Ten Iowa legislative incumbents who raised surprisingly little for their re-election campaigns

Since the latest deadline for state legislative candidates to report to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board passed on May 19, I’ve been going through the forms filed by incumbents or challengers in potentially competitive races.

Some of the contribution totals were much lower than I expected to see.

Follow me after the jump for ten Iowa House or Senate incumbents who haven’t been focused on fundraising, even though they could face tough re-election campaigns.

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Want to help under-funded schools? Invest in your downtown

"Footprint" of Jordan Creek Town Center development in West Des Moines, overlaid on the "East Village" neighborhood of downtown Des Moines, courtesy of Jim Thompson

Four of the oldest buildings in downtown Waterloo "have been renovated with their historic features revived," John Molseed reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on May 13. A block that had been vacant since 2007 will now hold "four commercial spaces and six loft-style apartments." The city of Waterloo and the state historic tax credit program helped secure private investment for the project.

Renovating older buildings is much better for the environment than razing them. The economic benefits of historic preservation are not always easy to measure, but converting vacant buildings to commercial or residential use generates revenue.

Downtown property is the most valuable per acre, according to data compiled by Jim Thompson, a business specialist for the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Main Street Program. For that reason, Thompson advises anyone who will listen, "If you want to help your school districts, invest in your downtown buildings."

His message should resonate with local officials after yet another state legislative session produced a disappointing budget for K-12 schools. With Thompson’s permission, I enclose below some materials he has created to show the impact of repurposing downtown buildings.

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Iowa Republicans tell Sick Iowans: "Go Somewhere Else."

Thanks to AbramsMom for her first-person account of how Iowa House Republicans avoided a floor vote on legislation that would have genuinely expanded access to medical cannabis. The author blogs about her son at Abram’s Mayhem. -promoted by desmoinesdem

As a parent who has been advocating for medical cannabis both before and after we obtained a Cannabidiol Registration Card (the fluke identification card that decriminalizes me for possession of my son’s medicine), I want to share what happened this year with Medical Cannabis, why it failed miserably and why I feel that the amendment (to an amendment) to a Controlled Substance Bill that expanded conditions – yet still did NOT ALLOW ACCESS IN IOWA is absolutely disgustingly wrong.

I sat in the House Gallery not once, but twice as Medical Cannabis came to the House Floor. The first time, I thought I was going to hear a debate on a Democratic amendment (because our original Bill for this year was stalled and killed in the Ways and Means committee by House Leadership) that would allow for expansion of qualifying conditions and would have allowed ACCESS IN IOWA – which is what every parent and patient have been asking for and advocating on behalf of for YEARS.

I sat in the Gallery in the last week of the session to learn that the Democratic Amendment was pulled by House Leadership and instead we heard a debate on Medical Cannabis that stunned those sitting in the Gallery hoping to have access to medicine for their children, their loved ones or for themselves.

What transpired was nothing short of being absolutely blindsided by a garbage truck.

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Weekend open thread: University politics

Congratulations to all the Bleeding Heartland readers who just finished a year of academic work and especially to those who completed their undergraduate or graduate degrees this month. Good luck with whatever you have planned for the summer and beyond, and remember, many people switch gears several times during their careers. What I spend my time on now is different from the work I did during and immediately after grad school and far from any future I imagined as an undergraduate.

Pat Rynard recently interviewed eight student journalists about their experiences covering the Iowa caucuses. Well done to all, and good luck to the four who are graduating: Brent Griffiths, Madeline Meyer, Rebecca Morin, and Lissandra Villa.

Congratulations are also in order for everyone involved with the Iowa State Daily, which just won the "Best All-Around Daily Student Newspaper" award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld struck an odd note in his graduation message to faculty, staff, and students: "Although a university attempts to create a space for fruitful study for its faculty and students, it can’t escape reality. We have gone through a lot at the University of Iowa, particularly in the last year. And yet here we are, about to uphold a time-honored tradition."

Much of the turmoil and discontent at the University of Iowa this past year stemmed from Harreld’s hiring, against the wishes of most campus stakeholders. Unlike most of the people affected by his arrival, Harreld has been extremely well-compensated, receiving a substantially higher salary than the woman he replaced. He also presided over a generous contract extension for Athletics Director Gary Barta, despite troubling trends for women under Barta’s leadership and questionable decisions that have spawned multiple lawsuits and investigations of alleged gender discrimination. Meanwhile, the University of Iowa decided against complying with Johnson County’s latest minimum wage hike, a policy Harreld declined to explain in a public forum.

Seeing Harreld allude to what "we have gone through" at the University of Iowa (as if he were some passive bystander) reminded me of the president’s strange answer to the Daily Iowan’s recent questions about hate speech. As the Ditchwalk blog covered in more detail here, Harreld doesn’t seem to appreciate the difference between being insulted in public and being a target of hate speech.

Last week, some activists encouraged University of Iowa graduates not to shake Harreld’s hand while receiving their diplomas during the May 13 commencement ceremony. I understand the sentiment, but I would have encouraged students to deliver some concise verbal message while crossing the stage instead. Refusing a handshake makes a visible statement but also risks generating sympathy for Harreld.

Speaking of university leaders in the news, Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s approach to building relationships with lawmakers drew scrutiny recently. As Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on May 6, Leath provided tickets to sold-out ISU men’s basketball games to ten influential state legislators this year. Although the lawmakers paid face value for the tickets, the practice seems inconsistent with the spirit of Iowa’s gift law, since the courtside seats are normally available only to people who donate thousands of dollars to the university. Excerpts from Foley’s report and a recent Des Moines Register editorial on the subject are after the jump.

Simpson College political science Professor Kedron Bardwell recently flagged a disturbing interview Sam Clovis gave to Inside Higher Education. Clovis is on leave from his tenured position at Morningside College in Sioux City while he serves as a policy director for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Absurdly, Clovis suggested that even though "The liberal arts education is the absolute foundation to success in life," perhaps student loans should not be available for those planning to major in the humanities. Presidential candidates bashing non-STEM education, especially philosophy majors, has long been a pet peeve for Bardwell. Many Simpson graduates who majored in philosophy or political science have gone on to successful careers. Research has shown that "philosophy majors consistently outperform nearly all other majors on graduate entrance exams such as the GRE and LSAT."

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Iowa families get promises but no guarantee on autism insurance coverage

Iowa families hoping for guaranteed insurance coverage of autism services will have to wait at least one more year. Despite Democratic efforts to add an autism coverage mandate to the health and human services budget for fiscal year 2017, the compromise approved on the final day of this year’s legislative session excluded such language. Instead, lawmakers increased state funding for various autism-related grants and programs.

According to the lead Republican negotiator on the human services budget, families affected by autism will have insurance coverage by January 2017 without a mandate, thanks to Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s decision to sell policies through Iowa’s public insurance exchange. But those policies will not be available to Iowans living in dozens of counties, nor will they cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions, which are effective but prohibitively expensive for many people with spectrum disorders.

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Never let it be said that the 2016 Iowa legislature accomplished nothing

In four months of work this year, Iowa lawmakers made no progress on improving water quality or expanding conservation programs, funded K-12 schools and higher education below levels needed to keep up with inflation, failed to increase the minimum wage or address wage theft, let most criminal justice reform proposals die in committee, didn’t approve adequate oversight for the newly-privatized Medicaid program, opted against making medical cannabis more available to sick and suffering Iowans, and left unaddressed several other issues that affect thousands of constituents.

But let the record reflect that bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate acted decisively to solve a non-existent problem. At a bill-signing ceremony yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad and supporters celebrated preventing something that probably never would have happened.

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