Iowa Politics

Pat Blank/IPR

Two candidates who were in the 2014 Democratic primary for the nomination in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District are giving it another shot. Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon will face off in the June 7th primary. 

Pat Murphy of Dubuque served 12 terms in the Iowa House and ended his legislative career while he was Speaker of the House to run for Congress. He won the Democratic nomination in the 2014 U.S. Congressional race in a five-way primary. Murphy then lost to Republican Rod Blum in the general election.

John Pemble / IPR

As Iowa lawmakers dash to get bills out of committee in either the House or Senate, IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell has her eye on a few big questions this week: 

1. Can medical marijuana backers get a bill out of committee?

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa legislature is back in session today. Leaders are in sharp division over the state budget, and questions about education funding are fueling disagreements. The Senate wants a four percent increase, and the House wants a two percent increase. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Senate President Pam Jocum (D) from Dubuque and Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl  (R) from Missouri Valley about lawmakers' priorities for the 2016 session. 

John Pemble

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a major initiative this week – a plan to increase funding for water quality. 

The governor teamed up with former Democratic governor and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a proposal that would extend the one-cent sales tax currently spent on school infrastructure. While the plan would extend the sales tax, most of the inflationary growth would be diverted to finance water quality projects. Critics say that money should go only to education infrastructure.

John Pemble

Since 1969, Iowa’s governors have averaged a decade in office each, significantly longer than governors of other states.

"Iowans, for a number of reasons, seem to like their governors as long as they are doing certain things," says Chris Larimer of the political science department at the University of Northern Iowa. “Accessibility and visibility – there is an expectation among Iowans that you need to be out there on a regular basis.” 

IowaPolitics.com

Now that he’s been recognized as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, Governor Branstad says he has not decided whether to run for a seventh term in 2018.   

Branstad has made clear he’s grooming Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to become the state’s first female governor.     

However, he says he won’t decide until election year, following the lead of Governor Ray back in 1982.

“He was very popular and I was his third lieutenant governor,” Branstad says.  “He didn’t make the decision until February of the election year not to seek reelection.”

Tony Alter / Flickr

This week marks Paul Ryan's first week  as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Chris Larimer of the University of Northern Iowa. They share their predictions of how Ryan will fare in House leadership.

"You're going to end up with in-fighting among Republicans on how to proceed in the face of a veto threat from President Obama," says Hassell. "These structural differences and problems haven't gone away."

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Iowa Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen says will step down from his leadership position in January, and serve his last year in the state assembly as a rank-and-file member. The Hiawatha Republican says he will not seek a seventh term .

Paulsen says he believes it’s "just the right time" for him personally to resign from the speakership. And also he says it’s important to set up the next speaker for success.

Clay Masters / IPR

Ten Republican Presidential candidates vied for the evangelical vote Saturday in Ames at a forum sponsored by the leading Christian conservative group the Family Leader.

Nearly three thousand people showed up, including 250 pastors.    So far, no one has the important religious right vote sewn up.

There was a lot of agreement on display, against abortion and same-sex marriage, for religious liberty, and for a strong alliance with Israel. 

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Governor Branstad’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last year.  

Democratic lawmakers and a public employee union leader sued, claiming the governor exceeded his authority by closing the home after the legislature appropriated money to run it.    

The court ruled the case is moot since no money was appropriated to reopen the home.  

John Pemble

What do honey bees, baseball fields and coin-operated laundries have in common? This year, their owners are being considered as possible recipients of new state tax breaks.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer is joined by lawmakers and IPR correspondent Joyce Russell to discuss various tax bills being debated at the capitol.

Senator Joe Bolkom, a Democrat from Iowa City and Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, also talk about what could be done with any state budget surplus, including giving it back to taxpayers.

Photo by John Pemble

Having served from 1959-1995, 95-year-old Neal Smith is the longest serving Iowan in the United States House of Representatives.

John Pemble

Iowa has a law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers, but this law is deemed unconstitutional by both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts.

A proposal moving through Iowa’s legislature would modify the state’s current law mandating life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder. The legislation gives judges three sentencing options. One of those options is still life in prison without parole.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The deadline for individual school districts to publish their budgets is April 5th, but in light of indecision at the statehouse, that's proving difficult.

That’s pushed one superintendent, Art Tate of Davenport Community Schools, to drastic measures: openly defying state law.

"I'm trying to improve the graduation rate and reduce the suspension rate and pull the achievement gap together, and I'm having to, every year, reduce. I just came to the point I said, 'I can't do that anymore. I won't do that anymore. It's immoral.'"

Katherine Perkins / Iowa Public Radio

Summer Program Director at the Des Moines YMCA Camp Alex Kretzinger says its difficult to develop schedules for summer camp not knowing when school will start next fall.

John Pemble

So-called conversion therapy seeks to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian youth.

401(K)2012 / flickr

Political action committees (PACs) for presidential hopefuls are focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire - with some groups channeling up to 95% of their political donations to local politicians in the two states.

John Pemble / IPR

Talks about an increase of ten cents a gallon to the state’s gas tax have really been the dominant topic to come out the statehouse this session.  IPR's Clay Masters speaks with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the gas tax and other issues being discussed at the statehouse. 

marijuana
Tomas de Aquino/flickr

A bipartisan senate committee voted overwhelmingly to ease the penalties for some cases of first-time marijuana possession.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Academic counselors from the University of Iowa will be on the campus of the American Institute of Business in Des Moines this week.

Heath Harris/flickr

There’s a new coalition at the statehouse of African-American Democrats and free enterprise Republicans.  

John Pemble/IPR

A bill to allow Iowa’s two fully online schools to continue operation cleared a hurdle in the House yesterday.    

Emily Woodbury / worldle.net

The Koch brothers announced this week that they intend to spend $889 million in the 2016 presidential race, double the amount spent by the Republican National Committee in 2012.

John Pemble / IPR

  Debates over how much of a raise to give to the state's schools usually dominates early discussions at the capitol. Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell tells IPR's Clay Masters this year the debate is on time. The two discuss other education topics and what's ahead this week. 

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

Governor Branstad outlined his priorities for this year’s legislative session in a thirty minute Condition of the State speech Tuesday.

John Pemble / IPR

Legislative leaders agree a tight budget will sharpen the focus on priorities this session. Identifying those priorities may be the sticking point.

Photo by John Pemble

Lawmakers reconvened at the State Capitol for opening day of the 2015 legislative session with the usual pomp and circumstance and promises of bipartisanship.   But with a divided legislature, it’s not all sweetness and light.  With a Republican controlled House and a Democratic Senate, both parties agree bills won’t pass this year unless they’re bipartisan, and both parties say there won’t be a lot of slack in the budget.

401kcalculator.org/flickr

A Republican-sponsored tax credit will be so small this year that many taxpayers may not even notice it.     

Clay Masters / IPR

Candidates for the Iowa House and Senate have filed their final campaign finance reports before tomorrow’s election.    

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Legislature adjourned last week and even though it’s an election year, lawmakers managed to get a few big items accomplished, including a $7-billion budget and a bill that decriminalizes some forms of medical marijuana in the state. At the same time, priority bills from the governor to crack down on schoolyard bullying and expand broadband to rural parts of the state failed.

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