Iowa's state universities won't follow Trump's payroll tax deferral

Tens of thousands of employees at Iowa’s state universities will have their payroll taxes withheld as usual this fall, despite a recent executive order from President Donald Trump.

Trump moved last month to suspend payroll taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020. Affected employees would see slightly higher paychecks for the next four months, but would have lower take-home pay from January through April 2021 as employers withhold double the amount for payroll taxes.

Josh Lehman, communications director for the Iowa Board of Regents, told Bleeding Heartland on September 9,

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Iowa agriculture, climate change, and "SWAPA"

Paul W. Johnson is a preacher’s kid, former Iowa state legislator, former chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service, former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and a retired farmer. -promoted by Laura Belin

In the early 1980s there was a serious farm crisis in Iowa. Land and commodity prices were falling, so banks were calling in farm loans and foreclosing on farmers who couldn’t pay up. Maurice Dingman was bishop of the Des Moines area during those years, and he was speaking up strongly for farmers who were suffering during this time. I was impressed by his defense of family farmers.

In 1987 David Osterberg and I were serving in the Iowa legislature–he representing Mount Vernon, I representing Decorah–and working on groundwater protection. Industrial agriculture sent their lobbyists to weaken our legislation, and newspapers were carrying stories about their fierce opposition to our work.

During this time, Bishop Dingman phoned us and suggested we have lunch together. 

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Iowa Regents didn't bargain in good faith with UNI faculty, UI grad students

The state broke Iowa law by refusing to negotiate in good faith when the Iowa Board of Regents delayed contract talks with unions representing University of Northern Iowa faculty and University of Iowa graduate students in late 2016 and early 2017, the Public Employee Relations Board determined in separate rulings last week.

Following the 2016 election, when it was clear Republicans would have total control of state government, United Faculty and the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS) attempted to negotiate new contracts for their members, following a bargaining schedule used in previous years.

But the governing body for Iowa’s state universities instructed its attorney not to engage in such talks until after GOP lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad had eliminated most public employee bargaining rights under Iowa Code Chapter 20. Bruce Rastetter was the Regents president at the time. He didn’t seek reappointment by Branstad in 2017, as it was clear Iowa Senate Democrats would have blocked his confirmation.

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Iowa absentee ballot law improved, new voter suppression plans blocked

Iowa lawmakers adjourned for the year on April 27. Bleeding Heartland continues to catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work. Previous reporting related to the 2019 legislative session can be found here.

Republicans have enacted new voting restrictions in some two dozen states this decade. Iowa became part of that trend in 2017 with a law requiring voter ID, shortening the early voting period, and imposing new absentee ballot rules that are on hold pending litigation.

The march toward voter suppression appeared set to continue, with Governor Kim Reynolds winning a four-year term and the GOP retaining control over the Iowa House and Senate last November. Senate State Government Committee chair Roby Smith introduced a horror show election bill days before the legislature’s first “funnel” deadline in March. His Republican colleagues in the upper chamber later approved a bill with most of Smith’s bad-faith proposals.

But in a plot twist, House Republicans agreed to remove all the provisions that would make it harder to vote when House File 692 came back to the lower chamber. The final version, which Reynolds signed on May 16, contained largely technical code revisions and big improvements to the process for tracking and counting absentee ballots.

Follow me after the jump for a short history of a voter suppression tragedy averted.

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Republicans are worried about Iowa Senate district 30, with good reason

Voters in Cedar Falls, Hudson, and part of Waterloo will elect a new state senator on March 19. Three candidates are on the ballot for Iowa Senate district 30: Republican Walt Rogers, Democrat Eric Giddens, and Libertarian Fred Perryman.

Republicans took some advantages into this campaign, which is on a shortened timetable because Senator Jeff Danielson resigned during the legislative session. Rogers was better-known than Giddens, and Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the vote during spring break for the University of Northern Iowa and Cedar Falls public schools, when many people in Democratic-leaning constituencies would likely be out of town.

But since Bleeding Heartland previewed this race in late February, Giddens has emerged as the favorite. Republicans tacitly acknowledged their weaknesses by launching a second over-the-top negative television commercial on March 15, rather than closing on what was supposed to be Rogers’ selling point: giving Black Hawk County and UNI a voice in the Iowa Senate majority caucus.

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