Funnel week at the Iowa Capitol can be quite the experience.
It’s four days of committee meetings packed one on top of the other as state lawmakers rush to keep bills alive before the deadline strikes at the end of the week.
Within all the endless hustle and bustle — think Black Friday shopping, then multiply by 1,000 — are the remarkable moments that stand out once the chaos has subsided.
There was no shortage of those types of moments this week at the Capitol.
Perhaps most surprising was the public reception to a bill that would make it tougher for government and other public entities to compete for land purchases.
The first hearing on the bill was scheduled for the House lobbyist lounge, a small room where, often, multiple hearings are held simultaneously mere feet away from each other. There is barely room for roughly a dozen stakeholders to huddle around the meeting table and weigh in on a bill. Clearly, legislators expected a relatively quiet hearing on the bill.
That’s not what happened.
Hundreds of people flocked to the Capitol to speak about or listen to the debate on the bill. Small farm and business owners and environmental groups and advocates were particularly upset. The hearing had to be moved from that small space in the lounge to one of the biggest committee rooms in the Capitol — and it still was not even close to big enough to hold everyone who had come.
Ultimately the bill passed out of committee in the Senate, making it funnel-proof, although that version was scaled back slightly to ease some of the concerns.
Another standout moment came at the very end of funnel week during debate over one of the very last bills considered before the deadline.
Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would reintroduce the death penalty in Iowa for the first time in a half-century. The proposal, which would limit the death penalty as an available sentence only in cases in which the victim was kidnapped, raped and murdered, was debated late Thursday afternoon by the Senate’s judiciary committee.
Kevin Kinney, a Democratic senator and former deputy sheriff, gave emotional testimony about his experience investigating the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 10-year-old Iowa girl. He described carrying the girl’s body from the crime scene and how he felt seeing her killer in prison.
Kinney argued against the death penalty, saying he believes the girl’s killer should spend his life in prison. Kinney said he thinks it would be letting the killer off the hook to end his life.
Jason Schultz, the Republican who proposed the legislation, gave a passionate defense of his proposal.
The debate, which came at the bitter end of a long, exhausting week for everyone involved, was emotional and powerful, yet never contentious. Which was fairly remarkable, given the circumstances.
Conservative group backs King challenger
A national conservative organization is throwing its support and resources behind one of the Republican primary challengers running against Iowa’s 4th District U.S. Rep. Steve King.
RightVoter, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative consulting firm, this week announced its plan to support Jeremy Taylor, a current Woodbury County supervisor and former state legislator.
RightVoter will serve as senior advisers to Taylor’s campaign, the organization said in a news release.
Taylor is one of three Republicans to announce a primary challenge to King. The others are state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull and former Irwin mayor Bret Richards.
Speaking of resources, national Democrats this week announced their program designed to defend their newfound majority in the U.S. House, and it includes investment in Iowa.
Democrats flipped two congressional seats in Iowa from red to blue in 2018. Their "March Forward" program, introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, the northwest Illinois representative who heads the House Democrats' campaign committee, includes a "multi-million-dollar" investment in order to protect the new majority, including hiring grassroots organizers in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.