Branstad's office withholds invitation list for collective bargaining bill signing

Governor Terry Branstad’s staff have rebuffed repeated efforts to obtain a list of those invited to watch the governor sign sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law last month.

Going against longtime standard practice for high-profile legislation, Branstad excluded reporters from attending what staff called a “private” event. Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, later posted a picture of himself shaking the governor’s hand at the bill signing. The large number of pens on the governor’s desk suggest that many others celebrated the historic move to take rights away from an estimated 180,000 public workers.

Jodie Butler was determined to find out who else was in that room.

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Fixed it for ya: An update and correction to Bobby Kaufmann's newsletter about Iowa's voter ID bill

Local activist Lauren Whitehead wasn’t fooled by an Iowa House Republican’s spin on House File 516, the voter suppression bill. See also John Deeth’s take on Kaufmann’s “worse than cynical” newsletter. -promoted by desmoinesdem

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann has made it clear that he is swamped with emails and other duties, so in the interest of participatory government, I’ve taken it upon myself to help him by correcting a few errors that appeared in his recent Your Capitol Voice newsletter, which focuses on the voter ID bill that is making its way through the Iowa legislature, because integrity is very important to him.

Please see below for the corrected version, and the text of the original at the bottom.

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Expect more downward revisions in Iowa revenue estimates

Jon Muller examines factors contributing to Iowa’s budget crunch. What do you want first: the bad news or the “quite disturbing” news? -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) reduced its FY 2017 estimate for General Fund Revenues by $106 million. That’s on top of the $96 million downward revision in December 2016. Since the original estimate used for FY 2017 appropriations (December 2015), cumulative downward revisions total $243 million on a $7.3 billion budget.

This has led to all the gnashing of teeth that comes every time revenues begin to slow. The REC has never been particularly prescient when it comes to predicting the turn in receipts, either on the way down or the way up. I have some insight into this phenomenon because I used to be a revenue estimator for the Iowa General Assembly, and wasn’t any better than they are now. Indeed, economic models in general are not very good at predicting turns in the business cycle until after they happen. They are very good at generating consensus forecasts that tend to magically predict the next year will look a lot like the current year, at least during stable periods.

What’s new this time around is, according to policy makers expressing concern about the downgrade, is the reduction in revenues during what is considered a reasonably healthy economy. In my view, the stress on the General Fund is actually due to two primary factors. The economy is perhaps not quite as robust as consensus opinion suggests. Secondly, it appears the cost of House File 2433 passed during the 2016 legislative session, a bill providing a sales tax exemption for items consumed in manufacturing processes, was dramatically understated.

I suspect those looking to blame the sluggishness on a downturn in the farm sector will be disappointed as farm income growth begins to turn positive. Those who believed hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts and credits would spur state revenue growth should be equally disappointed. It’s just not happening.

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School choice isn't really a choice

Tanya Keith does the math: tax credits to support “school choice” would mainly help families who can afford to send their kids to private school anyway. -promoted by desmoinesdem

When I hear people talking about “school choice,” I wonder if they really know what’s involved in choosing a school that’s not your neighborhood public school. We knew we wanted our oldest of three kids to attend the Downtown School, an open enrollment school within Des Moines Public Schools, and we put her on the list before she was born. I was thrilled to learn that she made the list in Kindergarten, but I was naïve to the effort it would take to complete her education there.

We are raising the only grandchildren in a family where both grandmothers are experts in early childhood education, so I was willing to go the extra mile for a top quality education for my children. What I didn’t realize is I would be going the extra 12.2 miles, every day, all school year long. Our first five years, we drove 6.1 miles each way to get our child to school. Let’s do a little math with that:

12.2 miles x $.54 (the IRS mileage allowance for 2016) x 174 school days = $1,146.31

That’s one child at one school, but that’s not the end of the expense.

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House Republicans approve workers' comp bill with major unfunded changes

Iowa workers lost again at the statehouse on Thursday, as 55 House Republicans approved a bill that would tilt the workers’ compensation system markedly toward employers. All 37 Democrats present voted against House File 518, joined by just one Republican, State Representative Rob Taylor. UPDATE: GOP Representative Clel Baudler was absent on March 16 but filed an “explanation of vote” in the House Journal on March 20 clarifying that he would have voted “nay” on this bill.

Lawmakers had received an enormous number of constituent contacts since the “dramatic” and “far-reaching” legislation first saw the light of day a little more than two weeks ago. In a rush to get this unpleasantness behind them before the weekend, GOP legislators insisted on a final vote before staff could analyze the cost of a “new career vocational training and education program,” conjured up in an amendment filed the previous evening.

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Former police officer comments on "Stand Your Ground" law

Gun owner and retired police officer David Grussing comments on House File 517, which cleared the Iowa House last week and the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m writing in response to the efforts by the Republicans in both chambers of the Iowa legislature to relax Iowa’s already limited common sense gun safety measures. Their efforts, if enacted, will result in new “Stand Your Ground” legislation and making the permit process for carrying a weapon virtually worthless.

I can almost see the Republican heads shaking and thinking, “Here’s another gun hating Democrat who wants to take our guns away and repeal the 2nd Amendment.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, I am a Democrat, but I own several handguns, a couple of rifles, and a shotgun. In addition, I served as a police officer for about 25 years, with about 17 of those years as a detective who carried a concealed weapon as part of my daily routine.

I also was a candidate for the District 7 seat in the Iowa House last year. During that campaign, I knocked on about 4,500 doors throughout the district and conducted dozens of public appearances, including about ten candidate forums with my opponent, State Representative Tedd Gassman. Not once, during any candidate forum, public appearance, or conversation on a door step, did anyone tell me that they thought Iowa’s gun laws were too strict and needed to be relaxed. It’s worth mentioning that District 7, which is comprised of Emmet, Winnebago, and parts of Kossuth counties, is exactly the kind of rural, conservative District that Democrats have had difficulty connecting with.

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