Laura Belin

House approves defense authorization bill: How the Iowans voted

The U.S. House on July 12 approved a draft National Defense Authorization Act, setting military policy for the coming fiscal year. The final vote on passage split mostly along party lines, 220 to 197 (roll call).

Along the way, House members considered dozens of amendments, and the controversial ones received separate roll call votes. On most of those votes, Iowa’s delegation divided as one would expect: Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted with most of the Democratic caucus, while Republican Steve King (IA-04) was on the other side.

But one or more Iowa Democrats voted with the majority of House Republicans on quite a few proposals. Axne did so most often, siding with most GOP colleagues rather than with her own caucus on fourteen amendments.

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Kim Reynolds thumbed her nose at ISU students for nothing

Democrat Ross Wilburn will be unopposed in the August 6 special election to represent Iowa House district 46. The deadline to file nominating papers was on July 12 at 5:00 pm, and Wilburn is the only name on the Iowa Secretary of State’s candidate list.

A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Iowa told the Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller that the GOP would not field a candidate for the special election, but did not indicate why. The Libertarian Party of Iowa also declined to compete for this district; Libertarians have occasionally nominated candidates in House district 45, covering other Ames neighborhoods.

In all likelihood, Wilburn would have won this election regardless of the timing or the competition, given the political layout of House district 46. The strongest potential GOP candidate, Ames City Council member Tim Gartin, took himself out of the running early, and several Democratic presidential candidates have either headlined events for Wilburn or had their staff help knock doors for him.

If Republicans weren’t planning to play for this seat, it was exceptionally foolish for Governor Kim Reynolds to set the election on the first Tuesday allowed under state law. She could have scheduled the vote for late August or September, when most Iowa State University students would be back in Ames.

All Reynolds accomplished by picking August 6 was reinforcing the narrative that she doesn’t care about constituents who don’t politically align with her. She could have shown her commitment to fair play by picking a day that would give more House district 46 residents a voice. Instead, she used the levers of power to depress Democratic turnout–for nothing.

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Kim Reynolds keeps giving away the store to for-profit Medicaid managers

Governor Terry Branstad and then Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds promised endlessly that privatizing Medicaid would make the system more “sustainable.” The talking point became a crutch for Governor Reynolds whenever she faced questions about problems privatization has created for patients, caregivers, and health care providers.

The old state-run Medicaid system wasn’t sustainable, Reynolds told reporters again and again. The new system was becoming more sustainable, she claimed during all three debates against her 2018 opponent Fred Hubbell.

The latest reality check arrived on July 10. For the second year in a row, for-profit companies that manage care for hundreds of thousands of Iowans on Medicaid will receive more than an 8 percent increase in government payments.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Venus' looking glass (Clasping bellwort)

Today’s featured plant eluded me for years. I rarely came across it at the right time, and when Mike Delaney led me to some plants in bloom on one visit to his restored prairie in Dallas County, the flowers came out looking blue in most of my images. (I later learned this is a common problem when photographing purple flowers.)

With an assist from members of the Iowa Wildflower Report Facebook group, I am pleased to present Venus’ looking glass (Triodanis perfoliata). The common name tells you right away this one’s a beauty. Sometimes known as clasping bellwort or clasping Venus’ looking glass, this plant is native to most of the U.S. In Iowa, it typically blooms sometime in June.

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Memo to law enforcement officers: Swearing at you is not a crime

The Adams County Sheriff’s office must stop charging critics with crimes, under a U.S. District Court injunction issued this week. The injunction is part of an agreement to settle a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Red Oak resident Jon Goldsmith, the ACLU of Iowa announced on July 8. Goldsmith faced a third-degree harassment charge last year after putting up a profanity-laden Facebook post about a sheriff’s deputy.

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IA-02's starting to look like a lean Democratic seat

After seven-term Democratic U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack announced plans to retire after his current term, I argued that the open-seat race in Iowa’s second Congressional district looked like a toss-up.

Bobby Schilling made his campaign official on July 8, setting up a likely general election match-up against Rita Hart. Although Democrats should take nothing for granted here, and the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball still rate IA-02 as a toss-up, I’m now considering this a lean Democratic seat for the following reasons.

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