Laura Belin

Republicans press weak case against Linn, Johnson absentee mailings

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and four Republican Party entities filed suit on August 12, seeking to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot request forms in two large, Democratic-leaning Iowa counties. The plaintiffs allege Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert committed “illegal actions” when they mailed absentee ballot request forms that were pre-printed with voters’ information.

The Republican lawsuit is heavy on political posturing but fails to lay out a convincing legal case.

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Iowa Senate district 20: Brad Zaun knows he's in trouble

Brad Zaun’s fifth campaign for the state legislature will be his toughest yet.

Like affluent suburban areas around the country, Iowa Senate district 20 has been trending away from Republicans. Democrats in the northwest suburbs of Des Moines did well in the 2019 local elections and more recently surpassed the GOP in voter registrations.

Zaun has adapted to the new environment with messaging that doesn’t mention his party affiliation, his votes for many controversial laws, his numerous attempts to ban abortion, or his early support for Donald Trump’s candidacy.

On the contrary, he is campaigning as an “independent voice” and leader on improving education and mental health services.

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Leading Iowa research centers merge

Two of Iowa’s best resources for public policy research have merged, the institutions announced on August 6. The Child and Family Policy Center and the Iowa Policy Project are building “on a collective 50 years of experience” and will be known as Common Good Iowa.

Look to Common Good Iowa for the rock-solid research, rigorous policy analysis and focused advocacy that Iowans have come to expect from CFPC and IPP, and for a new, invigorated approach to advance a bold policy agenda advancing equity and effective policy in four areas:

• Well-being of children and families, especially those failed by our current systems

• Adequate and equitably raised revenue to support strong public structures

• Workplace fairness and living wages for all Iowans

• Clean air, water and sustainable energy for a healthy future for all

Common Good Iowa will maintain offices in Des Moines and Iowa City, according to a news released I’ve enclosed below.

The two organizations have long collaborated on research published under the banner of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership. Some of their “greatest hits”:

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What the voting rights order revealed about Kim Reynolds

“Quite simply, when someone serves their sentence and pays the price our justice system has set for their crimes, they should have their right to vote restored automatically, plain and simple,” Governor Kim Reynolds said on August 5, shortly before signing a critically important document.

Executive Order 7 automatically restores voting rights to most Iowans who have completed prison sentences or terms of probation or parole associated with felony convictions. The Iowa-Nebraska NAACP estimated that the order paves the way for more than 40,000 people to vote this year. Going forward, approximately 4,700 Iowans who complete felony sentences each year will regain the same rights.

Reynolds had publicly promised to sign such an order seven weeks ago, after Republican senators declined to advance the state constitutional amendment that was her preferred way of addressing the problem.

Both the substance of the measure and the way the governor announced it revealed aspects of her leadership style.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Virginia stickseed

Today’s featured plant won’t win any popularity contests. In fact, I know people who rip Virginia stickseed (Hackelia virginiana) out of the ground as soon as they identify it anywhere on their property.

This common woodland species, sometimes just called stickseed, has unimpressive flowers that become irritating burs. The burs spawned the common names beggar’s lice or sticktight. I don’t pull up these plants like I do with garlic mustard, but I keep an eye out for them so my shoes, clothes, and dog don’t end up covered in burs.

Virginia stickseed is native to most of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. I frequently see it in the woods or near woodland edges. According to the Illinois Wildflowers site, “Stickseed prefers disturbed wooded areas and it is rather weedy.”

I took the pictures enclosed below in Windsor Heights, Clive, or Urbandale.

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Exclusive: Iowa's state medical director received 45% pay raise

The base pay for Iowa’s medical director and state epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati increased by 45 percent as the current fiscal year began on July 1, records obtained by Bleeding Heartland show. The additional $3,144 that Pedati began receiving per two-week pay period would translate to an extra $81,744 in base salary over twelve months.

The doctor leading the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response also received more than $55,000 in overtime pay from March through early July, even though her job class would not normally be eligible for overtime compensation.

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