I planned to comment today about the Ames Police arresting Iowa State Representative Chip Baltimore (R-Boone) early Friday morning, charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) and possession of a firearm while intoxicated. His blood alcohol level was 0.147 percent which is almost twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, and his weapons permit becomes void when drunk.
At the time he was the chairman of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, and I planned to call for his resignation, but after opening my inbox, I saw that Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) had removed him from the committee. She has replaced him with State Representative Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant).
“Serving as a committee Chairman is a privilege that requires a higher level of trust and responsibility. Drinking and driving is unacceptable behavior that endangers the lives of all Iowans who wish to travel our roads safely. Rep. Baltimore’s actions were clearly irresponsible and he is being held accountable,” Upmeyer said in a released statement this morning.
“From the moment I made the horrible decision, I have taken full responsibility for it and accepted any and all consequences resulting from it,” Baltimore said in a statement this morning.
“Speaker Upmeyer and I have spoken several times over the last few days, and I wholeheartedly agree with and support her decision concerning the chair position of the House Judiciary Committee, as it is the right thing to do. I will work with Chairman Nunn to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Baltimore on Friday told KCCI who was present during his initial appearance in court that staying on as chairman was not his determination to make.
“The fact of the matter is I was picked up and charged,” Baltimore told KCCI. “Obviously it’s not my proudest moment, so we’ll move forward from there.”
He could have resigned and should have before Upmeyer removed him. That would have been the principled thing to do.
Since he didn’t, I commend Speaker Upmeyer for removing him.
I have little patience for lawmakers who break the law. It is particularly egregious that Baltimore broke the law as the sitting House Judiciary Chair.
Since this is Baltimore’s first OWI offense, it is considered a serious misdemeanor. The weapons charge is also a serious misdemeanor. For the OWI charge, the minimum sentence is 48 hours with the maximum penalty being a year in jail. It is likely the court will suspend any jail time since it was his first time and his BAC was below 0.15%. He may face a smaller fine, community service, or a restricted license instead. The weapons charge considered a serious misdemeanor under Iowa law is punishable by a fine of at least $315 but not to exceed $1,875. In addition, the court may also order imprisonment not to exceed one year. Again, I would be surprised if the prosecutor does not drop that charge or Baltimore is not given a deferred judgment by the judge.
It is extremely unlikely that State Representative Baltimore will see any jail time. Whether or not that happens I believe he is supremely unfit for office at this time.
If this arrest happened before the session, I would have called for Baltimore’s resignation from the House. Since we are into the third week of the last session of this current two-year term, he should step aside at the end of the session instead. If he resigned now, House District 47 would be left without representation, and by the time a special election is held the session would be almost over then the winner of the special election would have to turn right around and run again. I can think of better uses of taxpayer money.
That said, I think he should resign immediately from the Iowa House Judiciary Committee.
Should Baltimore decide to run for reelection and not step aside, he deserves a primary challenge. Republicans should have a choice to select a nominee who demonstrates better judgment.