Reynolds, GOP killed way to reduce racial, economic disparities in Iowa courts

Governor Kim Reynolds made headlines last week with two vetoes: blocking language targeting the attorney general, and rejecting a medical cannabis bill that had strong bipartisan support in both chambers.

A provision she didn’t veto drew little attention. For the foreseeable future, it will prevent Iowa courts from using a tool designed to make the criminal justice system more fair to defendants of all races and income levels.

Reynolds should appreciate the value of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), since she works closely with two former State Public Defenders: Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and the governor’s senior legal counsel Sam Langholz. But last year she ordered a premature end to a pilot program introducing the tool in four counties. The governor’s staff did not reply to repeated inquiries about the reasoning behind Reynolds’ stance on this policy.

Notably, the owner of Iowa’s largest bail bonding company substantially increased his giving to GOP candidates during the last election cycle, donating $10,100 to the governor’s campaign and $28,050 to Republicans serving in the state legislature.

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Nick Miller challenging Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 19

Nick Miller announced his candidacy in Iowa House district 19 at a May 23 event in his home town of Polk City. The fifth-generation Iowan, who is also a small business owner and Drake University student, would face House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow in the general election if he becomes the Democratic nominee. Miller said his campaign will be grounded in the principles of “Investing, Educating, and Sustaining.”

I want to represent all working families and Iowans; I want to represent a new generation of Iowans; and, I want be a voice for the voiceless and will stand up and fight for what is right.

Although I didn’t include this district in my overview of potentially competitive state House races, I’ll be watching this campaign for a couple of reasons.

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Where things stand with MidAmerican's bad solar bill

As state lawmakers wrap up their work for 2019, one of the biggest question marks surrounds MidAmerican Energy’s push to make future solar development unaffordable for most Iowa homeowners and small businesses.

Four weeks after the bill cleared the Iowa Senate, it is still hung up in the House, where a group of Republicans recently took an unusual step to signal their opposition.

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Iowa lawmakers pass another unconstitutional "Ag Gag" bill

Iowa legislators just can’t quit violating the constitution in the service of livestock farmers and their lobby groups.

Two months after a federal judge comprehensively dismantled Iowa’s 2012 law prohibiting “agricultural production facility fraud,” the state House and Senate approved a bill creating the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.” Governor Kim Reynolds has indicated she will sign the legislation. (UPDATE: She signed it on March 14.)

Although the drafters modeled the new bill after portions of an Idaho statute that survived a legal challenge, federal courts could and should strike down this law. Like the previous “ag gag” legislation, its primary purpose is to suppress speech reflecting certain viewpoints.

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Did Iowa House Republicans commit to nonpartisan map in 2021?

As bad-faith political arguments go, it would be hard to top a headline from a recent Iowa House Republican newsletter, amplified on Twitter: “Congressional Democrats Plan to Overturn Nonpartisan Redistricting in Iowa.”

U.S. House Resolution 1 was designed to ban gerrymandering nationwide “by requiring independent commissions instead of state legislatures to draw congressional maps.” But in the Iowa GOP’s fun-house-mirror view, the federal bill would “inject politics into an already nonpartisan redistricting process.”

The good news is, this stunt puts House Republicans on record opposing any change to the system in use since the 1980s. “There’s no reason to change a process in Iowa that is respected throughout the country and is working well,” the newsletter argues.

The next step is getting top lawmakers and Governor Kim Reynolds to promise not to exploit a little-known provision in state law to enact a gerrymander in 2021.

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Iowa House, governor have no grounds to exclude me from "press"

Iowa House Chief Clerk Carmine Boal has refused to grant me credentials for the chamber during the 2019 legislative session. Staff for Governor Kim Reynolds have ignored repeated messages seeking credentials to cover the governor’s office or an explanation for denying my request.

Under the U.S. and Iowa constitutions, no government agency or official may restrain or abridge the freedom of the press. Government bodies must apply any media restrictions uniformly, without regard to the content of news reporting or commentary. That’s not happening here.

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