Some bad laws for Iowa's environment take effect today

Continuing Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the Iowa legislature’s work during the 2019 session.

Iowa’s environmental community had something to celebrate when state lawmakers adjourned for the year without passing legislation that would crush small-scale solar development. An unusual coalition including solar installers, environmental groups, and livestock farmers helped keep the bill bottled up in the Iowa House despite intense lobbying by MidAmerican Energy and its allies, along with massive spending by undisclosed donors.

Unfortunately, lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed several other measures that will be detrimental for Iowa’s natural resources and take our state’s energy policy in the wrong direction. The new laws take effect today, as the 2020 fiscal year begins.

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Twelve takeaways: How to talk to Trump voters about the environment

Midwesterners who supported Donald Trump for president may be open to policies that would “improve environmental conditions while also addressing jobs and the economy, clean water and air, and renewable energy,” even if they are not highly engaged in those issues or convinced that climate change is a global emergency.

Extreme local weather events or threats to area drinking water are good conversation starters, with potential to tap into “pent-up goodwill” rather than reinforcing the “resistance” such voters may feel when confronted by alarming rhetoric.

Those were among the notable findings from twelve focus groups Selzer & Company conducted recently in Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa.

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First look at the Iowa House landscape for 2020

Republicans used their control over state government to inflict tremendous damage on Iowa during the 2019 legislative session: underfunding education, blocking steps that would improve Medicaid services, dismantling effective sex education programs, further undermining workers’ rights, targeting health care for transgender Iowans, and giving Governor Kim Reynolds the ability to pack our highest courts with conservative ideologues.

The disastrous outcomes underscored the urgent need for Democrats to break the Republican trifecta in 2020. The Iowa House is the only realistic path for doing so, since Reynolds won’t be up for re-election next year, and the 32-18 GOP majority in the Iowa Senate will take several cycles to undo. State Representative Andy McKean’s recent party switch improved Democratic prospects, shrinking the Republican majority in the chamber from 54-46 to 53-47. Nevertheless, a net gain of four House seats will be no easy task for Democrats.

The Daily Kos Elections team calculated the 2018 election results for governor and state auditor in every Iowa House district. Jeff Singer discussed their key findings in a May 2 post: Reynolds carried 60 state House districts, Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell just 39. The “median seat backed Reynolds 51.0-46.3, a margin of 4.7 points. That’s about 2 points to the right of her statewide margin of 2.8 points.” Eight Democrats represent districts Reynolds carried, and one (Dave Williams) represents a district where Reynolds and Hubbell tied, while “only one Republican is in a Hubbell district.”

I’d encourage all Iowa politics watchers to bookmark the DK Elections number-crunching, as well as the team’s spreadsheet on 2016 presidential results by House district.

The Daily Kos team also looked at the 2018 voting for state auditor, seeking clues on which House seats might be within reach for Democrats. I don’t find that angle as useful. Previous State Auditor Mary Mosiman ran a terrible campaign. Not only did Rob Sand outwork Mosiman on the trail, he ran unanswered television commercials for six weeks, allowing him to go into election day with higher name ID than the incumbent, which is almost unheard of. Sad to say, Democrats won’t be outspending incompetent, little-known GOP candidates in the 2020 state legislative races.

Here’s my first take on both parties’ best pickup opportunities. What appear to be competitive state House seats may shift over the coming year, depending on candidate recruitment and incumbent retirements, so Bleeding Heartland will periodically return to this topic.

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Dark money group spent $1.25 million pushing MidAmerican's solar bill

A group that popped up this year to support MidAmerican Energy’s solar bill spent $1.25 million on television commercials alone, as well as at least $11,000 on Facebook advertising and an undisclosed sum on direct mail.

The REAL Coalition conceals its donors and board members but appears to be funded primarily by utility companies and the industry’s trade association.

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Where things stand with MidAmerican's bad solar bill

As state lawmakers wrap up their work for 2019, one of the biggest question marks surrounds MidAmerican Energy’s push to make future solar development unaffordable for most Iowa homeowners and small businesses.

Four weeks after the bill cleared the Iowa Senate, it is still hung up in the House, where a group of Republicans recently took an unusual step to signal their opposition.

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MidAmerican’s actions speak louder than words on clean energy

Longtime renewable energy advocate Mike Carberry weighs in on MidAmerican’s bad solar bill, which has cleared the Iowa Senate and is eligible for debate in the state House. -promoted by Laura Belin

MidAmerican Energy has become the public face of Iowa’s clean energy leadership, touting its “climate pledge” and “bold vision” for 100 percent renewable energy future. But the company’s legislative work in Des Moines raises serious questions about its loyalties to clean energy consumers.

Last year, MidAmerican actively worked to gut energy efficiency funding and programming that saved customers millions of dollars. Now the company is trying to stomp out the Iowa solar industry, which it apparently views as competition.

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