Spiker takes parting shot at Branstad over medical marijuana

A few days before he will formally step down as the Republican Party of Iowa’s leader, A.J. Spiker advocated legalizing medical marijuana in a guest editorial for the Sunday Des Moines Register. Excerpts from Spiker’s column are after the jump. Framing the case for medical cannabis in terms of personal freedom, Spiker rebuked Republicans who have been unwilling to acknowledge strong arguments for allowing doctors to prescribe the drug. While he didn’t name names, his points came across as a rebuttal to Governor Terry Branstad, who would rather drag his feet on this issue.

Spiker and Branstad have clashed repeatedly, and it’s an open secret that the governor hasn’t been happy with the Iowa GOP’s priorities or fundraising since Spiker took over from Matt Strawn in early 2012. It’s shrewd for Spiker to stake a claim for medical marijuana, a position that is increasingly popular, especially with younger voters. Now his last impression as state party chair will be as a forward-thinking leader, rather than the guy who sometimes seemed to care more about Ron Paul’s Liberty movement than about electing Republicans.  

Speaking of medical marijuana, the issue was the focus of last Friday’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. Steve Lukan, director of the governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, appeared along with West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and State Senator Joe Bolkcom, leading advocates for legalizing medical cannabis using the New Mexico model. The video and transcript are available here. I was disappointed to see Lukan basically repeat the same talking points throughout the program, without acknowledging that many legal drugs can also be abused and may have devastating side effects for patients. Branstad didn’t search for anyone with expertise in drug policy before offering the state’s top job in this area to Lukan.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Senate confirms Gipp, Lukan, and other Branstad appointees

Yesterday the Iowa Senate unanimously confirmed eleven of Governor Terry Branstad’s appointees. You can find the full list of confirmations in the Senate Journal (pdf). The department or agency heads confirmed were:

Chuck Gipp, who has been serving as director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources since last May, shortly after his predecessor resigned;

Steve Lukan, whom Branstad hired to run the governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy last June;

Nick Gerhart, who replaced Susan Voss as state insurance commissioner at the end of 2012;

Robert von Wolffradt, whom Branstad appointed as Iowa’s chief information officer last May.

Seven of the nominees senators confirmed yesterday will serve on state boards, councils, or commissions, including Joanne Stockdale, a former chair of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry who is one of Branstad’s appointees to the Environmental Protection Commission.

Continue Reading...

Nice work if you can get it

Would you like to earn $90,000 a year supervising three employees, about whose work you have no expertise or professional background?

Sorry, you can’t get that job. In fact, you can’t even apply for that job, because Governor Terry Branstad considered no one else before giving the position to retiring Iowa House Republican Steve Lukan.

Continue Reading...

Iowa House district 60: Walt Rogers flunks Politics 101

The nice thing about a large majority, like the 60 to 40 Republican advantage in the Iowa House, is not needing every vote in your caucus for every bill. Members can oppose the party line when local interests are threatened without derailing the legislative process. Retiring State Representative Steve Lukan showed how it’s done when he voted against the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund budget in the House Appropriations Committee last week, because that bill left out $5 million in funding for a major project in Lukan’s district.

This basic concept of representing your constituents is apparently lost on Walt Rogers. The first-term Republican from a district covering parts of Cedar Falls and Waterloo just voted for an education budget that slashes funding for the University of Northern Iowa.

UPDATE: Scroll down for Rogers’ weekly newsletter, which discusses his vote on the education budget.

Continue Reading...
View More...