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Capitol Digest 4-9-12

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, April 9, 2012:

JUDICIAL SELECTION UPHELD: A United States Court of Appeals panel Monday upheld a U.S. District Court judge’s dismissal of a complaint challenging Iowa’s merit selection system for selecting judicial candidates to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled Iowa’s system of election for the commission’s attorney members by and from members of the Iowa Bar is “rationally related to Iowa’s legitimate interests.”

Attorneys, the court wrote, are in a better position to evaluate the candidate’s qualifications in terms of legal acumen, intelligence and judicial temperament.

The ruling affirms a Jan. 18 decision by U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt dismissing the legal challenge of Iowa’s judicial and retention system, which Iowans adopted through a constitutional amendment in 1962. They sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, claiming Iowa’s method of attorneys selecting the attorney members of the panel was unconstitutional.

TYRRELL R.I.P.: Former Iowa Rep. Phil Tyrrell, 79, a North English Republican, died Monday.

Tyrrell, 79, served 10 terms in the Iowa House from 197982 and 1987-2002. He was a self-employed insurance agent, and a former mayor of North English. He and his wife, Diane, had seven children.

In addition to his legislative work, Tyrrell was remembered by House member as a practical joker. Rep. Lance Horbach, R-Tama, recalled that early in his freshman term he was the victim of one of Tyrrell’s pranks. Horbach received a note to call a “Mr. Bear,” a constituent who was very upset with something he had said or done. Horbach called, introduced himself and, after a long pause, he was told he had just called the Blank Park Zoo.

Services are pending with Powell Funeral Home and Cremation Service

CRP SIGNUP HELP: The deadline for signing up for the general Conservation Reserve Program has been moved to April 13, giving farmers an extra week to enroll.

The extension gives landowners more time to make decisions about which plants to plant and which acres to enroll or re-enroll. Those decisions are important because the Farm Service Agency evaluates the offers based on the contract cost and the Environmental Benefits Index — higher scores indicate more benefits.

The Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife biologists and foresters can help land owners increase their scores on the index by offering advice on plant species that will help landowners meet their goals for wildlife and erosion control. Find out more about how to make a competitive CRP bid at

FULLY-FUNDED COURTS: Supporters with the J A coalition of organizations and individuals committed to protecting Iowa’s courts will all on the Legislature to fully fund the state Judicial Branch at a 9 a.m. April 10 news conference at the Statehouse.

Justice Not Politics also will visit the offices of legislative leaders to deliver an open letter encouraging “fully funding and fully staffing our judicial branch.”

The Judicial Branch, which has reduced its staff and, in some cases, hours, have struggled to keep up with the demand for court services, according to the coalition, including a criminal caseload that has increased 97 percent.

“The caseload grows every year, if their budget doesn’t grow with it we will wait months, even years, for a day in court,” according to the letter the coalition will deliver.

For more, visit

CENTERS JOINS KING: U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, has a new communications director. The congressman announced Monday that he has hired of Jimmy Centers to serve as the communications director for his re-election campaign in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

Centers had been serving as deputy communications director for the Branstad-Reynolds administration since January 2011. He also worked as a field director in northeast Iowa for Gov. Terry Branstad’s successful gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

Centers joins Jeff King, who was recently named as Rep. King’s campaign chairman, and Jake Ketzner, who was selected to manage Rep. King’s re-election campaign in Iowa’s newly reapportioned 4th Congressional District. Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, D-Ames, has announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

AMBASSADOR TO DES MOINES: Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton will address the Third Annual Robb Kelley Club Dinner May 24 at the Marriott Hotel, 700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines.

Bolton, a frequent commentator on cable news, served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2005-06, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Bolton has endorsed Mitt Romney and serves as a surrogate speaker. He’s been mentioned as a potential candidate for secretary of state.

There will be a general reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and program at 7 p.m. Tickets are $75.00 per person and can be purchased by calling (515) 280-6438 or emailing

Quote of the Day: “You’ve been very fair and balanced to me. I don’t know why other people don’t like you so much.” – Rep. Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield, who used his retirement speech to thank the press for its treatment of him during his 10-year stint in the House

–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau

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