November 21, 2014

Steve King says executive action on immigration would provoke ‘constitutional crisis’

Representative Steve King.

Representative Steve King.

Republican Congressman Steve King says President Obama will provoke a “constitutional crisis” if he follows through with an executive order that would shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

“There’s just a growing coalition of people that are starting to see that this isn’t just a trial balloon that the president has been floating for several months,” King says, “but it is a very, very serious threat to our constitution and it is an impending constitutional crisis.”

King has been a leading critic of what he calls “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Congress was in session last week and King talked with his colleagues about what action can be taken if Obama issues that executive order.

“We haven’t coalesced on an idea and a direction at this point, but I believe we that we’re digging in, ready to do so,” King says. “And there are a number of options that are in front of us.”

The “preferred” option, according to King, would be for the president to back off his threat to take executive action but, if Obama does, King says congress can act quickly in December to shut off funding for the agencies that would carry out the new immigration policy. As for filing articles of impeachment against Obama if he does issue an executive order on immigration, King says that’s a political decision.

“High crimes and misdemeanors are not defined. Congress defines them. That really means that the people need to weigh in,” King says, “so of course I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to say the word (impeachment) but we have this: The president has taken an oath…to uphold the constitution, to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. We also take an oath and the president’s oath to the constitution may or may not mean something to him, but ours had better mean something to us.”

Some Democrats have said executive action from President Obama on immigration would only be temporary, as it would put pressure on congress to act.

“There are a few Republicans who think that, but I think that there’s a huge flaw in that thinking,” King says. “…If the president could violate the constitution and insist that congress pass legislation to conform to his lawless legislative edict in order for the president’s edict to be constitutional, that is a ridiculous concept that our founding fathers sought to avoid. They want congress to restrain a president, not want to conform to a lawless one.”

King says he cannot fathom the “audacity” of President Obama thinking “he can completely destroy the rule of law with the stroke of a pen.”

King made his comments during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.

Prescription drugs, heroin are top worries for state drug czar

ODCP-logoThe annual strategy report from the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) shows Iowa continues to have one of the nation’s lowest rates of illegal drug use. The director of the office Steve Lukan says one of the growing concerns is the improper use of drugs that started out being legally prescribed.

“Unfortunately we have seen a significant rise in the number of Iowans who have overdosed as a result of prescription pain reliever and heroin abuse. So that will be an area of attention moving forward,” Lukan says. Lukan says those who treat substance abuse are finding more people who start using pain killers legitimately and than become addicted. Others are using them because they are readily available.

“The main things are first education, certainly I think a lot of Iowans don’t know that many young people actually start experimenting with prescription drugs that they find inside the home. Nationwide about 70-percent of actually take them from medicine cabinets of close friends and family,” Lukan says. “We think that is a big piece of this, educating Iowans to keep close tabs on those medications.”

He’d also like to see more use of the Prescription Monitoring Program. “It’s actually a tool for doctors and prescribers to look at. It’s a voluntary program that they can actually use to look at somebody’s prescription history and make sure that people are not seeing too many doctors or trying to abuse the system and trying to obtain prescription drugs illegally,” Lukan explains. “We think there are a lot of positives that could happen if more and more subscribers would check that and use it.” Less than one third of prescribers are registered with the program.

The increase is abuse of prescription drugs has also led to an increase in heroin use and deaths. Figures show 11 people died from an overdose of prescription pain relievers in 2003 and that number jumped to 77 in 2013. There was just one death from a heroin overdose reported in 2003 and 20 in 2013. “Often times as people perhaps are seeking bigger highs — the prescription pain relievers aren’t doing it for them any more — they may actually turn to something heavier and harder like heroin. The other thing that can also happen is the prescription pain relievers sometimes get too expensive and they look to heroin as a cheaper alternative,” Lukan says. He says most of the heroin in Iowa comes from the Chicago area.

Synthetic drugs caught the attention of his office in recent years too after deaths related to their use. “We’ve had some success I think in recent years, the DEA in particular has made some efforts nationwide as well as in Iowa, in actually shutting down retailers who’ve been selling these products. The Attorney General as well here in Iowa also a while back made a new focus on this area using existing consumer protection laws,” Lukan says.

Lukan says there are some good things to show for those who work to stop drug abuse. “We have fewer people going into prison because of drug issues, I think we have actually more people working as well once they leave drug treatment. And actually, the rates of underage drinking and tobacco use among our young have also declined. So, we thing those are all positive trends,” according to Lukan.

The 2015 Iowa Drug Control Strategy outlines a the ODCP’s plan for prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts aimed at reducing illegal drug use and promoting healthy and safe communities. You can see the report at: www.iowa.gov/odcp.

 

Atlantic woman who lied about daughter’s cancer agrees to plea deal

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

The  western Iowa woman accused of lying about her 5-year-old daughter having cancer in order to solicit thousands of dollars in donations has reached a plea agreement to avoid a trial.

Thirty-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic was scheduled to go to trial next Tuesday in Mills County on 20 charges, ranging from felony child endangerment to first-degree theft.

But, Cass County Attorney Daniel Feistner confirmed Thursday that a plea deal has been reached to settle the case. Details of the agreement will be released Monday at a court hearing.

Authorities said, in addition to lying about the cancer, Slauson inserted a feeding tube into the 5-year-old girl and gave her drugs and cannabis oil.

 

License awarded for transfer of greyhound racing in Dubuque

Jeff Lamberti (file photo)

Jeff Lamberti (file photo)

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved a license today for the Iowa Greyhound Association to run dog races at the track in Dubuque. It’s part of a deal approved by state lawmakers and the governor to shut down the Council Bluffs greyhound track and shift the management of dog racing in Dubuque from the casino to the IGA.

The license was granted with several conditions, which commission chair Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny says are needed because they look at the IGA as a brand new operation. “I’m pretty confident they’ll get them done, and a lot of it is just getting contracts in place, coming up with the appropriate security plans, etcetera. As we indicated here, we will hold them to the exact same standards as any other facility,” Lamberti says.

He says a big part of the transition is splitting the dogtrack operation off from the casino operation in Dubuque. “There really has to be a physical separation between those two operations. When it comes to security, when it comes to compliance, things from taking care of the money, counting the money, making sure that we have security plans in place — to give our staff and the DCI comfort — they just need to get things into place about how they are going to deal with all of that,” according the Lamberti.

He says they can’t run races until they have all the things checked off the list. “Some of it is as simple as changing access to certain areas of the facility and so forth, providing security for the actual track enclosure. And it’s just a lot of work that they have to do, and we just want to be sure that they are aware that they are going to be held to the same standards as any other operator,” Lamberti says.

The commission held a hearing on the license and Lamberti says they only had a handful of comments. He says much of the concern about the change comes from inside the industry and worry about how a smaller number of racing opportunities will be assigned. “We are going to go from two facilities operating dog tracks to one and not everybody is going to be able to race because there simply aren’t enough races, enough slots. And it’s really trying to ensure that the process for selecting the kennels, the dog owners, etcetera, is fair and transparent,” Lamberti says.

The license awarded to the IGA allows them to begin racing on April 29 of 2015. The season would run through September 27th of 2015. The greyhound track in Council Bluffs will run races through next year before it closes.

 

State audit finds issues, but improvement in county clerk of court operations

Auditor-logoA report issued by the State Auditor’s Office finds some issues with oversight and the handling of fees by the county clerks in the district court offices across the state. But Deputy State Auditor Andy Nielson says the report overall  is a positive one.

“Every year we do a review of all 99 county clerks of court as required by the Code of Iowa, and while this year there continues to be some comments regarding segregation of duties and some items with other accounting procedures, there has been improvement over the prior year,” according toe Nielson.

One of the ongoing issues is ensuring that the same person that takes in money for fines and fees isn’t the same person who is doing the bookwork and making deposits. Nielson says it’s usually an issue in the smaller more rural counties. “Some of the clerk’s offices only have two or three people in them and it’s very difficult to segregate duties efficiently,” Nielson says. “They are taking steps to utilize other clerk’s offices to for such things as bank reconciliations and things like that.”

The clerks can have their counterparts in a nearby county go over the records to ensure everything is being handled properly. Nielson says it’s also getting easier with the use of electronic records to have a clerk in one county use employees from another county to check their financial statements without any travel involved.

The offices handle the activities of the civil, probate, criminal, juvenile, traffic, child support and small claims for the courts. They also collect and deposit and pay out all the fees and other monies for the district court. Nielson says the nature of the operations makes it important to have the proper oversight. “Whenever there is a lot of cash being transacted as opposed to checks and credit cards, there’s obviously more risk there, and that’s where the segregation of duties is extremely important and that’s why we focus a lot on that,” Nielson says.

The clerk of courts offices went through a period where they had reduced staffing and hours due to budget issues, and Nielson says they are now benefiting from more funding. “I think they’ve been restored to a little bit closer to normal staffing and that will certainly help with the segregation of duties issues,” according to Nielson. Nielson says the State Auditors Office provides training to the clerks in handling these types of issues and it’s good to see fewer problems in this audit.

Here’s the full audit report: Clerks of Court audit PDF

 

Senator: veterans gave service and sacrifice for a cause that is timeless

Veterans were honored in ceremonies across the state today including the state ceremony in Des Moines.

Veterans preparing to post the colors.

Veterans preparing to post the colors.

  Audio:   Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson reports. :50

Patriotic music greeted veterans young and old and current members of the military. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley gave the keynote address, and says soldiers who fight for other countries often do so for different reasons than the U.S. military.

“Soldiers who return from the battlefield for those other countries, albeit victorious, probably battled for some sort of territorial gain. And that battle would win those veterans maybe short-term praise, but in the long run, those people fighting those battles for causes other than liberty and freedom, their causes become nothing but a historical footnote,” Grassley says.

Grassley says Americans who put their lives on the line in defense of freedom can be assured that their services and sacrifices were for a cause that is timeless. He talked about the importance of recognizing the sacrifice. “You veterans and people serving today, deserve our eternal gratitude. And that’s what this Veteran’s Day every year is all about,” according to Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Grassley says it is important to remember that government derives its power from the consent of the people and its primary purpose is to secure our rights. And one of the main ways the government secures those rights is by maintaining a military.

“National security as you know, is the number one responsibility of the federal government under the Constitution. I always say, and I’m sure you folks agree — even those of you in the military — that war should be a last resort. But once you make a commitment and a decision to go to war, we must give the troops everything they need to get the job done and to win,” Grassley says.

Grassley talked about the controversy in the Veterans Administration and problems with helping veterans. “Congress recently passed legislation intended to address the problems with waiting lists at VA hospitals, but that can’t be the end of the story and it’s not,” Grassley says. “Taking care of those who were wounded in service to our country is the least we can do.”

Veterans stand to be recognized as the band plays their branch's song.

Veterans stand to be recognized as the band plays their branch’s song.

Grassley pledged to continue the effort to reform the system and to continue to take care of veterans once they return home from service “Work must continue both inside the VA and in Congress to improve the healthcare being provided to our veterans — and most importantly to those who are wounded warriors. There’s never a point where we can rest and say ‘good enough’,” Grassley says.

Senator Grassley ended his remarks with another thank you.

“Lastly, and not too often, thank you to all the veterans, thank you to those serving today, and we do surely say, God Bless our veterans and God Bless America,” Grassley says. The event ended with a swearing in ceremony for a couple of dozen of new members of the military.

AFSCME requests an 8% increase over 2 years for state employees

AFSCME president Danny Homan  (file photo)

AFSCME president Danny Homan (file photo)

The union representing roughly 40,000 state government employees is requesting an 8-percent increase in salaries over a two-year period. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 submitted the proposal to state officials Monday.

It calls for 2 percent raises on July 1, 2015; January 1, 2016; July 1, 2016; and January 1, 2017. The raises would cost the state around $523 million dollars, according to the Iowa Department of Management.

The current contract for workers represented by AFSCME, covering 2014 and 2015, does not contain across-the-board pay raises. Those collective bargaining negotiations ended when an arbitrator denied a pay increase, but rejected cuts in state employee health insurance benefits, something Governor Branstad wanted.