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Capitol Notebook: Bipartisan politicos urge Iowa Democrats to fight for first-in-the-nation
Iowa Democrats recently were stripped of their envied leadoff position in the nation’s presidential nominating process
Gazette Des Moines Bureau
Jan. 25, 2023 7:16 pm, Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 9:31 am
DES MOINES — Two former Iowa state party chairs — one Democrat and one Republican — are urging Iowa Democrats to continue their fight for Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Former Iowa Democratic chairman and former three-term U.S. Rep. David Nagle, of Cedar Falls, joined former Republican Party of Iowa co-chair David Oman and Mike Mahaffey, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, at a news conference Wednesday at the Iowa Capitol “to build an even broader base of support for the caucuses in Iowa.”
The Democratic National Committee is set to vote early next month on a new calendar for its presidential nominating process, which would strip Iowa of its first-in-the-nation status and move it out of the early window entirely in favor of more diverse battleground states.
Republicans already agreed to keep Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses for GOP candidates — and several Republicans already have been to the state to weigh the possibility of presidential runs.
Iowa’s caucuses have led the pack in presidential preference contests since 1972, drawing media attention and millions of dollars in campaigning from presidential hopefuls.
“Iowa is going to be at a crossroads very quickly,” Nagle said. “And that is to determine whether the Democratic Party is going to fight to keep Iowa first-in-the-nation or allow Washington, D.C., to tell us what we should do, when we can do it and how we can do it.
“Both the Democrats and Republicans of Iowa agree that this is an important function of the Democratic Party of Iowa to represent rural America, and the Republican Party to do the same in the nominating process.”
Oman and Mahaffey echoed his comments.
“The caucuses in this state have worked wonderfully for a couple of generations, and they can continue to work well,” said Oman, a businessman from Des Moines, and former chief of staff for Republican former Iowa Govs. Robert Ray and Terry Branstad.
Nagle said should the DNC approve the new calendar, Iowa Democrats still should go first, regardless of the likely sanctions from the national party and loss of delegates to the national convention. He said Iowa Democrats held an unsanctioned caucus in 1984.
“We don’t need their acquiescence, their permission and we don’t need to genuflect in front of them. We just stand our ground,” Nagle said.
The DNC, though, has said it would strip delegates and debate access from presidential candidates who campaign in unsanctioned states.
“What’s important from our standpoint is we’re here if they want to be here,” Nagle said. “They have to make that choice whether they’re going to run in defiance of the Biden administration or acquiesce. Our goal is to provide the opportunity … for people who are not necessarily well-funded to well known to run for president.”
School administrative costs
Iowa school districts would be limited to spending 5 percent of authorized spending on administrative costs under a proposed bill in the Iowa Senate.
Senate File 12, proposed by Sen. Brad Zaun of Urbandale, would cap administrative costs and allow the state Department of Education to define administrative costs.
The bill passed a Senate subcommittee. Zaun and fellow Republican Sen. Chris Cournoyer, of LeClaire, recommended passage, while Democratic Sen. Eric Giddens, of Cedar Falls, did not.
Zaun said the growth in students and teachers has been far behind the growth of administrative costs in Iowa schools in recent years, and he hopes to limit administrative spending with the bill.
But lobbyists said the bill would be redundant, as Iowa law already requires administrative costs to be capped at 5 percent of the school’s general fund spending. Existing law defines administrative expenditures as “expenditures for executive administration,” rather than allowing the Department of Education to define it.
Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist with the Urban Education Network and Rural Education Advocates of Iowa, said further limiting administrative costs would limit smaller districts’ abilities to be flexible with administration and said state-mandated programs drive up administrative costs.
Zaun said he’d prefer the Legislature to define administrative costs rather than the Department of Education.
Worker verification requirement
Senate Republicans have again advanced legislation that would add for businesses an extra step to the process of verifying a worker’s residence through the federal E-Verify program.
Under the bill, anyone could file a complaint with the state workforce department, and if that department determines a violation has occurred, the department would be required to take court action and that action would be required to be expedited by the court.
“I have always believed that it is most unfair to honest, law-abiding employers who obey the law and hire people who are in the country legally … it’s most unfair to them to have to compete with people that are hiring the people who are here illegally and will work for substandard wages,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.
Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said business leaders say the E-Verify program can be slow and inaccurate, and noted that businesses and business groups oppose the bill.
With its passage, Senate File 108 becomes eligible for debate by the full Senate. The Republican-led Senate has passed similar legislation in recent years, but the proposal has never passed both chambers of the Iowa Legislature.