Iowa legislative news roundup: dead and alive after the second funnel

The Iowa legislature’s second “funnel” deadline passed late last week. To remain eligible for debate during the remainder of this year’s session, most legislation needed to have passed one chamber as well as a committee in the other chamber. There are a few exceptions to the rule, namely appropriations bills and some tax measures. Rod Boshart listed the most significant “dead” and “alive” bills for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The Iowa House Republican staff compiled a more comprehensive list of “second funnel survivors,” including bill summaries. The Iowa Senate Democratic staff highlighted the most important bills passed by the Senate that died in the House.

After the jump I’ve enclosed more links and some analysis on bills that died as well as those still under consideration. From my perspective, the most surprising casualty of the funnel was a bill to extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children (see the “safety and crime” section below).

Any comments on pending legislation in the Iowa House or Senate are welcome in this thread.  

Continue Reading...

Iowa House Democrat Scott Ourth rules out bid in Senate district 13

State Senator Kent Sorenson’s resignation will force a special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The two sides of this Senate seat are House district 25, represented by two-term Republican Julian Garrett, and House district 26, represented by first-term Democrat Scott Ourth. I asked Ourth whether he would consider running in the special election. He responded,

“I am flattered and honored that so many of my neighbors and friends have asked me to consider a bid for the Iowa Senate seat vacated today by Senator Kent Sorenson.  I did not run for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives to use it as a launch pad for higher office.  The people of House District 26 placed their trust in me in the 2012 election, and I intend to represent them to the best of my ability. The voters of this district elected me to be their voice, and to advocate for them in the Iowa House.  Hence, I will continue my work as an Iowa State Representative, working to create jobs, improve education, support agriculture, and give voice to our seniors, veterans, and children.”

John Deeth speculated about some possible candidates from both parties yesterday. Perhaps Mark Davitt, who lost his Iowa House seat to Sorenson in 2008, will take a shot at the special election. As for the Republicans, the Warren County GOP has plenty of ambitious tea party types, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Garrett stay in his Madison County-based House district. I doubt Jodi Tymeson would leave her new position as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in the hope of joining the minority caucus in the Iowa Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I’ve posted a map of Senate district 13 after the jump. As of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters.

UPDATE: Speaking by telephone on October 3, Garrett told me he is thinking about running in the special election but hasn’t made a decision yet.

Continue Reading...

Branstad appoints new leader for Iowa Veterans Home

Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that he had accepted the resignation of David Worley as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. After the jump I’ve posted the official press release, including Worley’s resignation letter. His successor will be retired Brig. Gen. and former State Representative Jodi Tymeson, whom Branstad named chief operating officer at the Iowa Veterans Home in May. At that time, the governor’s staff dismissed claims that Worley (a holdover from Chet Culver’s administration) had created a hostile work environment at the home. I never understood why Branstad would create an entirely new management position for Tymeson if Worley truly had “the governor’s full faith and confidence.”

I also enclose below comments from Iowa Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Daryl Beall and State Senator Steve Sodders, who represents the Marshalltown area. Beall presided over a lengthy Senate hearing on alleged problems at the Iowa Veterans Home in May, after which Sodders called for a full investigation of Worley’s conduct.

Veterans’ advocate Bob Krause, who is exploring a run for governor, discussed Worley’s resignation and ways to improve conditions for Iowa Veterans Home staff and residents in an open letter, which I’ve posted below.

I’ll say this for Branstad: he knows how to bury a story. On a slow news day, Worley’s resignation might have generated a lot of Iowa media coverage and questions about why the governor waited so long to replace him. Instead, this news will be overshadowed by coverage of the federal government shutdown and the new health insurance exchanges.

Continue Reading...

Branstad appoints new Veterans Affairs director

Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that he has appointed retired Col. Robert King to run the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs. A press release with background on King is after the jump. He should have no trouble being confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

King replaces former State Representative and retired Brig. Gen. Jodi Tymeson. Earlier this month, the governor appointed Tymeson to a newly-created management position at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.  

Continue Reading...

Branstad insists all is well but shakes up Iowa Veterans Home management (updated)

Governor Terry Branstad has created a new position at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown for retired Brig. Gen. Jodi Tymeson, a former state legislator who currently directs the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.

Strangely, the governor and his staff deny having any concerns about the leadership of Iowa Veterans Home Commandant David Worley.

Continue Reading...

Latest Branstad administration news and appointments

Governor-elect Terry Branstad announced three appointments on December 7. He will retain Brigadier General Tim Orr as Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, a post Orr has held since March 2009. Story County Treasurer Dave Jamison, who unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer, will head the Iowa Finance Authority in the Branstad administration. Retired Iowa Army National Guard Brigadier General Jodi Tymeson will lead the state Department of Veterans Affairs. Tymeson retired from the Iowa House this year, having represented district 73 for five terms.

Press releases containing background information on all three appointees are after the jump. None of them should have trouble being confirmed by the Iowa Senate. I noticed the Branstad administration’s bio of Tymeson didn’t mention her most recent role as co-chair of Bob Vander Plaats’ gubernatorial campaign.

Branstad has asked all state department heads to send him their resignations by December 15. He will replace most, if not all, of Governor Chet Culver’s appointees.

Branstad named three new staffers today. His liaison to the Iowa House and Senate will be Todd Schulz, who has handled government relations for Newton-based Iowa Telecom. The governor’s executive scheduler will be Alicia Freed, a former staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley who most recently worked as project manager for RuffaloCODY LLC in Cedar Rapids. Jimmy Centers, who was northeast Iowa field coordinator for Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign, will be deputy communications director. I wouldn’t be surprised if Centers got a promotion before too long, because Branstad’s communications director Tim Albrecht may go work for one of the Republican presidential campaigns in 2011.

Meanwhile, Branstad spoke about his property tax plans while addressing the Iowa Taxpayers Association’s annual meeting in West Des Moines today.

In proposing to cut commercial property tax rates by 35 percent to 40 percent for new businesses and phase down rates for existing businesses in a like manner over four or five years, Branstad said part of the lost revenues for local entities could be offset by increased business activity that would generate new property tax receipts. He also suggested that cities and counties should be less aggressive in offering tax increment financing and abatements that create disparities among new and existing businesses.

The price tag for lowering the commercial property tax burden would depend on the growth the proposed relief could generate, he said. Branstad said his plan would be to provide state funding to hold local governments “harmless” but not give them a windfall in the process – similar to when the state phased out the property tax on machinery and equipment in the 1990s when he previously served as governor.

“We want to make this adjustment in a fair way,” Branstad said, conceding that the cost could be as much as $500 million over four years.

The Iowa Taxpayers Association supports Branstad’s property tax plans, but Republican legislative leaders have warned getting the proposal through the legislature will be difficult. Yesterday Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal described the phase-out of the property tax on machinery and equipment as “pretty close to the biggest unfunded mandate in the history of the state.” The executive directors of the National League of Cities and the Iowa League of Cities both expressed concern about Branstad’s proposal:

No other state in the nation is considering similar cuts to commercial property taxes, said Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, a national advocate for municipalities. Resulting cuts to key city services such as police protection and road improvements ultimately could push businesses away, he said.

“The objective” to lower commercial property tax “is a laudable one, but the cost to municipalities could be draconian,” Borut said. “If there is some way to guarantee in blood that the municipalities would be held harmless, it’s one thing, but I don’t know how one can do that. Even with the best intentions, the pressures would be enormous.”

UPDATE: James Q. Lynch has more on local government officials worrying about Branstad’s property tax proposals. In that piece, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett raises some good points:

Cedar Rapids is more dependent on property taxes than many communities, Corbett said. It has no gaming revenue and it local option sales tax is dedicated to flood recovery.

On a personal level, he’d like to see property tax relief targeted to benefit local businesses.

“Is there some different classification within commercial property tax base so you’re not giving Wal-mart a tax break at the same level as small business” he said.

Continue Reading...
View More...