# Labor



What do you have to do to get fired from the Waterloo Police Department?

When I learned last summer that several Waterloo police officers who had used excessive force against black residents had not been disciplined, even after one officer threw a 17-year-old boy to the ground and filed a false report about the incident, and other officers kept their jobs despite making racist remarks at a murder scene or hitting a handcuffed, immobilized suspect on the back of the head, I wondered: what does someone have to do to get fired from the Waterloo Police Department?

Last week the answer became apparent: a lot more than I would have imagined.

One officer remains on the Waterloo force even though Chief Dan Trelka determined he had abused his authority and “displayed poor judgement, unprofessionalism, a lack of competency, a lack of knowledge, a failure to conform to work standards, [and] a failure to take appropriate action”–without showing any remorse.

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The qualities we pray for

Gary Kroeger’s thoughts on the coming campaign in a targeted Congressional district where Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Courtney Rowe are already running. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Two years ago I was in the Democratic primary to unseat Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Along with businessman Ravi Patel and Cedar Rapids city council member Monica Vernon, I ran on progressive values and we strengthened each other’s resolve by engaging every single day with constituents and with each other.

By late summer, Mr. Patel left the primary race and former State Representative Pat Murphy joined. By the following spring (the race was so long I saw seasons change 7 times), I bowed out to support Monica Vernon because I felt that she had the best chance of winning. I went on to run for the Iowa House and Vernon gained the nomination to run against Blum, but incumbents are hard to beat and political intangibles were not in our favor and we both lost.

I’m not pointing this out to re-live the narrative of defeat, but to re-vive the spirit on which we all ran. It was the conviction that we, as Iowans, and as Americans, can do better. We each ran in our respective races because we believed that a dramatic course correction was necessary.

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Hear more from Abby Finkenauer, who's running for Congress in IA-01

Declaring that “Iowans need a fighter who is on their side” who “isn’t afraid to take on out-of-state corporate interests,” State Representative Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque made it official this morning: she will run for Congress next year, rather than seek a third term in the Iowa House. Her campaign is online here, and she’s on Twitter and Instagram @abby4Iowa and on Facebook at Abby4Iowa.

I enclose below Finkenauer’s campaign announcement as well as parts of a passionate speech she delivered on the Iowa House floor last month. I also included excerpts from the transcript of last weekend’s Iowa Public Television program featuring Finkenauer and State Senator Nate Boulton. Some of her remarks echoed themes she raised before a group of Democratic activists in Des Moines in late March. Bleeding Heartland published the full text and audio of that speech here.

Finkenauer joins Cedar Rapids-based engineer Courtney Rowe, the first Democrat to launch a campaign in IA-01. Former State Senator Steve Sodders recently ruled out running for Congress. Earlier this year, State Senator Jeff Danielson of Waterloo and Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson said they are considering this race, but to my knowledge neither has taken concrete steps toward a campaign yet.

Two-term Republican Representative Rod Blum is a top 2018 target for Iowa and U.S. House Democrats. The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 161,355 active registered Democrats, 143,269 Republicans, and 187,099 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, which is Blum’s home base.

UPDATE: Added below Finkenauer’s statement after Blum voted for the American Health Care Act on May 4.

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IA-Gov: John Norris calls on Democrats to limit campaign donations, spending

Iowa is one of only twelve states with no limits on individual contributions to state-level races. John Norris is challenging Democrats who run for governor in 2018 to “lead by example,” adopting federal campaign contribution limits (capped at $2,700 per person) for the primary election.

Speaking to Democratic activists in Panora (Guthrie County) on April 27, Norris also urged gubernatorial candidates to agree to keep their primary election spending below $1.5 million, saying, “We should campaign on the power of our ideas and spend our time talking to Iowans and not chasing money from wealthy special interests.” I enclose below a longer excerpt from his speech.

Norris will decide soon whether to run for governor. Democrats Rich Leopold, Jon Neiderbach, and Dr. Andy McGuire are already running, likely to be joined by State Representative Todd Prichard, State Senator Nate Boulton, Fred Hubbell, Mike Matson, and/or Mike Carberry (though many Democrats expect Carberry to seek re-election as Johnson County supervisor instead).

Among those candidates, McGuire, Boulton, and Hubbell are the only ones well-positioned to collect many campaign donations larger than $2,700. McGuire recently completed a two-year stint as Iowa Democratic Party chair, during which she solicited many four-figure and five-figure gifts. Roxanne Conlin is among McGuire’s most prominent endorsers. Boulton raised a considerable amount for his first campaign in 2016 and is expected to have strong support from labor unions and attorneys if he joins the field. Hubbell is independently wealthy, having donated $30,000 to the state party during the 2016 cycle, as well as four-figure sums to some other Democratic campaigns. He is rumored to have the support of other central Iowa major donors including Bill Knapp, who gave the Iowa Democratic Party more than $60,000 during the last two years alone. (You can search any individual’s Iowa political donation history here.)

Neiderbach has made campaign finance reform a major theme of his early stump speeches and has promised not to accept any contribution exceeding $500. Leopold speaks often of the need to break the grip “expensive consultants, corporate lobbyists and powerful special interests” have on Iowa’s “insider elite political class.” Bleeding Heartland will soon publish an in-depth interview with Leopold that touches on similar themes.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who has been advising Prichard in recent months, noted in response to this post that both Norris and Prichard have networks outside traditional Iowa donors. Point taken, and I did not mean to imply that other gubernatorial candidates would be unable to raise contributions larger than $2,700. Prichard’s leadership team includes some political heavyweights. Norris has years of experience fundraising for Iowa Democrats and connections to many potential out-of-state donors, due to his past work in President Barack Obama’s administration and with nationally-known Democratic operatives like David Plouffe.

Reacting to this post on Facebook, Neiderbach commented, “Do we want a Governor beholden to the voters – especially those who have historically been marginalized or ignored – or beholden to the rich, to big business, and to other special interests? Couldn’t the money spent on endless TV ads and campaign consultants better be spent donated to food banks and homeless shelters and our underfunded schools? Spending $1.5 million on a primary is obscene. Voters are tired of it. I urge all candidates to follow my lead and limit all donors to $500, telling those who would donate more to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and educate our students.”

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IA-Gov: Ron Corbett continues to lay groundwork for 2018 campaign

Outgoing Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett continues to signal that he is serious about seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Speaking as “president and founder” of the Engage Iowa think tank, Corbett will deliver a major speech on education policy at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Rotary this Monday, May 1.

In a press release enclosed in full below, Corbett said, “This event kick-offs my second round of visits to Iowa rotaries. Last time I was talking about the need for tax modernization and improving Iowa’s water quality – two topics that were at the forefront of discussion this past legislative session and continue to be hot topics. I look forward to re-imagining education and rallying education champions as we work to make improvements to our state’s educational system.” Since late 2015, Corbett has spoken to scores of local business-oriented groups (Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, or Farm Bureau chapters) in 55 counties as of last December.

The landing page of Engage Iowa’s website now advertises a livestream of Corbett’s forthcoming speech. He will promote a new “research-based teacher compensation plan” and discuss “opportunities that the state needs to address” in light of the new collective bargaining law, which could profoundly affect public schools and teachers. The full plan will go up on the think tank’s website after the May 1 Rotary event.

Corbett also has a new book coming out, which sounds like a case to Iowa voters, judging by the blurb on the Barnes and Noble website (emphasis added):

“Beyond Promises” is a memoir of sorts by Ron Corbett, who became the youngest speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives and who now is finishing up his eighth year as mayor of Iowa’s second largest city, Cedar Rapids. In the late 1990s, Corbett was considered a possible Republican candidate for Congress or governor. Then he surprised many and resigned from the Legislature so he wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from home and his growing family. He headed the local Chamber of Commerce for six years, a period in which he led a community campaign to rebuild schools, another to redevelop the Cedar Rapids riverfront and a third that brought professional management to Cedar Rapids city government. Corbett’s tenure as Cedar Rapids mayor coincided with the city’s recovery from a devastating flood in 2008, the costliest natural disaster in Iowa history. Can someone who was a leading Republican voice in much of Iowa reclaim statewide prominence and be elected governor? In 2017, that’s the elephant in the room-the unstated question lingering in the backdrop of “Beyond Promises.” This book is Corbett’s first-person account of where he came from and what shaped him, as well as a chronicle of doing, not simply promising.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has a big head start on fundraising and will have more establishment support in next year’s Republican primary, as the sitting governor–or acting governor, to be more precise. But Corbett sounds ready to take on this challenge, and the book title Beyond Promises hints at a possible line of attack. The Branstad/Reynolds administration hasn’t accomplished any of the four key goals promised during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign: creating 200,000 new jobs, reducing the cost of government by 15 percent, increasing family incomes by 25 percent, and having the “best schools in the nation.”

This year’s severe budget shortfall could also create an opening for Corbett to argue that Branstad and Reynolds mismanaged the state’s finances, compared to the period when he was Iowa House speaker. If revenues fall well below projections again during the coming fiscal year, as former Iowa revenue estimator Jon Muller considers likely, Reynolds may be forced to enact large, disruptive spending cuts in early 2018, as happened this year.

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Stand strong

Andrew Isaacson provides another look at teacher contract negotiations under Iowa’s new collective bargaining law. See also Randy Richardson’s recent commentary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

On February 17th, 2017, Iowa’s 43-year-old collective bargaining law was gutted by the Republican-controlled legislature. The new law has created deep confusion and uncertainty for over 180,000 public sector workers. In Iowa’s public schools, this confusion affects union and non-union employees, administrators, students and the communities that are served by our schools.

I am a field representative for the Iowa State Education Association, the union representing professional educators in nearly every local school district across the state. My work is focused in 17 locals where I concentrate on assisting members with professional issues that may arise. I have heard two requests from those around me. Does the administration truly understand the impact of the new law, and what do we do next? I am going to address both.

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John Norris: Why he may run for governor and what he would bring to the table

With the exhausting battles of the 2017 legislative session behind us, Iowa Democrats can turn their attention to the most pressing task ahead. Next year’s gubernatorial election will likely determine whether Republicans retain unchecked power to impose their will on Iowans, or whether some balance returns to the statehouse.

A record number of Democrats may run for governor in 2018. Today Bleeding Heartland begins a series of in-depth looks at the possible contenders.

John Norris moved back to Iowa with his wife Jackie Norris and their three sons last year, after nearly six years in Washington and two in Rome, Italy. He has been touching base with potential supporters for several weeks and expects to decide sometime in May whether to become a candidate for governor. His “concern about the direction the state’s going” is not in question. Rather, Norris is gauging the response he gets from activists and community leaders he has known for many years, and whether he can raise the resources “to make this a go.”

In a lengthy interview earlier this month, Norris discussed the changes he sees in Iowa, the issues he’s most passionate about, and why he has “something significantly different to offer” from others in the field, who largely agree on public policy. The native of Red Oak in Montgomery County (which happens to be Senator Joni Ernst’s home town too) also shared his perspective on why Democrats have lost ground among Iowa’s rural and small-town voters, and what they can do to reverse that trend.

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Where did the Iowa I love go? A student's perspective

TJ Foley is a senior at Valley High School in West Des Moines. He will pursue a degree in international relations next fall. -promoted by desmoinesdem

To be quite honest, I thought I was done writing about politics in Iowa. As a high school senior, son of a teacher, and lifelong Iowan I am increasingly disillusioned with the direction of this state. This year the Iowa GOP and their special interest friends steamrolled over ordinary Iowans, gutting collective bargaining for public employees, eviscerating workers’ compensation protections, and slashing the wages of thousands of Iowan families, to name a few. Due to their actions, I no longer recognize my home of nearly 18 years. The Iowa I love values workers and teachers more than the narrow priorities of elite special interests like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Brothers. But the Iowa I love and the Iowa we all currently have are no longer the same.

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A shameful end to the most destructive Iowa legislative session of my lifetime

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year around 7:15 am on Saturday, after staying up all night while Republican leaders tried to hammer out last-minute deals on medical cannabis and water quality funding.

The medical cannabis compromise passed with bipartisan majorities in both chambers, but I’m not convinced the revised House File 524 will be an improvement on letting the current extremely limited law expire on July 1. The bill senators approved last Monday by 45 votes to five would have provided some relief to thousands of Iowans suffering from nearly 20 medical conditions. House Republican leaders refused to take it up for reasons Speaker Linda Upmeyer and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow never articulated.

The new bill thrown together during the all-nighter theoretically covers nine conditions, but as Senator Joe Bolkcom explained in a video I’ve enclosed below, the only form of cannabis allowed (cannabidiol) will not be effective to treat eight of those. Although few if any Iowans will be helped, Republicans can now claim to have done something on the issue and will consequently face less pressure to pass a meaningful medical cannabis bill during the 2018 legislative session.

Republicans shut down the 30-year-old Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which supported research on farming practices that could preserve our soil and water resources. But on Friday night, they gave up on doing anything serious to clean up our waterways, 750 of which are impaired, according to the latest data released by the Department of Natural Resources. CORRECTION: More recent DNR data indicate Iowa “contains 608 waterbodies with a total of 818 impairments.” (Some waterways have more than one impaired segment.) On the opening day of this year’s session, Hagenow promised “significant new resources to water quality efforts.” Why not come back next week and keep working until they find some way forward?

I’ll tell you why: lawmakers’ per diems ran out on April 18. Heaven forbid Republicans should work a few more days with no pay to address our state’s most serious pollution problem. Incidentally, this crowd just passed an education budget that will force thousands of students to go deeper in debt. They voted earlier this year to cut wages for tens of thousands of Iowans living paycheck to paycheck in counties that had raised the minimum wage. These “public servants” also handed more than 150,000 public workers an effective pay cut by taking away their ability to collectively bargain over benefits packages. As if that weren’t enough, they made sure many Iowans who get hurt on the job will be denied access to the workers’ compensation system or will get a small fraction of the benefits they would previously have received for debilitating shoulder injuries.

Lives will be ruined by some of the laws Republicans are touting as historic accomplishments.

Even worse, lives will likely end prematurely because of cuts in the health and human services budget to a wide range of programs, from elder abuse to chronic conditions to smoking cessation to Department of Human Services field operations. I enclose below a Democratic staff analysis of its provisions. During House and Senate floor debates, Republican floor managers offered lame excuses about the tight budget, which doesn’t allow us to allocate as much money as we’d like to this or that line item. Naturally, they found an extra $3 million for a new family planning program that will exclude Planned Parenthood as a provider.

Different Republican lawmakers used the same excuses to justify big cuts to victims assistance grants in the justice systems budget. That choice will leave thousands of Iowans–mostly women–without support next year after going through horrific assaults or ongoing abuse.

Despite some big talk from House Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Grassley, Republicans didn’t even try to rein in business tax credits, which have been the state’s fastest-growing expenses in recent years. The budget crunch is real and may get worse. But no one forced Republicans to inflict 100 percent of the belt-tightening on those who rely on public services.

More analysis of the 2017 legislative session is coming to Bleeding Heartland in the near future. All posts about this year’s work in the Iowa House and Senate are archived here. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel summarized some of the important bills that passed this year.

After the jump you’ll find Bolkcom’s commentary on the medical cannabis bill that offers “false hope” to Iowans “who have begged us to help,” along with closing remarks on the session from House Minority Leader Mark Smith and Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg.

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Collective bargaining changes bring new challenges and opportunities

Randy Richardson explains how Iowa’s new collective bargaining law is affecting contract negotiations for teachers. -promoted by desmoinesdem

A lot has been written about the changes Republican lawmakers pushed through on collective bargaining for public employees. The original law, adopted during the term of a Republican governor and approved by a bipartisan vote, has been in existence for over forty years. I became a chief negotiator for our local education association during my second year as a teacher (1977) and remained active in bargaining until my retirement in 2016.

As a former teacher I can appreciate the trauma these changes have brought about for educators. Unfortunately the general public, who has likely not participated in the bargaining process, may find some of these changes hard to understand.

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Will Governor Branstad's legacy be yours as well?

Matt Chapman shares comments he delivered at today’s Iowa House public hearing on Republican budget proposals. -promoted by desmoinesdem

So here we are again in public comments for the seventh time this year, discussing laws that are disproportionately pro-wealthy and anti-worker. These laws are also mostly split along party lines. And I have to hand it to your strategist, as the most damaging laws against workers, many who voted Republican in 2016, were gotten out of the way earlier in the session. And at the end of the session, we have the most divisive legislation brought to the fore in an attempt to appease the very voters you enraged with the destruction of Chapter 20, the union-busting bill.

This will be the governor’s legacy. Will it be yours as well? Let’s compare him to Governor Robert Ray.

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Listen to Abby Finkenauer, who's one step closer to running in IA-01

State Representative Abby Finkenauer has revamped her website and is accepting donations for a possible campaign in Iowa’s first Congressional district. In a statement released today, the two-term House Democrat said,

“Hard-working Iowans deserve to be able to make a decent living that allows them to provide their families with opportunity and a good quality of life. But, too often, wealthy corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us, and the politicians allow it to happen.

“I am considering running for Congress because we need to change that.

“I will spend the next few weeks talking with my family in Dubuque and Iowans throughout the First District. Should I decide to run and have the honor of being elected, I will take the values I learned from my family and my experiences growing up in a blue-collar community to Washington. I will strive to be the fighter Iowa’s working families deserve.”

Finkenauer has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. For now, her website contains little beyond a short bio, a “contribute” button, and a sign-up for supporters or volunteers. Her Facebook page and Instagram and Twitter accounts are still oriented toward an Iowa House campaign. Her YouTube channel doesn’t have any videos talking about a Congressional race.

For those who wonder what a Finkenauer stump speech might sound like, I enclose below the audio and transcript of her remarks at a Democratic event in Des Moines on March 23. For further background, I added a video of one of her floor speeches during the Iowa House debate on the collective bargaining bill in February, and the bio that currently appears on her campaign website.

Finkenauer is only in her late 20s and her third year of service as a state lawmaker, but she has worked in the legislature off and on since becoming a page at age 16. Some might wonder, why the rush to run for higher office? She provided a clue in the interview she gave Elle magazine in 2015:

“People will say that it’s not your turn. But it’s never going to be your turn—ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 60. It will never be your turn. There will always be somebody else with more experience or more of something. But you just have to decide to do it,” she commands. “Just do it. Just jump. Put your name out there and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be for state house. It doesn’t have to be in the state legislature. It could be city council. It could be school board. It could be a local commission. Just do something. If you really care about something, get involved. We need you.”

IA-01 is in the top tier of U.S. House seats Democrats are targeting this cycle. Its 20 counties contain 164,113 active registered Democrats, 144,584 Republicans, and 190,664 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, where Republican incumbent Rod Blum lives. Several other Democrats are considering the race. Last year, Blum ran about five points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried the district by 48.7 percent to 45.2 percent.

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Republican strategy and divisive bills in the Iowa legislature

Matt Chapman wades into what is sure to be an intense debate over how Democrats should communicate with Iowans about this disastrous legislative session. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s no surprise that bills to regulate women’s rights and the gun omnibus were passed in the first week of April, right before the budget and when the end of session is looming.

These are very divisive laws, supported by the majority of the Republican base. The same folks who many of whom were hurt by laws stripping workers of bargaining rights, mandatory wage raises and even watering down workers’ compensation.

It will be interesting to see if this strategy works. My advice to anyone outraged by this session (and I acknowledge that it is too soon to do this now) would be to try to avoid the divisive issues. We have common ground with all workers in Iowa, and if we spend a lot of energy on guns or women’s rights, we will have a hard time trying to get change in our state.

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Read the teachers union lawsuit against Iowa's collective bargaining law

The largest labor union representing Iowa teachers and its Davenport affiliate filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the constitutionality of House File 291, which eliminated almost all collective bargaining rights for teachers.

I enclose below the full text of the initial Polk County District Court filing. Scroll down to read comments Iowa State Education Association President Tammy Wawro delivered at a press conference, which you can watch here.

Like the lawsuit Iowa’s AFSCME chapter filed in February, the new lawsuit targets the unequal treatment of two classes of workers under the revised Chapter 20, which governed collective bargaining here for more than four decades. “Public safety” workers will be able to keep bargaining over a larger range of subjects, while other public employees can negotiate only about a handful of subjects, primarily base pay. ISEA maintains that this division violates Article I, Section 6 of the state constitution, which stipulates, “All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

In addition, the ISEA is challenging the law’s two biggest union-busting provisions: a ban on automatic payroll deduction for union membership and political contributions, and procedures that will make it harder for public unions to stay certified. ISEA holds that the payroll deduction ban also violates the uniformity clause of Article I, Section 6, because such deductions will be allowed for other professional associations or organizations. In addition, the lawsuit charges that by creating “an undemocratic election system” for unions representing public workers, which “counts votes based on population instead of number of votes cast,” the law violates the substantive due process guarantee of Article I, Section 9.

Attorney General Tom Miller is not defending the collective bargaining law, to “avoid any questions about a potential conflict.” The state retained the Belin McCormick law firm to handle legal challenges. At the end of this post, I enclose the motion filed to dismiss ASFCME’s lawsuit; the defense against ISEA’s suit will make the same arguments.

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IA-Gov: Jon Neiderbach's pitch to Democratic voters

“I respectfully ask for the vote of every Iowan who is fed up with politics and government as usual.” So reads the tag line on Jon Neiderbach’s campaign website. Neiderbach was the second Democrat to join a field that may eventually include six or more candidates for governor.

Speaking to a packed room of activists in Des Moines recently, the 2014 nominee for state auditor described himself as a “policy wonk” but also “a community advocate” who has spent most of his political life “on the outside. As an advocate, as an organizer, as somebody who isn’t happy with the status quo.”

The basic principles driving Neiderbach’s candidacy appear on his Facebook page:

In 2018 let’s elect a Governor who believes Iowa needs to Stand Tall for our values and Aim High with our ambitions. A Governor who understands Iowans are FED UP with politics controlled by the wealthy and government that is unresponsive to the needs and concerns of our working families. A Governor who rejects big contributions so as to be beholden only to the voters, and who will fight harder and do more to shake up Iowa politics and government than anyone else you can vote for in 2018. I respectfully ask for your support and for your vote.

Neiderbach elaborated on those themes in an early version of his stump speech, which I enclose below. I also transcribed a short interview, in which Neiderbach shared his approach to finding common ground with some political adversaries, as well as thoughts on lingering divisions within the Iowa Democratic Party between those who favored Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa legislative news roundup

The Iowa legislature’s second “funnel” deadline passed on March 31. In theory, aside from appropriations bills, any legislation that hasn’t yet cleared one chamber and at least one committee in the other chamber is no longer eligible for consideration for this year. However, leaders can resurrect “dead” bills late in the session or include their provisions in appropriations bills. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel reviewed important bills that did or did not make it through the funnel. James Q. Lynch and Rod Boshart published a longer list in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

This paragraph caught my eye from the Register’s story.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said everything that lawmakers are doing is a reflection of learning from states where prosperity is occurring as a result of business-friendly policies. That formula includes low-cost government, innovative public services, and easing regulatory burdens on businesses to spur job creation and to allow Iowa companies to compete in a global marketplace, he added.

Not so much: Republicans following a similar playbook drove Kansas and Louisiana into the ground. Wisconsin has performed poorly in employment growth, poverty reduction, household income, and wages compared to neighboring Minnesota, where corporate interests didn’t capture state government.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I enclose below links and clips about bills I haven’t had time to write about yet. Two are “business-friendly” policies that will hurt Iowans suffering because of exposure to asbestos or medical malpractice. One would make local governments and first responders less accountable by excluding all “audio, video and transcripts of 911 calls involving injured victims of crimes or accidents” from Iowa’s open records law.

Quick update on House File 484, the bill to dismantle the Des Moines Water Works: once seen as almost a sure thing due to covert support from the Iowa Farm Bureau, the bill was on the House debate calendar for many days in March but never brought to the floor. Majority Leader Chris Hagenow put House File 484 on the “unfinished business” calendar on March 30, after House Republicans voted down a Democratic motion to exclude it from that list.

Opponents of the Water Works bill have become more confident lately, as several GOP representatives and senators have said privately they oppose the legislation. In addition, a Harper Polling survey commissioned by the Water Works showed that 68 percent of respondents oppose disbanding independent water works boards in Des Moines, West Des Moines, and Urbandale in order to give city councils control over the water utility. The same poll indicated that by a 55 percent to 23 percent margin, respondents said an independent board of trustees rather than the city council is “best qualified to manage your local water utility.” By an 88 percent to 5 percent margin, respondents said “people who live in the community” and not the state legislature should have “the final say” on municipal utilities. No one should be complacent, because powerful forces are behind this legislation. Republican leaders could attach Water Works language to must-pass budget bills.

P.S.- The legislature is supposed to wrap up its business this month and adjourn for the year before the end of April. I suspect that even with unified Republican control, the session will go into overtime. Lawmakers haven’t finalized budget targets for the 2018 fiscal year yet. With less money to go around following the recent downgrade in revenue forecasts, and legislators of both parties calling for a review of increasingly expensive tax credits and exemptions, I expect several more weeks of behind the scenes negotiations before the House and Senate are ready to approve appropriations bills.

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Kim Reynolds applauds Terry Branstad's latest steps to hurt Iowa workers

On Thursday Governor Terry Branstad signed two of the most mean-spirited bills to come out of the Republican-controlled legislature this year. House File 295 prevents local governments from raising the minimum wage, potentially affecting an estimated 85,000 people working in five Iowa counties. (Lee County supervisors voted this week to raise the minimum wage, following the example set by leaders in Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Wapello.) House File 518 overhauls the workers’ compensation system in ways that guarantee fewer Iowans will qualify for benefits, and those who do will receive less money, especially for shoulder injuries.

Amid several false or misleading statements in the news release on the latest bill signings, one true fact emerges: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds enthusiastically endorses these new laws. She will own their every harmful consequence.

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Iowa Democrats, talk less about ALEC and more about people's lives

Thousands of Iowans will suffer brutal consequences from the two major bills Republican senators approved Monday. House File 295 blocks local governments from raising the minimum wage. Once Governor Terry Branstad signs the bill, thousands of people working in Linn, Johnson, and Wapello counties will get an immediate pay cut. Some 25,000 people in Polk County will be stuck earning $7.25 an hour, instead of getting a raise to $8.75, beginning next week. House File 518 will make it harder for employees to file workers’ compensation claims and will vastly reduce benefits for those who do qualify, especially anyone with a shoulder injury.

Both bills passed on party-line 29-21 votes after Republicans had rejected every effort to mitigate the harm done to working people.

As each Democratic amendment went down during hours of debate on the Senate floor, feelings of sadness, disgust and anger came through in the speeches of some Democrats and independent State Senator David Johnson. Why are you doing this, several asked their GOP colleagues. You don’t have to follow your floor manager, some pleaded. You can reject the “shameful” attempt to target poor people or those affected by life-altering workplace accidents.

Another dismal day in the Iowa legislature provoked an outpouring on social media, where progressive activists have mobilized this year in response to the Republican agenda. A measurable wave of “greater grassroots activism on the political left” is one of the few bright spots in the national landscape. In Iowa too, ordinary people are contacting their state lawmakers in record numbers and showing up to challenge them at district forums.

Watching these discussions unfold, I’ve noticed a reflexive tendency to blame one destructive Iowa GOP bill after another on the Koch brothers or the American Legislative Exchange Council. The more Democrats make the conversation about Koch money or ALEC, the easier it is for Republicans to avoid talking about the real-world consequences of their actions.

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Peter Cownie won't say who suggested worst workers' comp proposals

The Iowa House has already approved and the Senate will consider today the most sweeping changes to our workers’ compensation system in decades. The legislation would disadvantage injured workers in many ways. Three points in the initial Republican proposal have drawn the most intense criticism from employee advocates who spoke to journalists, published commentaries, testified at a public hearing, or reached out directly to state lawmakers:

• Shifting the burden of proof by forcing employees filing a claim to show workplace activity was the “predominant” factor in an injury;

• Cutting off benefits for most injuries at age 67, which would discriminate against older workers; and

• Classifying shoulder injuries as “scheduled member” rather than “body as a whole” injuries, language seen as a gift to meatpacking companies because it would “drastically” reduce benefits.

Those provisions were so widely acknowledged to be unjust that Republicans amended them before passing House File 518. GOP State Senator Charles Schneider has said he and other colleagues favor changing the same three sections of the Senate version.

How did such cruel ideas come before the legislature to begin with? Hoping to find out, I turned to State Representative Peter Cownie, who introduced the workers’ compensation bill in his capacity as House Commerce Committee chair.

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Josh Mandelbaum taking on Des Moines City Council member Christine Hensley

Promising to be a “voice for strong neighborhoods and strong schools,” defending local interests and fighting harmful state policies, Josh Mandelbaum confirmed Thursday night that he will run for Des Moines City Council against 24-year incumbent Christine Hensley. I enclose below the audio and full transcript of Mandelbaum’s first campaign speech, along with background on the candidate and a map of Ward 3, which covers west-side neighborhoods south of University Avenue and much of the south side.

I’ve been acquainted with Mandelbaum since before he was a policy advisor for Governor Tom Vilsack and Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson. More recently, I’ve closely observed his work on renewable energy and clean water issues through our mutual involvement in Iowa environmental circles. I’m an active supporter of the non-profit Environmental Law & Policy Center, where Mandelbaum is a staff attorney. Last year Midwest Energy News named Mandelbaum to its “40 Under 40” list of list of “emerging leaders” working on “America’s transition to a clean energy economy.” He was one of only two Iowans to receive that recognition.

Even if I couldn’t personally vouch for Mandelbaum’s talent and work ethic, I would be excited to see a progressive willing to take on this incumbent. Hensley’s 2015 vote to extend a tax abatement program was indirectly a vote to benefit her employer. Timothy Meinch reported for the Des Moines Register at the time that the city attorney “warned of an ‘appearance of impropriety’ and ‘potential of a conflict of interest’” before Hensley “cast a pivotal vote in favor of developers.” Des Moines Cityview’s Civic Skinny column explained here how Hensley’s deciding vote benefited Midwest Housing Equity Group, “an Omaha-based firm that syndicates and sells tax credits from developers” where she “is a director and paid consultant.”

Hensley has given Des Moines residents plenty of other reasons to look for new representation. Mandelbaum covered several of them in the remarks I transcribed below. Her most egregious act was joining the small board of directors of the Orwellian-named Iowa Partnership for Clean Water. This advocacy organization grew out of the Iowa Farm Bureau’s desire to discredit the Des Moines Water Works, which delivers drinking water to half a million central Iowans, including all of Hensley’s constituents. My theory is that Hensley hitched her wagon to this cause in the hope of becoming Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s running mate in the 2018 race for governor. Whatever her motives, she chose to stand with Big Ag against her own city’s utility, despite evidence connecting farm runoff with high nitrate levels and toxic algae blooms that threaten the local water supply.

This year Hensley urged the city council to support legislation that would disband the Des Moines Water Works. The bill is widely understood to be retribution for the Water Works lawsuit against drainage districts in northwest Iowa (see the first part of this post). Mandelbaum spoke against House File 484 at a public hearing earlier this month; scroll down to view the video.

Taking on an entrenched incumbent is always an uphill battle, especially for a first-time candidate. Hensley will raise a ton of money. Even so, this race is winnable for Mandelbaum. City council elections are low-turnout affairs. Hensley didn’t have a challenger in 2005 or in 2009 and defeated Cal Woods by 3,536 votes to 2,248 four years ago.

Ward 3 “has an overwhelming Democratic registration advantage and has a D+20 performance index,” Pat Rynard noted last month. The Water Works issue alone is highly salient for Des Moines residents. A large number of teachers and public workers live on the west and south sides of Des Moines, as do many progressives interested in economic and social justice. If Mandelbaum can tap into outrage over statehouse Republicans destroying collective bargaining rights and lowering the minimum wage in Polk County, don’t bet against him turning out a few thousand Democrats who have never voted in a local election before. He won’t be able to match Hensley’s fundraising, but with Pederson and former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell co-chairing his campaign, he should raise enough money to get his message out to Ward 3 residents.

This race will be one of the most important local elections in central Iowa this November. Please spread the word.

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Branstad's office withholds invitation list for collective bargaining bill signing

Governor Terry Branstad’s staff have rebuffed repeated efforts to obtain a list of those invited to watch the governor sign sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law last month.

Going against longtime standard practice for high-profile legislation, Branstad excluded reporters from attending what staff called a “private” event. Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, later posted a picture of himself shaking the governor’s hand at the bill signing. The large number of pens on the governor’s desk suggest that many others celebrated the historic move to take rights away from an estimated 180,000 public workers.

Jodie Butler was determined to find out who else was in that room.

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House Republicans approve workers' comp bill with major unfunded changes

Iowa workers lost again at the statehouse on Thursday, as 55 House Republicans approved a bill that would tilt the workers’ compensation system markedly toward employers. All 37 Democrats present voted against House File 518, joined by just one Republican, State Representative Rob Taylor. UPDATE: GOP Representative Clel Baudler was absent on March 16 but filed an “explanation of vote” in the House Journal on March 20 clarifying that he would have voted “nay” on this bill.

Lawmakers had received an enormous number of constituent contacts since the “dramatic” and “far-reaching” legislation first saw the light of day a little more than two weeks ago. In a rush to get this unpleasantness behind them before the weekend, GOP legislators insisted on a final vote before staff could analyze the cost of a “new career vocational training and education program,” conjured up in an amendment filed the previous evening.

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Six compelling cases against the Iowa Republican workers' compensation bill

The Iowa House and Senate could debate a bill to decimate our state’s workers’ compensation system as early as today.

For background on this chapter in the Republican war on workers, see the last section of this post. A House Democratic staff analysis (enclosed in full below) explains how House File 518 and its companion Senate File 435 would alter current law, all to the benefit of employers and to the detriment of those hurt on the job.

Other Iowans made powerful cases against this remarkably cruel proposal last week. I transcribed five people’s testimony from a 90-minute public hearing on March 7, as well as Democratic State Representative Scott Ourth’s remarks during a House Commerce subcommittee meeting on the bill.

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Michael Bousselot for Congress in IA-02? I really don't think so.

Pat Rynard speculated yesterday about four possible GOP challengers to Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s second Congressional district. Republicans spent very little money trying to unseat Loebsack last year but have signaled they plan to contest this race in 2018. House Democrats added Loebsack to their program for vulnerable incumbents.

Rynard didn’t mention Dr. Christopher Peters, who lost in IA-02 last year by less than 8 points despite getting in the race late and being outspent by a considerable margin. I expect Peters to run for Congress again in 2018.

For today, I want to focus on Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff Michael Bousselot, whom Rynard dubbed the “most interesting name to surface so far” as a possible challenger to Loebsack. “Were Branstad to put his political machine in to action for Bousselot […] the young staffer could quickly become the front-runner in a primary race where access to big donors is key,” he noted.

No doubt a lot of Republican money would get behind Bousselot if Branstad gave the word. But I can’t see this guy making a lot of headway against Loebsack.

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What you need to know to fight the next four terrible Iowa Republican bills

Republicans have already inflicted immeasurable harm on Iowans during the 2017 legislative session, taking rights away from more than 180,000 workers, slashing funding for higher education and human services, and approving the third-smallest K-12 school funding increase in four decades. The worst part is, they’re nowhere near finished.

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg has flagged twelve of the most destructive bills still alive in the GOP-controlled House and Senate. Any Iowan can attend public hearings scheduled for March 6 or 7 on four of those “dirty dozen” bills. Those who are unable to come to the Capitol in person can submit written comments on the legislation or contact Republican state representatives or senators directly by phone or e-mail.

Here’s what you need to know about the four bills most urgently requiring attention.

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Weekend open thread: Post-legislative funnel edition

It was a busy week in Iowa politics, as state lawmakers raced the clock before the first “funnel” deadline on Friday. With few exceptions, non-appropriations bills not yet approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee are no longer eligible for consideration during the 2017 legislative session. For roundups of which bills are alive and dead, see James Q. Lynch’s story for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register article by William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel. Bleeding Heartland covered the demise of the “personhood” bill here.

Some bills that didn’t clear the funnel may be attached to appropriations bills later. Republican State Senator Brad Zaun hopes to revive a medical cannabis proposal that way, Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register.

I enclose below Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg’s post-funnel list of the “dirty dozen” bills that Democrats are most focused on blocking during the remainder of the legislative session.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I’d especially appreciate tips on newsworthy comments from today’s legislative forums around the state. A Democrat in Muscatine asked State Representative Gary Carlson this morning whether he had any evidence of election fraud and whether he would acknowledge that the Republican voter ID proposal is a voter suppression bill. Carlson told her, “I just want the right people to vote.” Probably more honest than he meant to be. John Deeth explained the latest disenfranchising provisions House Republicans want to attach to Secretary of State Paul Pate’s bill, now named House File 516.

Final note: although it was sunny and unseasonably warm today in Des Moines, only about 100 people showed up for the “Spirit of America” rally by the Capitol building. A much larger crowd came to the Capitol on a very cold Thursday in February to march against President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” and immigration executive orders. An estimated 26,000 turned out for the Iowa Women’s March at the same venue on a Saturday morning in January.

UPDATE: Added after the jump side by side photos of the Women’s March and today’s event. SECOND UPDATE: A reader sent me his photo (taken by a drone) of the crowd at the Capitol for the “Day Without Immigrants” rally on Thursday, February 16. Added below.

Zaun was the first speaker to the pro-Trump audience today, and he noted (accurately) that he was the first Iowa Republican elected official to endorse Trump for president. He didn’t mention that he had previously declared himself “110 percent behind” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose campaign flamed out months before the Iowa caucuses. On caucus night, Trump finished third in the Senate district Zaun represents, behind Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

UPDATE: Past and future presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was back in central Iowa on March 4, attending a fundraiser for State Senator Nate Boulton, among other events. O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign had a strong organization on the east side of Des Moines, which is part of Boulton’s district. The former governor of Maryland has visited Iowa regularly since the election, including stops in Davenport to support the special election campaigns of Jim Lykam for the Iowa Senate and Monica Kurth for the Iowa House.

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Weekend open thread: Is Democratic unity possible?

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez will be the first Latino to chair the Democratic National Committee, having won Saturday’s election on the second ballot by 235 votes to 200 for Representative Keith Ellison. Perez immediately moved to name Ellison deputy leader of the party, and delegates approved that motion by acclamation. Soon after, Ellison urged those who “came here supporting me”

to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez. You love this country, you love all the people in it, you care about each and every one of them, urban, rural, suburban, all cultures, all faiths, everybody, and they are in need of your help. And if we waste even a moment going at it over who supported who, we are not going to be standing up for those people. We don’t have the luxury, folks, to walk out of this room divided.

Perez and Ellison then did a joint media appearance, wearing each other’s supporter buttons. Unfortunately, the Facebook comment thread below that video is dominated by angry progressives threatening to leave the party.

I’ve seen similar arguments playing out in several popular Facebook groups for Iowa Democrats, ever since news broke late Friday that Iowa’s voting members of the DNC would support Perez. Many activists who favored Bernie Sanders in the caucuses, including some members of the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, are upset by the unified vote for Perez, considering how many Iowa Democrats backed Ellison. Others felt it was poor form that the SCC didn’t get advance warning before Perez announced the Iowa delegation’s support on Twitter. A few claimed that state party chair Derek Eadon and first vice chair Andrea Phillips had led them to believe they would support Ellison for the DNC job.

More broadly, Democrats in Ellison’s camp were upset by what they perceive as party insiders choosing corporate lobbyists over progressives, failing to grasp the need for reform, attaching too much importance to fundraising, or being afraid of a black Muslim representing the party. The comments in this Bleeding Heartland thread reflect views I’ve seen in many other forums. Apparently the rhetoric is even harsher in some of the “secret” Facebook groups frequented by Iowa Democrats on the Sanders wing.

I understand why so many activists preferred Ellison, but I don’t understand the widespread condemnation of Perez, given his record on labor and civil rights issues. People who have followed his work closely think highly of him. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Perez’s official bio, along with the statement Sanders released following the DNC vote.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Yet again this weekend, legislative forums around the state drew hundreds of attendees. I’m always seeking tips on noteworthy remarks by Iowa House or Senate members at public events. If you have an anecdote to share, or better yet a recording, please post a comment in this thread or contact me privately by e-mail at the address near the lower right of this page.

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If Todd Prichard runs for governor, his stump speech will sound like this

State Representative Todd Prichard spoke to a packed room at last night’s Northwest Des Moines Democrats meeting. Now in his third term representing Floyd and Chickasaw counties in the Iowa House, Prichard is ranking member on the Agriculture Committee and also serves on Natural Resources, Veterans, and Ways and Means, as well as on an Appropriations subcommittee. Pat Rynard recently profiled the army veteran and former prosecutor who may run for governor in 2018.

I’ve transcribed most of Prichard’s remarks from the Des Moines gathering below and uploaded the audio file, for those who want to listen. He speaks directly and fluidly without coming across as rehearsed or too polished, a common problem for politicians.

At one point, Prichard commented that Republicans didn’t spend a million dollars trying to defeat him last year, as the GOP and conservative groups did against several Iowa Senate Democratic incumbents. Republicans tested some negative messages against him with a telephone poll in August, but apparently didn’t sense fertile ground. Prichard’s opponent Stacie Stokes received little help from her party, compared to some other GOP candidates for Iowa House seats, including a challenger in a nearby district.

Based on the speech I heard on Tuesday, I would guess that if Prichard runs for governor, Republicans may regret not spending a million dollars against him in 2016.

One more point before I get to the transcript: Prichard is living proof that retiring lawmakers should not be allowed to hand-pick their own successors. When State Representative Brian Quirk resigned to take another job soon after winning re-election in 2012, he wanted his former high school football coach Tom Sauser to take his place. As a Bleeding Heartland reader who’s active in Floyd County described here, Prichard decided to run for the House seat shortly before the special nominating convention and barely won the nomination.

Prichard had a chance to start his political career because several days elapsed between his learning about Quirk’s preferred successor and the House district 52 nominating convention. Too often, Iowa Democratic legislators announce plans to retire only a day or two before candidates must submit papers to the Secretary of State’s Office. If Quirk had retired right before the March 2012 filing deadline, as three House Democrats did last year, his friend with the inside track would have been the only Democrat able to replace him. Nothing against retired teachers, but Sauser was not a potential future leader of the party, as Prichard is becoming.

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Iowa attorney general: Outside counsel should defend collective bargaining law

To “avoid any questions about a potential conflict,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller will request that outside legal counsel defend the state against a public employee union’s legal challenge to Iowa’s new collective bargaining law. AFSCME, the largest labor union representing state workers, and four of its members filed suit on February 20, charging that House File 291 violates Iowa constitutional provisions on equal protection and non-interference in contracts. In a statement I enclose in full below, Miller said he will ask the Iowa Executive Council to approve other counsel for this case, because “the new collective bargaining law has the potential to existentially threaten the viability of public sector unions,” which have supported him in past campaigns.

The council is likely to approve Miller’s request. Its five members are Governor Terry Branstad, Secretary of State Paul Pate, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and State Auditor Mary Mosiman. Branstad’s spokesperson Ben Hammes told Barbara Rodriguez of the Associated Press, “[Miller] summed it up when he said that AFSCME had supported him in the past and he wants to avoid any questions about a potential conflict.”

The Attorney General’s Office defended the Branstad administration against a lawsuit challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home, for which AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan was a plaintiff. But outside counsel defended the state when Democratic lawmakers and Homan challenged the governor’s use of line-item vetoes to close Iowa Workforce Development offices.

Miller may need to ask outside counsel to be appointed if other labor unions and public employees file additional lawsuits challenging the collective bargaining law. Aside from the points raised by AFSCME, several other provisions may raise constitutional questions:

• The law bans automatic payroll deductions for labor union dues, while allowing such deductions to continue for professional association memberships or recurring charitable contributions.

• The law may violate free association rights by requiring unions to win a majority of all eligible voters, not just those who cast ballots, in order to stay certified.

• The law eliminates a quid pro quo contained in the first paragraph of Chapter 20, which could be seen as a due process violation.

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Five Democrats who might run for Congress in IA-01

Despite the huge swing toward Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans in northeast Iowa last year, Democrats are gearing up for a major challenge to GOP Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Many Iowans considered Blum’s 2014 victory a fluke of a GOP wave year, but he outperformed Trump by about 5 points while winning re-election in 2016.

Now IA-01 is in the top tier of pickup opportunities for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer Blair Lawton is already on the ground organizing for the Iowa Democratic Party in the district.

A competitive Democratic primary here is a near-certainty. After the jump, I’ve posted background on five possible candidates, in alphabetical order. I’d welcome tips on others who may be considering this race.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 164,485 active registered Democrats, 144,687 Republicans, and 189,606 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, a traditional Democratic stronghold that is also Blum’s home base.

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Read the first lawsuit challenging Iowa's horrible new collective bargaining law

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 and four of its members filed suit today in Polk County District Court, saying the collective bargaining law Governor Terry Branstad signed on Friday is unconstitutional. I enclose below the petition filed on behalf of Iowa’s largest union representing state employees, as well as the plaintiffs’ request for expedited hearing. The filing repeatedly refers to “the amendments” because House File 291 amended Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code, which has regulated collective bargaining since 1974.

The new law’s disparate treatment of “public safety workers” and other public employees is the central issue raised in AFSCME’s lawsuit. Plaintiffs argue that Article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution requires that “all laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation” and that the legislature “shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” All four individual plaintiffs fail to qualify as “public safety workers,” and therefore have lost almost all meaningful collective bargaining rights, even though some of their occupations are as dangerous or more so, compared to some of the “public safety” jobs. Johnathon Good is a corrections officer, Ryan De Vries is a police officer III, Terra Kinney is a motor vehicle enforcement officer, and Susan Baker is a drafter for the University of Northern Iowa. Excerpt from page 7 of the petition:

The arbitrary definition of “Public Safety Employee,” the arbitrary classification of public employees as “Public Safety Employees” or other public employees and the arbitrary classification of bargaining units into those whose members are at least thirty percent “Public Safety Employees” and those whose members are not which are included in the Amendments deprive Officer Good, Officer De Vries, and Ms. Baker of the constitutional guaranty of equality of all before the law that is set forth in Art. I, § 6 of the Iowa Constitution.

The petition also argues that “transition procedures” altering and terminating bargaining procedures and schedules established in the union contracts violate Article I, section 21 of the Iowa Constitution, which prohibits passing a “law impairing the obligation of contracts.”

Before the text of House File 291 became public, Republican lawmakers were rumored to be at odds over whether to exempt “public safety workers” from most of the new restrictions on collective bargaining. Supposedly Iowa House Republicans opposed that division, while key GOP senators wanted to copy the political strategy used in Wisconsin six years ago. The collective bargaining bill Iowa House Republicans approved in 2011 did not treat law enforcement officers or firefighters differently from other public employees.

Sources in Iowa’s labor community expect other lawsuits challenging the collective bargaining law to be filed later this year. The two main union-busting provisions are seen as particularly ripe for challenge: onerous election requirements for unions to stay certified, and a ban on automatic payroll deductions for union members, even though employees will still be able to automatically deduct membership fees in other professional associations and recurring charitable donations. Neither provision was part of the 2011 Iowa House collective bargaining bill.

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Everything you want to know about Iowa's horrible new collective bargaining law

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate voted today to dramatically reduce collective bargaining rights for some 180,000 public employees, following approximately 27 hours of debate in the Iowa Senate and fourteen and a half hours of debate in the Iowa House. GOP leaders moved House File 291 and Senate File 213 simultaneously through both chambers in order to speed up the process.

Democrats had offered dozens of amendments to the bills, which were published for the first time on February 7. Instead of allowing full discussion of every amendment, GOP leaders moved to cut off debate at a “time certain” today. That maneuver had never been used in the Iowa Senate and has been invoked only rarely in the Iowa House–including to end debate on the collective bargaining bill Republicans passed in March 2011. Debate ended in the Iowa House at noon, after which the majority quickly voted down all the remaining amendments with no discussion. Six Republicans joined all 41 Democrats to vote against the bill on final passage. Two of them, Tom Moore and Dave Heaton, are former teachers. Clel Baudler is a retired state trooper. Andy McKean and Shannon Lundgren were just elected from eastern Iowa swing districts, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. McKean is also very familiar with Chapter 20 as a former county supervisor and longtime state lawmaker. I don’t know why Mary Ann Hanusa opposed the bill. UPDATE: Hanusa did not respond to my request for comment, but I learned from another source that she is also a former teacher who works in education administration.

Senators debated all night long Wednesday into Thursday morning, with Republicans voting down every Democratic amendment. Independent State Senator David Johnson voted with Democrats on all the amendments and joined them in giving several passionate speeches. Few Republicans in either chamber chose to speak in favor of the bills, aside from Senate Labor Committee Chair Jason Schultz, House Labor Committee Chair Dave Deyoe, and State Representative Steven Holt, who floor-managed the bill and distinguished himself as the legislature’s least convincing liar. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski summarized some of the important Democratic amendments. I didn’t stay up to watch the whole debate, so would welcome examples of some of the most absurd Republican comments, like State Senator Mark Chelgren accusing Democrats of “stalling” while his party had shown an “incredible amount of patience.” Nothing says “patient” like making sweeping changes to a 43-year-old law, affecting 180,000 Iowans, after only nine days in the legislature.

Senate leaders ended debate at 2 pm Thursday, after which Republicans voted down the remaining Democratic amendments, then substituted the text of the House bill for the Senate bill, to get the legislation to Governor Terry Branstad more quickly. Branstad’s chief of staff, Michael Bousselot, spent the final hours of debate in the Senate chamber. House File 291 eventually passed on a 29-21 Senate vote.

Iowa’s largest public-sector union, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, plans to file a lawsuit claiming the new law is unconstitutional, presumably because of the way it grants more bargaining rights to “public safety” workers than to others, many of whom do dangerous jobs. Video from a February 16 press conference by labor leaders is available here.

I enclose below statements about the bill by legislative leaders from both parties, as well as documents prepared by Iowa House Democratic and Republican staff, which discuss in more detail how House File 291 will affect collective bargaining rights for different types of public employees. Regarding substantive impacts, I also recommend the recent guest posts here by state employee Ruth Thompson, University of Northern Iowa Professor Chris Martin, and attorney James Larew, who predicted that today’s action “will be remembered as the most destructive blow to our ability to govern ourselves fairly and efficiently in nearly half a century.”

GOP spin notwithstanding, collective bargaining “reform” in Iowa was designed primarily with political goals in mind, like similar measures in other states. Republicans know that crippling public sector unions will make it harder for Democrats to win elections.

Although Republicans repeatedly claimed during the House and Senate debates that their bill would help local governments, Chapter 20 has worked so well that more than 140 school districts rushed to sign new contracts with the teachers union before the legislature acted. Boards of supervisors in several large counties passed resolutions condemning the proposal. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson’s case against the bill is convincing.

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Governor Branstad's exiting chapter

Attorney James Larew assesses the Republican assault on collective bargaining rights in Iowa, a moment driven by “eager political cruelty.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Governor Terry E. Branstad’s gutting of Iowa Code Chapter 20, upon his signing of Senate File 213, will be remembered as the most destructive blow to our ability to govern ourselves fairly and efficiently in nearly half a century.

His unprovoked legislative assault will be recalled for its radical and disruptive contrast to the foresight of Branstad’s venerated Republican predecessor, Governor Robert D. Ray.

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The real reason Iowa Republicans want to break public unions

On Tuesday the Iowa House and Senate took up companion bills seeking to destroy every significant aspect of collective bargaining for more than 100,000 public employees. Although police officers and firefighters would be exempt from some provisions of House File 291 and Senate File 213, they too would lose important workplace protections.

As Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson explained in his written comments to Iowa lawmakers, the collective bargaining system that has been in place since 1974 works well. Local governments don’t need the legislature to be “big brother to us by dictating our collective bargaining rules.” Oleson characterized the Republican bill as a “solution in search of a problem,” driven by “pure and raw partisan politics”: “This bill takes a sledgehammer to the pesky fly that has been labor leaders you dislike. And that’s what this really is…payback! Political payback.”

Here’s what Republicans stand to gain by smashing that fly.

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County Leaders Against Partisan Attack On Collective Bargaining

Linn County Board of Supervisors Chair Brent Oleson submitted this written statement in lieu of a speaking slot at this evening’s Iowa Legislature Public Hearing on Collective Bargaining Changes. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I graduated Burlington High School in 1989. I said then and I say now, that Mr. David Wendt was the best teacher I ever had. He had a huge impact on my life. He just retired last year from Keokuk High School with more than 35 years of service, with a pension he earned and the satisfaction of having educated and positively impacted the lives of tens of thousands young Iowans. The most important concept he taught me was to truly critically think….to critically think, an invaluable skill.

Mr. Wendt was my speech and debate coach. I blame him for driving the two hours here to speak for 3 minutes. Mr. Wendt always said, if you don’t stand up and say something well-informed, intelligent and persuasive, then the status quo, good or bad…or very bad, will win the day.

I’m not here as some political stooge for the unions and I’m not here as some stooge for the now in-vogue anti-union groups. As an elected official in Iowa’s second largest county and city, I have been on the management side of negotiating contracts for the taxpayers. I wasn’t able to secure an endorsement from AFSCME this last election, presumably because I took my high school teacher seriously when he encouraged us to truly develop our abilities to critically think. As a negotiator for management of Linn County, I operate in the realm of negotiating in good faith for a win-win outcome for the taxpayers and those providing the services that the taxpayers demand and prioritize. In my 8 years we have never once went to arbitration. Not once. We have never once given away the store either. Quite the contrary.

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An open letter to Iowa Republican legislators

A UNI faculty member explodes three “alternative facts” supporting the Republican case for shredding collective bargaining rights. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Let me introduce myself. I’m Chris Martin, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Please let me disabuse you of the notion that I worked just a couple hours today and spent the rest of the time sipping chardonnay. I’m like most Iowans. I work a lot (faculty members at my university average 52-54 hours a week), I have a family I love, I pay taxes, I vote, and I volunteer for my community.

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m very good at my job. I’ve taught at UNI for 20 years, and I’m nationally known in the field of journalism and mass communication. I am a Fulbright Scholar and a recipient of the State of Iowa’s Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence – the state’s highest honor for university professors – and several other awards. I’m a public employee and member of the faculty union.

Because I’m a journalism professor, I can’t help but provide some needed fact-checking on several issues concerning Iowa’s collective bargaining law and the bills that seek to undermine it. I’ll speak to the collective bargaining tradition at the University of Northern Iowa, where the faculty have bargained peacefully and fairly with the Board of Regents for 40 years.

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Which Iowa do our representatives want?

One public worker’s response to the Republican assault on collective bargaining rights. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m a state employee and an AFSCME member. My husband and I moved here four years ago from another state. He worked for a not for profit organization and was the mayor of the town where we lived. I was the executive director of a statewide organization. We both have master’s degrees and have good reputations nationally in our prospective fields.

We moved to Iowa because we saw the state as a place where our education, experience and commitment to quality work would be valued and rewarded.

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Weekend open thread: Packed Iowa legislative forums

All over Iowa this year, record numbers of citizens have been turning out for legislative forums. Controversies over education spending and Planned Parenthood funding brought out many activists earlier in the legislative session. This weekend, the overwhelming majority of attendees wanted to talk about the Republican bill to eviscerate Chapter 20, Iowa’s law that has governed collective bargaining for public employees since 1974.

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Low-profile bill threatens environmental and cultural compliance on road projects

An Iowan who cares about historic preservation is raising awareness about an obscure and harmful bill, which would also drive down wages on some road projects. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I came across a post on Facebook today, initiated by an email from the Iowa Archeological Society. We need to pay attention to this! Here’s the post in its entirety:

Dear IAS Membership,

The IAS has recently learned about a proposed Iowa bill that, in our interpretation, will negatively impact historic preservation in Iowa in relation to transportation projects. And we need your help!

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Republicans deliver worst month ever to Iowa students and educators

For all their talk about helping Iowa provide a “world class” and “globally competitive” education, Iowa Republicans are unwilling to provide the resources public schools need to keep up with rising costs.

And for all their talk about getting “better teachers in the classroom” and giving “hardworking teachers … all the tools necessary to succeed,” Iowa Republicans seem determined to discourage people from pursuing a teaching career in this state.

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Give the Guy a Chance!

Gary Kroeger explains why he’s not watching and waiting before speaking out against President Donald Trump. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Several times in the past few days people have said to me: “Give the guy a chance.”

They are annoyed that I jumped out of the box to criticize President Trump only one day after his inauguration. They have pointed out that I am usually more open-minded, and that I did, in fact, say that I would wait and watch before making judgments.

And I didn’t. Nope. When huge crowds gathered around the world to stand up for women’s rights because they felt diminished and threatened by the sexist, objectifying comments of an admitted “celebrity” predator, who became President of the United States of America, I felt the obligation to join the discordant chorus.

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Skills Gaps, Worker Preparedness, and Gauging Iowa’s Future Educational Needs

Another helpful reality check by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson. Find his previous writing for this site here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It is vexing to hear assertions of a skills gap in Iowa, or nationwide for that matter, when people are really complaining they can’t find workers to do what they want them to do for the wages they are willing to pay. That is not a skills gap.

Neither the inability of a grain elevator in rural Iowa to find grain handling help nor a manufacturer in Clinton to find computer-controlled machine tool operators or programmers are skills gaps. They may be regionally-specific skilled labor shortages, as is the case in much of rural Iowa because of persistent outmigration, they may be workforce indifference to those job opportunities, but they are not skills gaps.

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A year's worth of guest posts, plus tips for guest authors

One of my blogging new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to publish more work by other authors, and I’m grateful to the many talented writers who helped me meet that goal. After the jump I’ve linked to all 140 guest posts published here last year.

I encourage readers to consider writing for this site in 2017. Guest authors can write about any political issue of local, state, or national importance. As you can see from the stories enclosed below, a wide range of topics and perspectives are welcome here.

Pieces can be short or long, funny or sad. You can write in a detached voice or let your emotions show.

Posts can analyze what happened or advocate for what should happen, either in terms of public policy or a political strategy for Democrats. Authors can share first-person accounts of campaign events or more personal reflections about public figures.

Guest authors do not need to e-mail a draft to me or ask permission to pursue a story idea. Just register for an account (using the “sign up” link near the upper right), log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be “pending” until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares. You can write under your own name or choose any pseudonym not already claimed by another Bleeding Heartland user. I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission.

I also want to thank everyone who comments on posts here. If you’ve never participated that way, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so lately, you may need to reset your password. Let me know if you have any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password. My address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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Dealing with America Inc.

Tracy Leone has been involved with organized labor since 1997 and with elections in Iowa since 2006. Today she shares her thoughts on the path forward for Democrats. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Thanks to Bleeding Heartland for publishing diverse views regarding what the Democratic Party ought to do to get back to the business of winning elections again. While there is no single practice or set of principles to cure all that ails us, there are certainly things that have not been done that contributed to the Democratic failures at all levels of government.

It is urgent that we boldly resist the attacks on our democratic humanistic institutions, whether they come from Republicans or Democrats. Obama’s drone policy, his mass deportations and 5AM raids on immigrant families, his signing into law of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act that strips US citizen of due process are right-wing policies and we Democrats need to have the courage to criticize when one of our own takes position against our values.

What we now face at the state and national levels means this is not just an intellectual exercise. Our democracy depends on it.

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Iowa public employees will lose ability to bargain over health insurance

What a way to begin the holiday season: Governor Terry Branstad’s administration is negotiating new employment contracts on the assumption that health insurance benefits will no longer be subject to collective bargaining.

Judging by past experience in Iowa and other states, the 59 incoming House Republicans and 29 Senate Republicans will rubber-stamp the new policy, gutting a collective bargaining law that has served this state well since 1974.

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Rob Hogg, Amanda Ragan to lead Iowa Senate Democrats

Iowa Senate Democrats unanimously chose Rob Hogg today to serve as Senate minority leader during the upcoming legislative session. Amanda Ragan will be the new minority whip, and the incoming assistant leaders will be Bill Dotzler, Liz Mathis, Rita Hart, Joe Bolkcom, Matt McCoy, and Herman Quirmbach.

Six Democratic senators lost their re-election bids this month, including Mike Gronstal, who had served as either minority or majority leader of the caucus since 1997. Pam Jochum, who was Senate president for the past four years, will not be on the new leadership team. Ragan, Dotzler, and McCoy were among last year’s assistant majority leaders, while Bolkcom served as majority whip.

Erin Murphy reported for the Quad-City Times,

Hogg said Senate Democrats will speak on behalf of Iowans “who need state government to work” and attempt to prevent Republicans from implementing policies that could damage the state’s economy or adversely affect its residents.

“I’m hopeful we can stop Republicans from going down a knee-jerk, partisan pathway,” Hogg said.

I see no realistic chance to stop Republicans from using their large majorities in both chambers to head down that partisan pathway. Among their likely top priorities: cutting taxes so that most of the benefits go to corporations and higher-income individuals, gutting Iowa’s 42-year-old collective bargaining law, restricting abortion rights, ending state funds for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, adopting the gun lobby’s wish list (“stand your ground,” “constitutional carry,” and/or open carry), and making it harder for Iowans to vote. Republicans will almost certainly need to reduce funding for education and a variety of social net programs, such as Medicaid and child care assistance, to pay for those tax cuts.

All Democrats can accomplish these next two years is to warn ahead of time how such policies will hurt the majority of Iowans, and to “document the atrocities” after Governor Terry Branstad signs the various harmful bills into law.

I enclose below a news release with more comments from Hogg. O.Kay Henderson’s profile of Gronstal for Radio Iowa is worth reading.

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Few changes in Iowa House Republican leadership team

Iowa House Republicans came out of this campaign in better shape than they could have hoped six months ago. The party successfully defended every incumbent and every GOP-held open seat, including one with a significant Democratic registration advantage. Even better, Republicans defeated State Representative Patti Ruff and picked off one of the four Democratic-held open seats, despite a big tax problem for the GOP candidate there. During the last presidential election year, Republicans suffered a net loss of seven Iowa House seats and were lucky to avoid losing more. In contrast, the caucus came out of last Tuesday with a two-seat gain and a 59-41 majority, just one seat shy of their advantage in the chamber after the 2010 landslide.

Happy endings provide little incentive to shake things up. To no one’s surprise, House Republicans re-elected most of their leadership team during yesterday’s caucus meeting in Des Moines. Linda Upmeyer will continue as speaker, her position stronger now than last year, since several representatives who were rumored to be at odds with her have now retired. Chris Hagenow stays on as majority leader and Matt Windschitl as House speaker pro-tem.

The biggest change is Zach Nunn moving up from one of the assistant majority leader positions to majority whip. Media reports don’t indicate whether last year’s majority whip Joel Fry sought the position again or stepped down from the leadership team voluntarily.

Similarly, Walt Rogers is no longer an assistant majority leader, having held one of those positions from early 2013 through last year’s legislative session.

If any readers can shed light on whether Fry and Rogers wanted out or were pushed out of leadership, please post a comment here or contact me confidentially at the e-mail address near the bottom right of this page. UPDATE: Two sources indicate that Fry is likely to lead the Human Resources Committee, since its previous chair Linda Miller retired this year. Under House rules, assistant leaders don’t chair committees. Still seeking insight on the next move for Rogers.

Two of the just-selected assistant majority leaders played the same role last year: Jarad Klein and John Wills. The other two, Mike Sexton and Megan Jones, join House leadership for the first time. UPDATE: According to one source, Jones and Klein ran against Nunn for majority whip.

Like her counterpart in the upper chamber, incoming Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, Upmeyer didn’t lay out specific policy plans when speaking to reporters yesterday. We’ll find out later which taxes Republicans plan to cut, how badly they will decimate collective bargaining rights for public employees, and whether they will do anything to make medical cannabis more widely available to Iowans suffering from severe health conditions.

Upmeyer seemed to rule out raising the sales tax by 3/8 of a cent to fill the the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. That fund has been empty since 63 percent of Iowans approved a constitutional amendment to create it in 2010. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is one of very few elected Republican officials to be on record backing a sales tax hike to fund conservation efforts.

Iowa Supreme Court: Branstad had power to veto mental health funding

Another one for the “elections have consequences” file: The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled on November 10 that Governor Terry Branstad “did not exceed the scope of his constitutional authority” when he vetoed funds state lawmakers had approved to keep open mental health facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda.

A large group of Democratic legislators, joined by the president of the public employee union AFSCME, filed suit soon after Branstad vetoed the funding in July 2015. Their lawsuit contended that Iowa Code contains language requiring the state to operate Mental Health Institutes in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda. But last November, a Polk County District Court held that “Existing statutes are not conditions on appropriations” and “cannot limit the Governor’s item veto authority.” Bleeding Heartland published excerpts from Judge Douglas Staskal’s decision here.

Last week’s Iowa Supreme Court opinion by Justice David Wiggins affirmed Staskal’s ruling but found that the District Court “failed to address” a matter of constitutional law raised by the plaintiffs. After additional analysis of the legislative intent behind language designating the facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda as “state hospitals for persons with mental illness,” the high court reached the same conclusion as Staskal: the governor had the power to veto funds earmarked for operating facilities he had closed. I enclose below excerpts from the opinion.

Branstad’s spokesperson Ben Hammes did quite the spin job in his statement:

Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision affirms the Governor’s action by allowing more Iowans to have access to quality mental health care and substance abuse treatment than ever before. The State’s mental health care redesign allows Iowans to access treatment in a community-based setting and through more modern means. Gov. Branstad is committed to putting patients first, improving care, increasing access and modernizing the delivery of mental health services. In fact, there are currently at any time 60-100 psychiatric inpatients beds open across the state. Iowa now maintains a robust level of access to mental health beds that are more efficiently delivered.

Nice try, Hammes. In reality, the justices did not assess either the merits of Branstad’s decision to close the in-patient facilities or the quality of mental health care and substance abuse treatment in Iowa. In reality, Iowa “consistently ranks in the bottom five of all states in every single category of mental health programs and services.” In reality, Iowa “ranks dead last in the country for state psychiatric beds per capita.” In reality, “many Iowans with serious mental illnesses are being marooned” for weeks or months in hospitals, for lack of adequate facilities or services to monitor their care.

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Iowa Senate district 42: Nothing to see here--unless Trump has big coattails

Iowa is blessed with an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts, thanks to our non-partisan redistricting process. Most election years, at least half a dozen Iowa Senate seats and twice as many House seats are in play. Campaign finance reports showing where candidates and party leaders are spending the most money provide the best clue on which legislative races are worth watching.

That said, most years at least one little-noticed candidate pulls off a big upset in an Iowa House or Senate district neither party was targeting. Now-disgraced Kent Sorenson won his first race in 2008, taking a House seat that had been considered safe for Democrats. Two years later, Kim Pearson got no help from GOP leaders en route to winning a House seat where the Democratic incumbent had been unopposed the previous election. Republican Mark Chelgren won an Ottumwa-based Senate district for the first time by ten votes. That seat had been considered so safe that the Democratic incumbent was knocking doors for a colleague in another district during the final weekend. I learned later that internal GOP polling had Chelgren almost 20 points down a couple of seeks before the election.

I can’t shake the feeling that in this strange campaign with two unpopular presidential nominees, something weird will happen in a down-ballot race no one is watching. So before I get back to Bleeding Heartland’s last few battleground Senate and House race profiles, a few words on why I feel a race in Iowa’s southeast corner could produce a shocking result.

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Why Iowans need job-protected paid leave

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, makes the case for job-protected paid leave. You can read his past writing at Bleeding Heartland here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Kristen Corey of Ankeny remembers the moment clearly. The moment she realized that things were different for women in the working world than for men.

Twenty-five and newly married, she just started a new job and asked her human resource professional about the company’s maternity policy. The HR person looked at her and with a short laugh answered, “Well, you just use your accrued sick and vacation time.” Kristen responded, but “what if I get pregnant in the next few months?”

To that the HR person quipped, “Don’t get pregnant.”

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Branstad talks big on family incomes but opposes concrete steps to raise them

Since the day he launched his 2010 campaign for governor, Terry Branstad has been promising to raise Iowa family incomes by 25 percent. That aspiration is still highlighted on the front page of the governor’s website.

Family incomes haven’t increased in any significant way, according to a September 2015 report by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership: “Median household income was $53,712 in 2014 — compared with $53,031 the year before. It was also statistically unchanged from 2007 ($53,994 in 2014 dollars) and from 2000 ($52,483 in 2014 dollars).” U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that as of July 2015, the median family income in Iowa was $52,716.

Despite the lack of progress toward one of his central goals, Branstad has opposed various policies that would raise incomes, especially toward the lower end of the scale.

Most recently, he moved last week to block a new U.S. Department of Labor rule, which would make at least 120,000 Iowans eligible to earn overtime pay.

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Labor Day weekend open thread

Happy Labor Day, Bleeding Heartland readers! If you are enjoying a three-day weekend, thank the labor activists from past generations who made it possible. In fact, go ahead and thank the organized labor movement for every weekend off.

The Iowa Policy Project’s latest report on the Cost of Living in Iowa found that “Nearly 114,000 Iowa families”–close to 19 percent of the state’s working households–“do not earn enough to provide for a basic standard of living without public supports, despite one or more full-time wage earners in the family.” Part 1 estimates how much a family needs to get by in Iowa, taking into account expenses for “rent, utilities, food prepared at home, child care, health care, transportation, clothing and other household necessities,” but not “savings, loan payments, education expenses, any entertainment or vacation, social or recreational travel, or meals outside the home.” Part 2 explores how many Iowa families aren’t earning enough to cover essentials, and shows that “rural regions have substantially higher shares of working families with incomes below self-sufficiency.”

For political junkies, Labor Day kicks off the most intense phase of the general election campaign. Candidates at all levels can use help identifying supporters and getting them signed up to vote early. Direct voter contacts are particularly important for state legislative races. I highly recommend Laura Hubka’s 15 tips for volunteers knocking on doors. Two years ago, I posted my own canvassing dos and don’ts.

One of my funniest door-knocking experiences happened on this day last year. I was canvassing in Beaverdale for Des Moines school board candidate Heather Anderson. Normally I would not be out on a holiday, but the school board election was scheduled for September 8, the day after Labor Day. One house on my walk list already had a Heather Anderson sign in the yard. I decided to knock anyway, in case the supporter needed extra literature to give to friends and neighbors, or a reminder about the polling place location and opening hours. During our conversation, the voter said, “You know who else is for Heather? Bleeding Heartland. She’s on our side.” Yeah, I heard that

Hillary Clinton is scheduled to appear at the Quad Cities Labor picnic later today. I’ll update later with a few links. I enclose below a video her campaign released this week featuring Ruline Steininger, a 103-year-old supporter in Des Moines. Echoing what I’ve heard from many women including former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge and my mother-in-law, Steininger commented that when she was in high school, the only career options were to become a teacher or a nurse. She views Clinton as “more prepared” than anyone has ever been for the presidency, and also thinks her election would let “little girls know that you can be anything you want to be in this country. People won’t have to wonder whether they’re going to be a school teacher or a nurse. The sky’s the limit now. You can be president.”

I only knew one of my grandparents well. Although I didn’t get many chances to talk politics with my grandmother, I’m confident that if she were still alive, she also would be voting for Clinton. Having been active in the Sioux City Maternal Women’s Health League (later a founding organization in Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa) during the 1940s, she probably would not need to hear more than “defund Planned Parenthood” to turn her off voting for any Republican.

Lisa Desjardins and Daniel Bush reported for National Public Radio this week on the Donald Trump campaign’s “jaw-dropping gap in the ground game.” Clinton has “more than three times the number” of field offices in battleground states. In Iowa, Democrats have at least 25 “coordinated campaign” offices open around the state, possibly more by now. Trump and the Republican Party of Iowa have nine offices open, according to NPR’s data.

Speaking of jaw-dropping: Trump’s volunteers, including those participating online, are being asked to sign an absurdly broad and in some places illegal “non disclosure form.” Among other things, the volunteer must promise not to “demean or disparage” the Trump campaign or any member of Trump’s family or any Trump business, “during the time of your service and at all times thereafter.” Attorneys tell me this document probably would not be enforceable because of legal flaws such as lack of consideration. The illegal part: requiring volunteers to promise that none of their employees will volunteer for Clinton.

Thanks to all the readers whose accounts informed Thursday’s post on Republican message-testing in key Iowa House races. Democratic State Representative Todd Prichard posted on Facebook that his wife was a respondent on one of these calls. Good news: she’s still voting for him, even after hearing all the awful things he supposedly did. I am seeking details about similar telephone surveys that may be ongoing in battleground Iowa Senate districts. My e-mail address is near the lower right corner of this screen.

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A close look at Republican message-testing in key Iowa House races

Republicans are testing potentially damaging messages about Iowa House Democratic candidates, along with statements that might increase support for GOP candidates in battleground legislative districts. After listening to several recordings of these telephone polls and hearing accounts from other respondents, I have three big takeaways:

• Republicans are seeking ways to insulate themselves from voter anger over inadequate education funding and the Branstad administration’s botched Medicaid privatization;
• The time-honored GOP strategy of distorting obscure legislative votes is alive and well;
• The Iowa Democratic Party’s platform plank on legalizing all drugs may be used against candidates across the state.

Read on for much more about these surveys.

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Breaking Iowa Democratic hearts, Hillary Clinton picks Tim Kaine for VP

Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced a few minutes ago that U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia, willge the Democratic candidate for vice president. Kaine’s been the front-runner for the job all along, by virtue of his extensive political experience, stature in a swing state, good ties with the business community, and fluency in Spanish.

I suspect that the Bernie Sanders endorsement last week, combined with the mostly disastrous Republican National Convention, gave Clinton confidence to make a “safe” choice, rather than someone who would excite our party’s base, like Senator Elizabeth Warren or even Senator Cory Booker. Too bad Ohio has a Republican governor, otherwise Senator Sherrod Brown would have been an ideal running mate. Some pundits are calling Kaine a “governing pick,” someone Clinton feels comfortable working with for the next four or eight years, as opposed to the person who can do the most to boost her campaign over the next four months.

Of all the people Clinton was considering, Kaine arouses the most antipathy from the Sanders wing for various reasons. His vocal support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is just one of the problems. Kaine’s defenders point to his perfect voting record in the Senate on reproductive rights and LGBT equality, his near-perfect record on labor issues, his background as a civil rights attorney, and numerous accomplishments as governor. He is not outside the Democratic Party’s mainstream. On the other hand, the Progressive Punch database ranks Kaine the 40th most progressive among the 46 current senators who caucus with Democrats.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was repeatedly named in news reports and commentaries about Clinton’s short list. He’s got an inspiring personal story and developed a tremendous grasp of public policy over his long career in local, state and federal government. By all accounts, he and Clinton get along very well, having been acquainted since Clinton became friends with Christie Vilsack’s brother Tom Bell during the 1970s. Like Kaine, he has a reputation for making few mistakes. I regret that Clinton didn’t choose Vilsack, though I would have been equally happy with Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

No one is more disappointed tonight than the Iowa Democrats who know Vilsack best. Sometimes in politics, you hear how so-and-so big shot elected official was a nightmare to work for. You never hear those stories about Vilsack. On the contrary, the former Vilsack staffers I know rave about how knowledgeable, thorough, caring, engaging, and funny he was.

Then First Lady Clinton came through for Vilsack at a critical time during his underdog 1998 gubernatorial campaign. I have no doubt she will tap him for an important job if she is elected president. Iowans will see plenty of Vilsack on the trail this fall as a supporter of Clinton and down-ticket candidates.

Any thoughts about Kaine or the presidential race generally are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Added below some comments from Iowa Democrats to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble and Brianne Pfannenstiel.

SECOND UPDATE: Embedded below the video from the first joint campaign appearance by Clinton and Kaine, in Miami on July 23. His stump speech is worth watching in full; it was remarkably well constructed and delivered. I see more clearly now what this “happy warrior” could bring to the ticket. He wove together personal details, policy accomplishments, and a clear contrast between Clinton’s vision for the country and Donald Trump’s. I didn’t know much about Kaine’s legal work to combat housing discrimination, or that he and his wife sent their kids to public schools. If he does as well at the DNC on Wednesday night, Republicans should be worried.

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Weekend open thread: ISU cronyism and favoritism edition

Insider dealing at the University of Iowa has drawn intense scrutiny since President Bruce Harreld’s hiring last year. This week, several news reports cast an unflattering light on the culture President Steven Leath is fostering at Iowa State University.

The July 9 Des Moines Register carried a front-page story by Lee Rood on Leath’s recent purchase of land from one of the companies controlled by Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. After trying to weasel out of answering questions regarding what he called his “personal life,” Leath insisted he got no “special deal” on the land. However, the arrangement appears highly irregular, as discussed below following excerpts from Rood’s article.

Two recent stories by Vanessa Miller for the Cedar Rapids Gazette raised further questions about what kind of operation Leath is running. Click through to read about the hiring of former Republican lawmaker Jim Kurtenbach for a high-paying job that was never advertised, as well as Kurtenbach’s restructuring of ISU’s information technology services unit, which involved eliminating 23 positions and paying 19 people not to work since May 25. Excerpts from those stories are below as well.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

P.S.- Speaking of cozy Republican networks, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on Friday that the University of Iowa “is retaining a social media startup company with Republican Party ties that benefited from earlier no-bid contracts.” Wholecrowd is run by Jim Anderson, who served as Iowa GOP executive director during part of the time the University of Iowa’s current Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes was a staffer for the GOP state Senate caucus. Under no-bid contracts Matthes signed with former Iowa GOP state party chair Matt Strawn’s company, Wholecrowd did the same kind of “digital advocacy” work as a subcontractor. The university’s new contract, signed directly with Wholecrowd after a competitive bidding process, seems to have cut Strawn out as the middleman.

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A plea to Iowa supporters of Bernie Sanders

Although I caucused for Hillary Clinton this year, in most presidential elections I have ended up where Bernie Sanders supporters are now: disappointed and convinced that the candidate I preferred would have been a better president as well as better positioned to beat the Republican nominee.

In a speech to his supporters last Thursday, Sanders did not explicitly concede the Democratic nomination. He vowed to do his part to “make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly” while leading “our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.”

Whether you accept the “inevitable” or still believe Sanders can become the Democratic nominee for president, whether you are willing to “hold your nose” and vote for Hillary or are firmly #BernieOrBust, I have one request for the Iowans who backed Sanders throughout this past year.

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Take Back Muscatine

When Diana Broderson decided last year to run for mayor of Muscatine, she thought that her many years in the community and working in family programs at the YMCA would bring a unique perspective to the city, one mainly focused on reducing poverty and on creating a family-focused community. As it turned out, the majority of voters agreed. Mayor Broderson won by eight points over the incumbent mayor, garnering more votes than anyone else on the ballot in the City.

But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

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Ryan Drew is first Democrat to declare in Iowa House district 88

Six days after Iowa House Ways and Means Chair Tom Sands announced plans to retire instead of seeking another term, the first Democratic candidate has stepped up to run in Iowa House district 88. I enclose below the full campaign announcement for Ryan Drew, along with a district map.

Other candidates may emerge before the special nominating convention, to be held sometime before the mid-August filing deadline for general election candidates. When State Representative Brian Quirk retired soon after being re-elected in 2012, the first Democrat to declare in that district ended up losing the nomination to Todd Prichard.

Democrats did not field a candidate in House district 88 in 2014, and no one filed to run against Sands this year, but an open seat should be in play, especially if a Donald Trump meltdown materializes. The district contains 5,566 active registered Democrats, 6,397 Republicans, and 6,775 no-party voters, according to the most recent figures available. In the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama gained 50.9 percent of the vote in House district 88 to 47.9 percent for Mitt Romney.

To my knowledge, Jason Delzell is the only Republican actively seeking the nomination in House district 88. He appears to have the blessing of the GOP establishment, though others may compete for the GOP nomination, which will also be decided at a special district convention.

UPDATE: Pat Rynard briefly profiled Drew in a post on Democratic activists last year, calling him “a go-to workhorse who gets things done” and has been volunteering for local campaigns since 2005.

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It's hard to beat an Iowa legislative incumbent in a primary

Yesterday’s primary elections demonstrated again that Iowans like to re-elect their incumbents, barring extraordinary circumstances.

The exception proving the rule: three-term State Representative Dan Kelley lost his Democratic primary in House district 29 (covering Newton and most of Jasper County) to Wes Breckinridge by 65 percent to 35 percent. As Pat Rynard explained here, that race was notable because prominent local officials and Iowa’s two largest labor organizations, AFSCME and the Iowa Federation of Labor, opposed the incumbent.

I’ll be sorry to see Kelley go. Of all the state legislators, he was the most vocal opponent of the Bakken pipeline, despite knowing that unions–a powerful interest group in Iowa Democratic politics–had bought into the oil company’s greatly exaggerated job estimates for that project (see also here). Kelley wasn’t always popular in the House Democratic caucus. I didn’t agree with all of his votes, but I admired his independent thinking.

No one challenged a sitting Iowa senator in a primary this year. The other eight state representatives who faced competitive primaries all won easily yesterday. Among the Democrats, Jo Oldson took about 67 percent of the vote against a hard-working opponent in House district 41, Brian Meyer won 69.5 percent in House district 33, and Mary Gaskill 59 percent in House district 81. Among the Republicans, Greg Forristall won just under 80 percent of the vote in House district 22, Stan Gustafson 67 percent in House district 25, Kevin Koester more than 86 percent in House district 38, Jake Highfill 58.5 percent in House district 39, and Jarad Klein 67 percent in House district 78.

No Iowa lawmaker failed to win his or her party’s nomination in 2014. Highfill had the closest call, taking a 43 percent plurality against two Republican opponents. Highfill was the only successful primary challenger to an Iowa legislative incumbent in 2012. The college student’s victory over then House Majority Whip Erik Helland was shocking, but an OWI arrest and other examples of poor judgment worked against Helland. Though inexperienced, Highfill had the backing of former State Representative Walt Tomenga and the “Liberty PAC” of Ron Paul supporters in that 2012 race.

Any comments about Iowa legislative elections are welcome in this thread.

Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton's and Pam Dearden Conner's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Boulton won this race by just under 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative primary results tonight will be the race to represent the open Iowa Senate district 16, covering the east side of Des Moines and Pleasant Hill in Polk County. No Republican has filed to run in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. The two contenders seeking to replace retiring Senator Dick Dearden are his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, and Nate Boulton. Bleeding Heartland posted background on both candidates here. Each has substantial support from influential local Democrats.

I love three things about this primary:

1) It is happening. Dearden announced his plans to retire six months before the filing deadline, giving all local residents plenty of time to enter the Senate race. He could have pretended to be seeking another term, then pulled his nominating papers on the last day, leaving time for only his daughter to file. Too many Iowa lawmakers, including three House Democrats this year, have engineered their retirements so that only favored insiders had a chance to consider running for office.

2) Both sides are working hard. Although some Iowa Democrats have a bizarre fear of competitive primaries, I see no downside to two candidates and a small army of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls, trying to identify supporters and get them to vote. As of May 24, more than 1,200 voters in Senate district 16 had requested absentee ballots. Both campaigns were out in force this past weekend, enjoying perfect weather for canvassing. Boulton has raised and spent more money, as you can see from his and Conner’s latest disclosure reports, but both sides have done substantial district-wide voter outreach.

3) As far as I can tell, the candidates have stayed positive. Months ago, I was worried the Senate district 16 primary might turn nasty like the 2013 Des Moines City Council race between Chris Diebel and Skip Moore, which lit up social media and strained friendships.

May the best Democrat win. I’ve posted below some examples of campaign literature and direct mail supporting each candidate. You can find more information on the websites for Conner and Boulton.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge played not to lose, and it looks like she's not losing

Since launching her U.S. Senate campaign in March, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge has held relatively few public events. She hasn’t put out attention-getting policy proposals. Her campaign has announced high-profile endorsements through news releases, not at press conferences where tv cameras would be rolling. She didn’t come to the two televised debates ready to drop headline-grabbing talking points.

Both Iowa and national Republicans have mocked Judge’s sparse public schedule, asking, “Where’s Patty?” Even some Democrats have been puzzled by the experienced candidate’s low-profile approach to a race she entered very late.

Judge’s strategy had a certain logic, though. If her internal polling showed her well ahead of the other three Democrats seeking the nomination–expected given her higher visibility as a former statewide office-holder–packing her schedule with rallies and town-halls would have little upside. Republican video trackers, like the ones who have been following State Senator Rob Hogg around since last summer, would catch any slip and blow it out of all proportion.

Two public polls released in recent days lend support to persistent rumors in Democratic circles that surveys conducted for the Judge campaign put her 10 or 15 points ahead of her nearest rival.

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Big Meat, Small Towns: The Free Market Rationale for Raising Iowa’s Minimum Wage

Austin Frerick, an Iowa native and economist who has worked at the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Congressional Research Service, makes a distinctive case for raising the minimum wage, last increased in Iowa in January 2007. -promoted by desmoinesdem

All of the states that border Iowa, except one, have raised their minimum wage above the federal level. In fact, a majority of states in the union have a higher one. A recent study estimated that 413,000 Iowa workers would benefit from a wage increase to at least $12 and most of the benefits would accrue to full-time adult women. The public also already decidedly supports this action as a recent Des Moines Register poll found that nearly two-thirds of Iowans favored raising it. This debate is especially relevant for Iowans employed in the numerous slaughterhouses that dot the state.

Company towns, once a relic of America’s industrial past, have reemerged in American society, notably in rural Iowa slaughterhouse communities. This occurred because of a market climate that made their monopsony position in these communities attractive to firms. This predicament causes a market failure. Therefore, raising Iowa’s minimum wage will correct this market distortion for these especially vulnerable Iowans.

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Of Slates and Allegiances in Johnson County

Guest posts advocating for Democratic candidates in competitive primaries are welcome here. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Plenty of chatter about the Democratic primary for Johnson County Board of Supervisors has been focused on which candidate is allied with which other candidate(s) (or not), which elected official is supporting which candidate (or not), which candidate supports which presidential candidate, and who represents real Democratic values…or not.

There are no slates in this election. I am not running with any of the other candidates on the ballot this June 7th, nor to my knowledge are any of the others. That said, a number of my supporters have made very public their support of one or two other candidacies. As you travel around Johnson County you will find my yard signs next to those of all five other candidates in the race, as well as next to those of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Rob Hogg, Tom Fiegen, and Black Lives Matter. I am honored to be in all that good company.

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Heidi Heitkamp will keynote the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner

Heads up, possible future presidential candidate spotters: U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota will speak at a major Democratic gathering in Des Moines on June 17. Alternating each summer between the capital city and Cedar Rapids, the Hall of Fame is typically the Iowa Democratic Party’s second-largest event of the year, after the to-be-renamed Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

I enclose below today’s announcement from the Iowa Democratic Party and some background on Heitkamp, who was North Dakota’s attorney general before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Ticket sales (starting at $50) won’t be as brisk as for last summer’s event, which drew all five declared Democratic presidential candidates, but no doubt many activists will be interested to see Heitkamp in person. Her appearance may also draw some protesters, as she has been a “loud and proud” supporter of North Dakota’s oil extraction industry, and the proposed Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline is a hot topic in this state’s environmental community.

This year’s Hall of Fame honorees include Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the elected official category, Iowa Federation of Labor President Ken Sagar as “outstanding supporter,” and State Representative Sharon Steckman for “oustanding leadership.” Scroll down to read the full list.

UPDATE: Should have mentioned that Heitkamp has the most conservative voting record in the Senate Democratic caucus, according to the Progressive Punch database. You can view ratings of votes on various types of issues here. Heitkamp has a “perfect” progressive record in only one category: fair taxation. As is common among Democrats representing tough states or districts, Heitkamp’s votes have become more conservative since Republicans gained a Senate majority (and therefore control over what comes to the floor).

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IA-03: Jim Mowrer introduces himself to Democrats as a fighter

The three candidates seeking to unseat first-term Republican Representative David Young have been working the phones and attending Democratic events all over Iowa’s third Congressional district as Iowa’s June 7 primary approaches.

The campaigns are also finding other ways to convey their messages to voters they can’t reach in person. A post in progress will cover an eight-page newspaper-style handout featuring Desmund Adams. Bleeding Heartland discussed Mike Sherzan’s first direct mail and television commercials here.

Jim Mowrer has introduced himself to Democrats with a tv ad and at least six mailings, starting shortly before early voting began on April 28. A recurring theme in Mowrer’s outreach is the Iraq War veteran’s commitment to fight for Democratic values and priorities, especially Social Security. Like U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack, Iowa’s only Democrat left in Congress, Mowrer grew up with relatives who depended on Social Security benefits after a family tragedy.

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IA-Sen: Two big labor endorsements for Rob Hogg

Two of Iowa’s largest labor organizations are backing State Senator Rob Hogg in the four-way Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Speaking to delegates at the Iowa Democratic Party’s second Congressional district convention this morning, Hogg announced that the Iowa Federation of Labor has endorsed him, Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble reported. A couple of hours later at the first district convention, Hogg announced the support of AFSCME Council 61, which represents tens of thousands of public employees.

During his speech at a campaign event in Urbandale on April 25, Hogg mentioned his strong pro-labor voting record during four years of service in the Iowa House and ten in the Iowa Senate. Also relevant: Hogg’s main primary rival is Patty Judge, who was not known as a champion on labor issues in the Iowa legislature and was lieutenant governor when Governor Chet Culver vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008. I do not recall Judge speaking publicly about that bill at the time, but the veto caused lingering bad blood between Culver and the organized labor community.

Labor support doesn’t always carry the day in Iowa Democratic politics. Mike Blouin fell a bit short against Culver in the 2006 gubernatorial primary despite having more labor endorsements, including from AFSCME. Still, financial and/or organizational help from AFSCME and the IFL will be a boost for Hogg as he competes against Judge, Bob Krause, and Tom Fiegen to get out the vote before June 7. Judge spoke this morning to delegates at the third and fourth district conventions and is scheduled to appear at the other conventions in the afternoon. Krause and Fiegen were planning to appear at all the conventions today as well.

Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread. At this writing, statements about the latest endorsements for Hogg have not appeared on either labor organization’s website or on Hogg’s Senate campaign website. I will update as needed.

UPDATE: Speaking by phone on April 30, Hogg said he was “really excited about the labor endorsements. I think it will really magnify the grassroots support that I already have. I think it’s because we share a view that we need to create an economy that works for all Americans. And I have that voting record in the Iowa legislature–I’ve got a 99 percent lifetime Iowa Federation of Labor voting record. I didn’t set out to have that, but that’s how they’ve scored me, and I’m very, very proud of that and very excited about the endorsement.”

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IA-03: Sherzan highlights values through "different way of doing business"

Many candidates point to successful careers to communicate their leadership or management skills. Mike Sherzan, one of three Democrats seeking the nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, is highlighting his experience as founder and chief executive of a financial services firm in order to show that he values hard work and putting people first.

Last Friday, Sherzan became the first candidate in IA-03 to start running television commercials. I enclose below his introductory spot and latest direct mail, which build on his earlier promise to be “a voice for hardworking families.”

UPDATE: Have added the second tv ad for Sherzan, which launched on April 26 and hits similar themes, with a focus on treating women fairly in the workplace.

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IA-03: Mike Sherzan promises to be "a voice for hardworking families"

The first direct mail piece on behalf of a Democratic candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district hit our mailbox yesterday. Mike Sherzan’s mailer incorporated several messages tested in an internal poll a few weeks ago, regarding Sherzan’s working-class family background, respect for hard work, and fair treatment of employees, including “equal pay and equal opportunity” for women. Follow me after the jump for photos and the text.

The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel reported on Sherzan’s recent tour of the district. Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich recently profiled the other two Democratic candidates, Jim Mowrer and Desmund Adams.

Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread. The winner of the June 7 primary will take on first-term Representative David Young in a district with an even partisan voting index. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that the sixteen counties in central and southwest Iowa contain 158,291 active registered Democrats, 170,361 Republicans, and 152,430 no-party voters.

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Carrie Duncan Running For Iowa House district 84

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on state legislative races. Great to see a candidate stepping up in this district. Democrats failed to field a challenger against Heaton in 2012 or 2014. By the way, some Iowa politics junkies have Heaton on retirement watch. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Carrie Duncan is running for State Representative in House District 84 against eleven-term incumbent Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant), as a Democrat. With the controversy surrounding the potential closure of a mental health facility in Mount Pleasant. Carrie felt the need to run against Representative Heaton, feeling that he was not a strong enough of a voice against the Branstad Administration’s plans to close the facility.

Carrie’s support for organized labor is fierce and deep. She is a proud member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), Chief Steward, Local 1010 She works at the American Ordinance LLC in Middletown. Carrie’s son, Zach also works at American Ordinance LLC. Zach lives with his wife Randee, in Mount Pleasant. Carrie has also worked at Pioneer Corn and Pinnacle Foods. She resides in New London.

Carrie got into this race as a voice for the middle class and the poor in the state of Iowa. She believes that the state government is simply giving too much away, using tax breaks to procure agreements with big corporations while not doing enough to educate our children. The unemployment rate is too high in District 84; this means that we need leaders in Des Moines that are regularly communicating with small businesses instead of constantly trying to lure extremely large companies, many times hiring out of state labor to fill the positions.

Carrie has worked in the New London School District as well; she has gained knowledge about the issues that our educators face daily. She has worked in some different industries, always fighting for fair wages and equal treatment for all in the workplace. She currently serves as the Vice President of the North Lee County Labor Council.

She is also hoping to see an end to the Governor’s plan to privatize Medicaid, and wants to see a more transparent process when large economic development agreements come to the area.

District 84 encompasses portions of Northern Lee County, Henry County, and Jefferson/Washington townships. [note from desmoinesdem: A map is after the jump, along with the latest voter registration numbers.]

Carrie is originally from Chillicothe, Illinois and she grew up on a family farm. She has a lifetime appreciation for our state’s local ag producers. Carrie is involved in a number of terrific charitable organizations in Southeast Iowa, as well.

For more information go here:

http://kilj.com/2016/01/news/carrie-duncan-announces-run-for-state-representative-in-washington-henry-jefferson-and-lee-counties/

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IA-03: Two big labor endorsements for Jim Mowrer

The Teamsters and United Auto Workers are backing Jim Mowrer for Congress in Iowa’s third district, the Mowrer campaign announced this morning. I enclose the full statement below, which notes that the Teamsters “represent over 12,000 Iowa working men and women in both the private and public sector” and the UAW “represents over 16,000 members throughout Iowa.” Campaign officials were not able to provide membership numbers for either union in the sixteen counties that make up IA-03. I assume most Iowans belonging to those unions live in the first or second Congressional districts.

In December, Mowrer picked up the endorsement of the SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation) Union – Transportation Division. I do not have district membership numbers for that union either. The Sheet Metal Workers International Association and the United Transportation Union PAC each contributed $2,500 to Mowrer’s campaign late last year.

To my knowledge, no other Democratic candidate in IA-03 has received any labor union endorsements or campaign contributions this cycle. Former Governor Chet Culver has been considering the race but seems unlikely to run at this point, and even if he did, his relationship with organized labor is complicated. In addition to financial support, labor unions can help with direct mail, phone-banking or other GOTV, which in a low-turnout primary could become important.

Mowrer has the lion’s share of the endorsements from prominent Iowa Democrats who have taken a public stand on this race. He has also raised the most money among first-term Representative David Young’s three declared challengers, though rival Democratic candidate Mike Sherzan has almost as much cash on hand as Mowrer after loaning his campaign $200,000.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named IA-03 an “emerging district” last week, but in contrast to the first district, where Washington Democrats are explicitly backing Monica Vernon, the DCCC appears likely to wait until after the June primary to promote a specific challenger to Young.

Any comments about this race are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa House district 92 preview: Ross Paustian vs. Ken Krumwiede

Iowa House district 92, covering part of Davenport and other areas in Scott County, has changed hands more times in the last decade than any other seat in the Iowa legislature. Democrat Elesha Gayman defeated Republican incumbent Jim Van Fossen in 2006, when the district was number 84. She held that seat against Republican Ross Paustian in 2008, then retired rather than seeking a third term in 2010. Paustian won the open-seat race by a comfortable margin, with a GOP landslide putting the wind at his back. However, he lost his first re-election bid in the slightly reconfigured House district 92 to former State Senator Frank Wood. Undeterred, Paustian sought a rematch and defeated Wood with some help from another Republican wave in 2014.

Four party switches in the last five elections guarantees that both parties will target this district in the fall.

Paustian is a relatively obscure back-bencher. The vice chair of the House committees on agriculture and environmental protection rarely makes news, except for that time the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel snapped a photo of him reading the book Sex After Sixty during a long debate over a collective bargaining bill. That story went viral nationally and even made it into a British newspaper.

As of last week, Paustian has a Democratic challenger in Ken Krumwiede. Like Wood, Krumwiede is a career educator, and his campaign announcement signals that school funding will be a central issue in this race. Every Democratic candidate for the legislature should do the same. Last July, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed supplemental spending for K-12 schools and higher education, blowing up a bipartisan budget compromise and blowing a hole in school district budgets. Paustian and most of his fellow statehouse Republicans failed to take up the call to override those vetoes.

I enclose below a district map and background on Paustian and Krumwiede. House district 92 is relatively balanced politically, with 5,686 active registered Democrats, 5,799 Republicans, and 8,820 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. (Those numbers do not include voters who changed party affiliation on February 1 to participate in the Iowa caucuses.) President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney among voters in this district by 53.94 percent to 45.0 percent in 2012. But Joni Ernst prevailed over Bruce Braley here in the 2014 U.S. Senate race by a similar margin of 53.26 percent to 43.45 percent.

Any comments related to the House district 92 campaign or candidates are welcome in this thread. The presidential-year electorate may favor Krumwiede, although incumbents have a natural advantage, and Scott County Republicans have been better-organized lately than local Democrats. The Iowa Farm Bureau will surely get involved on Paustian’s behalf, while organized labor including the Iowa State Education Association will likely assist Krumwiede.

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Weighing Presidential Experience

I enjoy learning how thoughtful Iowa Democrats have approached this decision. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Relevant experience IS very important. I want to be clear on that point. But I think the discussion could use a little historical perspective (skip down a few paragraphs if you want to skip the preliminaries). But when looking at the leading Democratic presidential candidates I see two people who meet and exceed any reasonable resume requirements, and therefore I didn’t find experience as a terribly useful metric for deciding between Sanders and Clinton. More important to me is how a candidate stands on issues which are important to me, how consistent they have been in those stances, what they have done about them historically, and what I can infer about the way they approach and solve problems based on what they’ve said and done.

Just to be up front, I’ve decided to caucus for Senator Bernie Sanders on February first.

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Republican Brian Moore retiring, opening up Iowa House district 58

One of the best pickup opportunities for Democrats in the Iowa House got better on Thursday, as three-term Republican State Representative Brian Moore told KMAQ Radio in Maquoketa that he will not run for re-election in House district 58. After an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in an Iowa Senate district, Moore switched parties, filed in a House seat where there was no Republican challenger, and pulled off one of the most shocking Iowa state legislative upsets in 2010. He won a re-match against Tom Schueller in the next election cycle and defeated challenger Kim Huckstadt by a comfortable margin in 2014.

House district 58 is among the most Democratic-leaning legislative seats currently held by a Republican. In 2012, Barack Obama received 55.6 percent of the vote here; only residents of House district 91 in the Muscatine area gave a higher percentage of their votes to the president while electing a Republican to the Iowa House. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, House district 58 contains 6,968 active registered Democrats, 4,726 Republicans, and 9,151 no-party voters.

Moore has not always fallen in line with House Republican leaders. In late December, he told William Garbe of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald that he may break with his caucus during this year’s session to support a larger funding increase for K-12 schools. Fellow GOP State Representatives Quentin Stanerson and Ron Jorgensen are also retiring this year and are known to have been dissatisfied with the final compromise on education funding last year. Moore’s announcement will increase speculation that State Representative Josh Byrnes may not seek a fourth term in House district 51. He challenged Linda Upmeyer for the speaker’s chair last summer. After losing that contest, Byrnes criticized excessive partisanship and the failure to meet deadlines for approving school funding. In 2013, Byrnes and Moore were the only two House Republicans to vote with Democrats to expand Medicaid as foreseen under the Affordable Care Act.

Democrat Peter Hird launched his campaign in House district 58 in October. I enclose below some background on Hird and a map of the district, which covers all of Jackson County, a large area in Jones County and two rural Dubuque County townships. Pat Rynard profiled Hird at Iowa Starting Line last month. I would not be surprised to see another Democrat file to run for this seat, since the winner of the primary will have a good chance of being elected in November.

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Sorting Through the Job Creation Shenanigans of Politicians and Special Interests

Dave Swenson

Elected officials are keen to flash their job creation scorecard even though local and state government officials don’t really create many jobs. The economy in the aggregate creates the overwhelming majority of jobs, and some of those jobs locate in our cities, counties, and state. For elected officials, though, if it happened on their watch, ipso facto, they’ve created jobs. Credit is always claimed.

When job “creation” (see above) becomes the measure of public service performance, however lacking in substance or result, we inevitably get phony statistics, misleading inferences, or dubious claims. Sometimes politicians cherry-pick the numbers to make the best case possible. And sometimes politicians or their willing accomplices create brand new statistics.

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Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

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The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the “omnibus” budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the “tax extenders” and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named “On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566”), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders “opposed the tax package” but “did not whip their members against it.” Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He “has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October,” Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

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Thoughts on Terry Branstad's longevity and legacy

Terry Branstad front photo photo_front_gov_zpsobbhiahu.png

December 14 marked 7,642 days that Terry Branstad has been governor of Iowa, making him the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, according to Eric Ostermeier of the Smart Politics website. Because most states have term limits for governors, “The odds of anyone passing [Branstad] in the 21st Century are next to none,” Ostermeier told Catherine Lucey of the Associated Press.

Speaking about his legacy, Branstad has emphasized the diversification of Iowa’s economy, even though a governor has far less influence over such trends than Branstad seems to believe. Some have cited “fiscal conservatism” as a hallmark of Branstad’s leadership. I strongly disagree. The man who has been governor for nearly half of my lifetime is stingy about spending money on education and some other critical public services. He opposes bonding initiatives commonly used in other states to fund infrastructure projects (“you don’t borrow your way to prosperity”). But he is happy to provide tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations that don’t need the help, without any regard for the future impact of those tax expenditures on the state budget. Many of Iowa’s “giveaways” in the name of economic development will never pay for themselves.

Branstad’s governing style has changed Iowa in important ways. He has altered Iowans’ expectations for their governor. He has expanded executive power at the expense of both the legislative branch and local governments. And particularly during the last five years, he has given corporate interests and business leaders more control over state policy. More thoughts on those points are after the jump, along with excerpts from some of the many profiles and interviews published as today’s landmark approached.

P.S.- Speaking of Branstad doing what business elites want him to do, Iowa Public Television’s “Governor Branstad: Behind the Scenes” program, which aired on December 11, included a telling snippet that I’ve transcribed below. During a brief chat at the Iowa State Fair, Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter asked Branstad to call Bruce Harreld, at that time one of the candidates to be president of the University of Iowa. That Rastetter asked Branstad to reassure Harreld was first reported right after the Board of Regents hired the new president, but I didn’t know they had the conversation in public near a television camera.

P.P.S.-Now that Branstad has made the history books, I remain convinced that he will not serve out his sixth term. Sometime between November 2016 and July 2017, he will resign in order to allow Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to run for governor in 2018 as the incumbent. Although Branstad clearly loves his job, he is highly motivated to make Reynolds the next governor. She lacks a strong base of support in the Republican Party, because she was relatively inexperienced and largely unknown when tapped to be Branstad’s running mate in 2010. Even assuming she is the incumbent, Reynolds strikes me as more likely to lose than to win a statewide gubernatorial primary. Remaining in Branstad’s shadow would give Reynolds little chance of topping a field that will probably include Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

P.P.S.S.-I will always believe Branstad could have been beaten in 1990, if Democrats had nominated a stronger candidate than Don Avenson. Attorney General Tom Miller lost that three-way primary for one reason only: he was against abortion rights. Miller later changed that stance but never again ran for higher office.

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IA-03: More signs Chet Culver may run

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Former Governor Chet Culver “is getting closer” to joining the Democratic field in Iowa’s third district, Civic Skinny reports in the latest edition of the weekly Cityview.

He is looking at the numbers — the money numbers and the registration numbers — and lining up a staff. He is studying the issues and talking to longtime supporters. He is looking at the problems of running — and, he hopes, serving — while still being a good father to two teenagers and a supportive husband to a wife who works part-time as a lawyer in Des Moines. […]

Culver says he is getting in shape physically for a run and just got a good report from his doctor.

Last week, Culver made clear that he would enjoy returning to public service, views IA-03 as a “good fit,” and is confident he could raise the resources to run a successful campaign.

Civic Skinny speculated that beating the other likely candidates in the Democratic field (Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer, and Mike Sherzan) “probably wouldn’t be hard [for Culver], with his name recognition and zest for campaigning.” But I would expect a battle royal in an IA-03 primary involving the former governor. Not only has Mowrer lined up support from many prominent local Democrats, he is rumored to have strong backing in labor circles. Culver’s uneasy relationship with organized labor dates to the 2006 gubernatorial primary, when some large unions including AFSCME endorsed his main rival Mike Blouin. The bad blood really set in when the governor vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008.

It’s also important to remember that for a Congressional race, Culver will not be able to collect very large donations from his strongest supporters. Individual contributions for federal candidates max out at $2,700 for the primary election and $2,700 for the general election (but that money can’t be used until after the June 2016 primary). During the first four months of 2006, Culver’s campaign for governor collected $25,000 gifts from three donors, $10,000 from five more donors, and $5,000 from more than a dozen others. Two more $10,000 gifts and some $5,000 checks came in during the final weeks before the 2006 primary. Culver’s 2005 campaign disclosure report included several $10,000 gifts and one for $15,000 as well.

Running a Congressional primary campaign will be less expensive than running for governor statewide, especially since about two-thirds of the registered Democrats in the district live in Polk County. Nevertheless, Culver will have a short time span to raise a lot of money in increments of no more than $2,700 from any one person.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread.

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District Court lets stand Branstad veto of mental health institute funding

Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad’s authority to veto funding intended to keep two in-patient mental health facilities open. Twenty Democratic state lawmakers and the president of Iowa’s largest public-employee union filed the lawsuit in July, arguing that the governor’s line-item vetoes violated Iowa Code provisions requiring that the state “shall operate” mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. But Judge Staskal found that “Existing statutes cannot limit the Governor’s item veto authority,” which “is of constitutional magnitude. The only limitations that have been placed on that authority have been derived from the language of the constitution itself. […] And, there is no language in the item veto provision which suggests a statutory limitation on the power it creates. It is elementary that, to the extent there is conflict between a constitutional provision and a statute, the constitution prevails.”

I enclose below longer excerpts from the court ruling, which can be read in full here. Mark Hedberg, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, told Bleeding Heartland they “are preparing an appeal” to the Iowa Supreme Court “and will ask that it be expedited.”

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AFSCME President Danny Homan elected Iowa Democratic Party first vice chair

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee elected Danny Homan to serve as first vice chair today. Homan is the longtime president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, the state’s largest public-employee union. He is a frequent critic of Governor Terry Branstad and has been a plaintiff in several lawsuits against the governor. Most recently, Homan and twenty Democratic state lawmakers challenged Branstad’s actions to close two state-run mental health institutions. A Polk County District Court judge just heard motions in that case on October 8 and is expected to rule during the next 30 days. Homan was also involved in the unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the governor’s closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home, as well as a case that produced a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling saying Branstad had improperly exercised his veto power. However, that 2012 ruling did not force the state to reopen any Iowa Workforce Development field offices, the closure of which had prompted the lawsuit.

Jim Mowrer was elected first vice chair in January but stepped down from that position in August, when he launched his Congressional campaign in the third district.

Joe Stutler, a central committee member from Marion (Linn County) who is active on civil rights and veterans issues, also ran for first vice chair today. Stutler is currently vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus.

I enclose below the Iowa Democratic Party’s press release announcing Homan’s election.

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Iowa Senate district 16 primary preview: Pam Dearden Conner vs. Nate Boulton

A generational battle is shaping up in the Democratic primary to replace State Senator Dick Dearden, who has represented parts of Des Moines in the legislature since 1995. Dearden recently disclosed plans to retire in 2016. Like last year’s campaign to replace Jack Hatch in Iowa Senate district 17 on the south side of Des Moines, the June primary will determine Dearden’s successor.

Senate district 16 covers heavily Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of Des Moines, and also the growing suburb of Pleasant Hill. A detailed map is after the jump. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office indicate that the district contains 14,624 active registered Democrats, 6,978 Republicans, and 10,106 no-party voters. Dearden was unopposed in 2004 and defeated his Republican challengers by wide margins in 2008 and in 2012.

More candidates may enter the race later, but for now the primary will pit the incumbent’s daughter Pam Dearden Conner against labor attorney Nate Boulton. Iowa Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Michael Mauro endorsed Conner on Facebook this past weekend. She is his administrative assistant and also worked for him in the Polk County Election Office and the Secretary of State’s Office. Many other longtime friends and backers of Senator Dearden have expressed their support for Conner’s campaign on social media.

Nate Boulton is a partner in a law firm that has represented Iowa’s largest pubic employee union (AFSCME) in several high-profile cases against Governor Terry Branstad’s administration. Since last Friday, many Democratic activists in their 20s and 30s have promoted his candidacy on social media. Bouton’s on Twitter here, and his campaign is on Facebook here.

I enclose below press releases from each candidate, containing short biographies and statements of values. Both Conner and Boulton have strong pro-labor credentials and are pledging to support consensus Democratic priorities like education. Boulton’s statement hints at the case he will make in the primary, promising to “be an active and engaged representative of district interests” and to “bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate.” Such phrases allude to the fact that Dearden, while a solid vote in the legislature, has never been at the forefront of progressive fights. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a cause he has led on, besides bringing back dove hunting, which isn’t a partisan issue. Dearden didn’t accomplish that longstanding goal until Governor Terry Branstad was back in office.

Two (or perhaps more) committed candidates working hard to identify and turn out supporters next June can only help Democratic GOTV in the general election. Here’s hoping for a competitive race that doesn’t turn bitter and negative, as happened in Senate district 17 last spring.

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Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit over Branstad closing mental health facilities

Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal ruled yesterday that a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad’s line-item vetoes of mental health facility funding can move forward.

A group of Democratic state legislators and AFSCME, Iowa’s largest public employee union, filed the lawsuit in July. Last month, attorneys for the state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit or force the plaintiffs to “recast” (revise and resubmit) their court filing.

But in a thirteen-page ruling, Judge Staskal rejected the state’s arguments that “the plaintiffs lack standing, have failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that the case presents a nonjusticiable political question.” He found that AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan has standing because he represents the interests of state workers who were laid off when the state government closed in-patient mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. The judge also noted that state legislators “have standing to challenge the propriety of the Governor’s exercise of his veto authority.” Judge Staskal found plaintiffs had stated a claim: “a challenge to the Governor’s exercise of his line-item veto authority.” As for the political question, the ruling noted, “Whether to close Clarinda and Mount Pleasant is a policy matter for the other branches of government. Whether the Governor’s particular use of his line-item veto power is constitutional is a matter for the courts.”

Judge Staskal did find in favor of one argument advanced by state attorneys, releasing Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer as a co-defendant: “The Director [Palmer] plainly has no authority to veto legislation and there is no allegation that he did veto legislation. Therefore, there is no conceivable set of facts upon which relief could be granted on the claim that the Director exercised an improper veto.”    

The legislators who joined this lawsuit are State Senators Rich Taylor, Tom Courtney, Janet Petersen, Tony Bisignano, Herman Quirmbach, and Dick Dearden, and State Representatives Bruce Hunter, Curt Hanson, Jerry Kearns, Mark Smith, Art Staed, Ako Abdul-Samad, Jo Oldson, Ruth Ann Gaines, Sharon Steckman, Todd Taylor, Mary Gaskill, Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Timi Brown-Powers, and Dave Jacoby.

Heather Anderson for Des Moines School Board District 1

I always vote in school board elections, even non-contested ones, to prevent any stealth write-in candidate from winning. But until this year, I had never knocked on doors for a school board candidate. Nor have I endorsed a school board candidate at Bleeding Heartland before now.

Heather Anderson would be an exceptional voice on the Des Moines School Board. She is a creative thinker, hard worker, and good listener.

Anderson was one of five finalists for the Iowa Department of Education’s Iowa Teacher of the Year. She won the Iowa Division of the Izaak Walton League’s Teacher of the Year award. She won the Iowa State Education Association’s Excellence in Education Award too. None of those honors surprised anyone who had seen her in action.

Before either of my sons was assigned to Anderson’s classroom, I was aware of her efforts to enrich the learning environment at their elementary school. During the years she taught my sons, I continually saw her go above and beyond for her students and colleagues.

Watching her interact with children and adults in the classroom, on field trips, or at other school events, I saw how well Anderson relates to people with different temperaments and personality types. I think she possesses a rare combination of traditional intelligence (the “ability to learn, understand, and apply information and skills”) and interpersonal relationship skills (often called “EQ”).

Over the past decade, the Des Moines School Board has been too willing to go along with the recommendations of the superintendent, whoever he or she may be. I believe Anderson would provide a counterweight to what appears to be a “business as usual” board culture.

You can read more about Anderson’s background and comments from other supporters on her campaign website. The Des Moines Education Association, South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, and Central Iowa Building & Construction Trades Council have endorsed her candidacy.

If you live on the northwest side of Des Moines or in the Windsor Heights neighborhoods that are part of the Des Moines School District, I hope you will give Anderson your serious consideration for the District 1 seat. After the jump I’ve enclosed a map showing the district boundaries. Polls are open on Tuesday, September 8, from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

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Background on Kim Weaver, Democratic challenger to Steve King in IA-04

While the four presidential hopefuls attracted the most attention at last night’s “Wing Ding” in Clear Lake, some big Iowa political news preceded their pitches. Kim Weaver delivered her first major speech as a Congressional candidate in the fourth district. Given the smooth delivery, I would never have guessed she hasn’t run for office before.

After telling the audience a little about her background, Weaver talked about some of her key issues: protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; supporting the middle class; raising the minimum wage; fighting to change a “predatory” student loan system; supporting women’s access to health care; immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship; clean water and environmental protections. The packed house frequently applauded, especially loudly when Weaver said, “These are some of the things I stand for. What I stand against is Steve King.” Iowa Democrats love to hate King. Weaver argued the seven-term incumbent “doesn’t represent Iowa values,” citing his offensive comments about immigrants and votes against Katrina aid and even a Farm Bill (because he thought it contained too much hunger assistance).

Weaver’s campaign is online at WeaverforCongress.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Her website contains brief statements on most of the issues her stump speech covered. After the jump I’ve posted her announcement video and excerpts from her official bio.

Taking on King is a daunting task for any Democrat. The 39 counties in IA-04 contain 119,020 active registered Democrats, 176,515 Republicans, and 174,355 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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Why Jim Webb Deserves The Support of Democratic Voters

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts, including advocacy for candidates and first-person accounts of Iowa caucus campaign events. Paid staffers or consultants for candidates must disclose that fact if they write about the campaign they're promoting. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Jim Webb is focused on executive leadership and getting proven results. Candidates that simply use applause lines to get votes will not be able to get results when they find themselves in a jam with Congress. Webb deserves your consideration in the Democratic nominating process because he delivered on the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill, which was a piece of legislation that he wrote before he came to the U.S. Senate. The Post 9-11 G.I. Bill has allowed millions of veterans advance their education and reach their true occupational goals. Jim Webb got results as a pro-bono attorney advocating for veterans that needed to navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration.

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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I’ve posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It’s a shame the venue couldn’t accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who’s a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn’t take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she’s relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of “ignoring” Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I’m amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton “bombed” in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump’s remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump’s comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he’s done something wrong, “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

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AFSCME, 20 Democratic legislators sue Branstad over mental health closures (updated)

Iowa’s largest public employee union and 20 Democratic state legislators filed a lawsuit today challenging the closure of mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. I enclose below a press release from AFSCME Council 61, which lists the six state senators and fourteen state representatives who joined the lawsuit naming Governor Terry Branstad and Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer.

The Branstad administration announced plans in January to close two of Iowa’s four in-patient mental health facilities. State legislators were neither consulted nor notified in advance. The Department of Human Services started winding down operations well before the end of the 2015 fiscal year. Democrats fought to include funding for the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant institutes in the budget for the current fiscal year, but Branstad item-vetoed the appropriation. The lawsuit contends that closing the facilities violates Iowa Code, which holds that the state “shall operate” mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. The governor’s communications director told KCCI that AFSCME’s leader in Iowa “is resistant to change” and that the closed “centers were not suited to offer modern mental health care.”

The Iowa legislature’s decision next year on whether to fund the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant facilities will be critically important. The Iowa Supreme Court recently dismissed the lawsuit challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home in 2014, without considering the merits of that case, on the grounds that the legislature made the issue “moot” by no longer appropriating state money to operate that facility. By refusing to include funding for the two closed mental health institutes in the budget for fiscal year 2017, Iowa House Republicans could bolster the Branstad administration’s efforts to defeat the lawsuit filed today.

UPDATE: Added more speculation about this lawsuit’s prospects below.

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Branstad insists on keeping administrative law judges "at-will," easier to fire

Not for the first time and probably not for the last time, Governor Terry Branstad dropped a lot of line-item vetoes late in the afternoon before a holiday weekend. Early news reports are understandably focusing on the vetoes of one-time funding for K-12 education and state universities, as well as language that would have kept mental health institutions in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant open. Bleeding Heartland has a post in progress about the fallout from those actions and others, including Branstad’s decision to strike language that would have expanded child care assistance.

Democratic State Representative Sharon Steckman called attention to several other line-item vetoes that flew below the radar yesterday. One of them seems particularly important, as it could put the State of Iowa at odds with U.S. Department of Labor demands to “strengthen Iowa’s compliance with Federal law” and keep administrative law judges “free from actual or perceived intimidation.”

JULY 6 UPDATE: The vetoed language pertained to administrative law judges working for the Public Employment Relations Board, not Iowa Workforce Development; see further details below.

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Congress passes "fast-track" trade promotion authority: How the Iowans voted

Less than two weeks after an embarrassing defeat for President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, a trade promotion authority bill is headed to the president’s desk. The trade promotion authority legislation, often called “fast-track” or TPA,

will allow the White House to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The Senate will not be able to filibuster them, and lawmakers will not have the power to amend them.

The expedited process, which lasts until 2018 and can be extended until 2021, greatly increases Obama’s chances of concluding negotiations on the TPP [12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership], which is a top goal of the president’s.

Follow me after the jump for details on how the Iowans in Congress voted on the latest trade-related bills. Bleeding Heartland covered the Iowans’ legislative maneuvering in late May and early June here. For background and context, I highly recommend David Dayen’s article for The American Prospect magazine, which covers the modern history of trade negotiations and how fast-track emerged some 40 years ago. Dayen also explores “the political transfer of power, away from Congress and into a potent but relatively obscure executive branch office: the United States Trade Representative (USTR).”

I also enclose below some Iowa reaction to the latest Congressional voting on trade. Representative Steve King (IA-04) highlighted one angle I hadn’t heard before, claiming victory because new language allegedly will prevent the president from negotiating provisions on climate change or immigration in trade agreements. UPDATE: Those provisions may not stay in the related bill King is counting on. More on that below.

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Iowa Supreme Court dismisses case on Iowa Juvenile Home closure

This morning the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a lawsuit brought by Democratic state lawmakers and a public employee union leader to challenge the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home without legislative input in the middle of the 2014 fiscal year. The seven justices reversed a Polk County District Court ruling from February 2014, which had ordered the Branstad administration to reopen the home.

The full text of Justice Edward Mansfield’s decision is available here (pdf). Follow me after the jump for key points and excerpts. The central factor in the ruling was the Iowa legislature’s failure to appropriate funds to operate the Iowa Juvenile Home for the 2015 fiscal year.

Today’s news is a classic example of elections having consequences. Had Democrats recaptured the Iowa House majority in 2012, which could easily have happened with better allocation of resources, lawmakers in both chambers would have funded the home for girls during the 2014 legislative session. That in turn would have prompted the Iowa Supreme Court to view the lawsuit over the juvenile home closure differently.

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House passes first 2016 spending bills: How the Iowans voted

Catching up on Congressional news, last week the U.S. House approved a joint Republican framework setting top-line numbers for the federal budget as well as the first two spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Along the way, House members considered amendments covering a wide range of issues, from regulations on incandescent light bulbs to “prevailing wage” rules for federal construction projects to medical marijuana advice for Americans who receive their health care through the Veterans Administration.

Follow me after the jump for details on the latest votes by Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04).

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New Iowa Workforce Development Director cleaning up Teresa Wahlert's mess

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend is implementing key recommendations from the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve concerns about the previous agency director’s actions. Townsend’s actions provide a refreshing contrast to Teresa Wahlert’s management of Iowa Workforce Development, which sparked recurring controversy and not one, not two, but three lawsuits.

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Mid-week open thread: Pregnancy discrimination edition

All topics are welcome in this open thread. What news stories captured your attention lately?

Although Congress acted during the 1970s to ban employers from discriminating against pregnant women, both attorneys and women have told me over the years that pregnancy discrimination remains common in the workplace. The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in today in the case of Young v. United Parcel Service. I enclose below some links about this important ruling.

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Weekend open thread: Ross Paustian "Sex After Sixty" edition

What’s on your mind this weekend? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The most important Iowa political story of the week was state Republican leaders hounding consultant Liz Mair out of a job with Scott Walker’s PAC. Colin Campbell compiled Mair’s tweets about the episode for Business Insider, and they are well worth reading. I’m still annoyed by the collective Republican temper tantrum and the Des Moines Register’s pandering.

A different Iowa political event drew even more attention, though, including a segment on ABC’s Good Morning America show. The fateful photo of Republican State Representative Ross Paustian might have been a footnote to a long Iowa House debate on a collective bargaining bill. But because the lawmaker was apparently reading a book called Sex After Sixty, the photo went viral and could easily become what Paustian is most remembered for when his political career is over. I enclose below background, Paustian’s explanation and a few thoughts on the sometimes cruel nature of politics.

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U.S. Department of Labor wants Branstad administration to clean up Teresa Wahlert's mess

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has given Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend a list of tasks to “strengthen Iowa’s compliance with Federal law” and address various concerns about the actions of Teresa Wahlert, Townsend’s predecessor.

It’s another sign that while Wahlert may not be Governor Terry Branstad’s worst appointee during his current administration, she’s a solid contender.

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New AFSCME contract: Branstad gets his way on salaries but not on health insurance

For the third time in a row, binding arbitration was needed to finalize a two-year contract for state workers covered by Iowa’s largest labor union. For the first time in decades, workers covered by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will pay a small amount toward their health insurance premiums, but not nearly as large a share as Governor Terry Branstad wanted them to contribute.

On the other hand, the arbitrator accepted the state’s final offer on salary increases for the roughly 40,000 public employees covered by AFSCME Iowa Council 61. Details are after the jump.

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