Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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Throwback Thursday: The road not taken on Iowa's "Ag Gag" law

A U.S. District Court ruling in August inspired today’s edition of Throwback Thursday. That ruling struck down an Idaho law making it a crime to lie to obtain employment at an agricultural facility, among other things. Iowa was the first state to adopt what critics call an “ag gag” law, aimed at making it harder for animal rights or food safety activists to obtain undercover recordings at farms or slaughterhouses. Idaho’s law went further than the bill Governor Terry Branstad signed in 2012; for instance, the Idaho statute also banned unauthorized audio or video recordings at a livestock farm or processing facility. Still, to this non-lawyer, some passages of federal Judge Lyn Winmill’s ruling (pdf) suggested that Iowa’s prohibition on “agricultural production facility fraud” might also violate the U.S. Constitution, specifically the First Amendment’s free speech clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Bleeding Heartland posted relevant excerpts from the Idaho ruling here, along with a brief legislative history of House File 589.

I sought Governor Terry Branstad’s comment on the court ruling and whether Iowa lawmakers should amend or rescind the language in Iowa Code about “agricultural production facility fraud.” In response, the governor’s communications director Jimmy Centers provided this statement on August 6:

House File 589 passed with bipartisan support and under the advice and counsel of the Attorney General’s office. The governor has not had the opportunity to review the ruling from the federal court in Idaho and, as such, does not have a comment on the case.

“Under the advice and counsel of the Attorney General’s office” didn’t sound right to me. When I looked further into the story, I learned that the Iowa Attorney General’s office neither recommended passage of this law nor signed off on its contents.

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Dear U of I, backroom dealings are nothing new.

(Many thanks for this detailed analysis of machinations behind the scenes to orchestrate and sell the public on closing the Malcolm Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

BACKGROUND FOR THE BLEEDING HEARTLAND READER

Malcolm Price Laboratory School was a small K-12 school attached to and operated by the University of Northern Iowa.  MPLS was primarily used by the teacher education program to train teachers.  It was a critical part of UNI, “the teacher’s college”.  Year after year, however, with mounting budget pressures at UNI, talk would take place about closing MPLS.  Tired of this annual worry, supporters of MPLS through the help of their local legislatures, pushed for and obtained legislation creating the Iowa Research & Development School at MPLS.  This group thought the days of threats of closure were over since their existence was now statutory.  In 2012 they found out they were wrong.

In light of the recent events at the University of Iowa regarding the president selection process, I think it appropriate to share a narrative I drafted back in 2012 when UNI closed MPLS and other programs.  It was the fruit of an open records request for email.  The intended audience was the parents and supporters of MPLS.  

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Bad news for supporters of Iowa's "ag gag" law

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled unconstitutional an Idaho law that criminalized lying to obtain employment at an agricultural facility or making unauthorized audio and video recordings at such facilities. Will Potter, one of the plaintiffs challenging the “ag gag” law, has been covering the case at the Green is the New Red blog. Judge Lyn Winmill’s ruling (pdf) found that the Idaho law’s provisions violated both “the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution.

The Iowa House and Senate approved and Governor Terry Branstad signed our state’s version of the “ag gag” law in 2012. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Although Iowa’s law differed from the Idaho statute in some ways, several parts of yesterday’s federal court ruling would appear to apply equally to Iowa’s law. After the jump I’ve enclosed the relevant language from both state laws and excerpts from Judge Winmill’s ruling.

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