# John Frew

A bad start to the week for Culver

It’s looking like another rough week for Governor Chet Culver. News broke yesterday that his chief of staff is taking a new job, and the Department of Criminal Investigation is looking into campaign contributions from people who back a new casino for Fort Dodge.

Follow me after the jump for links and background on those stories.

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Weekend open thread: Legislative preview edition

The legislative session begins this week, and budget issues are likely to dominate the proceedings.

Some state tax credits will be scrapped and others curtailed if lawmakers enact recommendations released on Friday by a commission Governor Chet Culver appointed. State Senator Joe Bolkcom, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee in the upper chamber, has vowed to pass as many of the recommendations as possible. I expect major pushback from corporate lobbyists against many of the proposals, however.

House Speaker Pat Murphy is not ruling out significant layoffs of state workers. It really is unfair to balance the budget mostly on the backs of state workers, especially since demand for state services increases during a recession.

I was surprised to see Culver’s chief of staff, John Frew, suggest a scaled-back version of “fair share” legislation could pass this session. If Democrats don’t have the votes for a prevailing wage bill, I can’t imagine they’ll get 51 votes for fair share, but I hope I’m wrong.

Kathie Obradovich previews other issues that are likely to come up during the legislative session.

Democratic leaders insist a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is off the table, but Republicans will use every trick in the book to try to bring the issue to the floor.

Roxanne Conlin plans to visit all 99 counties in her Senate campaign, just like Senator Chuck Grassley has been doing every year for the past three decades.

In other news, Iowa may be on the verge of coming out of the deep freeze. I read today that the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Iowa since January 1 was 20 degrees Fahrenheit one day in Keokuk (southeast corner of the state). How are you surviving the cold? I’ve been wearing slippers, wool sweaters and extra layers. My kids still insist they are comfortable running around the house in pajamas and bare feet. Our dog could walk for miles, even on the days when it’s been below zero F when I’m out with him.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Revive the Iowa Food Policy Council

Over the weekend I talked with lots of people who attended the Community Food Security Coalition’s annual conference in Des Moines. Good programs in Iowa and other states are encouraging more people to eat food produced on nearby farms. Iowans have long supported our farmer’s markets, but we could be doing more to promote and expand our local food networks.

One step in the right direction would be for Governor Chet Culver to revive the Iowa Food Policy Council, which functioned from 2001 to 2004. (The council’s reports are available here.) Hear me out after the jump.

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Chet Culver news roundup

Governor Chet Culver hired John Frew as chief of staff yesterday to replace Charlie Krogmeier, whom Culver appointed head of the Department of Human Services in May. Frew goes way back in Iowa politics, having worked for Senator John Culver (the governor’s father) and managed Tom Harkin’s first Senate campaign in 1984. Frew will begin as chief of staff in late September. Until then, Culver has named his general counsel Jim Larew as acting chief of staff. After the jump I’ve posted a news release from the governor’s office with more background on Frew and Larew.

Also on Thursday, the Culver/Judge re-election campaign announced that

A long-time and respected political strategist is returning to Iowa to help Governor Chet Culver’s campaign committee prepare for 2010. Teresa Vilmain will serve as a senior advisor to the Chet Culver Committee.

“Teresa Vilmain is not only synonymous with well-run, well-organized political campaigns around the nation, but she knows and loves Iowa,” said Governor Culver. “As we start to look ahead to 2010, Teresa will play a leading role in helping us prepare our effort to reach out to Iowans about the important issues we are working on in our state.”

I’ve posted the full text of that news release, containing more background on Vilmain, after the jump. Some highlights: she was deputy manager of Harkin’s 1984 campaign and general consultant to both of Tom Vilsack’s winning gubernatorial campaigns. Vilsack had to come from behind to beat Jim Ross Lightfoot in 1998 and faced re-election in 2002, which was a challenging national environment for Democrats.

First Lady Mari Culver was in Mason City on Thursday

to talk about state grant funding for shelters for domestic abuse, emergencies and the homeless and the need to apply for it soon.

Available through the $10 million Public Service Shelter Grant Program, a part of the Iowa Jobs Program (IJobs), the funding is for construction, expansion or upgrades. […]

Funding can be used for deferred maintenance issues, additional security measures and expansion, said Culver […]

I recommend reading the whole article in the Mason City Globe-Gazette for more on the pressing needs of Iowa’s crisis shelters. Click here to listen to the first lady’s comments about this program in an interview with KGLO radio. Applications for this portion of the I-JOBS money are due next Wednesday, July 15. Click the link for the Iowa Finance Authority’s contact information. Republicans can criticize the I-JOBS borrowing all they want, but this is another example of how I-JOBS will improve services that Iowans need.

Finally, I want to call your attention to a new poll that The Iowa Republican blog has been highlighting this week. I will have more to say about the poll in a future post, but for now, here are some important facts:

This statewide poll conducted by Voter/Consumer Research found that 53 percent of Iowans approve of the job Culver is doing as governor, while 41 percent disapprove. Furthermore, 48 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of Culver, while 41 percent had an unfavorable impression.

Of course, The Iowa Republican blog is putting a Republican spin on these results. Criag Robinson headlined one post “53 percent of Iowans want a new governor,” based on a question suggesting that 36 percent said Culver deserves re-election, while 53 percent said it’s time to give someone else the chance. He also touted the findings on some issue-based questions that had ridiculously biased wording.

The bottom line is this: in a Republican-commissioned poll, Culver has a 53 percent approval rating and a 48 percent favorability rating. Also, the statewide survey sample contains “35% Republicans, 37% Democrats, 25% Independent or declined to state, and 2% other/don’t know.” I’m looking into how that compares with the proportion of Democrats and Republicans who have cast ballots in recent Iowa general elections.

I’ll write more about this poll when The Iowa Republican releases more of the findings.

LATE UPDATE: Forgot to mention this story:

Gov. Chet Culver on Thursday directed state revenue officials to delay any enforcement against taxpayers who claimed disaster-related credits on their state tax returns that later were not validated by Iowa lawmakers.[…]

The federal changes approved for 2008 offered income-tax deductions, exemptions and other advantages for such items as disaster-related expenses, business equipment depreciation, education-related expenses, tuition and fees and certain sales tax charges. The state, however, did not retroactively adopt those deductions as part of the state tax code.

On Wednesday, Culver asked the state Department of Revenue to provide him “any and all options” to address the issue, and one day later he sent a letter to agency director Mark Schuling directing him to “hold off specific enforcement” for taxpayers who may have claimed federal disaster relief provisions on their state returns.

“I am aware that changes must be made by the Iowa Legislature in order for these same disaster relief provisions to be available for Iowa tax purposes,” Culver said in the letter. “This will require legislation in 2010 to couple with the federal law changes that will benefit those individuals and businesses directly impacted by the 2008 disasters.”

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