July 22, 2014

Iowa moves up to 3rd in the Kids Count survey

Iowa moved up four spots in the annual “Kids Count” survey released today.  “We moved up to 3rd this year, we were 7th last year, so obviously a move up four places is very good,” Iowa Kids Count director, Michael Crawford says. The survey by the Anne E. Casey Foundation looks at 16 factors believed to be an indication of how well kids are doing in each of the 50 states.

Massachusetts and Vermont were ranked one and two. Crawford says the move by Iowa shows how close the states in the top 10 are. “I think some of it is attributed to the policies we have in place as far as helping children — particularly in the health areas — we ranked first in the health areas of all 50 states, which is very good,” Crawford says. “But I think also some of it has to do with the fact that maybe the other states are slipping in the work they do, so I think it’s kind of a combination of those two things has helped Iowa move up.”

The 4 health areas ranked are the number of low birthweight babies, the number of children without health insurance, the number of child and teen deaths and the number of teens who use drugs or alcohol. Iowa also saw an improvement in all four education areas. “We’ve improved the number of children going to pre-school — which is a good idea, a good thing — fourth in eighth graders improving their proficiency in their reading and math scores, and our tests. And also, we are lowering the number of kids who are dropping out of school or not graduating on time,” Crawford says.

Iowa saw the state’s marks drop in some areas. “We’ll be seeing an increase in the number of children living in poverty, which is a bad sign. And also, the number of children living in single parent homes,” Crawford says. Also on the negative side, Iowa saw an increase in the number of kids living in a situation where housing costs are a burden and the number of teens not in school and not working.

Crawford says measuring the state against the rest of the country is good, but not the only way to find out how we are doing. “I think it is import also to keep in mind, not only to compare Iowa to other states, but to compare Iowa to Iowa,” Crawford says. “Maybe compare Iowa to where we were 10 years ago, to where Iowa is now and really not look at the others states to see if our policies and programs in place are really helping families.”

New Hampshire and Minnesota rounded out the top five in the survey behind Iowa. Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi ranked lowest among the states.

Learn more about the survey here: www.aecf.org


Hatch has $183,000 cash on hand, compared to Branstad’s $4 million

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, continues to trail Republican Governor Terry Branstad in fundraising.

Hatch raised about $269,000 from the last week in May through the middle of July. Hatch’s campaign had about $183,000 in the bank on July 14. That compares to the $4 million in cash Republican Governor Terry Branstad reported in his campaign account at the end of the latest campaign disclosure reporting period.

Hatch has raised about $983,000 since he launched his campaign last summer and the Branstad campaign is ridiculing Hatch for failing to cross the million dollar mark, which Hatch said was a milestone he hoped to cross last December. Hatch’s campaign, in turn, blasts Branstad for accepting donations from Donald Trump and other New York and New Jersey donors.

From May 28 through July 14, Hatch received over $143,000 from 23 different political action committees representing labor groups. Branstad got $75,000 from three different PACS — one represents the Republican Governors Association and another is Wellmark’s PAC.

The single-largest individual contribution during the reporting period came from Josh Nelson of Spencer, the owner of a local phone company who wrote a $50,000 check to the Branstad campaign. John Smith, the CEO of a Cedar Rapids-based trucking company, wrote Branstad’s campaign a $25,000 check. Mark Falb of Dubuque, the executive of a textbook publishing company, also contributed $25,000. Bruce Rastetter, the agribusinessman who was Branstad’s number-one contributor in 2010, wrote the campaign a $10,000 check earlier this month.

Hatch’s single-largest donation from an individual was $10,000 and it came from Toni Urban of Des Moines, who runs a retail stationery shop in West Des Moines. Her husband, Tom Urban, is a former Des Moines mayor.

This morning, hours before the detailed reports were filed on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board’s website, Hatch declined to reveal his fundraising totals to reporters.

 “We’re going to have a campaign that’s going to work our plan and allow us to have a substantial election effort,” Hatch said during a statehouse news conference.

Father-daughter project in Janesville finds pictures of Iowa Vietnam vets

The Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. is collecting pictures of every American lost in the war — including more than 850 from Iowa. A dedicated father and daughter have tracked down pictures of all but five of the Iowans over the last two years so they can be included.

Tom Brickman from Janesville served in Vietnam with the Americal Division. “It was my daughter Sherry Kirkpatrick, she’s really the one that wanted to do it because she said ‘dad, if you hadn’t made home from the Vietnam War I wouldn’t have been born’,” Brickman explains.

They have gathered a solemn compilation of pictures from archives, yearbooks and by reaching out through the media. “And when you can see a photo of a soldier that has paid the ultimate sacrifice, you know that means so to me, so it has been a healing process for me also,” Brickman says. Brickman has good leads on two more photos, which means the tribute is almost complete.

He’s still searching for the last three pictures; of John Manson, David McCombs and Frank Smith, killed in Vietnam during 1968 and 1969. In addition to being displayed at the national Vietnam Memorial, Brickman has turned over his collection to the Grout Museum in Waterloo, for an exhibit scheduled to open next year.


If Obama doesn’t act, Perry may ‘fill the void’ and send Texas National Guard to border (AUDIO)

Rick Perry with former State Rep. Gary Blodgett & his wife, Sandy, of Clear Lake.

Rick Perry with former State Rep. Gary Blodgett & his wife, Sandy, of Clear Lake.

Texas Governor Rick Perry says he’s considering the “option” of sending Texas National Guard troops to secure his state’s southern border. Perry made his comments today during a lunch in the Clear Lake, Iowa VFW with 17 veterans and members of local law enforcement agencies.

“I think we’ve sent the message that if we don’t get the satisfaction that the federal government’s going to move and move quickly, then the State of Texas will, in fact, fill that void and address this issue,” Perry said.

Iowa’s Republican Congressman Steve King, an outspoken critic of what he calls “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, has called upon the governors of the four southern states that border Mexico to act on their own to send National Guard troops to secure the area. Perry, who discussed the issue with King Saturday night, said he first asked President Obama to send National Guard troops to the border in 2009.

“Securing that border with Mexico is not a Republican issue and it’s not a Democrat issue,” Perry said. “It’s an American issue and, hopefully, Washington and particularly the administration who has the ability to , unilaterally move pretty quick on this, if they would, but again, if they don’t, the citizens of Texas expect us to keep them safe and secure.”

AUDIO of Perry’s remarks & interaction with guests at VFW in Clear Lake, 25:00

Perry repeated his “pledge” during a late afternoon speech at a Cerro Gordo County Republican Party fundraiser.

“If the federal government does not do its constitutional duty to secure the southern border of the United States, the State of Texas will do it,” Perry said, as members of the audience rose to their feet in an ovation. “That is my promise to you. That is my pledge.”

Perry told both audiences that since the fall of 2008, illegal immigrants have committed 642,000 criminal acts in Texas, including 3000 homicides and more than 8000 sexual assaults.

“That’s why that border has to be secured, from my standpoint,” Perry said.

Perry told reporters after his luncheon meeting that the Obama Administration “has had plenty of time to respond,” but Perry didn’t reveal his own deadline for his own decision about ordering Texas National Guard troops to the border if the president doesn’t. Perry was asked about the border issue by one of the veterans who attended the luncheon in Clear Lake. Alan Atwood of Clear Lake, another veteran in the room, supported Perry in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses and Atwell hopes Perry runs again in 2016.

“Love the job he’s done as governor of Texas, hiring people from all over the United States, created a lot of jobs,” he said. “I think he’d make a great president.”

Jack Davis of Clear Lake is another Perry backer from 2012 who’d like to see Perry make another run for the White House.

“I think he speaks very straight,” he said. “I don’t think he runs around the bushes and I think he lays it out.”

Perry was the keynote speaker to a crowd of about 100 people who gathered for the GOP barbecue fundraiser at the Mason City Airport in Clear Lake late this afternoon. He touted all the Republican candidates on Iowa’s November ballot. Perry also referenced the video of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley referring to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley as a farmer who could wind up as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee if Democrats lose the senate. Perry took a black marker and wrote the word “farmer” across a Grassley poster on the wall.

“Don’t diss my farmers,” Perry said. “That’s the message we’re going to send in November, alright?”

AUDIO of Perry’s speech at the Cerro Gordo County GOP fundraiser, 12:00

Perry also became the latest in a string of Republican politicians who’ve posed for a photo with a campaign sign for Joni Ernst, the GOP candidate who is currently on two weeks of active duty with her Iowa National Guard unit. The photos are being tweeted on Ernst’s campaign Twitter account.

(This post was updated at 7:58 p.m. with additional information.)

Iowa Supreme Court finds all mandatory sentences for juveniles unconstitutional

The Iowa Supreme Court rules all mandatory sentences for crimes committed by juveniles are unconstitutional. The case involved Andrew Lyle of Des Moines who was found guilty of second-degree burglary in 2011 for punching another kid at school and taking a bag of marijuana from him. Lyle, who was 17 at the time, recorded the incident on his phone. He was sentenced on his 18th birthday to 25 years in jail, with a mandatory minimum of 7 years to be served.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the mandatory sentence was unconstitutional. The ruling says the law does not draw any distinction between the diminished capacity of a young person and cold and calculated conduct of an adult. The high court says the constitutional analysis is not about excusing juvenile behavior, but imposing punishment in a way that is consistent with our understanding of humanity today.

Justice Bruce Zager wrote one dissent where he says courts across the country have concluded that mandatory life sentences without parole are cruel and unusual punishments for juveniles, but he says no other court in the country had gone this far to include all mandatory sentences for juvenile crimes. He says it creates a new constitutional category under our Iowa Constitution, but there is no judicial authority for creating this new constitutional category.

Justice Thomas Waterman also wrote a dissent. He says he has no reason to go against the district court judge’s finding that Lyle “poses a serious danger to the community at present.” He says “even if we accept Lyle as a merely misguided, immature schoolyard bully, the mandatory sentence he received falls well short of being unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.” Justice Edward Mansfield joined Waterman’s dissent.

The ruling sends Lyle’s case back to the district court for resentencing. The Supreme Court also sent two other cases involving juveniles in Plymouth and Lynn County back for resentencing based on their ruling in the Lyle case.

See the full ruling here: Lyle ruling PDF

Iowa House Judiciary Chairman Chip Baltimore, a Republican from Boone, released the following statement today in response to the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling:
 “I am extremely disappointed by today’s decision that eliminates all mandatory minimum sentences for even the most violent and dangerous juvenile criminals.  Iowans rely upon the Legislature to set criminal sentences that are uniform and consistent in their protection of the public, and this ruling plainly subverts the Legislature’s role in doing so.  If the members of the Supreme Court who support this opinion wish to set public policy, they should run for the Legislature.  This ruling perverts the constitution, puts Iowans in danger, and makes our state less safe.  The sad result of today’s decision is that the Iowa Legislature can protect Iowans from dangerous juvenile criminals, but we cannot protect them from the Iowa Supreme Court.”



Senator Harkin ‘upset’ with governor’s stance on illegal immigrant children

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is chiding Iowa’s governor over the situation with thousands of Central American children entering the U.S. illegally and unaccompanied via the border with Mexico. Republican Governor Branstad has said he has empathy for the children but he does not want any of them coming to Iowa. Harkin, a Democrat, says he’s disappointed with Branstad’s decision. “I’m just upset at this harshness — this harshness — that seems to be pervading our politics these days,” Harkin says. “Even in a terrible situation like this, even the administration says we’ve gotta’ change the law to send them back quicker. No we don’t.”

The mayor of Davenport is offering to create a refuge for some of the children. Mayor Bill Gluba says he’s working with hospitals, churches and other groups to make a haven for the refuges in the Mississippi River town. Harkin applauds Gluba’s effort. “What we need to do is make sure the kids are safe, well-fed, housed, clothed and that we do our utmost to make sure they are not returned to dangerous situations,” Harkin says. “Then we can be talking about how we work with Central American governments to crack down on the gangs and the violence in their own countries.”

The federal government has placed some 200 of the immigrant children with families in Nebraska, but that state’s governor says no one in state government was told where or with whom. Governor Branstad was trying to prevent a similar move in Iowa, but Harkin says that’s the wrong attitude. “Governor Branstad said don’t send immigrant children to Iowa,” Harkin says. “You know, why not? Why can’t we help protect these kids too? Open up our arms to keep them safe and to give them every reasonable opportunity to apply for asylum.”

Harkin notes a contrast between Branstad and another Iowa Republican. “What a departure from Governor Bob Ray, back in the ’70s, when he was governor and we took all the boat people from Vietnam and the Hmong from Laos,” Harkin says. “They didn’t go through proper channels. They were refugees and we took them in and they have become a wonderful part of the Iowa community.”

Since October, some 57,000 children have come across the U.S. border with Mexico illegally from nations like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Harkin says Iowa should welcome the children, saying, “that’s in keeping with our history in Iowa.”



Names of potential dead voters sent to county auditors

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office has sent a list out to the 99 county auditors with the names of voters who may’ve died but are still on the voting rolls. Chance McElhaney, spokesman for the Secretary of State, says they found 1,234 names after cross-checking a federal list called the Social Security Death Index. “We’ve been able to match a voter’s name, birthdate information, their previous address on file and if available, the last four digits of the Social Security number. If all that information matches, we just want to get that information to the county auditors,” McElhaney says.

He says the county auditors regularly update their voter registration lists, but can miss some names. “They’re checking obituaries, a multitude of things. But if somebody passes away and that say they went and lived with a family member out-of-state, some of those folks may fall through the cracks,” McElhaney explains. “So what this is doing is kind of helping with that. Anybody that is deceased according the federal government, we are trying to make sure that they are not on our voting lists.”

McElhaney says they first did this cross check in 2012 and found it was helpful to the auditors and they decided to do it again. The number of names on the list ranges from 100 in Wright County to none in Wayne County. McElhaney says he’s not sure why there is such a big difference in the numbers in each county, but it may be due to the county’s work in already updating their voter list. “Perhaps some of those counties may’ve caught more of the folks when they passed away, they may’ve gotten information form a different source, so maybe their list was a little cleaner before the search was done,” he says.

McElhaney says the voters on the list aren’t automatically removed by the counties. He says they ask them to analyze it and not just take these people off the list before doing a little research to see if they are actually dead.

What happens if your name is on the list and the report of your death is greatly exaggerated? “We do send out a postcard saying we have removed this individual and if there is an error, please contact us,” McElhaney says. “In 2012 I believe the list as was roughly 2,800 people who had passed away, and I think they got back eight responses.”

McElhaney says all of the people on the list have not had any recent voting activity, so these are not cases of numbers that were stolen and used by someone else. See the individual county numbers below.

County Number of Records Sent:
Adair 6 ; Adams 1; Allamakee 5; Appanoose 11; Audubon 2; Benton 3; Black Hawk 13; Boone 2; Bremer 15; Buchanan 3; Buena Vista 9; Butler 10 ; Calhoun 9; Carroll 11; Cass 2; Cedar 7; Cerro Gordo 9; Cherokee 1; Chickasaw 3; Clarke 3; Clay 55; Clayton 2; Clinton 8; Crawford 14; Dallas 23; Davis 5; Decatur 6; Delaware 1; Des Moines 12; Dickinson 4; Dubuque 34; Emmet 5; Fayette 5; Floyd 4; Franklin 2; Fremont 4; Greene 6; Grundy 2; Guthrie 8; Hamilton 18; Hancock 1; Hardin 16; Harrison 3; Henry 12; Howard 4; Humboldt 7; Ida 1; Iowa 6; Jackson 16; Jasper 8; Jefferson 8; Johnson 15; Jones 14; Keokuk 9; Kossuth 1; Lee 6;Linn 103; Louisa 19; Lucas 6; Lyon 20; Madison 5; Mahaska 22; Marion 37; Marshall 9; Mills 5; Mitchell 11; Monona 3; Monroe 6; Montgomery 6; Muscatine 91; O’Brien 9; Osceola 1; Page 3; Palo Alto 4; Plymouth 8; Pocahontas 4; Polk 85; Pottawattamie 13; Poweshiek 12; Ringgold 8; Sac 8; Scott 55; Shelby 16; Sioux 2; Story 10; Tama 6; Taylor 5; Union 8; Van Buren 5; Wapello 4; Warren 13; Washington 7; Wayne 0; Webster 10; Winnebago 5; Winneshiek 2; Woodbury 15; Worth 3; Wright 100.