Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bluff This, Senator

Radio Iowa & The Register have noted that the Iowa State Constitution provides for a Convention every 10 years if the voters so choose. That next vote comes in November 2010, with the next state election.

Why is this important? Because Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal basically told the Minority point-blank that a bill or state constitutional amendment will not be debated this year.

Henderson @ Radio Iowa:
It means gay marriage opponents may seek to use that avenue to amend the state's constitution, perhaps opening up a Pandora's Box of other issues as well. Will those who've been clamoring to give cities and counties authority over where large-scale hog lots are built unite with gay marriage opponents to push for a constitutional convention? Will groups -- like the coalition of road builders -- oppose a constitutional convention, fearing they might lose the constitutional protection for the "Road Use Tax Fund" into which all state gas tax dollars are placed and used exclusively for road construction and maintenance?
Over at MyDD, desmoinesdem has done some leg work; Iowans haven't voted for the convention since at least 1970, and the means and methods of how it would happen are vaguely defined now and are completely up to the Legeslature. DMD also notes that Democrats currently have a 56-44 thin majority in the Iowa House and a 32-18 majority in the Iowa Senate. Which explains the next graf.

The House, while also Democratically controlled, has the jitters over the judicial ruling. The Republican minority is rapidly drawing up an amendment and has already targeted the Democrats likely to break with the caucus, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In the Register story, they place his anxiety and worries over re-election as the face of the 'divided Democrats'. (Like the U.S. Congress, the Speaker leads the House - the house Majority Leader is subordinate.)

Because of Iowa's tendency to re-elect incumbents Dems have a strong chance of keeping the Senate & a good chance at the Governor's chair in 2010 but the House is obviously where the Republicans have the strongest chance of picking up seats, if not control. If the election goes badly for the Democrats, organizing the convention could be a zoo especially if other single-issue groups wade into the fray.

The 2011 Session will also be the Lege that considers re-districting. While a non-partisn commission does the grunt work, the Lege has to approve or reject the plan in a straight vote without amendment. Iowa is expected to lose one U.S. House seat. The most likely outcome has the 3rd and 4th Districts merging in Central Iowa, pitting ancient Blue Dog Leonard Boswell against Republican Tom Latham. Boswell is likely to quit one of these days (he should have in 2006 after almost losing his life to diverticulitis, or in 2008 when he had a strong challenger in Ed Fallon) - 2012 seems likely, and Latham just turned 60. Expect a divided 2011 Lege more likely to approve splitting the Congressional delegation 2-2, instead of fighting for a better 3rd District that elects a better Democrat.

Its hard looking at that judicial ruling as anything but a GOP opportunity right now - it's no wonder a bunch of Republican-appointed justices gave it a unanimous approval.

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