One of my favorite self-coined terms is “legi-saurs”.Â As you may guess it refers to politicians at all levels of government who get elected–and then never go away.
Like many on the right I am convinced this semi-permanent presence in the halls of power is a destructiveÂ one in politics.Â These careers start innocently enough.Â The member actually has a job in the private sector, lives as a normal citizen, and regardless of ideology brings fresh ideas and solutions to the table.Â Â But in most cases, over time, theyÂ eventually detach from the economyÂ by not working Â outside the Capitol, they develop grudgesÂ against their colleages,Â their ideas and thinking become stale, and they learn to play the legislative process like a game.
Here in Iowa
This happens at all levels in both Parties and unsurprisingly Iowa is not immune.Â Our current six Federal representatives have an average of 19 1/2 years in office, with both our Senators having 39 years each.Â While on average the Iowa Legislature isn’t as bad, looking through our current Senate reveals several examples ofÂ a certain timeless creature…legi-saurs.Â For whatever reason this phenomenon in Iowa is more popular among Democrats, with the longest serving Republicans being elected in 1993 (Hubert Houser and Sandy Greiner).Â This doesn’t hold a candle to the imperial reign of the 5 longest serving Iowa Democrats–one of which who has been serving for 40 years.Â Here’s theÂ list:
- Bob Dvorsky – since 1987
- Jack Hatch – since 1985 (out of officeÂ 93′ to 01′)
- Mike Gronstal – since 1983
- Dennis Black – since 1983
- Wally Horn – since 1973!
I’m notÂ going to go throughÂ all the arguments and counter-arguments for term limits here– I think we all know them (for=incumbency offers name ID, party infrastructure, media coverage, a donor base, special interest moneyÂ etc. and against=”we have term limits…they areÂ called elections”).Â I will say however that the best question to ask someone who opposes term limits is, “SoÂ you support removingÂ them for Presidency I assume?”–I’ve yet to hear anybody ever answer “yes”.
Below is a proposal released last week and co-written by both a current Republican and a Democrat serving in the U.S. House.Â It is meant to be applied at the Federal level, but it would essentially work the same here in Iowa.Â It is superbly well thought out, simple in nature,Â plainly written, makes the case for why term limits are needed, and offers aÂ realistic way to make it happen.
I vote Yes!
Finally, A Bi-Partisan Solution on Term Limits
Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) written with Congressman Beto Oâ€™Roarke (D-TX)
Many in our country and in the districts we represent feel that Congress is out of touch and that members are more focused on re-election than on providing real solutions to our nationâ€™s biggest challenges. We hear from constituents all the time that there is a lack of urgency and focus when it comes to solving our countryâ€™s toughest issues like tackling the deficit and putting policies in place that will lead to economic growth.
The two of us, freshman members from different parties with divergent views on many issues, have come together because we believe a healthy debate is warranted on how we best serve the American people and whether, in a time of enormous powers of incumbency and multi-million dollar campaigns for Congress, we can be better public servants and curb the corrupting influence of money and power by limiting a memberâ€™s term in office.
Public opinion in favor of term limits for members of Congress is unquestionable. A Gallup poll released this past January reflects the same trend seen year after year from countless reputable research firms. Overall, 75 percent of American adults responding to the survey were in favor of implementing term limits and the support is unanimous across party lines.
That support stands in stark contrast to the overall approval rating of Congress, which hovers somewhere around 15 percent. Despite the unpopularity of Congress as a whole, sitting members still win re-election about 90 percent of the time due to the overwhelming benefits of incumbency. A system that rewards poor performance with job security is clearly in need of a shake-up. Congressional term limits could be the change needed to steer the institution back in the right direction.
Our proposal is a simple constitutional amendment. It does not prescribe the number of terms a member can serve; rather, it gives Congress the constitutional authority to pass and implement term limits. The reason for this structure is that by taking away the details from the amendment process, the likelihood of passage increases. We believe that even members who are philosophically opposed to term limits would support a constitutional amendment providing the legislative branch with the ability to debate and vote on the issue.
Despite widespread popularity, congressional term limits are incredibly difficult to implement because doing so requires a constitutional amendment with two-thirds of both chambers as well as ratification by three-fourths of Americaâ€™s state legislatures. Having super majorities agree on the details of term limits, including the exact number of terms, is nearly impossible. Since 1995, there have been several attempts to move specific term limits amendments, but all have ended right where they began by being voted down in the House.
Previous term limit efforts have also failed because the only people who can begin the process to impose term limits are those who will be most affected â€“ incumbent members of Congress. By voting in favor of, or even publicly supporting a term limits amendment, a member of Congress can be exposed to charges of hypocrisy or disingenuousness if they donâ€™t also voluntarily limit their term of service. This has a chilling effect on those who would otherwise support term limit efforts.
Congress owes the American people action on term limits, including a new approach that actually stands a chance of becoming law. Our approach provides the flexibility needed to enact term limit laws by a simple majority and to allow future generations to decide the term limit law that works best for them through the regular legislative process.
For far too long, Congress has failed to give the people what they clearly want. We should pass this amendment and finally put that power in their hands.
Jim Bridenstine represents the First District of Oklahoma
With a sweeping education reform package currently being worked on by a bi-partisan Conference Committee at the Statehouse, some potentially damaging information about how the state is representing student achievement is coming to light.Â Late last week the citizen group Iowalive released a report that would, if true, give all Iowa parents and legislators cause for grave concern.
The crux of the report is Iowalive’s claim that the standards our Department of Education is using to report student proficiency levels is misleading.Â This, according to the group, stems from Iowa having adopted a lower standard to measure student learning called the “40th National Percentile Rank”.Â This current set of standards was adopted a decade ago by the then Governor Vilsack administration and is different from a more “honest” standard used by other states known as the “65th National Percentile Rank”.Â The 40th National Percentile Rank standards that we use now apparently do not actually require a student to be proficient in various skills at their grade level to be deemed as such.Â The obvious problem here being that if this is the case, parents are being told their child is succeeding at their grade level when in fact they are not.Â If true this is absolutely unacceptable.
Between long declining national education rankings, the misrepresenting of graduation rates at some Des Moines High Schools, and the entire Nancy Sebring debacle–the education system here in Iowa hasn’t exactly built a huge reservoir of trust recently.Â Despite this, and despite the fact spending on K-12 has increased $650 million since 2002 (+35.4%), the legislature is potentially poised to yet again increase the dollars flowing into this institution by almost $200 million any day now.Â If the claims of Iowalive have any merit it’s long past the time to say enough is enough–the river of funds needs to be damned until the system functions honestly and properly.
More To Come
This issue will be looked into further by this website in the coming weeks, including a specific explanation of the two sets of standards.Â At first glance the source–Iowalive–appears to be legitimate group with expertise in education and statistics (I was unfamiliar with them prior to late last week).Â In the meantime I encourage you to visit their website (link here), and become informed on their general claims.Â If everything they say checks out, this level of brazen misrepresentation and deception to Iowa parents will be a massive outrage.Â If a teacher tells a parent their child is performing “at a 3rd grade level” in a subject, that better mean exactly that–anything else would be totally unacceptable.
Without a doubt Iowa legislators from both parties and both chambers should demand an explanation from Jason Glass and the Department of Education.Â If it turns out they have been “cooking the books” with a deliberately low standard to enhance our schools perceived performance, then the reform bill currently being discussed should be tabled immediately.
Below is an excerpt from the Iowalive report, here is a link to the report complete with tables and source data, and more can be found at their website.Â Though the information is not presented in a lively way, these are serious charges that demand being responded to by our elected and unelected government officials.Â We as Iowans must have answers on this very, very soon.
GROSS MISREPRESENTATION OF % OF IOWA STUDENTS, THEÂ DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REPORTED PROFICIENT
Greetings, Governor Terry Branstad and allâ€”
Finally, at 3:34 PM, Friday May 10, (to make it nearly impossible to make the Sunday Papers) the Department of Education provided Percent Proficient data Iowalive requested on Jan.14, 2013.Â The data would not have been provided at all except for prodding from State senators and the State Ombudsmanâ€”who are gratefully thanked for their help.
As shown in the table below, the Department of Education reported to parents, students, legislators, taxpayers and others that 74.4% of Iowa 4th graders are ReadingÂ Proficiently (Expertly) at the 4th grade level, when in fact the Department of Education just admitted onlyÂ 40.3% are actually reading at the 4th grade level, when tested.Â This equates to an 85% inflation, or misrepresentation, of student achievementâ€”perpetrated by use of the bogus 40th NationalÂ Percentile Rank (NPR) Proficiency standard, adopted by the Department of Education, under Governor Vilsack and the ISEAÂ teacher union.
Similarly, the table shows parents, students, legislators, taxpayers andÂ others were told 78.2% of Iowa 4th graders are doing Math Proficiently (Expertly) at the 4th grade level, when in fact the Department of Education just admitted onlyÂ 40.1% are actually doing Math at the 4th grade level, when tested.Â This equates to a 95% inflation or misrepresentation of student achievement.
Similar misrepresentations for 8th and 11th grade reading and math are shown in the table.Â It must be stated that the DepartmentÂ of Education made NO corrections for cheating, as if none exists, despite gross cheating already under investigation in Davenport.
The problem is: Iowaâ€™s low 40th NPR â€˜proficiencyâ€™ standard considers 4th graders scoring at the 3.1 Iowa grade level to be â€˜proficientâ€™ or expert 4th grade readers!Â Similarly, Iowaâ€™s low standard considers 8th graders scoring at the 6.9 Iowa grade level to be â€™proficientâ€™ or expert 8th grade readers, and 11th graders scoring at the 9.2 level to be “proficient” or expert 11 grade readers.Â The same applies to Math–and all grades tested.Â This is nearly double the number actually Proficient.Â And it is going on in grades 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, & 10 as well.
Large Iowa media news editors have failed, and stubbornly refuse, to report these shameful, if not outright fraudulent,Â conditions to Iowans.
Governor Branstad, youâ€™re a lawyerâ€”if this misrepresentation isnâ€™t fraudulent, what is??Â What are you going to do about it?Â This happened on your watchâ€”even though it started under Governor Vilsack!Â Â DE Director, Jason Glass, could have stopped using the bogus 40th NPR Proficiency Standard and replaced it with the honest 65th NPR, but he did not, Governor.Â How come?
(Read Report With Tables)
Question: What has happened so far at the Statehouse this session?
Answer: Mostly a whole lot of nothing.
With potentially as little as three weeks left before they gavel out this has been one of the most uneventful sessions since I began following them closely.Â There could still be some fireworks in store as the larger ticket items get discussed, but as it stands now nearly everything Governor Branstad has signed into law has been with near unanimous consent from both Parties.Â In fact, of the 36 bills he has signed so far most have been technical or clerical items passed with no dissentâ€”and all but a couple have hadÂ no more than 3 no votes between the two chambers (notable exceptions being SF 184 and HF 160).
Conservatives Left with Little to Cheer About
The fact that divided government is not producing sweeping changes is hardly surprising, but getting no movement whatsoever on traditionally non-entrenched ideological issues is disheartening.Â For me personally these disappointments include the first funnel costing any chanceÂ of banning Automated Traffic Enforcement and the second funnel claiming the Voter ID bill.Â Both these issues have a clear majority of public support (Voter ID routinely gets well over 70% in public polls), and despite this couldnâ€™t even receive the dignity of a vote.
Additionally, the Education Reform effort (yes, even the version the Republican House passed with no inter-Party dissent) is a â€œsolutionâ€ few true Conservatives can embrace.Â Firstly, it is dumping $200 million more dollars into a system that already has received a 35.4% funding increase since 2002â€”with no discernible benefit in most districts.Â And secondly, the kind of actionable teacher evaluation, similar to what exists in the private sector, is nowhere to be found.Â Instead, in my view, what this reform offers is a largely a bunch of feel goodÂ jargon about â€œladdersâ€, â€œcareer pathwaysâ€, â€œmentorsâ€, and â€œmaster teachersâ€â€”now does that sound like a recipe for fixing a failing school?
In some way this issue has been absurdly overcomplicated, how aboutÂ teachers just teach kids the information in their textbooks like miraculously you were able to do in the 1990’s and we’ll call it even.Â In fact, prove you can do so and we will give you a nice raise…you knowÂ the way it has worked forÂ all the rest of us inÂ the private sectorÂ since our birth.
While it is true that many strong home schooling amendments got passed by the House, A) the big ones wonâ€™t make it to the Governorâ€™s desk, and B) even if they did it still wouldnâ€™t make this effort worthwhile.Â And while there are a few bright spots (HF 625 which expands STO’s), there was no movement of Sen. Zaunâ€™s proposal last session to give parents true schools choice, nor was there any effort made to ensure we have strict 3rd grade retention for reading proficiency.
Tax Reform the Big Prizeâ€¦But Likely to Elude Again
Just like last session, there was talk by both sides at the beginning that something needed to get done here, but the writing is on the wall that it wonâ€™t.
Largely this is because the players and the policies they are pushing for are essentially unchanged from last year.Â Additionally I am starting to think that Sen. Gronstal knows he controls only one branchâ€”but perhaps has the trump card in this standoff.
The way I have started to look at this is to see the similarities between this situation and the fiscal cliff scenario faced by Republicans on the Federal level at the end of last year.Â If you recall, Republicans were forced into caving because the specific position they were inâ€”if no deal was struck taxes on everyone in the country would go up on January 1st.Â Similarly, here in Iowa if nothing gets done our tax rates will continue to climbâ€”a reality that would surely bother Republicans more than Democrats.Â Not only does this give Gronstal more leverage in cutting a deal to avoid the tax hikes, if he can manage to stave off a deal until rates are raised he is in the position of deciding then who â€œdeservesâ€ tax cuts.Â As frustrating as this tactic is for Republicans, as long as high taxes donâ€™t cost Democrats their majority it is truly brilliant politics.
The TruthÂ As I see ItÂ
I would love to be able to say everything is looking up here in Iowa and nationwide, but the evidence disagrees.Â Coming off a brutal performance last November when Mitt Romney was unable to defeat a president with a terrible record and RepublicansÂ failed to take the Iowa Senate, we are now seeing the results.Â This legislative session is almost a mirror copy of the last and the chancesÂ of anything passing at all are slim–and unfortunately the chances of passing any significant Conservative policy is hopeless.Â Simply put, at the moment the landscape is virtually barren when it comes to potential political victories.
Elections indeed have consequences–and Conservatives are feeling them now.Â We must do better as a Party going forward–2014 awaits and brings another chance to make a profound and positive legislative impact.
A very worthwhile group has come to Iowa recently and their mission is to solve the debt crisis that America is currently headed for.Â “Fix The Debt Iowa” is one of the 23 state chapters of a larger group which can be found at FixThe Debt.org.
Last week they released a short web video in Iowa equating our nations fiscal problems with the budget of a middle-class family–which is cleverly done by adding or subtracting eight zeros.
I am happy to see efforts being made to frame the facts of this issue in a way that even the non-politically involved can understand.Â Since the national debt is now in excess of 16 million separate units of a million dollars, quantifying the problem is getting exceedingly difficult.
Below is the video, and if you are so inclined you can go to FixTheDebt.org to sign their petition.
Late last week we brought you a message from Polk County Chair candidate Will Rogers.Â Today we bring you a word from the other candidate in the race, Dave Edwards.Â One of these two men will be declared leader of the Polk County GOP Tuesday evening.
Last year Mr. Edwards ran for the Iowa Senate in District 16 and, though he lost, showed a great deal of courage in running in the first place.Â The voter registration numbers for this districtÂ on the day of the voteÂ were: D-16,353; R-7,591; NP-10,410…enoughÂ said. Â Though running against tremendous odds, Edwards put in a lot of work and was unafraid to talkÂ about the non-PC issues negatively impacting his district.Â If he should prevail Tuesday he will have a first-hand perspective on just howÂ steep a climb some of the districts in the countyÂ have become.
Though thereÂ is a great deal of contrast between these two candidates both in style and background, I amÂ convinced that either will bringÂ a unique set of helpful traits to the Party.
Below is the full transcript of Mr. Edwards’ letter to The Conservative Reader: Iowa.
To begin with, I want to thank the readers of your publication for their support of my Senate campaign in last yearâ€™s election.Â We were blessed with a fantastic outpouring of volunteersÂ – from parades, to envelope stuffing, to door knocking.Â It was a lot of hard work, but a very rewarding experience.Â Volunteers like you are what it is going to take to reclaim our state and our country and we need to get fired up now to win that battle and help the Republican Party to grow and be the messenger for prosperity and freedom that our nation so sorely needs right now.
I am running for Polk County Republican Party Chairman because I want to stand beside you in that fight to beat back the liberals here in our county.
I have served my community in various ways over the years.Â In the past, Iâ€™ve served as a member of Des Moinesâ€™ Housing Appeals Board as well as several years as a board member for the Valley High Manor Neighborhood Association.Â Currently, I am a proud member of the Carlisle VFW Post 2099, and serve in the Color Guard there, helping to provide flag and rifle ceremony presence at funerals for those who have served in the military.Â I have put in many hours as a softball coach for various teams for my seven children for the last twenty years.Â Also, my wife of 27 years, Teressa, and I, host a weekly family Bible fellowship which is held in our home.
Last March, I threw my hat into the ring as a Republican candidate for Iowa Senate District 16, running against a 16-year Democratic incumbent.Â As a candidate for the Iowa Senate, I walked hundreds of miles and spent countless hours talking to voters in my district. I met a tremendous number of Republicans and Independents who agreed with us in principle, but did not feel actively engaged with our efforts.
I believe that there is an opportunity right now to bring these voters into the Polk County Republican Party by having leadership in the party that they can relate to and showing them the tremendous success we can have as a party by promoting our principles of limited government and personal responsibility.
I envision a Polk County Republican Party that takes the next step here to grow and strengthen itself even more. With Iowaâ€™s first in the nation status, I believe eyes across the country are directed at this state. I believe that with the right chairman and the right direction, Polk County can be seen as an example not just in Iowa, but across the country. We are well poised to bring Polk County to a higher level with the right leadership and vision. I have some specific goals for fundraising and voter contact/registration that I would like to achieve as Chairman, but I believe the most important part of my job will be to energize our base and build grassroots enthusiasm and activism to lead to a Republican victory in 2014 and beyond.
I am running for chairman of the Polk County Republican Party because right now this party is at a crossroads. Right now, there is a very real disconnect among the leadership and the members of the Republican Party in Polk County. This disconnect is pretty obvious from the Central Committee meetings, on down to the lack of voter enthusiasm I saw while on the campaign trail.
This county needs a leader that can work with everyone in the party. I believe I am that leader. I believe my experience on the campaign trail is proof of my commitment to the Republican party and of my strong work ethic. My campaign generated excitement across a broad spectrum of voters. I believe that was because I was a candidate people could relate to.Â I mentioned earlier all of those unengaged Republican voters that I met while on the campaign trail. I believe this is a prime time to draw those voters into active involvement in the party by giving them party leadership they can trust and relate to.Â I believe that my experience gives me tremendous knowledge about energizing grassroots activists and continuing to keep enthusiasm there.
In the end, all of our efforts will be measured out on election day.Â Having run my own campaign I know first-hand what local candidates need in order to be successful. And the bottom line comes down to grass-roots organizing.Â Personal contact during a campaign is the single most effective method of turning out voters.Â We need to re-vamp our efforts at organizing our House Districts down to the precinct levels. We need to continually refresh and update data and volunteers so that candidates have an instant and built-in network to hit the campaign trail running.Â And we need to host training to enable volunteers and candidates to maximize their efforts.
It is said that a house divided will not stand.Â I am asking for a chance to pull the people of this party together and make the Polk County Republican Party better than it has ever been.Â With your support, I look forward to advancing our conservative principles here in Polk County, and helping turn Iowa back to a red state once again.Â Please make sure you are there for this important vote on Tuesday, February 26, 7:00pm at the Holiday Inn, Mercy Campus at 1050 – 6th Avenue in Des Moines.