February 11, 2016

Branstad says economic signals cause for concern

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Uncertainty remains about the farm economy and the state’s future budget situation, causing the Governor Terry Branstad to think over his options.

Branstad ordered state worker furloughs and across-the-board cuts in the state budget during the depths of the Farm Crisis. “But I’ve learned that’s not the way to do things,” Branstad says.

So, if Iowa’s economy craters and the state budget plan is headed toward red ink this fall or next winter, Branstad will call lawmakers back to Des Moines for a special legislative session.

“If we really run into financial problems, I’m going to bring the legislature back to address it,” Branstad says, slapping his hands together, “because if they create the problem, they’re going to have to address it.”

Branstad says this is a “tough year, financially” for the state, as tax collections have failed to meet expectations.

“This is a challenging time,” Branstad says. “The stock market started out the year the worst, I guess in history — the first month — and then we have the farm situation and the fact that commodity prices are below the price of production. Hog prices are bad as well as corn and soybeans. There’s reason to be concerned.”

And Branstad points to last week’s announcement that ADM may try to sell its ethanol plant in Cedar Rapids because of weak profits.

Branstad made his comments late last week during an interview with Radio Iowa.


Legislators to get ‘silencer’ tutorials on Monday

Shooting range.

Shooting range.

The “Sportsman’s Caucus” in the Iowa legislature is hosting a field trip to an indoor shooting range Monday.

Representative Scott Ourth, a Democrat from Ackworth, says the exercise is for legislators — not the public — and lawmakers will be able to use a device that’s actually illegal to own in Iowa.

“The purpose of this thing is since we, you know, encounter legislation and have debates regarding these devices and all that, we decided to put this on so that you can actually go and fire a firearm with suppressors,” Ourth says.

Under current Iowa law, suppressors or “silencers” as they’re sometimes called, are illegal to buy. In 2014 and again in 2015 legislators debated making the devices legal. The shooting range legislators will visit Monday does not sell suppressors, but it has a federal license that allows the use of suppressors within one of its 17 shooting lanes.

The facility, located in the Des Moines suburb of Johnston, was visited by a number of Republican presidential candidates who stopped by to do some target shooting over the past several months. On Monday, there will be a seminar on suppressors for state legislators.

“A classroom type, learning thing where they show how they’re built and what they look like and you can handle one and then you can see how they work,” Ourth says. “…I think it will probably help dispel some myths about the things.”

During a 2014 debate in the Iowa House about legalizing suppressors, critics said muffling the sound of a gun shot would give “a new degree of intimacy for mass shootings.” Supporters of the move say the “silencers” help preserve the hearing of gun owners who regularly take target practice. It is legal to sell or own a suppressor in 40 other states.

Congressman King responds to ‘fury’ over Caucus Night (AUDIO)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King today said there is “fury…boiling over” about the results of Iowa’s Caucuses, but King said he had “no ill intent” with his tweet on Caucus night that it looked like Ben Carson was dropping out of the presidential race.

Carson backers say King — who backs Ted Cruz — misled some Carson supporters into switching to Cruz.

“If I had it to do over again knowing what I know now, I would not have issued that information, however accurate it was,” King told Radio Iowa. “But knowing when I knew then, having reviewed the chronology or had access to, I would be compelled to do the same thing given the information that I had.”

King said he had a 45-minute private meeting with Carson Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. and the two emerged as friends.

“My understanding of that conversation is that Ben is satisfied, as am I,” King said early this afternoon.

Donald Trump has said Cruz and King cheated by telling Iowans heading into the caucuses that Carson was dropping out. Governor Terry Branstad has gone so far as to use the word “unethical” to describe King’s actions. King said Branstad was “out of line” to openly call for the defeat of Cruz in the Caucuses because of Cruz’s opposition to the federal ethanol production mandate.

“So now we have a governor making remarks publicly about my ethics?” King asked rhetorically during his interview with Radio Iowa. “I think he should go back and examine the ethics of the ARF organization that’s headed by his son and examine the motives of those people.”

America’s Renewable Future is a Super PAC headed by Eric Branstad, the governor’s oldest son, and it campaigned against Cruz. King acknowledges that it appears there is now a rift within the Iowa GOP.

“It’s too bad that there are those that want to try to start a fire and throw gas on it and to disparage the Ted Cruz victory and actually it drags us all down,” King said. “And I would like to think that especially the high-profile Republicans in the state are more prudent than that and it doesn’t look like they’re demonstrating that this week, at least. Maybe next week.”

King said Iowans “can be proud” of the results from Monday night and he’s willing to take the “arrows” being directed his way.

“The American people — and Iowans in particular — we like to take some pride in being very vigorous competitors, but also we ought to take some pride in being able to accept the loss as long as we did all we can do morally and ethically and vigorously to achieve our objectives,” King said. “And if the people that did not achieve their objectives aren’t able to look at their effort that way, I think that would explain some of the fury that’s boiling over here.”

AUDIO of King’s interview with Radio Iowa

(A previous version of this story indicated King had no regrets about his Tweet, but the congressman has contacted Radio Iowa this afternoon to indicate he had “no ill intent” in sending the Tweet.)

Commission likely to consider changes in Iowa Democratic Party Caucuses

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

The man who managed President Obama’s 2012 reelection effort in Iowa expects Iowa Democratic Party leaders will convene a commission to propose possible changes in the party’s presidential caucus procedures.

Brad Anderson says Democrats should consider having straw poll ballots, just like Republicans do at their Caucuses.

“The one thing that is troubling is in a close race there should be some kind of recount procedure and right now because of the way it’s done on the Democratic side, it’s just not possible,” Anderson says. “We don’t have ballots.”

Democrats decide the winner of their caucuses by counting the number of delegates each presidential candidate wins — and there are complex calculations for determining those “delegate equivalents”.

“We need to form a commission that takes a look at it in the same way that Republicans did in 2012,” Anderson says. “I think there are very fair questions, but I think at the end of the day this process is one that makes Iowa the center of attention and we have always handled the spotlight fairly well.”

The Iowa Republican Party tinkered with the rules for its caucuses after Mitt Romney was declared the winner on Caucus Night, Rick Santorum won a “canvas” of most precincts 10 days later and Ron Paul had the most delegates at the party’s national convention. Anderson, who backed Hillary Clinton in the Caucuses, says there are specific things that need to be addressed by Iowa Democrats, like the “logistical challenges” that were evident on Monday night.

“Certainly, some of these precincts have just gotten too big,” Anderson says.

For example, Anderson went to his precinct on Caucus Night, but the crowd was too big for the elementary school gymnasium — so people were sent outside to conduct the caucus in the school’s parking lot.

Craig Robinson, a Republican activist who once served as the political director for the Republican Party of Iowa, says the two parties should collaborate on technology, so — for example — people aren’t filling out paper voter registration forms on Caucus Night.

“I think the parties need to work together for the next four years, not just in the year of the caucus,” Robinson says. “…There needs to be some existing infrastructure built.”

Robinson attended his GOP precinct caucus in Ankeny, where 200 people were forced to fill out the paperwork to change their voter registration before the caucus could start. Robinson says the use of technology would help speed that process.

Robinson and Anderson made their comments today during taping of “Iowa Press” which airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.

Senator seeking Stanford apology advised: get a sense of humor

Mike Gronstal (file photo)

Mike Gronstal (file photo)

You may have heard about the bill that calls for a bit of state-government retribution for Stanford University over a controversial half-time show at the Rose Bowl that ridiculed Iowans.

This is how Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal laughed yesterday when a reporter asked about the bill.

“Next question,” Gronstal said.

Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, says the Stanford band’s show offended Iowans — and Stanford owes the state an apology. His bill would forbid the University of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI from collaborating with Stanford researchers until Stanford apologizes. Gronstal does not plan to bring the bill up for a vote.

“It’s absurd,” Gronstal said.

And Gronstal suggests the senate may act on another piece of legislation.

“Senators from southern Iowa,” Gronstal said, a reference to Chelgren, “we ought to have a resolution to ask more of them have a sense of humor.”

Iowa lost to Stanford 45-16 in the Rose Bowl.

Governor: school spending decision won’t happen quickly

School-BusGovernor Terry Branstad is predicting legislators will have a tough time making a school funding decision this year.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen quickly because there’s some big issues to be resolved,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during an interview Thursday.

Legislative leaders from both parties have been saying they hope to strike a quick compromise on school funding for the academic year that starts this fall. Branstad says budget realities may prevent that.

“There’s some big issues to be resolved,” Branstad said. “…This is a tough year, financially.”

House Republicans propose a two percent boost in general state aid for K-12 public schools in Iowa. Branstad last month recommended nearly half a percent more than that.

Democrats who control the Iowa Senate are seeking a four percent increase. Last year, the legislature made its decision about school funding in June — about four weeks before the budgeting year began.

‘Let’s not blow this out of proportion,’ Sanders says of Iowa Caucus results

Bernie Sanders in Burlington, IA.

Bernie Sanders in Burlington. (file photo)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is tamping down the furor over the results of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses.

Sanders and Hillary Clinton debated last night in New Hampshire, on MSNBC, and one of the questions was about the photo finish here on Monday night.

Moderator Chuck Todd mentioned The Des Moines Register editorial saying that “something smells” and the way the Caucuses were run was a “debacle.”

“I agree with The Des Moines Register, but let’s not blow this out of proportion,” Sanders said. “This is not like a winner-take-all thing. I think where we now stand, correct me if I’m wrong, you have 22 delegates. I have 20 delegates. We need 2500 delegates to win the nomination. This is not the biggest deal in the world.”

The Sanders campaign has been reviewing all the reports it received from Sanders precinct captains. Sanders said they believe he’d receive “at least two more” if there was an audit of the results.

“At the end of the day, no matter how it’s recounted, it will break roughly even and, by the way, I love and respect the caucus process in Iowa, see, and I don’t have to say it because they voted already,” Sanders said, to laughter from the audience in the debate hall.

But Sanders suggested the arcane rules for how the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses are run should be changed.

“Look, I think people are blowing this up out of proportion, but I think we need improvements in the process by which results are determined,” Sanders said.

Hillary Clinton was asked if she would oppose the idea of auditing the Democratic Party’s Iowa Caucus results.

“Whatever they decide to do, that’s fine,” Clinton replied.

The Iowa Democratic Party announced the final results shortly before noon on Tuesday. It was the closest contest in the history of the Iowa Caucuses.

AUDIO of this segment of the debate, courtesy of MSNBC