July 30, 2014

Iowa GOP says Democratic candidate’s idea could endanger first-in-nation Iowa Caucuses

Republican-logoRepublicans are attacking the Democratic candidate who’s running to be Iowa’s top election official, saying Brad Anderson is endangering Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses by suggesting technology in the secretary of state’s office could be used for the Iowa Caucuses.

Jeff Patch, the communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, says candidates for secretary of state shouldn’t be muddling in the Iowa Caucus process.

“The parties themselves are perfectly capable of handling the Caucus procedures, Patch says. “…We don’t think that the secretary of state should have any sort of role in managing or providing logistical support for the Caucuses because that would require state employees and state resources.”

Patch says using the voter registration data maintained by the secretary of state’s office would make the Iowa Caucuses the functional equivalent of a primary.

“Mr. Anderson’s plan to use the secretary of state’s office to inject state government into partisan politics will create a problem with other states who are looking to challenge Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status,” Patch says.

Anderson says the integrity of Iowa’s Caucuses should be the goal of all Iowans, regardless of their party affiliation.

“Over the years Iowa taxpayers have invested a lot of time and resources into award-winning poll book technology that could really help check Iowans into the Caucuses and ensure that only eligible Iowans are participating,” Anderson says.

Anderson says his idea would “strengthen the Caucuses.”

“I’m confident that once the elections are over and cooler heads prevail we can find a way that the state can partner with the two parties in a way that is both appropriate and fiscally prudent,” Anderson says.

For more than four decades, Iowa’s Caucuses have been the kick-off event in presidential campaign years. Past winners like Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 leveraged their opening round victories in the Iowa Caucuses to secure their parties’ presidential nominations.

Jeff Kaufmann, the new chairman of the Iowa GOP, said in a written statement that he’ll meet with “reasonable Democrats” in the future to discuss ways to “protect” the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa’s Caucuses. Kaufmann, who called Anderson’s idea “ill-advised, was elected Iowa GOP chairman on June 28. Kaufmann plans to meet with Iowa Democratic Party chairman Scott Brennan soon “to transparently discuss ways for both parties to cooperate to ensure that Iowa’s precinct caucuses retain their historic status as the first test of presidential candidates.”

Paulsen places second in ‘Night of Destruction’ race (video)

Staff with the Republican Party of Iowa have uploaded a video to youtube showing the top Republican in the Iowa legislature racing at the Jackson County Fair on Sunday night.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha raced a yellow school bus in what was billed as the “Night Destruction” bus race. One of the required elements in the 10-lap race was driving the bus over a huge bump and the video shows Paulsen’s bus teetering on two wheels once it came back to earth, but Paulsen was quickly able to get the bus back on all fours and he wound up finishing in second place.

Earlier this year Paulsen told reporters he is a NASCAR fan and his favorite driver is Mark Martin. Paulsen’s comments in mid-February came as legislators were drafting bills that granted state tax breaks to the race tracks in Newton and Knoxville.

Dave Schrader, a Democrat from Monroe who is a former House leader, used to race stock cars and Schrader often said the experience drove home a lesson that translated well to politics: always stay focused on the task at hand.

Branstad wants to ensure ‘Home Base’ program working before proposing expansion (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad says he may unveil more proposals to benefit veterans in the coming months, but he first wants to ensure a new law that took effect this year is working effectively.

Branstad made his comments this morning at an event touting the “veterans coalition” that is supporting his bid for reelection this November.

“I am really proud to say that Iowa has become a lot more veteran friendly,” Branstad said.

The “Home Base Iowa” bill Branstad signed into law on Memorial Day eliminated state income taxes on military pensions, plus the new law calls for state licensing boards to give veterans credit for the skills they acquired in the military. Branstad said he wants to ensure veterans do not have to take courses with content they mastered during their military service if they’re enrolled at an Iowa community college or one of the state-funded universities.

“We want to make sure that veterans are getting credit for their military education and training at our colleges and universities,” Branstad said.

State Representative Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa who is a retired Marine brigadier general, said Branstad recognizes “the value” of bringing retired soldiers back to Iowa.

“When we don’t have any bases or any hospitals to welcome them home, it’s important that we have some other incentives to bring them back here,” Vander Linden said during today’s news conference. “We’re talking about many people who are 40 years of age or younger even, with young families who want to come back to Iowa and bring their skills with them.”

Vander Linden’s name is on the list of more than 250 Iowa veterans who’ve signed onto the “Veterans for Branstad” group. Vander Linden and Branstad spoke today at a news conference staged beside the “Soldiers and Sailors” monument on the Iowa capitol grounds.

AUDIO of news conference, 28:00

Senator Grassley part of effort to curb sexual assault on college campuses

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is part of a bipartisan group of U.S. senators who will hold a press conference tomorrow  to announce the introduction of legislation which aims to curb sexual assaults on college and university campuses. Grassley, a Republican, says, “There’s too many people connected with higher education that feel that sexual assaults on campus is something other than a crime.”

University of Iowa officials unveiled a six-point plan earlier this year to combat sexual assaults on the Iowa City campus, including training for students to safely intervene and late-night transportation for female students. Grassley says the bill is designed to protect students and remove sexual assault from the shadows by creating accountability and transparency on college campuses. “There hasn’t been enough attention given to sexual assault on campuses, in fact, there’s even efforts that we know about actually to cover it up,” he says.

Grassley says he and his colleagues have worked together for months to examine federal, state and local policies, collect feedback, and to craft a bipartisan bill to better protect and empower students and hold both perpetrators — and institutions — accountable. “Universities are afraid their reputation will be ruined if this information gets out, particularly if it’s brought up in the criminal courts,” Grassley says. “Quite frankly, if you’re going to stop sexual assaults on the campus, you’ve got to treat it for what it is, a crime.”

As one of its primary goals, he says the legislation aims to flip the current incentives that result in sweeping sexual assaults under the rug. The news conference in Washington D.C. is scheduled for 9:45 AM/Central on Wednesday.


Harkin hoping for senate ratification of international treaty on disability rights

Senator Tom Harkin and others hoping to get the U.S. Senate to ratify an international treaty on disability rights are hoping support from veterans groups will help switch opponents into supporters.

“We’re working on it. We have some problems, but we’re going to try. I never give up,” Harkin says. “The veterans groups are really focused on this now.”

Harkin, the main sponsor of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, says the rest of the world is waiting for the U.S. to join the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“I’m not here to tell you that if we join it, it’s going to change the world overnight, but it will start us on the path,” Harkin says. “It’ll start changing things.”

In late 2012, the U.N. treaty on rights for people with disabilities failed to win ratification in the U.S. Senate, falling short by five votes. Today is the first day it’s eligible for another vote. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights notes all the major U.S. veterans groups lined up at a news conference last week as a show of support for the treaty.

“Veterans who gave everything for the country, but now can’t get the support they need to be able to travel around the world,” Henderson said last Friday, “to be able to work overseas, to bring their families because the countries in which they’d like to work often don’t have the accommodations to allow them to do what they can do.”

Henderson and Harkin participated in a forum at Drake University last Friday to mark the 24th anniversay of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kelly Buckland, another speaker at the event, hinted there will be a big demonstration in Washington, D.C. this week to put the pressure on Senators to act.

“There’s only a few of them that are standing in the road of the United States ratifying the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and we need to convince them it’s the right thing to do for America,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do for the rest of the world and the United States needs to maintain its leadership in the rights of people with disabilities.”

While Harkin supports the treaty, Republican Chuck Grassley — Iowa’s other U.S. Senator — voted against it in 2012. Grassley’s long-time friend — former Kansas Senator Bob Dole — went to capitol hill last week to urge reluctant Republicans to support the treaty.

In December of 2012, Grassley said he had “serious concerns” the treaty could give a United Nations committee authority to criticize U.S. disability laws and “infringe on U.S. sovereignty.”

Ernst criticized for taking campaign cash from ExxonMobil PAC

Joni Ernst campaigned at an Urbandale restaurant this morning.

Joni Ernst campaigned at an Urbandale restaurant this morning.

Republican Joni Ernst says she has no reservations about having organizations that oppose ethanol help raise money for her U.S. Senate campaign.

Ernst will appear Wednesday at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser sponsored by the political action committees for ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. Ernst was asked this morning if she felt “uncomfortable” attending a fundraiser sponsored by ethanol critics.

“I don’t feel uncomfortable because they know where I stand with the Renewable Fuels Standard,” Ernst said. “I stand firmly behind that and my record in the Iowa Senate backs that up.”

A new ad blasts Ernst for not refusing the campaign contributions from an “army of lobbyists” representing “big oil.” Ernst has said she’s philosophically opposed to taxpayer subsidies for ethanol, but would support them until tax subsidies are eliminated “for every sector.”

Ernst is the subject of another ad which calls her an “extremist” who would privatize Social Security.

“Oh for heaven sakes,” Ernst said this morning when asked about the label. “I am not extreme, I’ll tell you that.”

Ernst said promises made to seniors who are getting Social Security benefits today must be kept, but she is open to changes for future generations.

“We need to look at solutions moving forward to make sure that my daughters and my grandchildren, all of our children and grandchildren, have that same Social Security system or a semblance of that,” Ernst said. “Whatever form that is in, we have to make sure it’s there for our children and grandchildren.”

Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, returned to the Iowa campaign trail today after two weeks of active duty spent training in Wisconsin.  Listen to audio from her campaign speech and news conference here.

In other news from Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, Democracy for America — the group founded by former presidential candidate Howard Dean — has endorsed Democrat Bruce Braley. Over the weekend, Politico – a D.C.-based publication – reported the Braley campaign recently replaced its ad maker and pollster.

State auditor says current state budget amounts to $7.4 billion in spending

State Auditor Mary Mosiman is predicting the state budget will remain in the black for the next 11 months, even though the latest budget plan spends $171 million more than the state is expected to collect in taxes. Mosiman says the state’s ample surplus will cover the difference.

“These are dollars that are not new revenue in this fiscal year, but they are revenes that have been received over previous fiscal years.” Mosiman says.

Mosiman has just released her analysis of the state spending plan lawmakers and the governor approved this spring for the budgeting year that began July 1. She gives lawmakers good marks for “spending discipline” and for filling up all the reserve accounts set aside for economic emergencies. But Mosiman is warning that lawmakers cannot keep dipping into the state surplus to finance education reform and fulfill the promise that the state would make payments to local governments as commercial property tax rates go down.

“In other words we have two key laws that were enacted in 2013 that start having a financial impact on this year and future year budgets,” Mosiman says, “so long-term planning is key.”

Mosiman says the state currently has a $746 million surplus, but by June 30 of next year it will likely be reduced to around $575 million. Legislators drafted a budget plan this spring and Governor Branstad took final action on the budget bills in May and June, nixing some spending proposals. The auditor’s report concludes the final spending plan for state government operations totals $7.4 billion.

Mosiman, a Republican, was appointed state auditor over a year ago by Governor Terry Branstad and she’s on the November ballot, seeking a four-year term as state auditor.