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Senate Leadership

Pam Jochum will be the new Senate President, replacing Jack Kibbie (retired).  Steve Sodders (Marshalltown) replaces Jeff Danielson as the President Pro Tem.  Gronstal returns once again as the leader of the caucus  (he's led in the minority and majority since 1997, as follows, I think:  1997-2002 minorityl 2003-4 split, 2005-present majority)

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The end of the Branstad Education reform

Terry Branstad's education reforms are dead, or rather, scheduled to die by task force.  The result is not unexpected: large-scale reforms, especially when proposed outside of the legislative process, are always in trouble.  In this case, the reform plan had plenty for Republicans and Democrats to hate. Republicans hated the price tag – that the plan would cost between $100 and $200 million is not surprising.  What is surprising is that anyone thought Republicans, who wanted to eliminate K-12 state funding increases for the next two years, would go for this.  Similiarly, the reforms are an effort to wrest control away from the teacher's unions, and who thought that the Democrats would go for that?  The great paradox for Republicans is to support teachers without supporting unions, but teachers, for understandable reasons, don't trust school boards or principals. 

I am not clear what Governor Branstad hoped for when he started this process.  He couldn't have gotten this package passed with an all-Republican legislature or an all-Democratic legislature.  It is hard to imagine, after 25+ years in state govewrnment, that the Governor could not have foreseen this, and hard to imagine what he thought would be accomplished.  No matter:  for all the drama unfulred, the ink spilled, and the meeting time snoozed due to the great education crusade, the package will now be quietly put to sleep.     

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Behn is the new Republican Leader

Jerry Behn wins the leadership election for the Senate Republicans (looks like Bill Dix still can't count to 13); Brad Zaun is the whip.  They replace McKinley (retiring) and Kettering (possibly retiring, but I'm guessing at this and not sure). 

 

Behn has been around for 4-terms (seeking his fifth now).  He came in with the class of '96 (Steve King, John Redwine, Jeff Angelo, Jim Black, Kitty Rehberg and Neil Schuerer.  All are gone from the Senate, though Black is making a rather improbable comeback attempt).  He is, like any Republican legislator, solidly conservative.  He said “jobs” are his top priority, but he wants a vote on marriage equality.  He's experienced enough to know that he won't get that vote, but, unlike some Republicans, I think his disagreement with the Varnum decision is sincere and not just politically-motivated posturing.  

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