The Week - Marijuana, Hillary's next trip and hot new spring fashions

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SENATE FINALLY GOES TO POT

Did you get a load of that Quinnipiac Poll out this week showing 87 percent of Iowans favor legalizing marijuana for medical use? 87-11. We’re talking a Duke-Coastal Utah-style margin.

Among other findings, 83 percent of Iowans favor hot, buttered sweet corn, 82 percent support warm spring days and 79 percent are in favor of freckle-faced kids waving flags at Fourth of July parades.

OK, I made those last three up. Anyone claiming to have better numbers is asked to provide them.

Point is, the public consensus on allowing sick people and their doctors to access cannabis in Iowa has become remarkably broad. And it’s just the latest poll showing clear support.

But the Golden Dome of Wisdom is thick. News doesn’t always get through. Not like free food, anyway.

So this week, legislation laying the long-awaited groundwork for a regulated medical marijuana program in Iowa, accessible by a broad range of Iowans with chronic, painful and debilitating illnesses, passed the Senate by a narrow 26-19 margin. All Democrats but one voted yes. All present Republicans but one voted no.

So, progress, right? Republicans who run the House say they won’t take up the bill. Thud.

Stopping something so clearly acceptable to most Iowans means getting creative. It means zigging when you might normally zag. So Republican opponents, backed into an unpopular corner, broke the emergency glass and deployed an argument so foreign to their being, it threatened to tear the time-space continuum.

We really should let the federal government make this health care decision.

Yup, the death-paneling, care-rationing, destroying-freedom-as-we-know-it federal government. Sure, we’d like to help you, but, instead, let’s defer to the massive machine we’ve repeatedly warned you about, implored you to fear above all else, the one laying waste to America’s dreams.

They’ve got this.

The Food and Drug Administration, they contend, hasn’t OK’d marijuana for medical use. Despite the fact that several states have successful, safe and tightly regulated medical marijuana programs for their sick citizens, Iowa should take a pass until Washington ends the war on drugs.

Wait for it. Any minute now.

So, if at all possible, please delay the onset of your painful chronic or terminal condition until further notice. We’ll let you know. Be well!

Hypocrisy, I know, is a Statehouse staple. Heck, there are more than enough pots and kettles hanging around to decorate 10 Cracker Barrels. Still, this one is jarring.

And if all else fails, accuse supporters of playing politics. A classic.

“I think it’s terribly frustrating that we would use the tragedies of people’s mental issues or physical issues to try to make a political point,” said Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-RAGBRAI, who voted no.

Thank goodness there are lawmakers who will stand up to such brazen efforts to pass bills Iowans support.

So what is the political point? It might be that opponents of moving forward in a meaningful way on this issue are grabbing at straws while people and their loved ones wait needlessly for help. That’s also known as a valid point. An excellent point, even.

The bill’s lead backer, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-People’s Republic, pointed out that many federally approved medications prescribed to scores of Iowans are far more dangerous than marijuana, including highly addictive opiates and other medicines with frightening side effects, like death. Many folks seeking access to cannabis have been on those legal drugs, have suffered side effects, and now want the ability, with the help of a doctor, to try something else.

They want government to get out of the way. Why, it’s almost conservative.

“Folks need our help” said Bolkcom, obviously playing politics.

And what’s “terribly frustrating” for me is that this is going to happen, so all the foot-dragging does nothing but prolong the wait for people who shouldn’t have to wait. Maybe House leaders are waiting for support to top 90 percent.

EXCLUSIVE: HILLARY’S NEXT SWING

I’ve read in multiple places that Hillary Clinton’s brief, two-day campaign road trip to Iowa has left the state’s Democratic activists hungry for more. It was but an appetizer. A political jalapeno popper.

Well, I’ve obtained a top secret memo hinting at Clinton’s next trip, which will again be focused on emphasizing the small-scale, grass roots nature of her 2016 effort. Here it is:

Hillary 2016

CONFIDENTIAL!

MEMO: Iowa Phase II “Reaching for the Sky”

Greetings, all. A hearty well done to all of you on the secretary’s campaign rollout. But before we pop any corks, it remains clear that key questions still face this campaign after Sec. Clinton’s highly successful first trip to Iowa as an announced candidate.

At the top of the list: How do we get even smaller, and more nimble?

Our van road trip plan worked well. It was small. Not fit-in-a-snow globe small, but still diminutive to a scale once thought impossible.

But, and maybe you noticed, our “Scooby” van was still pretty big. And black, very black. Ominous, even. Chunky. We need an even more modest means of transportation that clearly conveys Sec. Clinton’s desire to be seen, to be accessible and to listen.

And we’ve concluded, to get more down-to-earth, we need to get airborne.

In a word — gyrocopter.

Sec. Clinton will pilot the home-built craft, enabling her to get a good, clear look at Iowa’s landscape from 150 feet, and allow her to land anywhere she sees everyday Iowans in need of immediate, genuine engagement.

Imagine, an Iowa family gathered for a backyard cookout when Sec. Clinton lands on their lawn to hear heartfelt concerns about America’s future. “Those burgers smell great,” the secretary might say. The compelling media optics of such an intimate encounter speak for themselves. The social media buzz would only be topped by the buzz of Sec. Clinton’s gyrocopter.

Our campaign’s Office for Low-Altitude Flight reports that focus groups and microtargeting data strongly suggest that Iowans will be surprised and delighted by these spontaneous gyrocopter landing scenarios. Flat-roofed coffee shops with robust structural integrity are being scouted.

As a bonus, Sec. Clinton’s command of the craft surely will burnish her already remarkable record as a hands-on leader. We see a gyrocopter tour as a win-win-win!

Of course, for security reasons, Sec. Clinton’s gyrocopter will be, at all times, escorted by two Apache attack helicopters equipped with a full complement of weaponry and capable of responding to any problem at a top speed of 176 mph. They’ll be called “Tweety” and “Daffy.”

With a plan like this, the sky, literally, is the limit. Let’s get to work.

SPREADSHEET JUST GOT REAL

“Pink slips” are the hot new accessory in the state’s public schools this spring.

They’re being handed out to staff by school officials who don’t yet know how much state school funding they’ll receive this fall. It could be diddly. It could be squat. The final answer will determine how many programs get sliced and how many staff positions will be deleted.

A fair number of folks who get pink slips now may keep their jobs later, some may not. Imagine how much fun it must be waiting to find out.

You can thank the Iowa Legislature, which, by law, should have set school funding for this fall back in February 2014. Laws, shmaws. We’ve got political posturing to do.

House Democrats wanted a 6 percent increase in K-12 funding. So did a bunch of education groups. Senate Democrats thought 4 percent would be more financially prudent, an increase of $212 million.

House Republicans and Gov. Terry Branstad offered 1.25 percent, or about $100 million.

Time passed. Snow melted. Seasons changed. Conference committee members stared at each other.

So Senate Democrats split the difference, offering 2.625 percent. They released a budget plan that pays for it, while keeping total general fund spending at the same level proposed by Branstad. Ta-da!

Republicans? 1.25 percent.

Now, the petty percentage fight has gone from being about numbers on spreadsheets to being about real people, jobs, kids and what not. It seems like, by any fair reading of the state budget situation, a compromise at 2 percent is totally doable. Not great for schools, but it’s a divided Legislature. You can make a good case that 4 percent is unaffordable. But not 2 percent, and maybe not 2.625.

And yet, Republican leaders seem downright determined and proud to toss their members to the wolves back home where teachers are getting canned and folks are getting steamed, rather than make a completely reasonable deal that’s better for schools and fiscally responsible.

Principle, they say. I say it’s the kind of ideologically-driven unforced error that House leaders will regret down the road. The fact is, 1.25 percent, even with the governor’s teacher leadership bucks, is going to inflict real damage. Voters have been known to hand out pink slips for a lot less. This seems bigger than heated sidewalks and potted plants.

SHAMELESS PLUGS

PODCAST — Check out this week’s On Iowa Politics Podcast, featuring accomplished Iowa political journalists and their snarky sidekick.

PINTS & POLITICS — Is politics driving you to drink? Turns out you’re in luck. Join The Gazette’s James Q. Lynch, columnist Lynda Waddington and yours truly for another edition of “Pints & Politics” from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 24 at NewBo Ale House in Cedar Rapids. We’ll be discussing, well, politics, like the caucuses and what’s on your mind. To RSVP, go to www.eventbrite.com and search for pints and politics.

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