Five thoughts about Linda Upmeyer's tenure as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans meet in Des Moines this morning to elect new leaders for the 2020 legislative session. Linda Upmeyer announced on September 30 that she will step down as House speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January and will not seek re-election next November. She said in a written statement that she wants to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Speaking to WHO Radio’s Jeff Angelo on October 1, Upmeyer said she was also influenced by her predecessor Kraig Paulsen’s decision to leave the post long before an election. A new speaker is “well-served” by having a session under their belt, which helps them with fundraising and recruiting candidates, she explained. “I wanted to make sure that whoever was going to be leading the caucus in the future had those tools at their disposal going into this next election.”

Sources close to the legislature indicate that current House Appropriations Committee chair Pat Grassley is likely to become the next speaker, with Matt Windschitl moving up from House speaker pro-tem to majority leader. Current Majority Leader Chris Hagenow may not be part of the new leadership team, for reasons that remain unclear. UPDATE: The caucus selected Grassley as speaker, Windschitl as majority leader, and State Representative John Wills as speaker pro tem.

I’ve been thinking about Upmeyer’s legacy and how she influenced the chamber.

Continue Reading...

Jack Hatch running for Des Moines mayor

Former State Senator Jack Hatch will run for Des Moines mayor, he announced on WHO-TV on September 19, the last day for local candidates in Iowa to file nominating papers. A few minutes later, his campaign released a statement and a video, both enclosed below, and launched a website at JackHatchforMayor.com.

Key issues for Hatch will include fixing roads and neighborhood infrastructure, addressing “the urgent mental health care crisis that has been ignored,” protecting drinking water, improving area schools, and public safety measures including steps to reduce gun violence. All of those topics were mentioned in a telephone poll Hatch commissioned earlier this month, which Bleeding Heartland summarized here.

Defeating sixteen-year incumbent Mayor Frank Cownie will not be easy, and Hatch will have only six and a half weeks to build his case with voters. However, unlike most challengers, he already has very high name recognition. Hatch represented parts of Des Moines in the Iowa House or Senate for more than 20 years, was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, and is a well-known property developer.

Hatch told WHO-TV’s Dave Price he started thinking about running for mayor after Cownie “decided not to protect our drinking water when he had a chance to,” adding that Cownie “was silent” as Republican legislators tried to break up the Des Moines Water Works in 2017. Hatch acknowledged he was starting his campaign late, saying others had considered running against Cownie but backed off. He’s in the race because sees the future of Des Moines “being blurred” without strong leadership.

Turnout on November 5 may be higher than usual for a city election, because Des Moines has multiple competitive city council races, and this is the first year school board elections will be held concurrently with elections for municipal offices. Early voting begins on October 7.

Continue Reading...

It is about the beds

Leslie Carpenter of Iowa City is an advocate for people with serious brain disorders and works to improve the broken treatment system in Iowa and across the country. -promoted by Laura Belin

Here in Iowa, we have heard for several years that we should realize the mental health crisis “isn’t about the beds.”

The argument was couched in a way to say it wasn’t about the beds, but the type of beds. The goal was to divert our attention from the fact that our state has the worst proportion of state bed numbers per capita: just two beds per 100,000 people. The Treatment Advocacy Center ranked Iowa dead last, 51st in the country on this metric. We have only 64 adult beds and 32 child beds at our state-run Mental Health Institutes in Independence and Cherokee.

Continue Reading...

Loretta Sieman on the public option and why she's in that ad

Industry-funded groups have recently spent more than a million dollars on television and online advertising in Iowa opposing Democratic plans to expand access to health insurance.

Some ads primarily focus on single-payer plans (often known as Medicare for All), which more than half a dozen presidential candidates are supporting. But Partnership for America’s Health Care Future has used its hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Des Moines market targeting more modest proposals to offer a “public option” on exchanges selling private health insurance policies.

Many central Iowa Democratic activists were surprised and upset to see Loretta Sieman, a longtime West Des Moines city council member, in one of the partnership’s commercials. Sieman spoke to Bleeding Heartland on September 11 about why she opposes the public option and why she agreed to appear in the ad, now in heavy rotation on YouTube as well as Des Moines broadcast and cable stations.

Continue Reading...

Iowa political reaction to final passage of Farm Bill

All four Iowans voted yes as the U.S. House sent a new five-year Farm Bill to President Donald Trump on December 12. A day after passing the U.S. Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, the conference committee agreement sailed through the lower chamber by 369 votes to 47 (roll call).

Farm Bills have typically received strong support from both parties, thanks to a grand bargain struck decades ago, putting food assistance and agriculture-related subsidies and programs in the same legislation. This year’s initial House bill was an exception, as Republicans tried to impose work requirements on Americans in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. House and Senate negotiators wisely removed that language from the final version.

Continue Reading...
View More...