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SARL Members and Alumni News

Sen. Johnson is a maverick with a mission

Des Moines Register | Posted on December 1, 2016

State Sen. David Johnson will return to the Iowa Legislature in January, not as the pivotal, powerful wild card that some anticipated, but nevertheless as a public servant determined to play his own hand.  He’s the first independent to serve in the Iowa Legislature in generations. It might take a change in Senate rules to allow Johnson to serve on a committee, and that won’t happen without the majority party’s approval.“I don’t know exactly what my situation will be, but my constituents are owed a place on committees of some sort,” Johnson said.Even with the uncertainty of his status in the legislative process, Johnson sees a role for himself. “There’s an opportunity for me to be a different type of check and balance, perhaps,” he said.Johnson said he believes he represents a part of the Republican Party that’s been “vanquished.”He talks about a hidden “moderate” Republican vote, although Johnson has not changed his conservative view on issues like abortion. He has been out of step with the GOP for several years, however, on issues ranging from education and the environment to health care.

North Carolina Court orders special legislative election in 2017 with redrawn districts

The News & Observer | Posted on December 1, 2016

A federal court on Tuesday ordered North Carolina to hold a special legislative election next year after 28 state House and Senate districts are redrawn to comply with a gerrymandering ruling.  U.S. District Court judges earlier this year threw out the current legislative district map, ruling that 28 of them were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. They allowed the 2016 election to continue under the old maps, but ordered legislators to draw new districts in 2017.

Wisconsin legislative map ruled illegally partisan; case will go to Supreme Cour

The Washington Post | Posted on November 23, 2016

Federal judges struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map as illegally partisan, an unusual ruling that will require the Supreme Court to once again consider whether political gerrymandering violates the Constitution.  It is a question the court has addressed in the past without resolution. In its last attempt, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, wrote that it was impossible for courts to come up with a test to decide when partisan line-drawing goes so far as to violate the rights of those who don’t belong to the party in power. But the justices are divided, and they have not shut the door to the possibility that such violations could exist.

Big Money Pours into State Ballot Issue Campaigns

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on November 8, 2016

In Florida, the competing sides on just one November ballot question — about controlling solar power production in the state — already have raised $23.65 million to try to sway the state’s voters.  That amount pales in comparison to the $313 million raised so far to influence the outcomes of referendums in California, which routinely leads the nation in the number of issues on the ballot and money raised and spent on them. But it’s strikingly more than what’s been spent in the Sunshine State in the past. And what’s happening in Florida is happening across the country.  State ballot campaigns this year are attracting millions of dollars from corporations, unions, wealthy individuals and special interest groups, as referendums increasingly replace legislatures as a battleground for people who want to make state policy, on issues ranging from legalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage to gun control and drug pricing, and from tobacco taxes to solar energy and education. So far this year, 165 statewide ballot measures, in 35 states, have been certified to go before voters. Of those, 74 were put on the ballot by citizens through signature petitions, rather than by state legislatures — the most since 2006.

Michigan schedules hearing to delay increased animal space requirements

Michigan Legislature | Posted on November 2, 2016

Michigan State Rep. Dan Lauwers, Chair of Ag Committee, will hold a hearing on HB 5987 concerning delaying the requirements to provide space for animals’ certain movements (including egg laying chickens). The hearing will be Wednesday, November 9, 10:30 am in Rm 519 House Office Building in Lansing

Advertisement against Massachusetts Ballot Initiative

you Tube | Posted on October 20, 2016

See Diane Sullivan speaking against the Massacusetts Ballot Initiative that will make it illegla to sell eggs and meat products from confined animals.

NH:Dairy relief board asks Legislature for $3.6M amid drought

Concord Monitor | Posted on October 13, 2016

A heavy burden – the potential future of the state’s dairy industry – now rests on the shoulders of the New Hampshire Legislature.  The Milk Producers Emergency Relief Fund Board met for the second time in as many weeks Tuesday and recommended that legislators approve a $3.6 million one-time payment to the state’s dairy farmers in response to this year’s drought.  The recommendation, one of three included in the board’s annual report, will be passed along to Gov. Maggie Hassan and House Speaker Shawn Jasper on Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley serves on the relief fund board, and already has the report.  The board hopes the Legislature can address the issue, perhaps in a special session, before Dec. 7. That’s when newly elected legislators are sworn in.  “Drought is a significant problem,” said Rep. Bob Haefner, the board’s chairman, Tuesday. “We don’t have enough feed at a lot of the farms to get through the winter.”

Iowa flooding sucker-punches harvest

Des Moines Register | Posted on October 3, 2016

Dan Zumbach lost 50 acres of corn when the Cedar River flooded. Yet he considers himself lucky.  Most of his 160 acres would have been lost if not for family, friends and neighbors who gathered Saturday with combines, grain carts and semitrailer trucks to harvest a field near Palo. They worked from noon until 11 p.m. before the rising waters forced them to quit. Iowa's widespread thunderstorms and torrential rains have done more than flood Iowa's  cities and towns. They have also slowed much of the state's corn and soybean harvest. Officials are trying to assess how many acres have been impacted by flooding, but it's likely to be thousands, they say.

List of per diem paid to lawmakers in different states

KBOI2 | Posted on September 23, 2016

How states compare on taxpayer-funded reimbursements for lawmakers' lodging and food away from home — a payment typically provided on top of lawmakers' annual salaries. They vary from no per diem at all for states like Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island  and Ohio to $249 per day for Alaska.  Some are based on length of session, Arizona is $35 a day for the first 120 days and $10 a day thereafter, some are an annual payment - Michigan $10,800 a year.  

Sen. Schmit's broadband support is key for Minnesota's growth

Winona Daily News | Posted on September 13, 2016

Surely, the silly season in campaign politics is upon us when Minnesota state Sen. Matt Schmit’s standing as a rural leader is called into question. Unfortunately, a Brainerd-area legislator did that last week — and the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In this day and age, it seems the very least we can expect from our elected leaders is a modicum of integrity. Certainly the Gazelka letter violated that and many other standards. Through those efforts and in many other areas, Sen. Schmit has been a champion for rural Minnesota in his first term in office. He worked closely with rural legislators — including those from the Brainerd area — and many others from both sides of the aisle to create Minnesota’s nation-leading “Border-to-Border Broadband” competitive grant fund, which already has extended connectivity to more than 12,000 Minnesota homes and businesses in hard-to-serve areas of the state.