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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Events coming up the next two weeks

There’s a lot going on the next two weeks, so I put all the details 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.

I noticed on the Iowa Environmental Council’s newsletter that they are looking for a new program director:

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. Please share this information with others.

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Action: Tell Congress to support fair pay for women

I received this message from the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women.

Information provided by the National Women’s Law Center:

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to act as soon as this week on fair pay for women – and we need your help.

Especially during these tough economic times, women need equal pay for equal work to ensure self-sufficiency and dignity. Please contact your Members of Congress now!

The House is expected to vote soon on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act – key bills that would give women the tools they need to challenge pay discrimination. The Senate may follow with a vote as soon as early next week.

Please contact your Members of Congress today with a clear message: It’s time to sign, seal and deliver pay equity for all women by passing fair pay legislation immediately, so that President-Elect Obama can sign it into law during his first few days in office.

You can e-mail your lawmakers, or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you to your Senators and Representative. When you’re connected to their offices, tell the person who answers the phone:

1.   I am a constituent. My name is __________.

2.   I urge you to vote in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, and to oppose any weakening amendments and any motions to recommit.

3.   Thank you for supporting fair pay for women.

For background on what happened to Lilly Ledbetter and why this law is needed, read this diary by Daily Kos user Femlaw, a civil rights attorney.

Here is the roll call from a 2007 House vote on this measure. All three Democratic representatives from Iowa voted yes, while Tom Latham and Steve King voted no. If you call the offices of Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack or Leonard Boswell, please indicate that you know they voted for this bill in 2007 and would appreciate their continued support.

If you live in the fourth or fifth Congressional districts, you may want to be armed with more talking points about why this is a good idea. I don’t expect Latham or King to change their stand because of phone calls, but it can’t hurt to let them know that their constituents are watching and are paying attention to this issue.

Senate Republicans filibustered the bill last spring. Even then, there were 56 votes in favor. Since Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, we should have enough votes to break a filibuster this year (even if Republicans temporarily block the seating of Senator Al Franken because of Norm Coleman’s unfounded election contest).

You probably won’t be surprised to learn from the Senate roll call that Tom Harkin voted yes on the cloture motion (to bring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act up for a vote), while Chuck Grassley voted no on cloture (to filibuster the bill). If you call Grassley’s office, urge him to stop obstructing this important bill.

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Events coming up this week

I haven’t posted an event calendar for the last couple of weeks, because there was hardly anything going on. Things are picking up again this week, however.

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know if an event I’ve left out, which would be of interest to the Bleeding Heartland community.

Monday, December 8:

Learning from the Floods of 2008: Practical Strategies for Resilience

Join the conversation December 8, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m, at a flood workshop at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames. This workshop will explore the potential ways to mitigate future flooding and offer insights from experts in agriculture, water and land use, urban planning and government, and representatives from state and federal agencies. Sessions are planned on Flood 2008 realities; farming systems; urban systems and river systems. Sponsors for the event are the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa. The workshop is free but registrations must be received by Monday, December 1 at the conference web site: http://www.flood.leopold.iasta…  For more information, contact Jeri Neal, wink@iastate.edu, or (515) 294-5610. (Note: It may be worth calling first thing on Monday to see if you can get in, even past the registration deadline.)

IowaPolitics.com is hosting a panel discussion featuring Iowa’s legislative leaders and from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Confirmed panelists include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. It will be located at the Iowa Historical Building, third floor, Classroom A & B. (Doors open at 2 p.m.) In theory, you were supposed to RSVP by December 1 if you wanted to attend, but it may be worth contacting Julie Rutz at 515.226.8774 or email rutz@IowaPolitics.com to see if there is still seating available. Free parking will be available in a ramp located directly North of the Historical Building on Grand Avenue.

If anyone goes to this forum, you might want to ask ask why the legislative leadership isn’t making local control (agricultural zoning) a priority, even though both parties’ platforms endorse the principle. I think I know the answer to that question, but I would be curious to know how the leaders answer.

On Monday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, join One Iowa for the public premiere of “Our Story”, One Iowa’s short film featuring Iowans speaking out in favor of marriage for gays and lesbians. The screening will be at Fleur Cinema and Cafe, 4545 Fleur Drive in Des Moines. Come celebrate with us and don’t miss your chance to mingle with the stars! Light appetizers will be provided with a cash bar. Remarks by Senator Matt McCoy and Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu.

RSVP here: http://eqfed.org/oneiowa/event…

For more information, contact One Iowa at (515) 288-4019 or organize@oneiowa.org

Tuesday, December 9:

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a marriage equality case (Varnum v. Brien):

Join One Iowa across the state to celebrate and learn more about this historic opportunity for equality. Given the interest in the case and limited capacity, we anticipate that there will not be enough seating for everyone in the Supreme Court chamber.  To accommodate growing interest from our supporters, One Iowa has planned several “watch parties” across the state!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 – 9:45 – 11:30 AM

Des Moines Watch Party – Des Moines Public Library, 1000 Grand Avenue

Ames Watch Party – ISU Memorial Union, Gallery Room (3rd Floor), 2229 Lincoln Way

Iowa City Watch Party – Iowa City Public Library, 123 South Linn

We are making every effort to ensure a live-feed at each of these locations; but due to technology limitations and previous experiences in other states, we cannot make any guarantees on the quality of the live-feed. Regardless, this will be a great way for our supporters to gather for a truly historic event!

If you can’t watch the Supreme Court arguments live, One Iowa is organizing a “Making the Case” Des Moines Reception on Tuesday from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Pappajohn Center, 1200 Grand Avenue in Des Moines. Join us in the evening for a reception to discuss this historic event with remarks by Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s senior attorney on the case. If the district court ruling is upheld, it will provide gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry; full marriage equality in Iowa. Wine and hors d’oeuvres provided.

Also on December 9, James Patchett, landscape architect, hydrologist and founder/president of the Conservation Design Forum in Chicago, will explore peoples’ cultural relationships to land and water resources. His presentation will be from 4-5:30 p.m. at the UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education in the Auditorium (Cedar Falls). It is free and open to the public. Patchett will present case studies that show how to apply sustainable development practices of green roof technologies, porous pavements, bio-retention systems, and integration of native landscapes. For more information, go to http://www.ceee.uni.edu.

From the Sierra Club e-mail list:

Conference to Assist Those Planning to Circumvent Disaster from Future Weather Events Will Be Held December 9-11 in Coralville

Learn from the experience of those impacted by natural disasters, their recovery, the regulatory issues involved, the rebuilding process, and an exploration of strategies to consider prior to reconstruction. Attend the Iowa Disaster Recovery Conference scheduled for December 9 and 10 at the Marriott Coralville Hotel & Conference Center. An optional community design workshop led by design professionals will be held December 11 at the same location.

Three concurrent breakout sessions tracks are offered for Natural Disaster Recovery, Regulatory Compliance, and Sustainability/Green Design. Keynote speakers are Bob Dixon of Greensburg, Kansas, and former Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, President, Smart Growth Leadership Institute.

Conference agenda and registration are available at www.iowalifechanging.com/register .

This conference is sponsored by Department of Economic Development, Rebuild Iowa Office, Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Waste Reduction Center.

Wednesday, December 10:

Join One Iowa and Lambda Legal for a “Making the Case” townhall forum in Cedar Rapids to celebrate and discuss the oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court in the landmark Varnum v. Brien case. The event will take place from 6:30-7:30 pm at CSPS/Legion Arts, 1103 3rd St SE in Cedar Rapids.

Thursday, December 11:

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are holding a “Making the Case” townhall forum from 6:30-7:30 at  Davenport Unitarian, 3707 Eastern Ave in Davenport.

Friday, December 12:

The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women is organizing a lunch and learn:

Bring your lunch and join the discussion regarding violence against college women. Presenters will be Annette Lynch with the Iowa Regent’s Campus Violence Prevention Project and Karen Mitchell with the SAVE* Forum Actors, University of Northern Iowa . The panel will be moderated by Rachel Scott, ICSW division administrator.

Friday, December 12th

12 noon – 1 p.m.

Lucas State Office Building 6th Floor Cafeteria

321 East 12th Street, Des Moines

Free and open to the public

Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has scheduled a meeting at 1:00 pm in the Wallace State Office Building (5th floor), 502 East 9th Street in Des Moines, to receive public comments about new Antidegradation rules for rivers, streams and lakes in Iowa. Background from the Iowa Environmental Council:

New Water Rules Proposed

Citizen Comments Important!

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has scheduled nine meetings in December and January to receive public comments about new Antidegradation rules for rivers, streams and lakes in Iowa. It is important that citizens attend the meetings or send written comments in support of these protective rules.

These new water rules, called Antidegradation, refer to regulations that significantly increase protections for all rivers, streams and lakes and keep water quality from worsening.  Under the federal Clean Water Act, each state must adopt antidegradation rules for their rivers, streams and lakes.  The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently in the process of proposing antidegradation rules for Iowa waters and is asking for public comments that will help determine how protective (or lax) these rules will be.  That is why it’s important that concerned Iowans participate in this process.

In addition to strengthening protections for all rivers and lakes the proposed rules include an initial list of more than 50 waters with exceptional recreational or ecological significance to receive special designation and protection as Outstanding Iowa Waters, including West Lake Okoboji, Spirit lake, Wapsipinicon River, Maquoketa River, and French Creek.

How you can help

1)      Learn about antidegradation policy, frequently asked question, talking points and much more, by reading the documents posted on this section of our website (http://www.iaenvironment.org/Antidegradation1.htm).  Don’t feel like you have to be an expert on antidegradation policy.  If you have questions after reading these documents, call or email Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.  515-244-1194, ext 205.  Heathcote@iaenvironment.org.

2)      Attend a public comment meeting and speak up in support of the antidegradation rules as proposed by the Iowa DNR.  Meetings will be held in December and January.  For a list of dates and locations, go to http://www.iaenvironment.org/w…

Antidegradation rules have been a required component of all state’s Water Quality Standards since 1972 as part of the federal Clean Water Act and have never been fully implemented in Iowa. These rules are a top priority for the Iowa Environmental Council and we are glad the Iowa DNR has finally begun rule making on these important rules.

These rules will allow Iowa to grow sensibly and sustainably by ensuring that new pollution will be allowed into Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams only if it will not harm existing uses of those water bodies and is truly necessary to achieve important social and economic goals of the people of Iowa.

An especially critical part of these new rules are two new designations for Iowa’s highest quality waters called Outstanding Iowa Waters (OIW) and Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW). These new designations require stringent protections against permitting any new sources of pollution that would lower water quality. Currently the Iowa Great Lakes in Dickinson County (including West Lake Okoboji, Big Spirit Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Lower Gar, Upper Gar and Minnewashta) and Dalton Lake in Jackson County are proposed for OIW designation. Also proposed for OIW designation are 46 stream segments (mostly cold  water streams in Northeast Iowa), including portions of the Wapsipinicon River, Maquoketa River, French Creek, Sny Magill Creek, Trout Run, and Waterloo Creek.

Plains Justice is holding a holiday open house at its Cedar Rapids office from 4 to 6 p.m.:  

We have a lot to celebrate, including our second anniversary in November, the addition of several great new staffers, board and advisory board members this year, and getting back on our feet after the flood.  We’re so grateful for the support of all our friends and colleagues.

Our office is at the corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street SW, on the west side of the Cedar River next to I-380, on the second floor.  We’d love to see you.

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