One of the sideshows at the statehouse is a showdown over election reform. Republicans have passed a bill Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack promises to veto. The bill puts up state money to match federal funds coming Iowa’s way to buy new voting machines. At issue are changes in voting proceedures — like some restrictions on who may handle an absentee ballots. Democrats say Republicans are sore losers because Democrats won the races for Governor and Senate in 2002 because of a concerted absentee balloting effort. Senator Mark Zieman, a republican from Postville, says that’s hogwash. Zieman says the bill doesn’t restrict voting, and tightens the rules to make sure everybody’s vote counts. Zieman says he twice thought he had a deal with the Governor, and later learned otherwise. Zieman says he’s frustrated, because he’s tried to reach a compromise but found that “the line keeps movin’.” The bill also calls for closing the polls an hour earlier on election day, and Democrats say that’ll make it more difficult for working Iowans to cast a ballot.
Archives for May 2003
Iowa Legislators met yesterday in “special” session, but today just a “skeleton crew” remains in Des Moines to try to strike compromises on key issues. A couple of “working groups” of Republicans from the House and Senate will meet privately through the weekend to work out the details of a new state economic development fund and put the finishing touches on a 310-million dollar income tax cut, property tax reform and changes in business regulations. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says it makes no sense to keep all 150 legislators at the capitol, waiting. Rants says House and Senate Republicans are “very close” to an agreement but Rants says it would be a mistake to keep lawmakers around ’til three o’clock in the morning when they’d be too bleary-eyed to know what they’re voting on.Rants says lawmakers will convene again on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and all 150 legislators will by then have an opportunity to read through the compromise and know what they’re voting on. Democrats, including the Governor, complain they’re not allowed into the closed-door sessions where a few Republicans are hammering out the details. At a 10 o’clock news conference last night, Governor Tom Vilsack lashed out at Republicans for once again failing to pass the “Iowa Values” state economic development fund. Vilsack says it has been discussed for weeks and months, and the Legislature again went home. Vilsack says the people of Iowa paid 38-thousand dollars for the legislature to meet yesterday to “get the job done and it still isn’t done.” Vilsack says he’s “been like the Energizer bunny during this whole process” and he says “even the Energizer bunny’s batteries would wear out waiting for this group.” A half hour later, Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows bristled when told of the Governor’s outburst. Iverson says the “Governor’s entitled to say what he wants,” but Iverson expects a deal sometime next week. Iverson says legislators are “pretty close on a lot of things. Iverson says when dealing with such a broad array of subjects, it’s not unusual to “have some difference of opinion.”
Members of the state’s Big Four track and field teams head to Lincoln, Nebraska for tomorrow’s start of the N-C-A-A Central Regional. It is the first time that regionals have been used to qualify for the N-C-A-A Championships and Northern Iowa coach Chris Bucknam supports the change. He says it has been in the works for ten or 15 years and it has finally come to pass so there are more teams at meets.The top five individual performers and the top three teams in each relay event will qualify for the N-C-A-A meet. Bucknam says that is a major change in qualifying, as everything in the past was based on qualifying times, as the NCAA would take on the average the top 20 athletes.Bucknam says the season had become built around the qualifying standards and the team competition got lost in the shuffle. He says people were chasing meets all around the country trying to get the best time. Bucknam says the regional concept allows the northern schools more time to improve their times or distances. U-N-I will take a 21-member squad to Lincoln.
Central College senior pitcher Libby Hysell has been named the N-C-A-A division-three softball player of the year.The Colfax native led the Dutch to a 41-5 record and the program’s fourth national championship last week in Salem, Virginia. This past season Hysell finished 17-0 and led the nation with an earned run average of zero-point-four-one. Central coach George Wares says Hysell has developed a lot over the years and it has been her dream to win a national championship. He says Hysell’s competetive nature helped during a grueling run through the national tournament. Wares says going through the losers bracket does wear on the team, but he says Hysell just remained tough and fought through it.
An Estherville man who was driving drunk and crashed his car, killing one of his passengers, is sentenced to 20 years in prison. Eighteen-year-old Juan Alcala was sentenced in Palo Alto County District Court to a 10-year term for reckless homicide by vehicle and five-years each on a pair of serious injury by vehicle charges. Alcala must also pay nearly 450-thousand dollars in restitution. The charges stem from a fatal car crash near Cylinder on July 15th, 2002 that claimed the life of Brent Weir of Estherville. Injuries suffered by Alcala’s other passengers, Tyler Friesner and Jason Spoo, led to the serious injury by vehicle charges. Alcala was 17 at the time of the crash, but turned 18 by the time the autopsy results were returned.
Authorities have released the name of a six-year-old northwest Iowa boy who was killed in an accident on a farm. The Sioux County Sheriff’s office says Michael Pohlen of rural Hospers was accidentally struck by a skid loader while his family was doing yard work. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the county medical examiner. His parents are Daniel and Peggy Pohlen.
Unionized workers at the Quad Cities’ largest employer are speaking out against a Bush administration plan to change federal rules for Department of Defense workers nationwide. It would effect thousands of workers at the Rock Island Arsenal. Randy Donnelly is president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2119, the largest of the Arsenal’s unions. Donnelly says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is grabbing at power he should -not- be allowed to have. Donnelly says Rumsfeld is requesting that “Congress enable him to create the new laws and regulations and the Constitution specifically states that Congress enacts and makes the laws and that the administration enforces ’em.” The proposal would change how defense workers are paid and would make it easier for the government to hire and transfer people. Donnelly says it would also change how workers are evaluated by their supervisors.It would also do away with “premium pay” or time-and-a-half for any hours worked over 40 in a week. Donnelly says the proposed measure is part of a much larger bill that’s passed in the U-S House that pumps 400-billion dollars into defense programs next year. A similar measure has passed the Senate and a conference committee is to meet next week to iron out differences. Donnelly says his members are lobbying Congressmen from Iowa and Illinois to vote against it.Donnelly and dozens of his union colleagues marched through Davenport on Wednesday to draw attention to the proposal. Bush administration leaders say the current rules may damage the national security mission and are decades old. Union leaders call the plan an assault on their rights. Donnelly says “Men and women have died for the right to bargain with management on these rights.”
About 50 members of the Meskwaki nation visited the statehouse today, appealing for state lawmakers’ help in convincing federal officials to validate the recent tribal election. Tribal chairman Homer Bear, Junior, the winner of last week’s election, says the people of Iowa need to know the tribe’s predicament. Bear says the closure of the casino — which was ordered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs — affects a lot of people in the Tama/Toledo area.Bear says 13-hundred people work at the casino – and most were not members of the tribe. He says legislators who represent those workers need to be aware of the circumstances of the vote. Bear says tribal election must be recognized. Tom Jochum, a lobbyist hired by the tribe, says there’s nothing legislators can do, directly, but they can use their influence with federal officials. At least one legislator — Senator Dennis Black of Newton — is sending a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is in the Department of Interior. Black says the newly-elected tribal council should be allowed to step in and take over management of the casino. Black says the legislature can’t solve the problem; the Meskwakis, as a sovereign nation, must solve it themselves. But Black says he’s sending a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs about the “tempest in a teapot in Tama County” and telling the Bureau “shame on you.”
Iowa lawmakers are meeting again in Des Moines, but not much has happened. There’s been a lot of talk, but very little action so far. It wasn’t ’til four hours after the legislature convened that a Senate committee began debating a bill that would simplify Iowans’ income taxes and cut ’em by about 310-million dollars. The Senate Republican plan for financing and distributing a new state economic development fund hasn’t even cleared a committee yet. Governor Tom Vilsack’s already saying it doesn’t go far enough. The House — during the regular legislative session — passed its own plans on those issues, so House members are just sitting around, waiting for the Senate to make some decisions. Senator Mike Connolly, a democrat from Dubuque, this morning challenged Republicans to act quickly. Connolly says Republicans consider themselves “fiscal conservatives” yet the Senate Republicans stalled during the regular session and forced the special session, at a cost to the state of 36-thousand dollars a day. Connolly says “the entire state of Iowa wants us to get after this” and pass the “Iowa Values” fund to spur economic development.
Organizers expect a record field on Saturday for the annual Dam-to-Dam road race in Des Moines. The 20-K race has been the feature since the beginning and starts at the Saylorville Dam before finishing in downtown Des Moines.Kurt Schaffer who says the 20-K has become one of the most popular of its kind and the course is a major reason. He says a group or runners create the race to give them a quality race in their own area. The course is not typical because it is point-to-point, and doesn’t start and finish in the same spot. Schaffer says last year’s race attracted a record field and he expects that record to be topped this week. Last year was probably the hottest day in the 23 year history of the race, but he says this year it looks to be nicer weather.The event also includes a five-K.