September 19, 2014

Quinnipiac poll finds Ernst ahead by 6% over Braley in U.S. Senate race

A new poll released this morning shows Republican Joni Ernst holding a lead of 6 percent over Democrat Bruce Braley in the race for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 1,167 likely voters between September 10-15.

The poll found Ernst led Braley 50 to 44 percent. The key to the Republican candidate’s slight edge is with independents. The poll found 50-percent of independent voters back Ernst, while 43-percent support Braley.

Earlier this month, a Loras College poll had Braley holding a lead over Ernst by four points.


Grassley blasts Braley for no vote on EPA ‘overreach” bill

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has issued a carefully worded written statement that takes aim at a vote Democrat Bruce Braley took in the U.S. House last week.

Republicans in the U.S. House voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing rules that farmers fear would give the agency authority to regulate water in ditches, farm ponds and tile lines. Grassley called that House bill “a thoughtful approach to the problem” and an “easy” yes vote for “anybody who has talked to Iowans in the last couple of months.” Braley, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, voted no. Grassley didn’t mention Braley by name, but Grassley said in the statement that it’s “too bad the entire Iowa delegation didn’t get the message” to vote yes.

In a written statement, Braley’s staff noted Braley had supported an amendment to the bill instead. It would have barred the EPA from adopting rules that would change the Clean Water Act exemptions currently on the books for farmers. A spokesman for Braley said that approach would have protected farmers, but ensured polluters “like Big Oil” are held accountable for Clean Water Act violations.

Bruce Neiman, a livestock farmer from Manchester who is president of the Delaware County Farm Bureau, says based on an email he got from Braley’s congressional office, he had expected Braley to vote yes.

“It was just the opposite of the way he voted,” Neiman says. “and so after the second time reading it, I said: ‘Well, I guess an actual political flip-flop right in front of me.’”

Neiman lives in Braley’s congressional district, but has not supported Braley in the past. Neiman is backing Joni Ernst, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate this year and he believes Ernst would join those who are trying to reign the EPA.

“Anymore, there’s a very limited ag population let alone rural population so if we don’t find people that we can count on then we’re in a very difficult position because there’s been a lot of EPA — I’m going to call it static,” Neiman says. “I mean, when they’re concerned about dust coming out of a field, they’ve gotten everybody’s attention in production agriculture.”

Ernst told a group of farmers in Independence, Iowa, last Friday that the EPA was “overreaching” and she accused Braley of voting no on the bill because Braley has the backing of an “extreme environmentalist” from California. The EPA is one of the federal agencies Ernst has said she’d like to see eliminated and Braley’s spokesman calls that a “radical Tea Party” idea that would get rid of rules that “keep Iowa drinking water clean.”

Over half of Iowa schools on federal watch list, state officials call measures flawed

Department of Education director Brad Buck. (file photo)

Department of Education director Brad Buck. (file photo)

A state report card prepared to meet the requirements of the “No Child Left Behind” law shows more Iowa schools are on federal watch lists, but state officials say those lists aren’t a true indicator of what’s happening in schools.

The chief of the Department of Education’s information bureau Jay Pennington talked about the raw numbers for individual schools. “Based on 2013-14 performance, 737 of Iowa’s 1,356 public schools,or 54.4 percent, were identified in need of assistance,” Pennington says. “This an increase of the 47.2 percent that were identified as schools in need of assistance the year before.”

He also detailed the numbers at the district level. “In terms of districts, a total of 45 out of the 346, or 13-percent, were identified as districts in need of assistance (DINA) for the 14-15 school year. Which is up from the 11.8 percent of districts from the year before,” Pennington says.

Department of Education director Brad Buck joined Pennington on a conference call with reporters, and says while the report shows over half the schools are in need of assistance, it doesn’t show the whole story. “I’d like to emphasize that educators and students across the state are working harder than ever and they are focused on the right work. These students and educators deserve our support,” Buck says.

No Child Left Behind requires public schools and districts to meet what are called “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) state targets for the overall student population and for subgroups of students in third through eighth grade and 11th grade. “This year, an NCLB requirement that 100-percent of students demonstrate proficiency in math and reading took affect. There’s some growth factors that figure into this calculation, so it would not be correct to say that schools and districts that met AYP saw a 100-percent proficiency on the state assessment,” Buck says. “But it does mean that the target increased, so more of our schools have been labeled in need of assistance.”

Buck says the changing targets are a problem. “While I believe in accountability, No Child Left Behind has outlived its usefulness as a lever for improving student achievement. This is a flawed law that continues to unfairly label schools as failures,” according to Buck. “While most states have received waivers from key components of No Child Left Behind — in Iowa we must continue to follow the law in the absence of permanent relief.” Iowa has not received a waiver for NCLB because of its teacher evaluation system.

Buck says schools are given no credit for progress made if they are still behind the targets set in the law. He says the law does provide them with a wealth of data to be able to see how students are doing, which is important. But, he says other things need to change. “While there is some amount of willingness to take a look at student growth, really placing a heavier emphasis on student growth beyond proficiency would be an important thing to consider,” Buck says. Buck says there are several things Iowa does with schools that are restructuring to help students, and that restructuring needs to be figured more into how the districts are responding.

Pennington says there is some positive news in the report on schools making progress.”Thirty-seven districts this year were removed from the DINA or watch lists within NCLB for something — maybe they made it in reading or math for example,” Pennington says. “There were also 112 schools that were removed from the SINA or watch status, again for reading or test participation, just as a few examples.”

You can find out more about your school district at the Iowa Department of Education’s

Study: more Iowa adults gambled in 2013

A just-released study estimates nearly 1.8 million Iowans gambled last year. Researchers found nine percent more Iowa adults gambled in 2013, compared to 2011. Eric Preuss of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Gambling Treatment and Prevention program has reviewed the data.

“People are frequenting the casinos and using the Iowa Lottery maybe more than what they have in the past,” Preuss says, “which may be a sign that things are getting better, economically, in Iowa.”

The survey found nearly 78 percent of Iowans had gambled at least once during 2013. Most said they did it for fun or entertainment, but researchers concluded about 369-thousand Iowans could be “at risk” of becoming “problem” gamblers. Preuss says those are Iowans who exhibit at least one of the symptoms of an addiction.

“Thinking a lot about gambling, that they’re gambling larger and larger amounts of money. They may even have failed attempts to cut back on their gambling. They may become restless or irritable when they stop gambling,” Preuss says. “There may be a sense that they’re gambling to escape problems, personal things that might be going on with the family or with work.”

Other warning signs include going back to a casino to try to win back what they’ve lost or lying to family and friends to hide gambling losses.

The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of Northern Iowa. It found the most popular form of gambling in Iowa was a lottery ticket.  Click here to read the full report (Gambling Attitudes & Behaviors: A 2013 Survey of Adult Iowans).

U-I studying canabis oil ingredient as a treatment for epilepsy

A clinical study of a marijuana derivative for treating epilepsy will soon get underway at the University of Iowa and other research sites. U-I Neurologist, Charuta Joshi, says the study will use an ingredient in cannabis oil called CDB that’s created by a British pharmaceutical company.

They want to see if it helps reduce seizures in some patients. “They have cloned their plants genetically. It is medication that you get. It is pure CBD that they are making. The study is going to be extremely rigorous.” Joshi says there is anecdotal evidence that cannabis oil has helped patients with untreatable seizure disorders.

She says this study will provide hard evidence of its effectiveness. “We will be recruiting parents not just from Iowa but across the state who want to participate in the study. I personally have about six or seven patients I have diagnosed in my time here. Not all of them will be part of the study. I know that,” Joshi says.

The Iowa legislature this year legalized possession of cannabis oil to treat children with a severe form of epilepsy.


Branstad ‘willing to look’ at production of cannabis oil in Iowa (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad is not immediately ruling out a request from the parents of children with chronic epilepsy who want to buy cannabis oil grown and produced in Iowa.

“I’m willing to look at all proposals,” Branstad says. “I just want to make sure that the safety of Iowans is protected and that we don’t have unintended consequences.”

Branstad signed a bill into law this spring that decriminalizes possession of cannabis oil as treatment for severe epilepsy, but caregivers must go out of state to buy the product. Last week, six of the 10 members of a legislative committee appointed to study implementation of that law said it’s time for Iowa to make growing and distributing marijuana legal, if it’s used for medical purposes.

Governor Branstad was opposed to decriminalizing cannabis oil possession earlier this year, but then changed his mind after meeting with the parents of children with chronic epilepsy who believe the oil can help reduce the duration and severity of seizures. Now those parents are pushing to get cannabis oil produced here.

“I think you’ve got to be very careful because you don’t want unintended consequences, you don’t want marijuana being grown and then being used illegally,” Branstad says, “so I think it would really depend upon how carefully and strictly it could be managed and controlled.”

The caregivers of children with chronic epilepsy say they’ve seen how cannabis oil is helping children in Colorado, for example, who’ve been able to take cannabis oil.

Branstad made his comments in answer to a question posed during his weekly news conference.

AUDIO of Branstad’s news conference



Hillary Clinton hints about ‘it’ a lot in speech at Harkin Steak Fry (AUDIO)

Hilliary and Bill Clinton at the Tom Harkin Steak Fry.

Hilliary and Bill Clinton at the Tom Harkin Steak Fry.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given the broadest hint yet that she is a likely 2016 candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

“Hello Iowa,” Clinton said, before declaring: “I’m back.”

Clinton spoke this afternoon at Senator Tom Harkin’s 37th and final “Steak Fry” fundraiser. She hadn’t set foot in the state since the might in 2008 when finished third in Iowa’s Caucuses. News of her visit sparked a firestorm of speculation about her intentions for 2016, and Clinton sent them soaring soon after she started speaking this afternoon.

“It is true, I am thinking about it,” Clinton said, to cheers. “But for today, that is not why I’m here.”

Although she never defined what “it” meant, her comment was interpreted by the crowd as a declaration and they roared in response. Harkin, in his introduction of Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, reworked the “comeback kid” title Bill Clinton earned during his 1992 campaign, calling Bill AND Hillary the “comeback couple.”

“I’m here to tell you that there are many more chapters to be written in the amazing life of Hillary Clinton,” Harkin said, as the crowd cheered.

Clinton mentioned “that young senator from Illinois” who wound up beating her here in 2008.

Tom Harkin, Hilliary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Ruth Harkin (R-L) Photo by Debbie Noe.

Tom Harkin, Hilliary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Ruth Harkin (R-L) Photo by Debbie Noe.

“We went from rivals to partners to friends and sometimes we would even reminisce a little about old days and let me tell you: he sure loves Iowa,” Clinton said, and the crowd cheered. “Now when Tom Harkin called and asked me to come, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve got a few things on my mind these days.”

And, after talking about the anxiously-awaited arrival of her first grandchild, Clinton joked about all the attention her appearance at Harkin’s event had generated.

“You know, it does really feel just like yesterday when I was here at the Harkin Steak Fry, or as my husband likes to call it: ‘The Harkin Stir Fry,’” Clinton said, laughing along with the crowd.

AUDIO of Hillary Clinton’s speech, 23:00

Bill Clinton was the final speaker at the event, but he focused instead on the 2014 election and did not mention having his wife serve in the same office he held from January 20, 1993 ’til January 20, 1999. Both Clintons paid tribute to retiring Senator Harkin, praising his “progressive” voice and record over the past 40 years in congress.

Signs leading into final Harkin Steak Fry.

Signs leading into final Harkin Steak Fry.

Harkin delivered a speech that was a sort of retrospective of his political career, his voice sometimes cracking with emotion as he started with his first unsuccessful campaign for congress back in 1974 and his decision in 2013 not to seek reelection.

“You empowered me to make a difference and I can never properly thank you. I just want you to know how grateful I am,” Harkin said. “I have done my best to carry forward the populist-progressive banner of fighting for working people in this country and fighting for people who didn’t get a fair shake: the least, the lost and the left behind.”

But, Harkin — who is 74 years old — said there “comes a time to gracefully bow out” and let new leaders step forward and that’s why he decided not to seek reelection this year.