January 28, 2015

Rally highlights ‘racial injustice’ and other CCI concerns

Lori Young of Des Moines speaks at rally.

Lori Young of Des Moines speaks at rally.

A few hundred members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement rallied at the statehouse today, calling on state officials to address their concerns about water quality, predatory lenders and racial profiling.

Deborah Bunka of Ames said the group also supports campaign finance reform.

“And let’s get money the hell out of politics and get publicly-financed elections,” Bunka said, to cheers at today’s rally.

Lori Young of Des Moines told the group Iowa is not immune to “racial injustice” and she cited the case of a Virginia preacher visiting a Des Moines church this past summer.

“He was stopped by the police and accused of selling drugs just because he was driving a nice car and he was Latino,” Young said. “There are countless other incidents like this one happening in Des Moines every day, but they don’t get the attention they deserve. We need to change the narrative and start talking about these problems publicly.”

The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement activists plan to lobby legislators for a few hours, then they’ll stage a protest outside a pay-day loan company.

Progress Iowa, another liberal advocacy group, today released a report critical of the efforts of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which is known as ALEC. According to Progress Iowa, corporations that support ALEC’s activities gave more than a half million dollars to the 2014 campaigns of Governor Branstad, Joni Ernst and Republican legislative leaders.

Branstad has the flu; all public events for rest of week cancelled

Governor Branstad was released from the hospital this morning after treatment for the flu.

Branstad’s staff now confirms the governor has the flu. The governor fell ill during a speech on Monday morning and was taken by ambulance to a Des Moines hospital. He was released from the hospital at nine o’clock this morning.  Jimmy Centers, the governor’s communications director, says Branstad is “resting comfortably” at Terrace Hill.

The governor’s personal physician issued a written statement, classifying Branstad in “good condition.” Dr. Kevin Cunningham says he’s ruled out a heart attack or stroke and has concluded the “incident was caused by a mild flu and dehydration.”

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has been sick, too, and both Branstad and Reynolds have cancelled all their public events for the remainder of the week. That will give them “ample time to rest and recuperate” according to Centers. Reynolds saw her doctor this morning and a test came back negative for the flu, but she has been ordered to rest so she can recover from “a seasonal illness.”

The governor’s oldest son, Eric Branstad, tweeted a message to his father: “He had better listen to mom!”  The governor admitted yesterday that his wife wanted him to stay home from work Monday, but he didn’t heed her advice.

Centers says Branstad was alert and conscious and his official duties were not handed over to anyone. Branstad and Reynolds keep an “ambitious schedule” and, according to Centers, they have attended other 2500 public events since they took office in 2011.

“So it’s certainly unusual for the governor not to be out on the road visiting with Iowans for the next couple of days, but rest assured he’ll be back out on the road in the very near future,” Centers says.

(This story was updated at 11:53 a.m. with additional information)

Senator cites governor’s ‘little episode’, asks colleagues to pray for Branstad

Ken Rozenboom

Ken Rozenboom

No word — yet — on when Governor Terry Branstad might be released from the Des Moines hospital where he’s being treated for “flu-like symptoms.” Branstad fell ill yesterday, during a speech at Du Pont Pioneer in Johnston, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was admitted “out of an abundance of caution” according to his staff.

Senator Ken Rozenboom, a Republican from Oskaloosa, brought up the subject during a speech in the senate this morning.

“I simply want to remind the body here of our governor’s little episode yesterday and encourage you and ask you to keep him and his family in your prayers and also Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds who’s apparently been afflicted with something similar,” Rozenboom said.

Reynolds was coughing and sniffling yesterday, too, and was scheduled to see her doctor this morning. Both Reynolds and Branstad have cancelled all their public appearances today.

“Please keep them in your prayers as the day goes forward, so they can return to their work,” Rozenboom said.

Another state official — Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart — has cancelled his scheduled appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee today because he’s ill.

Education funding debate begins in Iowa House

state-capitolThe Republican-led Iowa House has begun debating a bill that would forward nearly $48 million more dollars in general state aid to Iowa’s public school districts for the next academic year.

School advocates say the increase isn’t enough and won’t even cover negotiated salary hikes for teachers. Others complain Republican legislators are making property tax relief a higher priority than kids. Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City, said this morning that K-12 public schools would be getting “about half” of the additional state tax revenue that’s available in the coming this year under the GOP’s proposal.

“We are not the federal government. We must live within our means,” Jorgensen said. “We must do the math. If the money is not there, you can’t spend it unless you are willing to cut in other areas in order to pay for it.”

Critics say Iowa’s per pupil spending level ranks 37th among the states. Jorgensen said another study that factored in each state’s cost of living and ranked Iowa 25th.

“I believe in education you could find a study that would pretty well prove whatever point you wanted to make,” Jorgensen said.

And Jorgensen said per pupil spending “does not always equate to higher performance.” Educators warn class sizes will increase and teachers will be laid off because the one-and-three-quarter percent increase in state aid that the GOP proposes won’t be enough to meet school district obligations. During last night’s two-hour-long public hearing, just two people spoke in favor of the GOP proposal and one of the two is an aide to Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

‘Out of an abundance of caution’ Branstad to stay overnight in hospital

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad during his meeting with the media this morning prior to the event where he became ill.

Governor Terry Branstad will stay overnight in a Des Moines hospital where he’s being treated for “flu-like symptoms.”

Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for the governor issued a statement late this afternoon, saying Branstad is “currently alert and resting comfortably.” Centers said Branstad is “being observed and hydrated” and will be kept overnight “out of an abundance of caution.”

Branstad fell ill as he was delivering a speech during a ceremony at Du Pont Pioneer in Johnston this morning. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds was noticeably ill earlier this morning as Branstad and Reynolds held their weekly news conference. Both Branstad and Reynolds were coughing.

“She will see her doctor tomorrow morning, again out of an abundacne of caution,” Centers told Radio Iowa. “She has also cancelled all of her public events for Tuesday the 27th to get well.”

Both Branstad and Reynolds have cancelled all their public events for Tuesday.

“We’ll make a decision going forward regarding the remainder of (Branstad’s) public schedule for the week in the near future,” Centers said.

The governor had a flu shot this fall, according to Centers. Experts say this year’s flu shot does not cover a strain of the flu which is prevalent this season.  Doctors haven’t yet confirmed that Branstad is suffering from a particular strain of the flu either.

“These are flu-like symptoms,” Centers told Radio Iowa. “There isn’t a diagnosis.”

Experts say this is the worst flu “season” in nearly a decade.

(This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. with additional information.)

Zaun says Branstad’s wife wanted governor to stay home today

Brad Zaun

Brad Zaun

A state senator who talked with Terry Branstad right after the governor fell ill this morning says Branstad will bounce back quickly. State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale was at a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking for a new Du Pont Pioneer facility in Johnston, listening to Branstad speak.

“You could just tell he was struggling and, you know, he was probably dehydrated,” Zaun says. “I’m very confident he’s going to be fine based on the conversations that I had with him, but most importantly what the EMS people did, asking him pertinent questions about where you’re at and who’s the president of the United States and that kind of stuff.”

Zaun says the governor even joked about his condition.

“That his wife said I probably shouldn’t work today,” Zaun says. “Like all of us — I’m getting over the flu, too — you just get tired, so we’ll just be saying a lot of prayers for him.”

Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted his well-wishes to Branstad, advising the governor to “do exactly what Mrs Branstad tells you to do.” Branstad sat down in the middle of his speech at today’s groundbreaking, then Zaun says a nurse suggested that Branstad lay down on the floor. Branstad was then transported by ambulance to a Des Moines hospital. Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers says the governor is suffering from a “seasonal illness.”

Early this morning Branstad told reporters he’d been suffering from a “bad cold” for “a couple of weeks or more.”

Branstad taken by ambulance to hospital

Governor Terry Branstad has been taken to a Des Moines hospital by ambulance.

Branstad’s spokesman says he “fell ill” at an event this morning due to a “seasonal illness.” Branstad was touring Du Pont Pioneer in Johnston at the time.

Branstad, who is 68 years old, held his weekly news conference early this morning at the statehouse. He was coughing and was quizzed by a reporter about his health. Branstad coughed and sniffed, then said: “I’ve got a bad cold and so does the lieutenant governor…We’ve had it off and on for some time, a couple of weeks or more.”

The governor’s spokesman says Branstad “is conscious and alert and was so during the transport to the hospital. During the transport, paramedics took the governor’s vitals and initial tests indicate that the spell was caused by a seasonal illness.”

Branstad, who had varicose vein surgery at the end of December, has a history of heart problems. He had a heart attack in December of 2000. Doctors inserted a stent in his heart to keep an artery open. In May of 2010 doctors found a partially-blocked artery in Branstad’s heart during a routine test and a second stent was inserted in the governor’s heart.