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Jennifer Konfrst running against Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 28, 2015 at 10:45:35 AM CDT

Jennifer Konfrst announced this morning that she will challenge four-term GOP incumbent Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43. The swing district covers Windsor Heights, Clive, and part of West Des Moines. A detailed map is after the jump, along with Konfrst's press release and official bio. Her campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

As the newly-elected House majority leader, Hagenow will have virtually unlimited financial resources backing his re-election bid. On the other hand, this part of the Des Moines suburbs, solidly Republican for decades, has been trending toward Democrats for some time. President Barack Obama won 50.6 percent of the vote in 2012 in the HD-43 precincts, while Mitt Romney won 48.3 percent. Although Joni Ernst carried the district in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, she beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43--a lot less than her winning margin statewide. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that 6,682 active registered Democrats, 7,493 Republicans, and 5,897 no-party voters live in the district.

Hagenow won his first election to the House in 2008 by 93 votes against then Windsor Heights Mayor Jerry Sullivan. After being re-elected comfortably in the 2010 midterm, Hagenow got a scare in the last presidential year. Despite paying for push-polls and negative tv ads against a challenger who was massively outspent, the incumbent defeated Susan Judkins by only 23 votes in 2012.

Judkins now serves on the Clive City Council. Last week she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that she will not run for the Iowa House in 2016.

Konfrst may face a competitive primary anyway, because Jon Neiderbach is seriously considering a campaign against Hagenow. He was the Democratic nominee for state auditor in 2014. I think highly of both Konfrst and Neiderbach. The Iowa Democratic establishment sometimes hyperventilates about contested primaries, but assuming the candidates fight fair, I see little downside to two people pounding the pavement to get out the vote in my home district before next June's primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Bonus political trivia: To my knowledge, HD-43 is one of just two Iowa House seats where voters registered with each major party currently outnumber independents. The other is Democratic State Representative John Forbes' territory in House district 40 (part of Urbandale).

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Throwback Thursday: How Iowa women almost got the right to vote, years before the 19th Amendment

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 27, 2015 at 23:52:28 PM CDT

Yesterday was Women's Equality Day, marking the anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote in 1920 under the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Iowa nearly adopted a state-level woman-suffrage amendment on two occasions before that time. Inspired to learn more about those close calls, this week I read part of Louise Noun's 1969 book Strong-Minded Women: The Emergence of the Woman-Suffrage Movement in Iowa. The short version of what I learned is after the jump.

Spoiler alert: Republicans in the Bleeding Heartland community may enjoy this post more than Democrats.  

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Key Iowa Republican budget negotiators eager to leave Capitol

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 17:00:00 PM CDT

In the span of a few weeks, four Republicans who were heavily involved in shaping this year's state budget have made sure they won't be at the negotiating table during the Iowa legislature's 2016 session. First, Matt Hinch quit as Governor Terry Branstad's chief of staff. The weekly Business Record reported yesterday that Hinch "joined the Des Moines office of government affairs and lobbying group Cornerstone Government Affairs as a vice president."

Days after the Branstad administration announced Hinch's departure, Kraig Paulsen resigned as Iowa House speaker. He plans to be a back-bencher next year and will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2016. It's not yet clear whether he will remain an attorney for the Cedar Rapids-based trucking firm CRST International, or whether he will seek a different private-sector job.

Last Friday, Branstad's office announced that Jake Ketzner was leaving as the governor's legislative liaison. I've enclosed the full statement on the staff changes after the jump. Yesterday, the marketing and lobbying firm LS2group revealed that Ketzner will be their newest vice president, specializing in "campaign management, government affairs, and public affairs."

Finally, House Appropriations Committee Chair Chuck Soderberg told journalists yesterday that he will resign to take a leadership role in the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, a powerful interest group.

I can't blame these Republicans for not wanting to spin their wheels at the Capitol during next year's legislative session. Election years are not conducive to bipartisan deal-making in the best of times. Last month, possibly influenced by Hinch and Ketzner, Branstad poisoned the well with vetoes that erased most of the House GOP's budget concessions to Senate Democrats. Although Paulsen insisted he had negotiated in good faith, he and his top lieutenant Linda Upmeyer (the incoming House speaker) didn't lift a finger to override the governor's vetoes.

Newly-elected House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow told a conservative audience in Urbandale today, "I'm not as skeptical about next year as maybe some are. I think there's a lot of good things that we can get done [in the legislature]," Rod Boshart reported.

That makes one of us. Seeing Hinch, Paulsen, Ketzner, and Soderberg vote with their feet reinforces my belief that next year's legislative session will mostly be a waste of many people's time and energy.

P.S.- Some grade A political framing was on display in the governor's press release enclosed below: "During the 2015 session, Ketzner worked across party lines to secure bipartisan support for historic infrastructure investment that an economic development study called a prerequisite for economic development in Iowa." In other words, he helped persuade lawmakers to increase the gasoline tax. Ketzner's official bio at LS2goup likewise speaks of his work "across party lines to secure bipartisan support for significant transportation and broadband infrastructure investments."

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Chuck Soderberg's retirement creates opportunities for upwardly-mobile Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 25, 2015 at 15:35:00 PM CDT

Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal today that State Representative Chuck Soderberg will soon resign in order to become general manager for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives in Des Moines. He has worked for the Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative in Le Mars for more than 35 years.

First elected to the statehouse in 2004, Soderberg chaired the House Commerce Committee for two years beginning in 2011 and has led the powerful Appropriations Committee since January 2013. No doubt quite a few members of the Iowa House GOP caucus would love to take on that role next year. Given the atmosphere of distrust that Governor Terry Branstad exacerbated by blowing apart this year's spending compromises, I expect little constructive work to happen during the 2016 legislative session. But passing a budget is one thing lawmakers can't leave town without doing, so the next person to do Soderberg's job will exert considerable influence.

Surely Speaker Linda Upmeyer will give the Appropriations chair to someone with more experience than current vice chair Ken Rizer, who is in the middle of his first legislative term.

Soderberg's retirement also opens up Iowa House district 5, covering all of Plymouth County and some rural areas of Woodbury County. I enclose a detailed map after the jump. This seat isn't realistically within reach for Democrats; Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the presidential vote here in 2012, and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of the 2014 votes for U.S. Senate. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office show that House district 5 contains 3,820 active registered Democrats, 8,988 Republicans, and 6,659 no-party voters.

A safe legislative seat will be tempting for many ambitious Republicans in Plymouth or Woodbury County. The GOP district nominating convention, likely to happen sometime in September, should be highly competitive.

This thread is for any speculation about Soderberg's successor on the House Appropriations Committee or as the lawmaker representing House district 5.

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Solution to Planned Parenthood Video Thing

by: Mike Draper

Mon Aug 24, 2015 at 16:18:19 PM CDT

(A modest proposal to apply the probably unconstitutional logic behind Iowa's "ag gag" law to undercover videos targeting a leading provider of affordable health care to women. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Can we please treat women's health like industrial agriculture?

The latest attack on Planned Parenthood came in the form of an edited video, secretly taped, claiming to "expose" the practice of selling "baby parts." But if Planned Parenthood had been a factory farm, that video wouldn't have happened, because that video would have been illegal to make!

Since that video, Iowa governor Terry Branstad, like the internet, has been shocked! Outraged! He joined the "Truth Exposed" rally and called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood. Though no federal or state money goes to abortions, Branstad wanted to look into all money going to Planned Parenthood because he wants "to protect the interest of the taxpayers."

Ironically, Branstad applauds an undercover video from a state that was an early "Ag Gag" law adopter, a law that essentially prevents videotaping industrial agriculture facilities in America. Violators could be charged with a Class D Felony, "Animal Facility Interference."  

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Linda Upmeyer will be first woman Iowa House speaker; Chris Hagenow to be majority leader

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 20, 2015 at 18:59:16 PM CDT

Iowa House Republicans chose Linda Upmeyer to replace Kraig Paulsen as House speaker today. First elected to the legislature in 2002, Upmeyer has served as majority leader since 2011. House leaders did not release details on today's vote. State Representative Josh Byrnes was the only other candidate to seek the speaker's post, despite rumors that one or more other Republicans were sounding out colleagues about the race. All credit to Byrnes for putting himself out there against the party establishment favorite. That takes guts.

O.Kay Henderson posted highlights from Upmeyer's remarks to reporters today, as well as the audio clip. Not known for showing a lot of emotions in public, Upmeyer's voice broke as she talked about her late father, Del Stromer, who served as House speaker during the 1980s. She doesn't sound inclined to change much about how Paulsen was running the lower chamber, but joked, "I use more words than Speaker Paulsen, and I will try to curb that temptation going forward."

Chris Hagenow will move up from majority whip to replace Upmeyer as majority leader, and Joel Fry will move from an assistant majority leader position to majority whip. Matt Windschitl will continue to serve as House speaker pro-tem. Hagenow told reporters that no one else sought the majority leader post. Bobby Kaufmann ran for majority whip.

Henderson quoted Byrnes as saying,

"I feel like I'm in that movie, Groundhog Day....It's the same leadership in the House, the same leadership in the Senate. It's the same governor and the parameters just feel like they're just set and we can't move from them. We need new ideas. We need new energy, we need to be able to accept other people's concepts and infuse those in and I hope that, you know, she can do that."

According to Byrnes, rank-and-file legislators are upset with missed deadlines, as the legislature has failed to set state school aid levels on time and met for weeks past its scheduled adjournment date. Byrnes also said Iowans are soured by the hyper-partisanship they see from statehouse politicians. [...]

Upmeyer told reporters she'll address the concerns Brynes raised.

"We never should be comfortable with where we're at," Upmeyer said. "We always should be striving for innovation and to do things smarter and better and so I absolutely applaud that."

No need for a lot of innovation here, Madam Speaker: just accept reasonable compromises instead of refusing to budge from your initial negotiating position, and approve school funding bills on time, as happened for a decade and a half before Iowa House Republicans decided to stop following state law a few years back.

After the jump I've enclosed official comments on the House leadership election from the Republican Party of Iowa and House Minority Leader Mark Smith, as well as a Facebook status update Byrnes posted after today's vote.

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Throwback Thursday: Curt Hanson's crucial Iowa House special election victory

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 13, 2015 at 21:00:00 PM CDT

Today is State Representative Curt Hanson's birthday. Six years ago at this time, he was in the thick of the first state legislative campaign following the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage equality. Hanson's win in a highly competitive House district was probably the second most important special election in recent Iowa history (after Liz Mathis's victory in November 2011, which protected the Democratic Iowa Senate majority).

Kicking off an occasional "throwback Thursday" series, Bleeding Heartland takes a look at Hanson's first campaign for the Iowa House.

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Weekend open thread: "Serious mismanagement" edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 09, 2015 at 12:15:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Ryan Foley's August 3 story for the Associated Press was disturbing on several levels. A "Serious Mismanagement Report" described a "decade of dysfunction" at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa. Between 1999 and 2010, "78 construction projects costing a total of $3.4 million were approved there in violation of federal laws meant to protect archaeological resources and historic sites." Also troubling: National Park Service officials have suppressed the report's publication and recently denied that it existed. They have commissioned another team to write a separate (less critical) review of Effigy Mounds operations. National Park Service deputy regional director Patricia Trap delivered some unintentional comedy when she said, "I'm not denying some serious mismanagement [...] But also there were actions taken along the way that were actually appropriate management." I'm so relieved to know that Effigy Mounds officials handled some matters appropriately in addition to the seventy-eight projects that failed to comply with federal law.

Iowa Public Radio's Morning Edition with Clay Masters interviewed Foley about the mismanagement and next steps at Effigy Mounds. Click through for the audio and transcript.

The Des Moines Register published a front-page piece by Grant Rodgers on August 5 about the "uncertain future" for Iowa's regional drug courts. Those courts steer defendants into treatment rather than prison, turning lives around at lower cost than incarceration. "Yet despite their popularity among prosecutors, judges and community leaders, several Iowa drug courts have experienced sluggish legislative funding - so much so that they now are in jeopardy," Rodgers reports. What a classic case of penny-wise and pound-foolish budgeting by state legislators who brag to their constituents about fiscal responsibility. With an ending balance (surplus) of at least $300 million expected for Iowa's budget in the 2016 fiscal year, it's ridiculous that the drug court in Council Bluffs will shut down on October 1, with courts in Burlington and Ottumwa "at risk of closing" later this year.

The front page of today's Sunday Des Moines Register features a depressing must-read by Tony Leys about former residents of the now-closed Iowa Mental Health Institute at Clarinda, which "cared for some of the frailest and most complicated psychiatric patients in the state." Of the eighteen people who lived in the Clarinda facility earlier this year, eight

were transferred to four traditional nursing homes, all of which are rated "below average" or "much below average" on a federal registry. The four facilities are in the bottom 29 percent of Iowa nursing homes for overall quality, according to the Medicare registry. Two of those eight patients died shortly after their transfers.

I've enclosed excerpts from all of the above stories after the jump, but I recommend clicking through to read the articles in their entirety.

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GOP State Representative Josh Byrnes will not run for Iowa Senate district 26

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 07, 2015 at 11:14:00 AM CDT

Republican State Representative Josh Byrnes will not run against Democratic State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm in Iowa Senate district 26 next year. The Iowa House Transportation Committee chair has thrown his hat in the ring to replace Kraig Paulsen as House speaker. Regardless of how the speaker contest goes, Byrnes confirmed to Bleeding Heartland, "I am not running for Senate."

The news will lift Democratic spirits, as Byrnes would have been the obvious GOP recruit for this competitive Senate district. Democrats hold a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber, and Republicans will almost certainly target Wilhelm next year.

First elected to the upper chamber in 2008, the former Howard County supervisor was the Iowa Senate incumbent re-elected by the narrowest margin in 2012. Redistricting pitted Wilhelm against GOP State Senator Merlin "Build my fence" Bartz, whom she defeated by just 126 votes in a district where Barack Obama carried 55.6 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Byrnes was re-elected to the Iowa House by more than 4,000 votes in 2012, even as Obama carried 55.2 percent of the vote in House district 51. Only two other Republican-held House seats went to Obama by a larger margin: House district 91 (Muscatine area) and House district 58 (Maquoketa). Byrnes easily won re-election in 2014 as well. He disagrees with his more conservative House colleagues on some high-profile issues, giving him potentially strong crossover appeal.

I haven't heard of any other Republicans taking a close look at Senate district 26. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers who know differently to contact me. Since December 2012, Bartz has run Representative Steve King's district office in Mason City. I will be surprised if he runs for the Iowa Senate again.

Senate district 26 includes all of Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Howard and Chickasaw counties, part of Cerro Gordo County (but not Mason City or Clear Lake) and part of Winneshiek County (but not Decorah). A detailed map is after the jump. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, Senate district 26 contains 11,202 active registered Democrats, 11,101 Republicans, and 16,899 no-party voters.

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Preview of the coming Iowa House Republican leadership battle

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 06, 2015 at 10:02:24 AM CDT

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2016 and will step down from leadership before next year's legislative session. His surprise move kicks off what will be the most competitive leadership election within the House Republican caucus since colleagues elected Paulsen minority leader shortly after the 2008 general election.

Linda Upmeyer, a seven-term incumbent who has served as majority leader since 2011, immediately confirmed that she will run for speaker. She would be the first woman to lead the Iowa House, and to my knowledge, the first child of an Iowa legislative leader to follow a parent in that role. Upmeyer's father Del Stromer was House speaker for part of the 1980s.

She won't get Paulsen's job without a fight, though.  

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Bad news for supporters of Iowa's "ag gag" law

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 05, 2015 at 11:48:09 AM CDT

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled unconstitutional an Idaho law that criminalized lying to obtain employment at an agricultural facility or making unauthorized audio and video recordings at such facilities. Will Potter, one of the plaintiffs challenging the "ag gag" law, has been covering the case at the Green is the New Red blog. Judge Lyn Winmill's ruling (pdf) found that the Idaho law's provisions violated both "the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution.

The Iowa House and Senate approved and Governor Terry Branstad signed our state's version of the "ag gag" law in 2012. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Although Iowa's law differed from the Idaho statute in some ways, several parts of yesterday's federal court ruling would appear to apply equally to Iowa's law. After the jump I've enclosed the relevant language from both state laws and excerpts from Judge Winmill's ruling.

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Branstad vetoes will stand: not enough support for Iowa legislative special session

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 30, 2015 at 16:58:51 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad's vetoes of education and mental health funding will stand, as the two-thirds majority needed to call a special legislative session has failed to materialize in either the Iowa House or Senate.

A special session always looked like a long-shot, given that Iowa House Republican leaders didn't want to spend extra money on education and only reluctantly agreed to extend funding for mental health institutions. In addition, 23 of the 24 Iowa Senate Republicans voted against the supplemental spending bill. They had no stake in the compromise the governor blew apart.

Still, the outcry over school funding (including dozens of normally non-political superintendents speaking out) created an opening for Republican lawmakers. Even if they didn't believe in the substantive value of additional education or mental health funding, they could have taken a big issue off the table for next year's statehouse elections. So far, very few Republicans seem worried about the political fallout from not overriding Branstad's vetoes. Democrats appear ready to remind voters at every opportunity who created the holes local education leaders are scrambling to fill.  

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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 11:52:06 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I've posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It's a shame the venue couldn't accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who's a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn't take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she's relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of "ignoring" Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I'm amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton "bombed" in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump's remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump's comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he's done something wrong, "I don't bring God into that picture."

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Where are they now? Non-existent heated sidewalks edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 15, 2015 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland's "Where are they now?" posts usually focus on new jobs for former elected officials, candidates for high office, or other prominent individuals in Iowa politics.

Todd Dorman's latest commentary for the Cedar Rapids Gazette prompted me to follow up on a smear from the 2010 state legislative elections.

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A close look at the status of abortion regulations in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 14, 2015 at 09:19:20 AM CDT

Anti-abortion activists suffered a setback last month when the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional the state ban on using telemedicine for medical abortions. But the health and human services budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1 contained two provisions sought by those who want to reduce the number of abortions performed in Iowa.

The first part of this post examines new language in the Iowa Code related to ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Who was closer to the mark: Iowa Right to Life, which hailed the "HUGE life-saving victory" as the anti-choice movement's biggest legislative success in two decades? Or Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which countered that the ultrasound language would neither change the standard of care at their clinics nor "directly impact a woman's access to abortion"?

Next, the post addresses language lawmakers first adopted in 2013 and renewed in the just-passed human services budget, which allows the Iowa governor to determine whether Medicaid should reimburse for abortion services. No other state has a similar provision.

Finally, I offer some thoughts on an odd feature of anti-abortion activism in the Iowa legislature. State Senate Republicans advocate more for restrictions on abortion rights and access than do GOP representatives in the House, even though "pro-choice" Democrats control the upper chamber, while all 57 members of the House majority caucus are nominally "pro-life." Iowa House leaders have not been eager to put abortion bills on the agenda. This year, rank-and-file House Republicans didn't even introduce, let alone make a serious attempt to pass, companion bills to most of the abortion-related legislation their counterparts filed in the state Senate.

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Terry Branstad's weak excuse for axing refugee support funding

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 12:31:50 PM CDT

The apparent attempt to bury Governor Terry Branstad's large batch of budget cuts before the July 4 holiday weekend isn't working. Fallout from the governor's line-item vetoes continues to make news on a daily basis. Today, Iowa Senate Democratic leaders announced that they have formally asked colleagues to request a special legislative session to override the highest-profile and largest vetoes, which affected education and mental health funding.

Meanwhile, the latest article by the Des Moines Register's "Reader's Watchdog" Lee Rood called attention to an item veto that flew below the radar last week: $100,000 from the health and human services budget, intended for a pilot project to serve refugees in Polk County. The amount of money was so small--far less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the $7 billion state budget--that Branstad couldn't fall back on misleading statements about "fiscal health" to justify this item veto. Instead, he cited an equally weak pretext.

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"Quit whining" wasn't the most outrageous thing Iowa State Senator David Johnson said yesterday

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 10, 2015 at 09:43:05 AM CDT

Waterloo high school teacher Vaughn Gross e-mailed 23 Iowa Republican state senators this week, urging them to "help call a special [legislative] session to fund our schools." State Senator David Johnson sent back a dismissive reply, telling Gross to "Quit whining" and complaining that Democrats had cost him money by sending the Iowa legislative session into overtime.

I'm surprised an experienced politician would respond in that tone to Gross's respectful, heartfelt appeal. But Johnson outdid himself later in the day, after his message to the teacher went viral. Far from seeking a graceful way out of the situation, Johnson defended his choice of words and indicated that he sees GOP legislators as the victims of a "concerted attack" on their votes. In his view, Republicans should not be criticized for education funding levels.

Really?

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Four takeaways from Branstad destroying the Iowa legislature's budget compromise

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 06, 2015 at 21:01:31 PM CDT

Late in the afternoon on the last day state offices were open before the long holiday weekend, Governor Terry Branstad used his veto pen to strike "all the big deals" Iowa House Republicans and Senate Democrats negotiated to end this year's legislative session.

The budget compromise was already a much better deal for statehouse Republicans than for Democrats. House GOP leaders got the global budget targets they had demanded, which were lower than what the governor requested and Democrats proposed. Most of the concessions to Democrats came in House File 666, a $125 million collection of one-time appropriations.

While Branstad didn't veto the entire supplemental spending bill like he did in 2014, he cut out House File 666's largest and highest-priority items for statehouse Democrats: $55.7 million for K-12 school districts, $2.5 million for community colleges, nearly $2.9 million for the University of Iowa, $2.25 million for Iowa State University, and $1.1 million for the University of Northern Iowa.

In other words, after standing on the sidelines during most of the battle over the 2016 budget, Branstad handed House Republicans near-total victory. The fallout will be substantial.

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Ryan Wise is the new Iowa Department of Education director (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 06, 2015 at 07:37:38 AM CDT

Catching up on news from last week, Governor Terry Branstad appointed Ryan Wise to lead the Iowa Department of Education, effective July 1. I've enclosed below the full statement from the governor's office, which includes more background on Wise. He should have no trouble during the Iowa Senate confirmation process, having served as deputy director at the education department since September 2013.

Wise replaces Brad Buck, who started work on July 1 as superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District. It's no surprise that he sought new opportunities after less than two years in the top state education job. Branstad instructed Buck to prioritize the tourism industry's demands over the consensus of school district leaders on academic calendars, even though the large body of research supporting shorter summer vacations for students contrasts sharply with the lack of evidence that "early [school] start dates interfere in any meaningful sense with the Iowa State Fair or with any other tourism activity in Iowa." During Buck's tenure as education director, Branstad also asked lawmakers to approve miserly increases in state aid to K-12 schools. The governor's latest draft budget included "allowable growth" for K-12 education of 1.25 percent for fiscal year 2016 and 2.45 percent for fiscal year 2017. Those levels are low by historical standards and not nearly enough to allow school districts to cover growing costs, leading to either staff and program cuts or property tax increases in many localities.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Added below excerpts from fifth-grade teacher Amy Moore's editorial for the Des Moines Register, sounding the alarm about Wise's experience with the Teach for America program.

P.S.- Almost every time I read a press release from the governor's office, I am struck by the relentless branding of Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds as a single unit. The communications staff have been doing this for years, supporting Branstad's desire to make Reynolds his successor. Still, it's jarring to read unnatural-sounding quotes mentioning the "governor and lieutenant governor" or "Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds' leadership." Does anyone really talk the way Wise "speaks" in the enclosed press release ("I admire the Governor's and Lieutenant Governor's commitment to providing every child in Iowa with the world-class education they deserve")?

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Weekend open thread: July 4 edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jul 04, 2015 at 21:19:44 PM CDT

Happy Independence Day to the Bleeding Heartland community! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend--preferably not by setting off amateur fireworks. Although the Iowa House voted this year to legalize fireworks, the bill never came to a vote in the Iowa Senate. So amateur fireworks are still illegal, which is just as well, since they cause too many emergency room visits and distress for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. We caught the fireworks display after the Iowa Cubs baseball game on Friday night and are going out in a little while to see the Windsor Heights fireworks.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation marked the holiday by posting some stunning pictures of Iowa wildflowers, "nature's fireworks."

Alfie Kohn noted today that socialists authored both the Pledge of Allegiance and the words to "America the Beautiful," which for my money should be our national anthem.

Speaking of which, former Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the Iowa Cubs baseball game last night. Who knew she had such a good voice?

Two Democratic presidential candidates spent the day in Iowa. Senator Bernie Sanders and many supporters walked the parade in Waukee, a suburb of Des Moines. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was in Independence, Dubuque, and Clinton.

As is our family's custom, I took the kids to the Windsor Heights parade this afternoon. It's one of the smaller parades in the Des Moines area, which explains the relatively sparse presidential campaign presence. On the Republican side, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was there; he also walked the Urbandale parade route earlier in the day. A few volunteers handed out stickers for Ben Carson, and I didn't see any other GOP campaigns represented. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton's campaign had a small presence; apparently more supporters walked for her in Waukee.

U.S. Representative David Young (IA-03) was working the crowd along the parade route. One of his potential Democratic challengers, Desmund Adams, mingled with Windsor Heights residents before walking the Waukee parade.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. After the jump I've enclosed a few photos from the Windsor Heights parade, including one wildflower shot, inspired by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. I also posted the roll call from the Iowa House vote in May to approve the fireworks legalization bill. That legislation split both the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

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