A new bill targeting Carhart

You may have read yesterday’s story in which two key senators said “there’s a way” to draft legislation that would prevent a Nebraska doctor from opening a late-term abortion clinic in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would ban abortions in Iowa after the 20th week of pregnancy. Today, Senator Joe Bolkcom announced he’ll file a separate bill on the issue rather than try to amend the House bill. It will be introduced in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, suggesting it will employ some tax-related approach specifically targeting Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s clinic.  Read Bolkcom’s statement below:

Senator to introduce bill preventing Council Bluffs Clinic
Statement from Senator Joe Bolkcom

“I share most Iowans’ goal of preventing Dr. Carhart from moving his practice to Iowa. That’s why I’ll be introducing a new bill later this week in the Ways and Means Committee that will prevent him from coming to Iowa.

“What I won’t do is endanger a woman’s health and safety. As the House-passed bill is drafted right now, there’s no exception for life of the mother, rape, incest or fetus abnormalities that would prevent the baby from surviving after it’s born.

“Not every pregnancy ends the way a family hopes it will. A woman with a wanted pregnancy that goes terribly wrong must face an awful decision that none of us ever want to face. A Nebraska-style total ban will only make a difficult situation worse, and that’s no place for politicians to meddle.

“Republicans know this. Their version of the bill is a political ploy. In fact, according to IowaPolitics.com key supporter Senator Johnson said in an interview last week that ‘the bill makes it more dangerous for pregnant women with a medical emergency to have to wait until the last minute if the woman truly needs an abortion after 20 weeks.’

“What’s more, constitutional experts say the bill as drafted is blatantly unconstitutional. There’s not much point in passing an unconstitutional bill that will only embroil Iowa in an expensive court battle.

“We can all agree that there should be fewer abortions. I hope Senate Republicans will put politics aside and help me pass legislation that will prevent Dr. Carhart from coming to Iowa.”

How many Reps. does it take to pass a resolution?

It apparently takes less than a handful of state representatives to pass a House Resolution, as two resolutions were approved today in the Iowa House — after House leaders said yesterday that there would be no floor action.  Resolutions are generally non-binding documents, although some resolutions do call for action, like a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage or impeachment of four of the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.

Today’s resolutions passed quickly, as the House convened, prayed, said the Pledge, and passed the two resolutions in the span of four minutes according to the Iowa General Assembly’s website, which says the House convened at 10:12 a.m. and adjourned at 10:16 a.m.

At the national level, House Speaker John Boehner has tried to enforce tighter rules so the U.S. House will no longer consider “frivolous” resolutions that are symbolic or congratulatory — especially those commemorating athletic exploits — like Congratulations to the World Champion (fill in the blank)!  Boehner has even been reluctant to pass a resolution honoring the Navy Seals & the intelligence community for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The Iowa House in the past when Democrats were in control had taken steps to avoid passing commemorative or “making a statement” resolutions, too.  Such resolutions generally must have been bipartisan and either statewide or national in scope, but there’s no mention in House rules of any limitations on resolution topics this year under Republican control.  This year the House has honored bacon, among other things, along with some athletic exploits.  The House also marked the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth (in a resolution sponsored by Republicans) and the 100th anniversary of IBM’s founding (in a resolution sponsored by Democrats and Republicans from the Dubuque area where IBM now has a facility).  There’s even been a resolution marking the Wuchang Uprising.  Really.

The most recent House Debate Calendar is for Wednesday, May 4 and there were no resolutions listed on it. Two resolutions were passed this morning. One articulates Texas Congressman and two-time (perhaps three-time) presidential candidate Ron Paul’s call for an audit of the Federal Reserve System.  It was cosponsored by 18 Republicans.  The other resolution, sponsored by just one Republican, calls for a two-year moratorium on enforcement of air quality rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The top Democrat in the Iowa House issued a statement on today’s developments:


“Once again, House Republicans are governing in an extremist fashion.  Because of the budget standoff, all representatives in the Iowa House were sent home this past Wednesday.  However, this morning to a virtually empty House Chamber, Republican Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer brought up and passed a controversial measure calling for a “two year moratorium” on plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curtail efforts to stop polluters.

House Resolutions relay the will of Iowans and are almost always non-partisan, like the resolution honoring WWII veterans.  Since the measure was approved, the Iowa House is also directed to inform Iowa’s congressional delegation about its passage giving the false impression that it had unanimous, bi-partisan support in the Iowa House.  House Democrats will be submitting our own letter to Iowa’s congressional delegation to let them know we did not support this controversial legislation and it should not have been called up for debate in our absence.”

Iowans for Tax Relief issues statement

After a week of speculation, Iowans for Tax Relief founder David Stanley has issued a written statement about the departure of most of the ITR staff (president, vice president, statehouse lobbyist, development director).  Read Stanley’s written statement — in the form of the group’s weekly newsletter — below:

Big Opportunities for Taxpayers

By Dave Stanley
Chairman, Iowans for Tax Relief

What Next?
Iowans for Tax Relief is working hard to win more victories for all Iowa taxpayers in the closing weeks of this 2011 Legislative Session. We are going full speed ahead, not distracted by recent resignations of some employees or by fantastic speculations of our opponents and news media.
Staying on Course. For 32 years ITR has stayed on course, through staff changes and many ups and downs. ITR is respected and effective because we persevere, tell the truth, keep our word, and are consistent and dependable. Our principles and goals remain the same: limited government; lower taxes, spending, and debt; economic growth with more good jobs; and opportunity for all people. All this will not change.
Our strong volunteer leadership team and our outstanding 10 staff members are stepping up. We will gradually increase our staff as we find the right person for the right job.

Our Lobbying Team. Dr. Don Racheter, 30-year ITR Board leader and expert on Iowa government and politics, will lobby for ITR in Des Moines during the rest of this Legislative Session. Don is taking a short-term leave of absence from his position as President of Public Interest Institute. ITR’s two part-time contract lobbyists continue their helpful assistance.
And our members are still our best lobbyists! Lawmakers listen to ITR — and the high taxers and big spenders fear ITR — because our members speak up strongly for our principles.
[Read more…]

Branstad item vetoes tax proposals

Governor Terry Branstad used his item veto authority today to nix two tax proposals — one aimed at businesses, the other designed to give Iowa’s working poor a tax break.  Read the Radio Iowa story.  Here’s the press release from Branstad’s office.

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today signed Senate File 209, which provides supplemental funding for indigent defense, Department of Human Services, Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections, Department of Public Health and community colleges.

The governor also used his item veto authority to insist on broad tax relief, vowing to work with both parties in both chambers to build a tax relief package that promotes economic growth in Iowa.

“I am pleased to sign Senate File 209 to provide indigent defense funding, funding for the Department of Public Safety, Department of Human Services and Department of Corrections,” said Branstad. “I commend the House and Senate for making these supplemental appropriations in areas where the cuts would have adversely affected the health and safety of Iowans.”

In a letter to Senate President Jack Kibbie, attached to this email, Branstad stated:

“I am unable to approve the item designated as Division I. […]Any temporary economic stimulus effect of bonus depreciation is primarily accomplished through the federal tax code.  Iowa should instead focus its energies on improving our state’s long term competitive tax position for new job creation.  With our limited budget, that is best accomplished by reducing our commercial property taxes which are second highest in the country and our marginal corporate tax rate which is the highest in the nation.

“I am unable to approve the item designated as Division II.

“As earlier indicated, it is my desire to approach tax policy in a comprehensive and holistic manner.  As such, I urge members of the House and Senate to continue to work with my office on an overall tax reduction package that both fits within our sound budgeting principles while reducing those taxes that are impeding our state’s ability to compete for new business and jobs.”

Branstad also said, “I am pleased we could reach this agreement to fund our shared priorities in public safety, public health and indigent defense. I look forward to continuing our discussions on job creation and tax changes as we move forward toward adjournment.”

Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds continue to work with leaders in both the House and the Senate to develop a plan that fits Iowa’s long-term needs, while maximizing effectiveness by creating jobs, growing the state’s economy and putting Iowa on a path to fiscal prosperity.

Gov. Branstad used his item veto authority in accordance with Amendment IV of the Amendments of 1968 to the constitution of the State of Iowa to item veto Divisions I and II of Senate File 209.

Iowans for Tax Relief issued a statement. 

Significant Tax Relief Options Item-Vetoed by Governor Branstad
Weeks of work by the Legislature on Senate File 209 is removed in one day

MUSCATINE, IA—Today Governor Branstad item-vetoed two significant tax relief portions of Senate File 209, the tax and spending compromise bill.
Iowans for Tax Relief President Ed Failor, Jr. issued the following statement:

“It is discouraging to see Governor Branstad’s item- vetoes which remove significant tax relief options in place to help Iowa job creators and Iowa families. A bi-partisan group of Legislators have worked for over six weeks on the compromise bill, and it is built with the best intentions for the taxpayers of Iowa.”

[Read more…]

Christie Vilsack seems “in” for fourth district showdown

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and her husband, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (the current U.S. Agriculture Secretary), are moving to Ames, Iowa, and Vilsack has formed an “exploratory committee” to run for congress, in Iowa’s fourth congressional district.  That means she’d be running to unseat Congressman Sreve King, a Republican from Kiron.  Here is her statement:

Serving Iowa is both a privilege and a responsibility.  The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration.  Next month, I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the US House of Representatives.  It’s important to listen to Iowa families about the issues they want addressed in Congress.  Hearing directly from citizens about their concerns and ideas is very important to me.  Too often in campaigns, it’s the other way around.  More than anything, this should be a discussion about Iowa values-the value of work, the value of opportunity and the value of community.   Input from fellow Iowans will help me make the best decision and will give our state a campaign focused on collaboration and results, encouraging a new way to do business in Washington.”  

Technically, she has formed an “exploratory committee” for congress, the ramping-up “toe-dipping” phrase with which you’ve become familiar because of all the presidential hopefuls who form exploratory committees enroute to a real, bona fide campaign aparatus. 

Yesterday, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said Christie Vilsack would be a “fish out of water” in the fourth district.  Last summer at the Iowa State Fair, Christie Vilsack talked about running for congress.

…Vilsack announced (in the fall of 2009) she had decided against running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Chuck Grassley. Vilsack said during an interview at the Iowa State Fair that she is considering “other options” like running for congress.

“I just turned 60, so timing is important — political timing as well as personal timing,” she said.  “It’ll be a whole new ballgame after the election and after redistricting, where we see the districts line up.”

The Iowa Legislature will redraw the congressional district lines in Iowa for the 2012 election and it’s likely Iowa will lose one of it’s five congressional seats due to population gains in other states.

“Nobody will actually have a claim on any particular district, I think, because it’ll be a whole new set of voters and a whole new set of constituents,” she said.

Being a first-time grandparent is one factor that’s pulling Vilsack in one direction. But Vilsack said women like her, who are in “the third part of their lives” are being recruited to run for office and she feels the tug toward putting her own name on the ballot after working a lifetime to elect others.

According to Vilsack, she’d enter a race with her “eyes open” to what it takes to run and win. “I know, which maybe makes the decision harder. If you have illusions or thinking that it’s glamorous — it’s not that I’m not optimistic, I just understand. I know how much hard work (is required),” Vilsack said.  “I know what the personal sacrifice is.”

 In December, Tom Vilsack indicated he would not step down as a caibnet secretary if his wife were to seek a seat in congress.  (He cited other examples of spouses who’ve worked in the two branches of the federal government at the same time.)

Latham’s moving

Governor Branstad announced late this morning during a taping of IPTV’s Iowa Press program that he’ll sign the redistricting plan into law as soon as he gets an official copy of the bill from the legislature.  Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Ames, announced about half an hour before Branstad’s declaration that he, Latham, would be moving into the new third congressional district.  Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, lives in the third, so that sets up a General Election show-down between the two incumbents in 2012.

Read Latham’s statement about moving (he doesn’t mention where, exactly, just that he’ll be moving into the third district):

Dear Friend: 
Thank you for your dedication, support and hard work on behalf of the great State of Iowa, the Republican Party and common-sense candidates at every level of government.  It is heartening to see the positive changes that are taking place in Iowa and in Washington, thanks in large part to your efforts in the successful elections of 2010.

Spending binges, massive debt, deficits and failed government stimulus experiments have left our country in a dire situation that continues to require tough choices. Even after only a few short months, it is clear that the status quo of the past few years in Des Moines and Washington is over.

In the Iowa Capitol, the Governor’s office and the United States Congress, the rush down the path of unsustainable spending, stifling economic mandates and overregulation has been reversed, putting us on a path back towards fiscal sanity. I know that Governor Branstad, Republicans in the Iowa Statehouse and Republicans in Congress are as committed as I am to changing the culture of the recent past.  We are committed to addressing our nation’s fiscal challenges by ending the spending binges to give Iowa and American families, farms and businesses the economic certainty they need and deserve to get our economy moving again.

There is no doubt that still too many Iowans wake up each day with their hearts and minds burdened with deep uncertainty as America works to recover from one of the most difficult economic periods in our lifetimes.  We must all be committed to working for and finding real solutions that will help – not hinder – Iowa main streets, farms and families to bring long-term growth to our economy and job market.

I am energized and dedicated to working hard to find common-sense solutions to the many challenges we face in Iowa and America because I know that the next generation of Americans deserves nothing less than a total commitment from us.  Our nation’s future depends on the actions we take today.  Kathy and I have all the hopes and prayers any parent and grandparent has for the safety and success of future generations.  That’s what keeps me motivated to work every single day I am on this earth to preserve, protect and expand the promise of the American Dream for every one of our country’s children and grandchildren.

As you know, Governor Branstad has announced that he will sign the state legislature’s approved redistricting map for the State of Iowa.  This new map significantly alters the Congressional boundaries for the 2012 general election.

I have never let map boundaries block the great honor I have felt in representing the interests of all Iowans in the United States Congress.  And, after thoughtful discussions with my family, friends and supporters over the past two weeks, I am writing to share with you my decision that I will be a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s new Third Congressional District in 2012. (This district includes Adair, Adams, Cass, Dallas, Fremont, Guthrie, Madison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Polk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Taylor, Union and Warren Counties.)
This election is over a year-and-a-half away and I assure you that the time for campaigns and politics is not now – it is in the distant future.  More important than any campaign or election ahead is the work I and others will be doing in the coming weeks and months to ensure the economic, health and retirement security of all Americans.  Our top priorities must be promoting policies that protect and grow jobs in Iowa, rein in government debt and spending, and protect the promise of the American Dream for current and future generations.

I look forward to talking with you in the near future to discuss this decision and personally ask for your support of this decision.  In the meantime, please be assured that I will continue to do what I have always done during my service to Iowans in Congress – making sure that I actively listen to your voice, your opinions and your ideas.  I have always held the belief that if more of our government’s leaders in Washington, Iowa and at the local level actually listened to and worked with the people they represent, we would accomplish so much more as a whole.

Working together I know that our great state’s and nation’s best days lie ahead.
Tom Latham

Unpaid lawyer asks judge to excuse him from case

George Jones, a lawyer from Lamoni, Iowa, was assigned to represent a client who has been charged with a crime but could not afford his own attorney.  The state, as you may know, hasn’t been paying attorneys, court reporters and investigators who work on cases for indigent clients.  The money for the state’s indigent defense program ran out weeks ago. Legislators and the governor have been unable to strike a deal to pay the overdue legal bills because the issue is tied up with another, unrelated matter — a “Taxpayers Relief Fund” that Republicans want.

Jones filed the motion below, asking to be relieved of his duty in the case because the state hasn’t paid his bills. (The name of his client has been redacted, as have a few other items that would identify the case or witnesses).  Jones indicated in an email to Rep. Kurt Swaim (D-Bloomfield) that similar motions were filed in South Carolina a few years ago when a similar situation cropped up in that state.  

[Read more…]

Senate passes redistricting plan 48-1 (audio)

The Iowa Senate took up the redistricting plan less than half an hour after it passed the House this morning.

Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, began his opening remarks on the plan at 9;11 a.m.  “This is an historic day,” Kibbie said. “…We’re losing a congressman.  We’re going from five congressman to four.  As you know, since 1980 we’ve been doing this reapportionment through the Legislative Services (Agency), using computers and they’re instructed…not to pay any attention to where any incumbent legislators live.”

“…Many of the objections come from western Iowa and many of them from one county in western Iowa, Pottawattamie,” Kibbie said, a reference to the Council Bluffs area which is drawn into the same congressional district as Polk County, the Des Moines metro.  “And that was a disappointment to them.”

“…I am assuming that Iowa will probably be the first state in the nation that will draw our lines that will affect the 2012 elections,” Kibbie said. “…Iowa’s reapportionment plans generally change the legislature by 50 percent because of this plan.  This plan treats Democrats and Republicans, I say, equally.”

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, spoke. “While not everybody may be happy with the disstrict they receive, we all recognize it is, indeed, a fair plan,” McKinley said.

That was it for debate.  No objections were raised.  Kibbie moved to closing remarks which were similar to Cownie’s in the House, praising Ed Cook of the Legisaltive Services Agency who was in charge of the plan.  “Iowa’s going to be recognied nationwide, for us to pass this in a bipartisan way,” Kibbie said, adding a little history from his time in the legislature in the early 1960s before shutting down his remarks.

The bill/plan passed at 9:24 a.m. by a vote of 48-1.

Listen to debate 12 min

House passes redistricting plan 90-7 (AUDIO)

Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines, opened the debate on the redistricting plan.  “We had a redistricting process that the legislature should be proud of, but most importantly, Iowans should be proud of as well.”  Cownie said.

Cownie talked about the way other states draft their maps. “The state of Iowa does it better.” Cownie said, of redistricting.

In a show of bipartisanship, Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, was recognized to give opening remarks on the plan as well. “It is truly a system of honety, fairness and integrity,” she said of Iowa’s redistricting process.

A corrective amendment was adopted, correcting a few typos in the bill. Not a single legislator spoke against the plan.  At Cownie’s prompting, the House applauded Ed Cook, the Legislative Services Agency staffer who was in charge of the project.  He praised the bi-partisan commission which held the four public hearings on the plan.

“I urge the body to support HF 682,” Cownie said after those brief thanks.  The bill passed at 8:52 a.m. 90 to 7 vote.

Debate audio 11 min

Won’t go there, they say

There will not be a state government shut-down if the top two leaders in the Iowa Legislature have their way, they say.  (But there is the possibility of a shutdown of state operations if Governor Terry Branstad follows through on his threat to veto budget bills the legislature may send him over and over and over until he gets what he wants.)

The legislature’s top two leaders appear together on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.  The two offer their predictions about the prospect the redistricting plan will pass the legislature next week (probably will) and whether Branstad’s proposed double-digit increase in the state tax on casinos will pass (probably won’t).  A wide range of other topics, including a discussion of prospects for property tax relief were discussed.  Watch it tonight at 7:30 on IPTV or watch it online here.