Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Labor Day links and events coming up this week

Hope you’ve been enjoying the perfect Iowa weather during this holiday weekend. The U.S. Department of Labor and Blog for Iowa provide background on the history of Labor Day.

Organized labor doesn’t have a lot to celebrate right now, with more job losses in the manufacturing sector and unemployment rising across the country (though Iowa’s unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national average). The Iowa Policy Project finds that “the state of working Iowa” is not good. As in the previous recession, we are losing jobs with good benefits as wages stagnate for the people who still have jobs. We now rank 32nd in terms of median wages, and lower incomes mean less money for consumers to spend at other businesses. Click here for the full report, which also explains that “policy makers could do more to make work pay for low- and moderate-income working families and to insist upon job-quality requirements in economic development strategies.”  

Iowa hasn’t adopted most of organized labor’s key legislative priorities in recent years, in part because of the “six-pack” of Iowa House Democrats that blocked those bills. On the plus side, Curt Hanson’s victory in the House district 90 special election means we haven’t lost any ground on this front. We only need to persuade one or two “six-pack members” (or defeat them in Democratic primaries) to find the 51st vote for “prevailing wage,” for instance.

I haven’t heard much lately about Senator Tom Harkin’s efforts to find a compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act. Getting 60 votes in the Senate for anything meaningful is likely to be quite difficult. The Service Employees International Union has some news related to the EFCA here.

Two years ago I attended the Solidarity Fest Labor Day celebration in Des Moines, featuring John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. The same event, sponsored by the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, takes place today in the 4-H building at the State Fairgrounds from noon to 2 pm. Later today, the Friends of Iowa Midwives are having a family-friendly potluck picnic at Raccoon River park in West Des Moines (4 to 8 pm, suggested donation $5).

After the jump I’ve posted details for lots of other events coming up this week.

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Follow Grassley's advice to find affordable health care

Health Care for America Now, in conjunction with the Iowa Citizen Action Network, is running an online ad that links to a “job application” citizens can fill out to request a position with Senator Chuck Grassley’s office.

You may recall that Grassley told a constituent at a recent town-hall meeting to “go work for the federal government” if he wanted the same health insurance plan the senator enjoys:

Excerpt from an ICAN press release, which I have posted in full after the jump:

Senator Grassley, whose health care bills are picked up by taxpayers, pays $356.59 a month for health insurance.  The most he pays when visiting a doctor or hospital is $300. His “Let Them Eat Cake” attitude ignores the plight of working families, farmers, and small business owners in Iowa who don’t have adequate, affordable health care and are going broke trying to keep up with insurance premiums and medical costs.

“Polls show that the majority of Iowans, like the majority of people in America, want health care reform that achieves quality, affordable health care for all,” said Betty Ahrens, Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Network. “Senator Grassley keeps blocking progress in the Senate Finance Committee. He talks about bipartisanship but is showing no intention of compromise, and after his comments in Waukon, we know just how out of touch Senator Grassley is with the real struggles of his constituents in Iowa. Everyone here should see this video, and we will do what we can to make sure Senator Grassley knows his “Get a Job Like Mine” solution to the health care crisis is unacceptable.”

Excerpt from the “job application”:

I work hard, and I pay my taxes, but I cannot keep up with health care costs that are rising four times faster than wages if I can even get health care at all, what with all the denials of needed care that my insurance company throws in my way. Meanwhile, Members of Congress get health care that’s affordable, and nobody is going to deny care to an elected official!

Senator Grassley has so graciously offered to provide me health care as good as he has if I work for the federal government, and so I am applying for a position in Senator Grassley’s office in the hope he will make good on that promise. If he cannot, the only hope I have to obtain quality, affordable health care for me and my family is if Senator Grassley drops his opposition and supports real health care reform – reform that gives me a choice of public or private insurance, make care affordable, and delivers good benefits.

Volunteers will deliver the “job applications” to Grassley’s office next week. Although he’s not going to change his mind about a public health insurance option, we can show how out of touch he is with Iowans.

Fortunately, a group of Senate Democrats are strongly committed to the public option, dimming prospects for a bipartisan compromise on health care that would please Grassley.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

I was downtown today helping set up a couple of booths for the Natural Living Expo tomorrow, which has been taking up a lot of my time lately. Maybe I’ll see some of you there, but I won’t have my “desmoinesdem” hat on, so won’t be talking about partisan politics.

As always, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I’ve left out.

The calendar is after the jump.

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Events coming up this week

Happy Spring, Bleeding Heartland readers! There’s a lot happening this week, and I’ve posted the events after the jump.

Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something good happening that I’ve left out.

If you live within striking distance of Iowa City, there’s a benefit for the Iowa Renewable Energy Association tonight at the Mill (details below).

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

There’s a lot going on in the next couple of weeks for those who haven’t split Iowa for spring break. Event details are after the jump.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I’ve left out.

FYI, the Iowa Environmental Council has a job opportunity:

The Iowa Environmental Council is in the process of establishing an air quality program area. The Council is seeking an individual to conduct research, engage in coalition building and public education and advise the Council on policy opportunities available to protect Iowa’s air quality. For job requirements, description, salary information and how to apply, go to: www.iaenvironment.org, and click on “job opening” on the gold sidebar.

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