Justice should be blind. Not willfully blind

A Polk County District Court has ruled that transgender Iowans must exhaust all administrative remedies before challenging in court a new state law designed to prevent Medicaid from covering gender-affirming surgery.

In a July 18 order dismissing the ACLU of Iowa’s lawsuit on behalf of Mika Covington, Aiden Vasquez, and the LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa, Judge David Porter wrote that the plaintiffs seeking surgery “have an adequate remedy at law” and that their case “is not ripe for judicial consideration.”

In other words, Covington and Vasquez must jump through hoops that will take many months, possibly years, before any court can consider their claim that denying Medicaid coverage for medically necessary procedures violates their constitutional rights.

Porter’s decision ignored evidence pointing to the law’s discriminatory intent as well as its impact on the plaintiffs.

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IA-04: Bob Vander Plaats adds to bad news piling up for Steve King (updated)

One of Iowa’s most prominent social conservatives has compounded U.S. Representative Steve King’s political problems.

Bob Vander Plaats worked closely with King during the 2010 campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices, and the two were among Senator Ted Cruz’s top Iowa supporters before the 2016 caucuses.

But Vander Plaats just endorsed King’s leading GOP primary rival.

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Kim Reynolds thumbed her nose at ISU students for nothing

Democrat Ross Wilburn will be unopposed in the August 6 special election to represent Iowa House district 46. The deadline to file nominating papers was on July 12 at 5:00 pm, and Wilburn is the only name on the Iowa Secretary of State’s candidate list.

A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Iowa told the Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller that the GOP would not field a candidate for the special election, but did not indicate why. The Libertarian Party of Iowa also declined to compete for this district; Libertarians have occasionally nominated candidates in House district 45, covering other Ames neighborhoods.

In all likelihood, Wilburn would have won this election regardless of the timing or the competition, given the political layout of House district 46. The strongest potential GOP candidate, Ames City Council member Tim Gartin, took himself out of the running early, and several Democratic presidential candidates have either headlined events for Wilburn or had their staff help knock doors for him.

If Republicans weren’t planning to play for this seat, it was exceptionally foolish for Governor Kim Reynolds to set the election on the first Tuesday allowed under state law. She could have scheduled the vote for late August or September, when most Iowa State University students would be back in Ames.

All Reynolds accomplished by picking August 6 was reinforcing the narrative that she doesn’t care about constituents who don’t politically align with her. She could have shown her commitment to fair play by picking a day that would give more House district 46 residents a voice. Instead, she used the levers of power to depress Democratic turnout–for nothing.

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Kim Reynolds keeps giving away the store to for-profit Medicaid managers

Governor Terry Branstad and then Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds promised endlessly that privatizing Medicaid would make the system more “sustainable.” The talking point became a crutch for Governor Reynolds whenever she faced questions about problems privatization has created for patients, caregivers, and health care providers.

The old state-run Medicaid system wasn’t sustainable, Reynolds told reporters again and again. The new system was becoming more sustainable, she claimed during all three debates against her 2018 opponent Fred Hubbell.

The latest reality check arrived on July 10. For the second year in a row, for-profit companies that manage care for hundreds of thousands of Iowans on Medicaid will receive more than an 8 percent increase in government payments.

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Democrats running for president must lead on the Supreme Court

Brian Fallon of Demand Justice: “Progressives need to hold Democrats accountable for their role in aiding and abetting Trump’s takeover of our courts and insist on a more aggressive response.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Our democracy is broken, and the Republican capture of the Supreme Court is a major reason why.

Over the last two decades, decisions like Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and Shelby County v. Holder have betrayed the principle of “one person, one vote” and undermined confidence that our elections are truly free and fair.

With its decision this term in a high-profile gerrymandering case, the Republican majority on the court has gone further still, effectively given a green light to the partisan redrawing of maps.

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Sedgwick landed six-year, $7.9 million state contract with also-ran cost proposal

Des Moines freelance writer John Morrissey digs into how a well-connected company landed a lucrative state contract. Laura Belin contributed reporting to this story.

Four months after being awarded a contract to administer Iowa’s worker’s compensation program for state employees, a politically connected West Des Moines company has apparently not come to terms with the state to continue its work.

Sedgwick Claims Management Services LLC was selected in early March to keep handling the program, even though a competitor achieved a better score on three cost proposal items. The state will pay Sedgwick $7.9 million in administrative costs over six years. Runner-up bidder TRISTAR Risk Enterprise Management LLC offered to do the work for a little more than $6 million, a potential savings of nearly $1.9 million over the contract period.

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS) provided copies of all submitted bids for the current and previous bid cycles upon receiving John Morrissey’s public records request. But the department has declined further comment about the award and refused to clarify the scoring system or other matters related to this bid process. The new DAS director Jim Kurtenbach did not respond to a request for an interview about this matter.

Sedgwick’s bid contact officer referred questions to several state officials and the company’s public relations office. That office also did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry.

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