CDT

(The author has been a Linn County Supervisor since 2009 and previously worked with the Iowa Senate Minority leader. Bleeding Heartland discussed the bipartisan effort to increase REAP funding to $25 million here. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I'm gonna go on a rant...about an attempted RAPE.

Yes, I mean every word and hyperbole I'm uttering on this post. REAP (Resource Enhancement & Protection) is being RAPED! For Agriculture...by agri-business...to correct it's mistakes in a supposedly free and private market of farming. How is this rape of taxpayer funds and DNR license plate fees occurring and for what specifically? Read on My friends. 

The Iowa House of Representatives wants to put REAP dollars toward... agri-terrace projects, forestry management (subject to logging), and water nutrient pollution clean-up programs because farmland soil is laden with fertilizer chemicals. These are all worthy issues to be addressed on their own I say, and should indeed be addressed and monies put toward mitigation efforts. The Iowa Dept. Of Ag has jurisdiction on all these problems, and they should since their policies and practices created them in the first place.

This isn't an indictment of farmers, because most are great conservationists of their own free will as it's good business and good citizenship. I commend those Iowa farmers, especially my Linn County ones, who work hard to be responsible neighbors, citizens and conservationists...voluntarily I might add! But I don't give a pass to bad apples, policy-makers, or special interest Ag industry lobbyists.

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Fewer Iowa lawyers seeking judgeships

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 09:11:00 AM CDT

The applicant pool for Iowa's judicial vacancies has been declining in recent years, Mike Wiser reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on March 30. Iowa courts administrator David Boyd has been analyzing trends across the state and concluded that during the past decade, "The applicant pools [for District Court judgeships] were shrinking not only in terms of quantity but in quality, too."

Applications for court vacancies are down by about half of what they were 10 years ago in four of the eight judicial districts, and down by a third in another two, according to Boyd's figures.

Wiser's article identifies three main reasons for the trend. First, District Court judges earn an annual salary of $138,130, which is well above the state average but below what high-performing attorneys can earn in private practice. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady asked state legislators to increase judges' pay by 4.5 percent, but State Representative Gary Worthan, who chairs the Iowa House Appropriations subcommittee on the judicial system told Wiser, "we've got other priorities this year."

Second, years of state budget cuts to court support staff have also made the work of a judge less appealing, according to several people Wiser interviewed.

Finally, University of Iowa School of Law professor Patrick Bauer and others cited the successful 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices. That crusade was the first and perhaps the last time a politically unpopular ruling ended judges' careers in Iowa. Nevertheless, it has deterred some attorneys from aspiring to become judges. Bob Vander Plaats and his fellow social conservatives failed to end marriage equality in Iowa, but they have left their mark on the judicial system.

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Former administrative law judge sues state, Iowa Workforce Development Director Wahlert

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:28:00 AM CDT

The former Chief Administrative Law Judge for Iowa Workforce Development filed suit yesterday in Polk County District Court against the State of Iowa and Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert. You can read the full text of Joseph Walsh's lawsuit here (pdf). After the jump I've posted an excerpt from his case. Walsh alleges that the IWD director "interfere[d] with the administrative judicial process in order to favor employers," attempted "to illegally strip [Walsh] of his merit protection," and eventually retaliated by removing him in "a political reorganization disguised as a budget layoff."

I've also enclosed below a statement Wahlert released yesterday, denouncing the "frivolous lawsuit." Wahlert contends that while serving as chief administrative law judge, Walsh failed in basic management responsibilities.

Last month, Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate claims that Wahlert interfered with the work of Iowa's administrative law judges, hoping to secure more favorable outcomes for employers in unemployment cases. Governor Terry Branstad rejected Dotzler's allegations against Wahlert without conducting any internal review of the matter.

At a press conference in Des Moines on April 3, Walsh asserted that "in many ways this administration is tearing the Department of Workforce Development down." Wahlert's agency was at the center of political controversy in 2011, when the Branstad administration moved to replace dozens of Iowa Workforce Development field offices around the state with hundreds of computer terminal access points. That reorganization led to a lawsuit and eventually an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that the governor had overstepped his authority by striking legislative language about the IWD offices without vetoing the money allocated to fund those offices.  

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No-brainer: fired Iowa DCI agent wants his job back

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 09:50:00 AM CDT

The career Division of Criminal Investigation agent who lost his job shortly after reporting a speeding incident involving Governor Terry Branstad's SUV is willing to drop his lawsuit against the state if he can get his old job back, James Q. Lynch reported yesterday for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

"He is interested in returning and it's our understanding the position is still available," said Tom Duff, a Des Moines attorney representing former DCI special agent Larry Hedlund.

Hedlund was a central figure in a high-profile incident last April where a state trooper driving an SUV carrying Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was clocked driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone. [...]

Although officially retired now, Hedlund is interested in returning to work, Duff said. Since the incident, the director of the Department of Public Safety has left state employment and two others involved in the handling of the Hedlund case have moved to other jobs.

The former Department of Public Safety chief was Brian London, who stepped down last September. His tenure at the agency was a real train wreck. The Iowa Senate recently confirmed Larry Noble to run the department again; he was Branstad's first choice for that job.

By many accounts, Hedlund was a solid employee during his long career at the DCI. If he is willing to work there again, rehiring him seems like an easy call. I can't imagine why the state would prefer to roll the dice on expensive litigation. Court hearings would only generate more coverage of Hedlund being forced out. Hedlund's attorney told Lynch that he has not heard back yet from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.  

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"Accountability, openness, and transparency" are in the eye of the beholder (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:35:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad responded today to two political scandals that broke while he was on vacation last week. The big news was the governor signing an executive order "to increase accountability, openness and transparency of employee settlements."

Branstad's behavior reflects an odd understanding of those words. He is not holding anyone accountable for forcing out permanent employees and attempting to keep settlement deals a secret. His administration's alleged "thorough review" of the deals took place behind closed doors over the span of a few days. Branstad rejected any outside investigation of the matter and dismissed accusations against Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert without even basic fact-finding.  

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Spiker takes parting shot at Branstad over medical marijuana

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 09:56:39 AM CDT

A few days before he will formally step down as the Republican Party of Iowa's leader, A.J. Spiker advocated legalizing medical marijuana in a guest editorial for the Sunday Des Moines Register. Excerpts from Spiker's column are after the jump. Framing the case for medical cannabis in terms of personal freedom, Spiker rebuked Republicans who have been unwilling to acknowledge strong arguments for allowing doctors to prescribe the drug. While he didn't name names, his points came across as a rebuttal to Governor Terry Branstad, who would rather drag his feet on this issue.

Spiker and Branstad have clashed repeatedly, and it's an open secret that the governor hasn't been happy with the Iowa GOP's priorities or fundraising since Spiker took over from Matt Strawn in early 2012. It's shrewd for Spiker to stake a claim for medical marijuana, a position that is increasingly popular, especially with younger voters. Now his last impression as state party chair will be as a forward-thinking leader, rather than the guy who sometimes seemed to care more about Ron Paul's Liberty movement than about electing Republicans.  

Speaking of medical marijuana, the issue was the focus of last Friday's edition of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program. Steve Lukan, director of the governor's Office of Drug Control Policy, appeared along with West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and State Senator Joe Bolkcom, leading advocates for legalizing medical cannabis using the New Mexico model. The video and transcript are available here. I was disappointed to see Lukan basically repeat the same talking points throughout the program, without acknowledging that many legal drugs can also be abused and may have devastating side effects for patients. Branstad didn't search for anyone with expertise in drug policy before offering the state's top job in this area to Lukan.

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The pros and cons of Iowa traffic cameras: links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 07:37:38 AM CDT

Transportation policy doesn't often generate passionate public debate, but everyone seems to have a strong opinion about traffic cameras. Last week the non-profit news service Iowa Watch published an excellent piece on how traffic cameras are used in Iowa and the conflicting evidence about whether they improve public safety. Kelsey Block's article inspired me to compile arguments for and against this law enforcement tool.
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Branstad administration scandal news and reaction thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 17:22:50 PM CDT

While Governor Terry Branstad vacations in Arizona this week, his administration is facing new allegations of misconduct. As first reported in the Sunday Des Moines Register, at least six former state employees were offered secret settlement deals after claiming they were forced out of their jobs for political reasons. Today, Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler announced that he is seeking a federal investigation into the actions of Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert, whom Dotzler accused of interfering with the work of administrative law judges.

After the jump I've posted several links about both scandals as well as some political reaction. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa legislative news roundup: dead and alive after the second funnel

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 13:59:29 PM CDT

The Iowa legislature's second "funnel" deadline passed late last week. To remain eligible for debate during the remainder of this year's session, most legislation needed to have passed one chamber as well as a committee in the other chamber. There are a few exceptions to the rule, namely appropriations bills and some tax measures. Rod Boshart listed the most significant "dead" and "alive" bills for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The Iowa House Republican staff compiled a more comprehensive list of "second funnel survivors," including bill summaries. The Iowa Senate Democratic staff highlighted the most important bills passed by the Senate that died in the House.

After the jump I've enclosed more links and some analysis on bills that died as well as those still under consideration. From my perspective, the most surprising casualty of the funnel was a bill to extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children (see the "safety and crime" section below).

Any comments on pending legislation in the Iowa House or Senate are welcome in this thread.  

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Bipartisan push underway to increase Iowa REAP funding

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 17:44:07 PM CDT

Iowa's Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Among the most successful conservation initiatives in Iowa history, REAP has cumulatively distributed about $300 million to thousands of projects across the state. It is mostly funded through gaming revenues that go into the state's Environment First Fund. In theory, REAP "is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2021," but the state legislature has never fully funded REAP to the authorized level. This year's budget included $16 million for REAP, and Governor Terry Branstad kept that item at the same level in his draft budget for fiscal year 2015.

Today about three dozen non-profit organizations gathered at the State Capitol for the annual Environmental Lobby Day organized by the Iowa Environmental Council. I attended the event because I'm active in the IEC and in several of its member organizations. At a press conference organized by the IEC, four speakers emphasized the need to increase conservation funding: Republican State Senator David Johnson, Democratic State Senator Bob Dvorsky, Iowa Natural Resource Commission Chair Margo Underwood, and Rod Marlatt, executive director of the Fayette County Conservation Board. Dvorsky particularly emphasized his goal to secure $25 million in funding for REAP in the coming fiscal year, in honor of the program's 25th anniversary.

Because REAP-supported projects are often popular locally, the program has mostly escaped the partisan divisions that have led to the demise of some state initiatives. Today the Iowa House approved a resolution celebrating the 25th anniversary of REAP. Remarkably, 96 of the 100 state representatives co-sponsored this resolution, which House Democrat Chuck Isenhart proposed. Now that they're on record agreeing, "Iowans strongly believe that the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program is a successful venture worthy of the continued support of the General Assembly," let's hope they will put a lot of money where their mouths are. The $25 million in REAP funding has an excellent chance of clearing the Iowa Senate, since Dvorsky chairs the Appropriations Committee. Will the Iowa House go along? The many state lawmakers who spoke with Environmental Lobby Day exhibitors today included House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and several members of the House Appropriations Committee.

After the jump I've posted background on the REAP program from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website, including a map showing how much REAP funding has gone to each of Iowa's 99 counties. I also enclosed a press release from the Iowa Environmental Council, with highlights from speakers at the conservation rally.

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Sioux City suing state to block traffic camera rules

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:35:31 AM CDT

As Bleeding Heartland has discussed before, I've long felt that Governor Terry Branstad's disregard for local government authority is one of the most under-reported Iowa political stories of the last few years. The Iowa Department of Transportation's new rules restricting cities' use of traffic cameras is one of many examples. Bills seeking to ban local governments from using traffic cameras for law enforcement stalled during the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions. The Iowa DOT's new rules went into effect last month; they do not prohibit all use of traffic cameras but require annual reviews to show the cameras are improving safety and not just serving as a revenue source for local government.

Sioux City is one of many Iowa municipalities that have installed traffic cameras on some major roads and intersections. The Iowa DOT gave Sioux City officials "until May 1 to justify the use of two speed cameras and seven of its 11 red-light cameras." Now the city government has filed a lawsuit claiming the state department exceeded its authority.

Assistant City attorney, Justin Vondrak, filed the judicial review action in Woodbury County District Court and says the DOT regulations make it almost impossible for the city to use speed cameras along Interstate 29 within the city limits. "What we're asking for is a review of the rules and to eventually have the rules determined to be unconstitutional based on the city's home rule authority, as well as other Iowa code sections which grant the city joint jurisdiction with the DOT for traffic enforcement upon the primary roadways within the city's jurisdiction," according to Vondrak.

More details on the lawsuit are after the jump.

Whatever the District Court rules, I expect the losing side to appeal and would not be surprised to see the Iowa Supreme Court eventually decide this matter. The case raises interesting questions about local and state government powers. On a related note, I still think some municipality should have challenged Governor Branstad's executive order on project labor agreements in court.

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Governor's Nomination for State Mental Health and Disability Commission leaves a lot to be desired.

by: Iowa_native

Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 22:38:10 PM CDT

Despite a 2012 wave year for President Obama in Iowa, there were cracks down ticket and a perfect example is what happened in Boone County. Despite BOTH Christie Vilsack and Obama taking Boone County, the local GOP outworked and pushed a single vote effort on two possible County Supervisor seats and was able to unseat an incumbent Democrat County Supervisor with Republican Chet  Hollingshead, a local farmer with strong family ties to the county chapter of the Farm Bureau. Also on his list of major supporters was Governor Branstad and then Senate Minority Leader Jerry Behn.

Already serving on the Ogden School Board as President when he won election to County Supervisor he refused to step down and served in both positions for almost a year.   However that year was not without increasing rumors of poor relations with other elected officials and a reported lack of focus on a number of issues. 

But it was in August of last year that Hollingshead outdid the rumors and was caught by police with a stolen neon bar sign worth $500. Caught may be a little harsh, he literally unplugged the sign, took it off the wall and went out the door but walking straight into the cops who happened to be across the street. (To see the local newspaper story and mugshot click here: http://newsrepublican.com/news/boone-county-supervisor-charged-theft.html)

What followed was what could be expected, bipartisan local outrage from many residents. Many people called for his resignation and with the original charge he would have had too, but it was pled down to a lesser charge and was given a fine with probation. At the same time this was happening, Hollingshead stated his intent not to run for reelection to the Ogden School Board but having missed the deadline to remove his name from the ballot was not unsurprisingly trounced last November. 

(To see the plea details: http://amestrib.com/sections/news/iowa/boone-county-supervisor-pleads-guilty-theft.html

Despite all his current personal issues and still serving probation Hollingshead has been nominated by the Governor's Office for the State Mental Health and Disability Commission. Once considered a rising star, the Governor has come to the rescue of a fellow Republican in dire need of salvaging his reputation. The State of Iowa is in the middle of a massive transition from a county based service model to a regional one in dealing with mental health services. It is increasingly becoming a front line issue at the local and state level and will no doubt bring increased media/press attention to leaders on the effort, a prime opportunity for a former rising star to shine again. 

http://www.kwbg.com/2014/03/06/hollingshead-receives-gubernatorial-appointment/


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Terry Branstad's philosophy of second chances

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 14:09:34 PM CST

Governor Terry Branstad's office released a long list of nominees to state boards and commissions yesterday. I've posted the full list after the jump. As he's done during the past three years, the governor tapped several former state legislators or onetime Republican candidates for the Iowa House or Senate. The latest batch of appointees includes former GOP State Representative Lance Horbach for the State Judicial Nominating Commission, former GOP State Representative Jamie Van Fossen for the Public Employment Relations Board, and former GOP State Senator John Putney for the State Transportation Commission.

Branstad also re-appointed former GOP State Senator Jeff Lamberti to the Racing and Gaming Commission. I'm not surprised; the governor has expressed his confidence in him many times, even immediately after Lamberti's drunk driving arrest in May 2012. A few weeks later, Lamberti pled guilty to driving while intoxicated, after which his colleagues elected him chairman of the Racing and Gaming Commission.

Several Iowa lawmakers in both parties have been caught driving after drinking too much alcohol. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds was arrested for drunk driving twice while serving as a county treasurer. Arguably, Lamberti's lapse in judgment is no impediment to leading one of the most powerful state commissions, which will soon make a high-profile decision on granting licenses to two new casino projects.

At the same time, it's striking that Branstad, so committed to a continuing role in public life for Lamberti, so committed to seeing Reynolds succeed him as governor, is also determined to prevent tens of thousands of Iowans from ever participating in politics at the most basic level for a U.S. citizen. Since he signed an executive order making Iowa one of the most restrictive states for felon voting, only about 40 people have managed to regain their voting rights out of an estimated "25,000 offenders who finished their sentences for felonies or aggravated misdemeanors" since January 2011. Branstad's policy affects mostly non-violent criminals. Non-white Iowans are more likely to be permanently disenfranchised, since Iowa is the worst state for racial disparities in marijuana arrests.

Branstad recently defended his policy on these terms: "At least somebody that commits an infamous crime such as a felony ought to pay the court costs and the fine associated with that crime before they expect to get their rights restored." The governor knows perfectly well that most ex-felons are lucky to find a job that covers essentials like food and housing. Repaying thousands of dollars in court costs is not realistic for most of these people. Moreover, "infamous" crimes can include stealing a vending machine as a teenager. Denying thousands of Iowans a real chance to exercise their right to vote is a scandal, especially for a governor so forgiving of serious mistakes made by certain well-connected Republicans.

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Will Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission change policy on new casinos? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 17:50:00 PM CST

Last year voters in Linn County and Greene County approved proposals for new casinos for Cedar Rapids and Jefferson. But backers of those projects won't welcome the new report commissioned by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
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IA-Sen: Rod Roberts rules out running

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 19:06:00 PM CST

It's been nearly ten months since former State Representative Rod Roberts confirmed that he was considering a campaign for U.S. Senate. I've long been a skeptic that Roberts has any niche or large constituency in a statewide Republican primary. In fact, I'd forgotten he was still thinking about the race. This week Carroll-based journalist Douglas Burns got the scoop in an interview: Roberts will not run for Senate, or Congress in the open third district, or for Iowa secretary of state in 2014. He cited family reasons and said he plans to continue his work as director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. In late 2010, then Governor-elect Terry Branstad offered Roberts that position without considering any other candidates, even though Roberts had not applied for the job.

Burns has long been high on Roberts as a possible Senate candidate, but for once I agree with Steve Deace: "Rod didn't offer a reason other than, 'I'm Rod Roberts and I'm a nice guy.' What's your plan? [...] Offer people something." In his latest column, Burns floats the scenario of Roberts emerging as a compromise Senate nominee at a statewide convention if none of the current candidates receives 35 percent of the vote in the June primary.

Not bloody likely.

I do largely agree with Burns' assessment of Mark Jacobs, though. Many Iowa Republicans will be skeptical of a candidate who only recently moved back to the state. Nor will they cut Jacobs slack for giving money to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Corzine in 2000, on the grounds that Corzine was CEO of Goldman Sachs, where Jacobs worked at the time.

I have a post in progress with more news on the Jacobs campaign. Meanwhile, any comments about the U.S. Senate race are welcome in this thread.

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Branstad defends DHS director and appeals to Iowa Supreme Court

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 12:23:16 PM CST

This morning Governor Terry Branstad stood by Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer and his handling of problems at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo (Tama County). He also spoke confidently about his appeal to Iowa Supreme Court against a Polk County District Court ruling ordering that the Iowa Juvenile Home be reopened.

More background and details are after the jump.  

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Judge orders Branstad administration to reopen Iowa Juvenile Home

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 13:29:14 PM CST

Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled yesterday in favor of plaintiffs who are challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Finding that the four state legislators and the president of a public employees union were "likely to succeed on the merits" when the court considers their lawsuit, Judge Rosenberg granted the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. He ordered Governor Terry Branstad's administration to "reopen the Toledo home and abide by the duly passed laws of the state of Iowa which established the Toledo Home [...]."

After the jump I've posted an excerpt from the ruling, which you can read in full on the Des Moines Register's website. I've also posted reaction from several of the plaintiffs and from Branstad.

This isn't the first time a state court has found that the governor overreached in disregarding legislative intent on the allocation of state funds. Maybe Branstad should get better legal advice before deciding to ignore language from budget bills he signed into law.  

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Iowa's budget process leaves a lot to be desired

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 07:14:00 AM CST

A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that Iowa and many other states fail to incorporate enough long-term fiscal planning in the budget process. Click here to read the executive summary of the thoroughly researched piece by Elizabeth McNichol, Vincent Palacios, and Nicholas Johnson. Click here to download the full report (pdf).

After the jump I've posted the two-page fact sheet on Iowa, which scored only 4.5 out of a possible 10 and ranked 37th among the states. I've also enclosed a sidebar explaining the ten criteria they used to evaluate state fiscal planning. Table 1 toward the bottom of this page shows that Iowa received full marks under three categories: consensus revenue estimates, legislative fiscal offices, and budget status reports. Iowa received half-credit in three more categories: multi-year fiscal notes, pension oversight, and well-designed rainy-day funds. Iowa received zero marks in four categories: multi-year forecasting, a projection of future costs to deliver the "quantity and quality of services to residents that it is delivering in the current budget period," pension funding and debt level reviews, and oversight of tax expenditures.

For years, the Iowa Policy Project and the Iowa Fiscal Partnership have been sounding the alarm on how Iowa needs to start calculating the costs of various tax breaks and tax credits.

While you're at it, read the Iowa Fiscal Partnership's recent background piece on why "Iowa lawmakers must recognize the long-term impact of tax cuts on spending choices. Past choices will force future legislatures to lower investments on critical services on which economic growth depends."

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