Iowa's Ag Gag 3.0 may get past courts

It took them long enough.

After federal courts blocked two laws designed to suppress unauthorized access to livestock production facilities, Iowa lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed a third attempt to keep animal rights activists from filming or photographing conditions inside farm buildings or slaughterhouses. This time, the legislature finally took the path state attorneys recommended way back in 2011: beef up the trespassing law as applied to agriculture, without reference to speech or expression.

The new law has a realistic chance to survive a court challenge.

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Republicans found shortcut around Iowa Supreme Court on abortion

Spirits lifted in the pro-choice community when Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl did not call up a constitutional amendment on abortion shortly after the legislature reconvened this month.

Republican leaders wanted to pass the amendment, which had advanced from committee months earlier. When a high-profile bill doesn’t come to the floor, it often means the majority party doesn’t have the votes for final passage.

Indeed, at least three of the 53 House Republicans resisted immense pressure to vote for legislation designed to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court ruling protecting “the constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy.”

Unfortunately, the holdouts agreed to a last-minute abortion restriction that may provide a faster way to undo the high court’s work.

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1642: "Walls do not a prison make." 2020: Neither do they make a church

Herb Strentz: Churches in the Des Moines area have found ways to remain safely “open” to their members and the community without resuming in-person services. The title references a 1642 poem by Richard Lovelace. -promoted by Laura Belin

Right after President Donald Trump’s aide Kellyanne Conway endorsed “alternative facts” in her January 2017 defense of false statements about the number of people at Trump’s inauguration, Amazon had two additions to its best-seller list: George Orwell’s 1984 and Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here.

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Four red flags about Iowa Supreme Court applicant Sam Langholz

UPDATE: The commission recommended Mary Chicchelly, David May, and Matthew McDermott. I’ve added below highlights from Langholz’s interview.

Iowa’s State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview candidates to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins on March 6. The fifteen applicants include two finalists Governor Kim Reynolds passed over for the vacancy she filled last month (District Court Judge Joel Barrows and Matthew McDermott) and several who have applied for previous vacancies, such as District Court Judges Mary Chicchelly and Patrick Tott, District Associate Judge Romonda Belcher, Assistant Attorney General Molly Weber, and Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren.

Three applicants have provoked anxiety in Iowa legal circles. Bleeding Heartland discussed some problematic aspects of Ostergren’s record when he applied for a Supreme Court vacancy last year. Guthrie County Attorney Brenna (Findley) Bird previously served as chief of staff for U.S. Representative Steve King and later as Governor Terry Branstad’s legal counsel. In that capacity, a jury found last year, Bird and Branstad violated the constitutional rights of former Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey. While working in the Branstad administration, Bird was also involved in rushing through an effort to ban the use of telemedicine for abortions. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down that administrative rule in 2015.

The greatest concern has centered on Sam Langholz, the governor’s senior legal counsel. He is widely perceived as Reynolds’ top choice. Thanks to changes in the selection process Langholz helped engineer last year, the governor may have the votes on the State Judicial Nominating Commission to get her subordinate on Iowa’s highest court.

That would be troubling for several reasons.

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Six stories: Iowans showed why reproductive rights are essential

Few political issues evoke stronger emotions than abortion. Hundreds of activists on both sides of the issue came to the state capitol on February 25, when the Iowa House held a public hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would make future abortion bans immune from court challenge.

More than three dozen people spoke at the hearing, some fighting back tears as they described the life experiences that led them to either support reproductive rights or advocate for restricting women’s choices.

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Advocate to Iowa House: "Constitution should never be used to do harm"

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: Connie Ryan delivered this statement at the February 25 public hearing in the Iowa House regarding a proposed constitutional amendment stating that the Iowa Constitution does not protect any right to an abortion. Bleeding Heartland previously covered that legislation here and here and will be sharing several testimonies from the hearing.

I am Connie Ryan, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund. We represent people of faith and no faith across Iowa who believe in a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions without the interference of the government.

I want to speak directly to Republican lawmakers. You are attacking the fundamental right of Iowa women to make our own healthcare decisions.

You are ignoring history and you are placing women in danger.

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