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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Legislative Attacks on Women’s Health Threaten Women’s Lives

Maridith Morris is a registered nurse and the Democratic challenger to State Representative Jake Highfill in Iowa House district 39. -promoted by desmoinesdem

A recent American College of Gynecology study uncovered concerning data about maternal mortality from Texas. Since 2011 the number of women dying during the time of pregnancy and childbirth doubled in only two years, from 18.8 to nearly 40 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The study’s authors found the data “puzzling,”-stating that-, “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.” However, when we compare the shift in data to Texas’ legislative attacks on women’s healthcare, the trend makes sense.

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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.

I also want to thank everyone who participates here by commenting on posts. If you’ve never done so, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so since this blog relaunched on a different software platform in October, you will need to reset your password. E-mail me with any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password; my address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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.

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Republicans not giving up efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa

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Iowa’s social conservatives have suffered several setbacks lately in their crusade against Planned Parenthood. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down an administrative rule that would have banned the use of telemedicine for medical abortions in several Planned Parenthood clinics. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller informed a large group of Republican lawmakers that his office has neither “jurisdiction over transfers of fetal tissue” nor the “authority to investigate or demand information about the transfer of fetal tissue.” (Not that it mattered, since Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa have never participated in fetal tissue donation programs.)

Governor Terry Branstad, who has always opposed abortion rights, acknowledged two weeks ago that “we cannot defund Planned Parenthood,” because a review of Planned Parenthood’s contracts with the state revealed that the health care provider has not “violated their responsibilities under the grants that they have received” for family planning services. An official review also confirmed no taxpayer money goes toward abortion services at Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa.

During this year’s legislative session, Republicans successfully pushed for ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortions, but the final adopted language on ultrasounds did not add any new roadblocks or delays to the process of getting an abortion in Iowa.

Advocacy groups like Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization continue to pressure Branstad to keep his 2010 campaign promise to end Planned Parenthood’s state funding. Last week, Iowa House Republicans indicated that they plan to continue their “deliberate and unwavering battle” for the “pro-life” agenda.

Here’s how efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are likely to play out during next year’s Iowa legislative session. What happens after that depends mostly on whether the 2016 general election changes the balance of power at the statehouse.

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Key Iowa Republican budget negotiators eager to leave Capitol

In the span of a few weeks, four Republicans who were heavily involved in shaping this year’s state budget have made sure they won’t be at the negotiating table during the Iowa legislature’s 2016 session. First, Matt Hinch quit as Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff. The weekly Business Record reported yesterday that Hinch “joined the Des Moines office of government affairs and lobbying group Cornerstone Government Affairs as a vice president.”

Days after the Branstad administration announced Hinch’s departure, Kraig Paulsen resigned as Iowa House speaker. He plans to be a back-bencher next year and will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2016. It’s not yet clear whether he will remain an attorney for the Cedar Rapids-based trucking firm CRST International, or whether he will seek a different private-sector job.

Last Friday, Branstad’s office announced that Jake Ketzner was leaving as the governor’s legislative liaison. I’ve enclosed the full statement on the staff changes after the jump. Yesterday, the marketing and lobbying firm LS2group revealed that Ketzner will be their newest vice president, specializing in “campaign management, government affairs, and public affairs.”

Finally, House Appropriations Committee Chair Chuck Soderberg told journalists yesterday that he will resign to take a leadership role in the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, a powerful interest group.

I can’t blame these Republicans for not wanting to spin their wheels at the Capitol during next year’s legislative session. Election years are not conducive to bipartisan deal-making in the best of times. Last month, possibly influenced by Hinch and Ketzner, Branstad poisoned the well with vetoes that erased most of the House GOP’s budget concessions to Senate Democrats. Although Paulsen insisted he had negotiated in good faith, he and his top lieutenant Linda Upmeyer (the incoming House speaker) didn’t lift a finger to override the governor’s vetoes.

Newly-elected House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow told a conservative audience in Urbandale today, “I’m not as skeptical about next year as maybe some are. I think there’s a lot of good things that we can get done [in the legislature],” Rod Boshart reported.

That makes one of us. Seeing Hinch, Paulsen, Ketzner, and Soderberg vote with their feet reinforces my belief that next year’s legislative session will mostly be a waste of many people’s time and energy.

P.S.- Some grade A political framing was on display in the governor’s press release enclosed below: “During the 2015 session, Ketzner worked across party lines to secure bipartisan support for historic infrastructure investment that an economic development study called a prerequisite for economic development in Iowa.” In other words, he helped persuade lawmakers to increase the gasoline tax. Ketzner’s official bio at LS2goup likewise speaks of his work “across party lines to secure bipartisan support for significant transportation and broadband infrastructure investments.”

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