Key lawmakers say the Governor broke the law, and they’ve filed a lawsuit. The top two Republicans in the Iowa Legislature today filed a lawsuit challenging Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack’s authority to item veto tax cuts and regulatory reforms out of a bill that also created the new state economic development fund. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City says it’s a very serious matter regarding the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of state government. Rants says Vilsack’s item vetoes were a “brazen attempt” to “usurp” the Legislature’s power. Rants says Vilsack didn’t have the authority to use the item veto on the bill, because it did not include an appropriation. Rants says Vilsack was trying to substitute his own agenda for the legislature’s. Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows, the other G-O-P lawmaker pursuing the lawsuit, says the Governor “overstepped his bounds.” Iverson says the law strictly says the Governor may only item veto appropriations bills, and Iverson says the bill in question was not an appropriations bill. One of the items Vilsack vetoed was a Republican-crafted attempt to limit Iowans’ ability to file certain lawsuits. Rants rejects the idea their lawsuit is frivolous.In a prepared statement, Vilsack calls the lawsuit “unproductive” as he says it will do nothing to grow the economy or create jobs for Iowans. Iowa’s Attorney General will represent Vilsack on the case. A district court judge could issue a ruling on the case by year’s end. If the Governor loses, he’d likely appeal and it would probably be next year before the Iowa Supreme Court issued a decision.
Archives for July 2003
An environmental group met last night in Klemme to talk about what they say are unfair tax breaks for big livestock producers. The Humane Society’s Chris Bedford says mega-sized hog lots get an exemption from a part of their farm’s property tax. He calls it a tax “subsidy” and says they don’t pay what he calls county, school or community-college taxes on the part of the farm where manure is stored. Just like scrubbers in the chimney of a factory, the manure pits that prevent runoff into water supplies are sheltered from a percentage of the farm’s property tax as an environmental exemption, according to Bedford. He says bigger farms that pay bigger taxes get a bigger exemption which isn’t fair. The group met with “Concerned Neighbors of Hancock County” to call for a $100 cap on property tax exemptions for animal farm waste pits. He says it’s a pollution-control device and says in 2002, about $171 Million in taxes “were taken off the books” for the waste-pit exemption. He cites a $20 Million facility being built in Kossuth County that he says will “probably try to hide” up to $9 Million of its value in the waste-pit exemption. The Humane Society of the U-S says local advocates agree the manure-pit property-tax exemption should be capped at $100.
As Iowans become more wary of anyone who calls asking for money, they’ll soon be getting letters in the mail as a statewide law enforcement group launches its fund drive. Atlantic Police Chief Roger Muri, president of the Iowa Association of Chiefs of Police and Peace Officers, says they’ve used telemarketers to raise money in the past, but Chief Muri says they scraped that approach this year and decided to go with the letters. No matter how professional you try to be, he says telemarketers always generate complaints. Besides, he says too large of a percentage of the money raised has to go toward the telemarkers’ wages, phone bills, etc. Chief Muri says telemarketers just didn’t provide enough return to local law enforcement agencies compared to what people donated. He says it’s especially important to get as much as possible to local agencies now, with many police departments facing budget cuts. Muri says the organization supports programs like child safety seat inspections, the Safe Walk to School program and bicycle safety programs, in addition to providing training and bullet-proof vests for law officers and lobbying the legislature on law enforcement issues. Bud Nelson, the former Police Chief in Hampton, is helping promote the fundraising effort. He says they’d like to raise $200,000. Muri says the letters will start going out this week to some locations, and will eventually be sent statewide. For more information about the Chiefs Association, visit “www.iowachiefs.org”.
Former President Bill Clinton will be in Iowa September 13th to be the headliner at Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry fundraiser. Harkin says Clinton is “going to be a great stimulant for Iowa Democrats and for Democrats everywhere.” Harkin describes it as Clinton’s kick-off appearance for the next campaign, and Harkin predicts Clinton will “be a powerful force in articulating the main issue” for Democrats — the economy. Harkin says Clinton left behind federal budget surpluses as far as the eye could see and had record job creation during his two terms in office, and the Bush Administration — in Harkin’s words — “has squandered the whole thing.” It will be Clinton’s third appearance at Harkin’s steakfry. Harkin’s expecting five- to seven-thousand people at the event which will be held on the balloon grounds near Indianola. The nine candidates who’re vying for the Democratic party’s next presidential nomination are welcome to attend, Harkin says. Harkin has held a fall fundraiser in each of the last 25 years.
Des Moines-based Ruan Transportation is cutting about three percent of its workforce. Ruan spokesperson Matt McCoy says about 100 employees nationwide will be let go in the next three weeks. McCoy says about 30 Iowans will be laid off. The rest will be scattered throughout the country, and McCoy says the company will look for “unprofitable operations” that can be closed down. The folks losing their jobs are managers or working in sales, according to McCoy. He says the company has faced a “difficult, challenging economy” over the past two years. McCoy says not only has the price of fuel increased, but the value of trucking equipment has been declining significantly, making re-sale prospects difficult. McCoy says this is the first layoff at Ruan since the beginning of a downturn in the trucking industry.to us.” McCoy says the company’s over 70 years old, and has had to change and adapt during difficult times. Ruan Transportation Management Systems provides logistics services, rents out more than 10-thousand truck units, and has its own fleet of trucks.
A man’s now in custody, charged with the murder of an eastern Iowa woman found dead on Monday. Authorities in Cedar Rapids arrested a man Tuesday in the slaying of Shelley Razor-Markwell, at her home near Cedar Rapids. Twenty-one-year-old Christopher Wheeler had been staying at the woman’s apartment. Just 24 hours after Hiawatha police found the body of 36-year-old Shelley Razor-Markwell, officers made an arrest. Twenty-one-year-old Christopher Wheeler was arrested at a Cedar Rapids hospital and charged with first degree murder. Friends and family say Wheeler was staying with Razor-Markwell and her three children at the Hiawatha apartment where she was found dead. Authorities say Razor-Markwell was suffocated. It’s not clear whether any of her three children were at home at the time of the murder. Wheeler has been charged in the past with domestic abuse, theft and possession of marijuana. When booked on the most recent drug charge, he listed his address as the apartment where Razor-Markwell lived. (1 cut, Angie Hunt, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids)
There’s been a significant increase in the number of Iowa kids who’re taking the state water safety course. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 can’t legally operate a “personal watercraft” like a jet-ski, if they’ve not passed the course. The new law went into effect January 1st, and Rod Slings of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says since then about three-thousand Iowa teens have taken the course. There are 214,000 registered boats in Iowa, and Slings says only 10 to 15 percent are personal watercraft. In 2002, 600 boating safety certificates were issued, so there’s been a five-fold increase in test-takers so far this year. Slings doesn’t know how many tickets have been issued to teenagers who’ve used a personal watercraft without having the safety certificate. Slings says officers submit a “citation report” at the end of the year, and that’s when he’ll know how many tickets were issued. But he isn’t hearing of many problems. Slings says, for the most part, officers “report good compliance” with the law.
The Non-Starlink settlement deadline is fast approaching…once again. Farmers in Iowa and nationwide have until tomorrow — Thursday — to file claims in the settlement of the StarLink corn lawsuit. Three years ago when growers produced the corn with a gene to kill crop-eating pests, it was supposed to be strictly limited: used for animal feed, but never to get into the human food supply. Then it turned up in taco shells, and tests found other products on store shelves with the DNA of Starlink corn. Farmers who DIDN’T grow the genetically-altered corn sued, saying their prices suffered because of the uproar that followed the discovery, and got a $110 Million settlement agreed to by makers and distributors of Starlink including its parent company Avanta USA. The original May 31st claims deadline was extended to July 31st.
Voters in a far eastern Iowa town have decided against a safety measure. Clinton remains the largest city in Iowa without a building safety code. In Tuesday’s vote, 3794 people voted no, while 1729 voted yes — giving the no’s 69 percent. The single-issue special election got 30-percent of Clinton’s registered voters to the polls.
Kossuth County voters Tuesday okayed a one-cent local option sales and service tax. Among the voting precincts, 12 voted yes, nine voted no and one ended in a tie. The money collected is for school improvements and property tax relief. About 16-percent of the county’s voters took part in the special election. The totals were 1061 yes votes and 904 no.