IA-01: Abby Finkenauer out-raised Rod Blum

The latest fundraising numbers from Iowa’s first Congressional district confirm what was already apparent: Representative Rod Blum is among the country’s most vulnerable U.S. House incumbents, and Abby Finkenauer will be the prohibitive favorite in the June 5 Democratic primary.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from the first-quarter Federal Election Commission filings for Blum and his four challengers.

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IA-03: Six Democrats explain how they could beat David Young

Almost every day, I talk to Democrats who haven’t settled on a candidate in the third Congressional district, where six people are running against two-term Representative David Young. (Heather Ryan ended her Congressional campaign last month and will challenge State Representative Rick Olson in Iowa House district 31’s Democratic primary instead.)

Many of the contenders have supporters I respect and admire. I have no doubt they would represent us well in the U.S. House.

So as I try to pick a favorite from this strong field, I find myself circling back to one question: who has the best chance of beating Young?

At last month’s College and Young Democrats forum in Indianola, each candidate had three minutes to explain how they can win this race. I’ve transcribed their answers in full after the jump.

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Austin Frerick highlights another Iowa Farm Bureau conflict of interest

Congressional candidate Austin Frerick charged today that “extensive investments” in the fossil fuel extraction sector may explain why the Iowa Farm Bureau fails to acknowledge the reality of climate change, despite the well-established impacts of warming temperatures, severe weather events, and increased humidity on Iowa farmers.

The Farm Bureau’s lobbying against proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions hasn’t been as noticeable as its steps to block water quality standards and meaningful state-led or collaborative efforts to reduce soil loss and water pollution from conventional farming. But the organization has also opposed federal and state policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. The American Farm Bureau Federation and its state affiliates lobbied to weaken the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act before a U.S. House vote and helped kill that “cap and trade” proposal in the U.S. Senate. The Farm Bureau’s representative on the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council voted against some recommendations aimed at reducing emissions from the agricultural sector (see pages 103 to 110 of the final report released in December 2008).

In a statement enclosed in full below, Frerick argued that the century-old organization would “be advocating for steps to fight climate change” if it were true to its stated mission of standing for Iowa farmers and rural communities. Instead, the Farm Bureau’s stance tracks with major oil companies in which its for-profit insurance arm has invested.

One of six Democrats seeking the nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, Frerick has focused his message on issues affecting the agricultural sector, particularly economic concentration. Last month he linked Iowa Farm Bureau investments in agribusiness giants to the organization’s failure to oppose consolidation in the hybrid seed market, which raises production costs for grain farmers.

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Iowa Senate Republicans seeking to end solar tax credit

The official Iowa Senate Republican tax plan would repeal the state’s popular Solar Energy Systems tax credit later this year.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Randy Feenstra introduced Senate Study Bill 3197 on February 21 and scheduled a subcommittee meeting on the 130-page bill for 8:00 am the following morning. Sweeping changes to individual and corporate income tax rates could reduce state revenue by more than $1 billion annually, though the details are unclear, because no fiscal analysis is publicly available.

Although the bill would create a new legislative committee to “comprehensively review and evaluate each tax credit” (pages 31-2), it also calls for scaling back or eliminating some tax credits, with the solar incentive the first to go.

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GOP Ag candidate upsets partisan balance on environmental commission

The state commission that oversees environmental policies will no longer conform to Iowa standards on bipartisanship once its leader files papers as a Republican candidate for secretary of agriculture in the coming weeks.

Fayette County farmer Chad Ingels announced on January 25 that he will seek the GOP nomination for secretary of agriculture, KGLO Radio’s Jesse Stewart reported. A former Iowa State Extension watershed specialist who now measures fertilizer applications for a private non-profit, Ingels has served on the Environmental Protection Commission since 2013. He has chaired that body since last June, shortly after his reappointment to a four-year term expiring in 2021. Of the nine commissioners, Ingels is the only registered no-party voter.

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Five cases against Iowa's phony "water quality" bill

Iowa House Republicans capitulated on January 23, sending the Senate’s version of a bill to fund water programs to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk. During the floor debate on Senate File 512, several Democrats and Republican State Representative Chip Baltimore argued for the water quality language House members had approved last year with strong bipartisan support. Whereas agricultural lobby groups were the primary supporters of Senate File 512, a large number of stakeholders were involved in crafting the House amendment. Insisting on the House version would have sent the legislation to a conference committee for further negotiations. All 41 House Democrats and five Republicans (Baltimore, Mary Ann Hanusa, Jake Highfill, Guy Vander Linden, and Ralph Watts) opposed “receding” from the House version, but the other 54 Republicans approved the motion to abandon that language (roll call).

The subsequent 59 to 41 vote to approve final passage of the Senate bill mostly followed party lines, but four Democrats who represent smaller towns and rural areas voted yes: Bruce Bearinger, Helen Miller, Scott Ourth, and Todd Prichard. Miller has taken a particular interest in farm-related issues over the years; she is the Agriculture Committee Chair for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators as well as a member of State Agricultural and Rural Leaders.

Four Republicans joined the rest of the House Democrats to oppose Senate File 512: Baltimore, Hanusa, Highfill, and Vander Linden. As floor manager of this legislation in 2017, Baltimore led a group of GOP House members who opposed the Senate’s approach. More recently, he was sidelined as the Iowa Farm Bureau and allies pressured the “Baltimore 16” to accept the Senate bill without amendments. Appearing on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” broadcast on January 22, Baltimore sounded discouraged, saying there was a “snowball’s chance in hell” of a water quality compromise. His final words on that program called for “reasonable minds” to get something “comprehensive and collaborative done, rather than shoving one bill down another chamber’s throat and promising to work on it later.”

New floor manager John Wills promised passage of Senate File 512 would be “just the beginning, not the end” of legislative discussions on water quality. No one I know in the environmental community believes Republicans will approve any further funding increases for water programs, much less a bill that would measure progress so the public could find out what methods work best to reduce water pollution.

I enclose below some of the best takes I’ve seen on the worse-than-doing-nothing bill Reynolds will soon sign.

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