Iowa Senate Republicans bury "unfiltered" debate with rule change

As of this week, Iowa state senators are no longer able to give speeches about matters of political or personal importance at a predictable time of day, when the chamber is relatively full.

For many years, members have been allowed to offer “Points of Personal Privilege” shortly after the Senate gavels in at 9:00 a.m.

Republicans ended that tradition on a party-line vote last Thursday. GOP leaders have not explained their reasons for moving the open discussion period to the end of each session day. The rule change is likely designed to reduce the visibility of Democratic remarks highlighting controversial legislation or Branstad administration policies. A former Democratic senator decried the move as “pushing public discourse in the dark.”

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Friends and former colleagues remember Rich Olive

Former State Senator Rich Olive died of cancer yesterday at the age of 66. He represented Wright and Hamilton counties, along with some rural areas in Story and Webster counties, from 2007 through 2010. During that time, he chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Many Iowans who knew Olive through his work in the legislature agreed to share some of their memories with Bleeding Heartland readers.

Photo of Rich Olive at the capitol taken by Senate Democratic staff; used with permission.

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Branstad names Leonard Boswell to Iowa Transportation Commission

Yesterday Governor Terry Branstad appointed former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell to the Iowa Transportation Commission. Boswell will replace former Iowa Senator Tom Rielly, whom the governor named to the commission in 2013. According to the press release I’ve posted after the jump, Rielly “resigned from the commission due to a business-related conflict of interest.”

Boswell served in the Iowa Senate during much of Branstad’s previous tenure as governor. During this year’s Condition of the State address, Branstad recognized Boswell for his work co-chairing the governor’s “Home Base Iowa” initiative to attract more veterans to Iowa.

While serving in Congress, Boswell rightly called attention to the poor condition of many roads and bridges across the state and in the Des Moines metro area. From my perspective, he was too eager to support some new road construction projects that were potentially harmful and not justified by traffic flows. But without question, he is knowledgeable about Iowa’s infrastructure needs and qualified to serve on the transportation commission.

I’ll be curious to see whether Iowa Senate Republicans put up a fight against Boswell. To be confirmed, he will need support not only from the 26 Senate Democrats but also from at least eight of the upper chamber’s 24 Republicans. Last year, Republicans resisted confirming their former Democratic colleague Tom Rielly to the transportation commission, prompting Branstad to withdraw the nomination during the legislative session and appoint Rielly on an interim basis after lawmakers had adjourned for the year.  

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Mid-week open thread, with Bob Vander Plaats taking a stand

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. After the jump I’ve posted a new editorial from The FAMiLY Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats. As you can imagine, he’s upset about “Republican elites” pushing for acceptance of LGBT civil marriage rights.

Vander Plaats has made a pretty good living off the culture wars, but he hasn’t done as well as National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown. The pro-LGBT equality group Rights Equal Rights issued a press release today highlighting details from NOM’s 2011 tax return (pdf). Notably, Brian Brown made over $500,000 dollars: $230,000 for working full-time at NOM’s political operation, and $230,000 from NOM’s Educational Fund “where he claimed to work another 40 hours per week,” plus $47,000 in benefits.

Speaking of the “traditional marriage” crowd, Mark Doland has a slim edge over former State Senator Tom Rielly in Tuesday’s special election for Mahaska County supervisor. Rielly posted on Facebook that as of Tuesday night, Doland led by 1391 votes to 1375. Some provisional ballots and late-arriving absentees had not yet been counted.

Doland used to be a staffer for the Iowa Family Policy Center and worked closely with Vander Plaats during the 2010 campaign to oust Iowa Supreme Court justices. He now serves on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee. Rielly, a Democrat, was mayor of Oskaloosa before serving two terms in the Iowa Senate. He retired last year after Iowa’s new map removed Grinnell from his district and added heavily Republican areas such as Pella. Republican Ken Rozenboom was elected in the new Senate district 40, forcing the special election for his Mahaska County supervisor seat.

Interestingly, Rozenboom endorsed Rielly for county supervisor, even though his fellow Republican Doland had stood aside for him in Iowa Senate district 40. UPDATE: Rielly conceded defeat by 21 votes on February 4. Republicans won’t soon forget that Rozenboom preferred a Democrat for this supervisor’s seat.

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