Five takeaways from the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2018

The Iowa House and Senate convened Monday with the usual big promises and platitudes about working together to build a better future for Iowans.

Behind the optimistic rhetoric, all signs point to another contentious legislative session. The opening day speeches by Republican and Democratic leaders, enclosed in full below, revealed almost no common ground about the focus of lawmakers’ work and no indication that the most important bills will incorporate Democratic ideas. My takeaways:

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Independent bids for Iowa governor are a waste of time

Brent Roske has ended his independent candidacy for Iowa governor, explaining in a December 26 Facebook post that he will be “stepping back into the media world” soon.

At least one other gubernatorial candidate, Gary Siegwarth, is trying to qualify for the general election ballot as an independent. Like Roske, he has little chance of moving the ball forward on the issues that are driving his candidacy.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2017 guest authors

Bleeding Heartland published 140 guest posts by 81 authors in 2016, a record since the blog’s creation in 2007.

I’m happy to report that the bar has been raised: 83 authors contributed 164 guest posts to this website during 2017. Their work covered an incredible range of local, statewide, and national topics.

Some contributors drew on their professional expertise and research, writing in a detached and analytical style. Others produced passionate and intensely personal commentaries, sometimes drawing on painful memories or family history.

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Iowans not happy with mental health, Medicaid, school funding, taxes

Clear majorities of Iowans disapprove of how the state legislature and executive branch are handling mental health care, Medicaid, education funding, and taxes, according to the latest statewide survey by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom.

Even worse for Republicans: more than 70 percent of respondents said each of those issues would be a “major consideration when you choose how you will vote in the 2018 election.”

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A rare victory for Iowa water quality

Following a public outcry, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has abandoned an effort to weaken the state’s E. coli water quality standards.

Officials had designed the change with the explicit goal of reducing the number of Iowa waterways deemed impaired. Environmental advocates had warned public health would suffer if the DNR assessed waterways based on average readings of E. coli levels, rather than the highest single measurement of the bacteria.

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