August 21, 2014

August & September are deadliest period of year on Iowa roads

DriveSoberOrGetPulledOverState officials say the months of August and September have been the deadliest on Iowa roads over the past five years. Randy Hunefeld of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau says there are several reasons for the increase in traffic fatalities.

“It’s usually the last hoorah for everybody to have that final vacation and people are probably trying to hurry to get where they want to go,” Hunefeld says. “…You have new drivers going to school. Maybe it’s the first time they’ve driven a car to school.”

Hunefeld is the state coordinator for the “Special Traffic Enforcement Program” — an effort to catch speeders and drunk drivers during the Labor Day holiday.

“It’s a federally funded program for law enforcement agencies who receive…funding for overtime and/or…traffic safety equipment that will help them to enforce laws,” Hunefeld says.

More than 250 city, county and state law enforcement agencies will beef up traffic enforcement starting Monday, the 25th of August and continuing through Sunday, September. During just the three-day Labor Day weekend last year, there were four traffic fatalities and Iowa DOT officials classified one of those deaths as “alcohol-related.”

Lawsuit challenges Iowa EPC vote on water quality rules

A group that’s been lobbying for tighter state regulation of large-scale livestock facilities is suing the state commission that’s in charge of those regulations. The lawsuit filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement notes that five of the eight members on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission have a “direct financial stake” in livestock operations.

“We would expect people on any board or commission to recuse themselves when they take a vote that would impact their bottom (line),” says Adam Mason, a spokesman for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

On Tuesday, the state Environmental Protection Commission unanimously approved new rules for livestock operations, but Mason and his group say those rules don’t go far enough to protect water quality.

“There are no environmentalists on the commission,” Mason says, “…so you can see that it’s weighted to one side that favors the livestock industry here in Iowa.”

Nancy Couser, the chairwoman of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, runs a cattle operation near Nevada with her husband and son.

“We are stakeholders and we should have a voice in the entity that regulates us,” Cowser says. “I don’t understand what their problem is with that.”

Cowser says state law dictates that at least three farmers serve on the commission.

“We are required to have three members on our commission actively engaged in livestock and grain farming,” Cowser says.

The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled there was no conflict of interest a few years ago when a person who worked on water quality issues for the Iowa Environmental Council served on the same state commission and voted on water quality regulations.

EMILY’s List, Iowa Farm Bureau PAC announce endorsements

EMILY’s List today endorsed the Democrat who’s running for lieutenant governor of Iowa. EMILY’s List is a group that helps women candidates from the Democratic Party who support abortion rights.

EMILY’s List is publicly backing Monica Vernon, the lieutenant governor candidate who is the running mate of Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor. It means the Hatch-Vernon campaign will get a cash infusion from the group, along with contact information for the three million EMILY’s List backers in the country, who’ll be targeted with calls and email from the Hatch-Vernon campaign.

In a prepared statement, the president of EMILY’s List called Monica Vernon “an experienced problem solver, small business owner and public servant.” Vernon is a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council who ran for congress this spring, then signed on as Hatch’s running mate in June.

In other endorsement news this week, The Iowa Farm Bureau’s political action committee endorsed Republican Terry Branstad in the governor’s race and Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race. In a prepared statement, a spokesman for the Farm Bureau said the group’s “Friend of Agriculture” designations are given to candidates who support “key priorities for agriculture” like renewable fuels and expanding trade opportunities abroad.

The Farm Bureau is also supporting three of the four Republicans running for Iowa congressional seats. Republican Congressman Steve King serves on the House Ag Committee and he was named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the group. Rod Blum, the Republican running in the first congressional district, and David Young, the Republican running in the third district, also got the Farm Bureau’s backing.

Last week the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Blum and this week the group endorsed Ernst.


Hillary & Bill Clinton to headline Tom Harkin’s final Steak Fry

Bill and Hillary Clinton are the headliners for Senator Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry in September.

“This is the last one,” Harkin said recently, “my 37th and last.”

And it may wind up as the biggest ever. Harkin’s annual fall fundraiser has been a proving ground for presidential candidates of the past. This year’s September 14 event will mark Hillary Clinton’s first appearance in Iowa since her 2008 campaign and it will be seen by many in the Democratic Party as a first step for a 2016 campaign.

Hillary Clinton’s husband was the final speaker at the 2003 Harkin Steak Fry and over 10-thousand people turned out on a hillside in Indianola that year. It rained most of the day, but the sun came out just before the former president took the stage.

“I’ll never forget it,” Harkin said, laughing and shaking his head as he said: “Bill Clinton.”

Harkin ran for president in 1992, but he dropped out of the race in March and endorsed Bill Clinton. In 2008, Harkin did not endorse any of the candidates competing for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but his wife, Ruth, campaigned extensively for Hillary Clinton.

In a prepared statement released today, Senator Harkin said Bill and Hillary Clinton are “close friends” who “have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country.” Harkin talked about the upcoming Steak Fry during a Radio Iowa interview in late July.

“I hope we have a really good last Steak Fry and I think we will. There’s only one thing left to do: pray for good weather,” Harkin said, with a laugh.

This will be Bill Clinton’s fourth appearance at a Harkin Steak Fry. Hillary Clinton spoke at the event in 2007 along with the other Democratic presidential candidates running that year. A farm in rural Madison County was the site of the first-ever Harkin Steak Fry. In 1991, Harkin used the event to launch his own presidential campaign. The 2014 edition of the Harkin Steak Fry will be staged on the balloon field on the east side of Indianola.

Harkin’s ‘to do’ list for remainder of senate term

Senator Tom Harkin. (file photo)

Senator Tom Harkin. (file photo)

Senator Tom Harkin has a “wish list” of legislation he hopes to get through congress and to the president’s desk before he retires.

“Probably more than I’ll ever get done,” Harkin says, “but I’ve always had more on my plate than I could do at one time.”

Harkin is not seeking reelection and his current term will end in early January when his replacement is sworn in. For over a year Harkin has been pressing for a vote in the senate on a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage.

“We’ll have that on the floor again in September,” Harkin says.

Another bill on Harkin’s wish list is called the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act” and it seeks to increase access to early childhood education, particularly for low- and moderate-income families. A bill Harkin helped craft that’s already passed the senate on a 96 to two vote would set new standards for federally-financed child care and after school programs for low income families. Harkin’s hoping the House passes that bill before year’s end or it will die.

Harkin sits on a senate appropriations committee that drafts the budget for the National Institutes of Health and he wants to boost federal spending on biomedical research.

Finally, one of Harkin’s highest priorities as he winds down his poltical career is not federal legislation, but it requires senate action nonetheless. Harkin’s among those pressing for a vote in the senate to ratify an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“So that we begin working with other countries around the world to have them expand opportunities and accessibility for people with disabilities,” Harkin says.

Harkin was joined at a July news conference by Republican Senator John McCain and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole to publicly lobby for a senate vote on the United Nations treaty that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Dole, the former Senate Majority Leader who was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 1996, appeared on the senate floor in a wheelchair in December of 2012 when senators first voted on the treaty, but 37 Republicans voted no, so it failed. Harkin, a Democrat, was a co-sponsor of the 1994 Americans with Disabilities Act, which served as the model for the U.N. treaty.

Third District Congressional candidates speak at the fair

The two major party candidates running for Iowa’s third district congressional seat gave short speeches at The Des Moines Register’s “Soapbox” this week. David Young is the Republican seeking the seat now held by the retiring Congressman Tom Latham.

Young emphasizes his work the past 6 years as Senator Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff. “So I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work and you know a lot of it doesn’t work,” Young said. “But I’ve seen what can be done and how to get it done.”

Staci Appel is the Democrat running in the third district, which covers southwest Iowa and includes the cities of Des Moines and Council Bluffs. Appel emphasizes that she might break the glass ceiling in Iowa politics. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a woman’s voice in congress that represents the state of Iowa?” Appel said, to cheers from the crowd on the fairgrounds.

Appel is one of two women from Iowa seeking seats in the U.S. House this election. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa is running against Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City, the third time the two have faced one another on the ballot.

Iowa voters have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. House. Iowa is one of six states which have never had a female elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those other states are Alaksa, Delaware, Mississippi, North Dakota and Vermont.


Northwest Iowa teen is 2014 Iowa State Fair Queen

2014 State Fair Queen Elizabeth Glover.

2014 State Fair Queen Elizabeth Glover.

A 17-year-old from Spencer has been among the busiest people on the Iowa State Fairgrounds this week, handing out ribbons and trophies, posing for pictures and participating in a few competitions. Elizabeth Glover was crowned the 50th Iowa State Fair Queen last Saturday.

“Oh my gosh, I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” Glover said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “I mean, I was betting on another girl, so when they called my name, I couldn’t believe it. It was just amazing.”

Glover, who will be a senior at Spencer High School this fall, frequently uses the word “awesome” to describe her experience on the fairgrounds this past week.

“I love meeting the people,” Glover said. “I mean it’s so fun, the different personalities that you meet. They’re so happy to see me. They’re just happy and I get happy when I see them so it’s just awesome.”

Fair officials say the judges of the queen contest rate the girls on their overall appearance, charm and poise, as well as their activities in their home communities — and Glover was chosen because of her bubbly, genuine personality. The coronation ceremony was Saturday night. On Thursday morning, Glover participated in two different the contests at the fair.

“I was in the bubble blowing contest and the pie eating contest, which was awesome,” Glover said. “It was so much fun.”

Glover’s bubble gum bubble was 4.5 inches wide, not big enough to win the top prize. Even when she was eating pie competitively, with no hands, Glover’s crown stayed on her head.

“Actually, I have a very awesome chaperone who helps me hook it in (to my hair) very well so that it doesn’t fall out,” Glover said, with a laugh.

Glover has had to get used to wearing the crown nearly every waking hour this week.

“The first couple of days it was very interesting,” she said, touching the glittering object sitting on the crown of her head. “I was, like, careful that it wouldn’t fall off, but now it’s a lot better.”

Glover and her parents, Louis and Lois Glover, hadn’t planned on spending the week in Des Moines, so they had to race back to Spencer to get clothes.

“I was home for Sunday for about an hour and then we had to leave right away,” Glover said.

The long gown Glover wore for the coronation ceremony would have been difficult attire for all the walking she’s been doing on the fairgrounds. It was her prom dress.

“I got it from a girl in a neighboring town and it was perfect because I was looking all over for a prom dress. I couldn’t find one,” Glover said. “I mean, they’re so super expensive these days. It was super cheap and I actually rented it, but then I bought it from here and I didn’t have to alter it at all, so it was perfect.”

Glover was crowned Clay County Fair Queen in May and she will preside over her county fair in September. The Clay County Fair is billed as the “World’s Greatest County Fair.” Glover speaks with the diplomacy of royalty when asked whether the fair in Spencer or the fair in Des Moines is better.

“Wow, it’s a tough choice,” Glover said. “I mean, they’re both amazing. They both have different things, so it’s kind of hard to compare them — so they’re both kind of awesome in their own separate way.”

Glover, as queen of the 2014 Iowa State Fair, received a $2800 college scholarship. She’ll graduate from high school next spring and she plans to become a nurse and work with children.