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Iowa Politics Roundup: State Likely to Remain First in 2012, Miller Says PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 08 January 2010 14:47

Iowa is likely to retain its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in 2012, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller -- a member of the Democratic Change Commission -- announced following the December 30 report of the commission.

The 2012 Iowa caucuses will be held in early February 2012, along with caucuses or primaries of Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Miller said at a Statehouse news conference.

"There was no, in my view, no serious challenge to Iowa being first on the commission's deliberation," Miller said. "The one time it was even sort of gently suggested -- can we do something about the order of the first states -- one of the leaders of the commissions spoke up very quickly and said, 'No, that's not part of the charge of the commission.'"

Miller credited Iowa's staying first with how the members of the commission were chosen. Commission members were backers of President Barack Obama, who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses. "Because of the president, Iowa was in a very good situation in this commission," Miller said. "He had a great result here. He loves Iowa and he's never going to forget us."

The commission recommended that the "window" for all other states should open the first Tuesday in March, and encouraged states to cluster their primaries or caucuses by region or sub-region, and to stagger clusters throughout the primary/caucus season. Miller said there's been increased discussion between the Democratic and Republican parties to coordinate and hold the caucuses and primaries on the same day.

Absentee voting in the presidential caucuses would be left as an option to each state under the commission's recommendations, but Miller said he opposes making that option available.

"Many of us in Iowa feel, somewhat reluctantly, but feel very clearly, that they shouldn't" make absentee voting available, Miller said. "The reason for that is if absentee voting was allowed, you would change the whole dynamic of the caucus."

The resolution by the commission said absentee voting is something that each state can consider and experiment with.

The Democratic Change Commission's recommendations must still go before the rules committee of the Democratic National Committee, and then before the full committee.

Iowa Economy Continues to Give Off Mixed Signals

The latest reports showed mixed signals on Iowa's economy.

The value of the Iowa Leading Indicators Index increased 0.4 percent in November, the second monthly increase after 18 months of declines, according to a report by the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Another hopeful sign came when state tax collections in December finished in the black for only the second time in 2009. Net state tax receipts were up 12.2 percent, although some of that $47 million in growth for December was due to last year's delays in processing estimate payments and large corporate refunds.

But for the first time since August, Iowa's Business Conditions Index slipped below growth-neutral in December, according to a Creighton University survey.

"Over the past decade, Iowa lost almost 45,000, or 18 percent, of its manufacturing employment," said Creighton University Economics Professor Ernie Goss. "Most losses were due to productivity growth of almost 50 percent over the decade. While I expect Iowa to grow overall jobs by 0.2 percent in the first half of 2010, manufacturing job growth will be nil as producers continue to grow output via productivity gains."

Iowa's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also edged up slightly to 6.7 percent in November from a revised October rate of 6.6 percent. Elisabeth Buck, director of Iowa Workforce Development, said "it will take some time before Iowa can achieve a healthy and sustainable recovery."

Officials Kick Off Census Campaign

The 2010 U.S. Census campaign kicked off in Iowa with officials emphasizing the importance of participating in the 10-question, 10-minute survey that each household will receive on March 15.

"It's all attached to funding," Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said. "We need an accurate count in the city of Des Moines. We want all citizens counted."

Cownie said more than 100 federally funded programs rely on the census count in determining funding . That includes agricultural and education programs, Head Start, social services, state children's health insurance, temporary assistance for needy families, and programs for the aging.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated on December 23 that Iowa's population was 3,007,856 on July 1, up from 2,993,987 the year before; a census official said during a press conference in Des Moines that the official 2010 number is expected to be pretty close to that estimate.

Rich Gerdes, assistant regional census manager, said Iowa and Minnesota have the highest return rates in the nation for mail-back census questionnaires. While there is a fine for those who don't return the census form, Gerdes said the U.S. Department of Justice has never enforced that penalty.

Gerdes emphasized that information submitted to the census is confidential, and undocumented immigrants do not have to fear deportation by participating.

"It is safe that they do respond," Gerdes said. "The data that we do have is only used in aggregate form as far as statistics at the local level; we never release any information on a particular person."

About 5,000 people will be hired statewide. Jobs will pay between $9 and $15.25 an hour. Iowans can go to Hy-Vee grocery stores to fill out a questionnaire if they didn't get one. Workers will also go door-to-door to get surveys from those who don't complete them.

Jonathan Narcisse, a potential candidate for governor who publishes newspapers for Latinos and African-Americans, criticized the lack of outreach he said the census has had with minorities, saying it's been "oppressive." He said only six out of every 10 African-Americans were counted last time.