Paul Pate's error sends pro-gun amendment "back to square one"

“[A]ll of our work has been wiped away,” Iowa Firearms Coalition President Kurt Liske wrote in an e-mail to supporters on the evening of January 13. “Because of the Secretary of State’s complete failure, we must now go back to square one of the constitutional amendment process.”

Pro-gun advocates thought they were halfway toward amending Iowa’s constitution to include expansive language on gun rights, which could invalidate many existing regulations.

But Republican lawmakers will have to start over this year, because Secretary of State Paul Pate dropped the ball.

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Iowa Senate needs to understand: religious freedom also applies to atheists

Justin Scott is the state director for the Iowa chapter of American Atheists. -promoted by Laura Belin

The notion of religious freedom — what it is, what it isn’t and what it should be — is being tested here in Iowa.

In April 2017, the Iowa House of Representatives respected my religious rights when I delivered the first atheistic invocation in that body’s history. The Iowa Senate, however, has denied my repeated requests to perform a similar invocation. In so doing, the Senate is not only directly discriminating against me, but also violating the Constitution, which protects all faiths equally.

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Exclusive: How Kim Reynolds got away with violating Iowa's constitution

Governor Kim Reynolds swore an oath to “support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Iowa.” But when she missed a deadline for filling a district court vacancy in June, she did not follow the process outlined in Iowa’s constitution.

Public records obtained by Bleeding Heartland indicate that Reynolds did not convey her choice for Judicial District 6 to anyone until four days after her authority to make the appointment had lapsed. Nevertheless, staff assured the news media and Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady that the governor had named Judge Jason Besler on time.

Reynolds and Secretary of State Paul Pate later signed an appointment and commission certificate that was backdated, creating the impression the governor had acted within the constitutionally-mandated window.

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Sleeper Iowa Supreme Court ruling undermines constitutional protections

A little-noticed Iowa Supreme Court decision may leave Iowans more vulnerable to infringements of their constitutional rights.

Five justices held in Baldwin v. City of Estherville that government officials who can prove they “exercised all due care to conform with the requirements of the law” can’t be sued for wrongful arrests or searches and seizures. Justice Edward Mansfield’s majority opinion establishes qualified immunity for state constitutional law claims in Iowa. That legal concept means plaintiffs can’t easily sue individual officials (such as police officers) for violating their rights. The U.S. Supreme Court’s broad application of qualified immunity has become a hot topic of debate among legal scholars.

To my knowledge, no Iowa media have reported on Baldwin, which was overshadowed by higher-profile split decisions the state Supreme Court filed on the same day in June: namely, a landmark 5-2 abortion rights ruling and a 4-3 ruling that allowed a county attorney to return to his job despite a well-documented history of sexual harassment.

But dissenting Justice Brent Appel warned the Baldwin majority opinion may encourage abuses of power: “Rather than follow the state’s motto, ‘Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain,’ the majority follows an approach that suggests ‘Our Liberties Are Transient and Our Rights Are Expendable.’” Professor Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told Bleeding Heartland last month that Baldwin could be an “‘under the radar’ big deal case.”

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Republicans virtually guaranteed to pick up Iowa Senate district 1

State Senator David Johnson, the only independent to serve in the Iowa legislature in recent decades, announced today he will not seek re-election in November. He had won four previous state Senate races as a Republican and indicated last year that he planned to run for another term. However, Johnson had neither raised nor spent any money from his campaign account since January 1.

The retirement gives the GOP, which already holds 29 of the 50 seats in the upper chamber, a clear shot at picking up Senate district 1 in the state’s northwest corner. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, this district contains 7,304 active registered Democrats, 20,589 Republicans, and 13,333 no-party voters. Only one seat (nearby Senate district 2) is more heavily skewed toward the GOP. Brad Price, Zach Whiting, and Jesse Wolfe are competing for the GOP nomination in Johnson’s district. Democrats did not field a candidate here.

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