Weekend open thread: Gratitude and accountability edition

Happy new year, Bleeding Heartland readers! Here's an open thread: all topics welcome.

I am grateful to everyone who contributed guest posts during 2015: Dave Swenson, Jon Muller, fladem, 2laneIA, ahawby, Julie Stauch, Susan Staed, Mike Owen, natewithglasses, sarased, frankly, Jane Kersch, aleand67, Matt Hauge, ModerateIADem, Leland Searles, Eileen Miller, Tracy Leone, Pari Kasotia, Roger Pedactor, Stacey Walker, Mike Draper, cocinero, AbramsMom, mrtyryn, desmoinesiowa15, moderatepachy, Joe Stutler, Zach Wahls, and State Representative Chuck Isenhart.

Guest authors can write about any political topic of state, local, or national importance. Pieces can be short or long, funny or serious. You do not need to contact me ahead of time with your story idea. Just register for a user account, log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit publish when you are ready. The piece will be "pending" until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares.

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I wish everyone success in sticking to your new year's resolutions. Keep in mind that new habits typically take a few months to establish. I'm still working on my list of Iowa politics predictions for 2016, but now seems like the right time to hold myself accountable for last year's effort. Follow me after the jump to see how I did.

I got these nine predictions right:

"Terry Branstad will still be governor at the end of the year."

I remain convinced the governor will resign before the end of his current term, either shortly after the November 2016 election or shortly after the 2017 legislative session.

"Some compromise involving an increase in Iowa's gasoline tax will be passed during this year's legislative session."

The Iowa House and Senate approved a gas tax hike in February.

"The Republican-controlled Iowa House will not approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage."

The marriage amendment never even got assigned to a subcommittee. Fewer than one quarter of the House Republican caucus co-sponsored the effort during the 2015 session.

"The Iowa House will not approve as much funding for water quality programs and the Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP) as the Iowa legislature approved last year."

In 2014, state lawmakers approved a record $25 million for REAP to mark the program's 25th anniversary. Branstad vetoed part of that funding. During the 2015 session, lawmakers allocated $16 million to REAP. Water quality programs likewise did not receive as much funding for the current fiscal year, probably to avoid another line-item veto by Branstad.

"The Iowa House will put thousands of people's health care at risk by failing to approve legislation to create a state-based health insurance exchange."

Statehouse Republicans showed no interest in creating a state-based health insurance exchange, which would have shielded Iowans from the consequences of an unfavorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling on subsidies for buying insurance through the federal exchange. Fortunately, in June the Supreme Court majority went the other way in the King v. Burwell case.

"The Iowa Supreme Court will strike down a state rule banning the use of 'telemedicine' for medical (drug-induced) abortions."

That ruling was unanimous. Even conservative justices who normally defer to executive branch decisions found the telemed ban was unconstitutional because it would place an "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion.

"During some critical Congressional vote on funding the federal government and/or raising the debt ceiling, Iowa Republicans Steve King (IA-04) and Rod Blum (IA-01) will vote one way, while David Young (IA-03) votes the other way."

I was in trouble on this prediction early in the year, when Blum and Young both voted for short-term Homeland Security funding, and the following week, all three Iowa Republicans voted against a deal to fund Homeland Security through the 2015 fiscal year. Similarly, in December all three Iowa Republicans opposed a bill to fund the federal government through the 2016 fiscal year. However, the House vote on the last day of September proved me right: Young was among the House Republicans who joined Democrats to keep the federal government open through early December. Blum and King were among the larger group of GOP House members who opposed that legislation.

"Sometime during 2015, Loebsack will announce that he is 'ready for Hillary.'"

A Barack Obama endorser before the 2008 caucuses, Loebsack made his support for Hillary Clinton official at a Labor Day picnic.

"A Republican primary challenger to David Young will emerge before the end of the year."

Joe Grandanette, who finished last in the six-way 2014 primary to represent Iowa's third Congressional district, announced in October that he will challenge Young. At least one other conservative may file for the GOP primary.

I got these six predictions for 2015 wrong:

"Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert will be the only Branstad appointee rejected by the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate."

Facing the inevitable, Branstad didn't nominate Wahlert for that job again. He appointed Beth Townsend to replace her in January. State senators did not vote down any of the governor's nominees this year, but they did tank Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Director Arlen Ciechanowski's nomination by failing to act on it.

"The Iowa Utilities Board will approve the Bakken (Dakota Access) pipeline project."

I still think the IUB will approve the project, but the process has taken longer than I anticipated. A board ruling on using eminent domain for the pipeline is expected sometime in late January or February.

"U.S. Senator Joni Ernst will not retire from the Iowa National Guard."

Ernst made the right choice, retiring from military service in December.

"Ernst and her senior colleague Senator Chuck Grassley will vote on opposite sides fewer than three times during the calendar year."

I should have said "fewer than ten times." Ernst and Grassley almost always voted the same way this year, but they were on opposite sides of at least three significant votes: on a Democratic amendment to a Keystone XL pipeline bill, which would have extended renewable energy tax credits; on the final vote to pass the USA Freedom Act, which revised some PATRIOT Act provisions relating to government surveillance powers; and on a Democratic amendment to the defense authorization bill, which would have removed sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.

"U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) will be among the most conservative 10 percent of House Democrats, as measured by the Progressive Punch database."

Based on his lifetime voting record on what Progressive Punch defines as "crucial votes," Loebsack is the 155th most progressive of the 188 House Democrats. Looking only at "crucial votes" cast during 2015, Loebsack would be the 159th most progressive House member. Looking at all House votes cast in 2015, Loebsack ranks as the 150th most progressive member of the Democratic caucus. I should have predicted that he would be among the most conservative 20 percent of House Democrats.

"No Republican member of Iowa’s Congressional delegation will endorse a presidential candidate this year."

I thought Steve King would either not endorse a candidate before the Iowa caucuses or endorse very late, as before the 2008 caucuses. But he backed Ted Cruz in November.

  • King, Cruz, and the RFS

    "The Final Presidential Report Card on the Renewable Fuel Standard" arrived in my mail box a few days ago. All the candidates in both parties were graded on their support for the RFP. All three Democratic candidates got a "good" rating, as did ten of twelve Republican candidates. Only Ted Cruz and Rand Paul got "bad" ratings. King's endorsement of Cruz does not seem to represent the interests of his rural constituents.

    • who paid for the mailing?

      America's Renewable Future, or some other group?

      • Paid for by America's Renewable Future.

        "The Renewable Fuel Standard supports 73,000 jobs in Iowa, lowers our imports of foreign oil and decreases carbon emissions."

        The RFS is good for Iowa's economy, but electric vehicles powered by wind and solar electricity would be better than ethanol for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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