July 22, 2014

Senator Grassley to discuss ‘nonsensical regulations’ with head of EPA

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley will meet later today with the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an outfit he says is out to “harm American agriculture” with it’s far-reaching policies. Grassley, a Republican, is scheduled to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on “agriculture regulator matters” and Grassley says he’ll be giving McCarthy an earful.

Grassley says, “Almost every town meeting I have, something comes up about the power grabs of EPA and the nonsensical regulations that they’re putting in place, particularly right now.” Rural electric cooperatives generate about 80 percent of their electricity from coal, Grassley says, and rural agriculture is a big user of that energy. “The EPA’s coming out with some anti-coal regulations almost with the philosophy that we’re going to shut down coal,” Grassley says, “maybe not today, maybe not this decade but we’re going to very dramatically encourage not using fossil fuels.”

Grassley also blasts the EPA’s efforts to much more closely regulate rivers and streams across the U.S., including small creeks in which he says you couldn’t even float a canoe. “Now, there’s a lot of other regulations that are going to come up but this meeting has been called, not just by me, but by all Republican members of the Agriculture Committee,” Grassley says, “so agriculture is going to get a lot of attention because EPA is really trying to harm American agriculture.”

Grassley’s meeting with McCarthy in Washington D.C. is scheduled for 3:15 P.M./Central time.


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.

Job fair in Davenport Thursday for retiring soldiers

Home-baseOver three dozen companies plan to participate in an event in Davenport this Thursday aimed at connecting veterans with job openings in Iowa. It’s part of the state’s “Home Base Iowa” initiative and Governor Terry Branstad plans to be there for the job fair.

“Last November I announced the new program, including an incentive package for veterans, that would help recruit veterans to work in Iowa after they complete their military service,” Branstad says.

So far 86 veterans have contacted the State of Iowa through the Home Base Iowa website and officials say 23 veterans have gotten jobs through the program. Branstad signed legislation on Memorial Day that erases state income taxes on military pensions and allows veterans and their families to pay in-state tuition if they go to an Iowa college or university. Howard County and Greene County have offered additional local incentives for veterans and have been declared “Home Base Iowa” communities. To earn the designation, an area must get at least 10 percent of the area’s businesses to agree to hire veterans.

“Scranton Manufacturing is located in Greene County,” Branstad says. “They have already hired a veteran throught the Home Base Iowa program and they have interviewed several additional veterans.”

Twenty-nine other cities and counties are completing the paperwork in hopes of being declared “Home Base Iowa” communities as well. Branstad says national publications for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion have listed the new benefits available in Iowa for soldiers who are leaving the military.

Hatch blasts Branstad for returning $1 million grant to promote solar energy in Iowa

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says it is “disturbing” that Governor Branstad returned a federal grant that was to be used to find ways to help the solar energy industry grow in Iowa.

“Not to be controlled by the special interests of the utility companies that pressured his department to return the million dollar grant,” Hatch says. “That in itself shows the interests of this governor, not so much in really renewable energy, but protecting the larger corporations at the expense of the smaller producers and the individual homeowners that could benefit dramatically from this.”

Hatch says the solar industry is poised to make the same kind of economic impact on Iowa as wind turbines.

“The governor has backed away from this state’s ability to enter into the solar market by his refusal and his returning of a grant back to the Department of Energy that would be a modest approach to us beginning our solar energy capability,” Hatch says.

Email correspondence obtained by The Associated Press shows the State of Iowa returned the million dollar grant after Iowa utility companies complained about how the grant money would be used and insisted any reference to solar power’s benefits also include a list of its draw backs.

“This is something that’s going to make an enormous impact on the economy of this state and he’s just turned a blind eye because of the utility companies,” Hatch says.

A spokesman for Governor Branstad issued a written statement.

“Jack Hatch can continue to bloviate from the sidelines, but all Iowans know that the Branstad-Reynolds administration has fought to expand and protect American energy resources so that Iowans have cheaper costs at the pump, their homes and their businesses,” said Tommy Schultz, Branstad-Reynolds communications director.

Hatch is also praising a July 11th Iowa Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to expansion of solar power development in Iowa. The court ruled any church, school, city or other “non-taxable” entity can enter in “power purchase agreements” with solar power developers. It means a company can install solar panels on a public building and get paid for the electricity generated by the panels. Iowa’s two major utilities had challenged such deals, arguing that Iowa regulations gave MidAmerican and Alliant exclusive rights to sell electricity in defined areas of the state.

(This post was updated at 1:46 p.m. with additional information.)

Branstad concerned about Iowa Supreme Court ruling on juvenile sentencing

Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad is raising concerns about an Iowa Supreme Court ruling which declared all mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles unconstitutional.

“It would be my hope that we could review the court decision and work with legislators with the intention of doing something in this next session to address this issue,” Branstad says, “and make sure the safety of the citizens of Iowa is protected.”

The court ruled mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles do not distinguish between the diminished capacity of a young person and the cold and calculated conduct of an adult. Branstad says public safety should be “paramount.”

“When we have a juvenile that commits a murder of a violent, dangerous crime, if they’re treated as a juvenile when they turn 18 they can be released and we don’t dangerous, violent people being prematurely released and endangering our citizens,” Branstad says. “We don’t want to become Chicago.”

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison for crimes other than murder and Iowa legislators deadlocked on how to respond, so the governor issued an executive order commuting all those life sentences to 60 years. Last week’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling directed state officials to resentence about 100 juveniles who were tried before 2013 and received mandatory minimum sentences.

“As I understand, this was a 4-3 decision and it went beyond what other states have done and so I think we’re going to work with the legislature and review and look at what is the appropriate response to make sure the public in Iowa is protected,” Branstad says.

Two of the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court wrote dissenting opinions, arguing the court’s majority had gone too far in interpreting recent U.S. Supreme Court guidance that juveniles should not be treated differently than adults in criminal sentencing.

Branstad made his remarks at the end of his weekly news conference.

AUDIO of governor’s news conference, 25:00

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.)

Lawyer says Supreme Court ruling in state descrimination case has some positives

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld a Polk County District Court ruling that determined the State of Iowa did not discriminate against African-Americans in their hiring and promotion practices. Attorney Tom Newkirk had argued in the class action suit that the mostly white managers had an implicit bias against African-Americans.

Newkirk says he is not surprised by the Supreme Court ruling, but says the justices did not totally overlook his arguments. “But it was also surprising and mildly heartwarming to see the court in a unified way express how Iowa law is different, how it is going its own way from the federal system to some extent, and how the court has acknowledge not only the risk of implicit and subconscious forms of bias in our society, but also the role that they may play in generating inequality in our system,” Newkirk says.

The Supreme Court acknowledged discrimination may have occurred, but said the arguments didn’t convince the court it was widespread throughout 37 departments in the state. The ruling did indicate the court may be sympathetic to implicit bias cases in the future. “It’s funny when you read an opinion like this you think, ‘well maybe the lawyers should have taken a different tactic is that what they are telling them?’,” Newkirk says. “But I think that the answer is, noone would have predicted not even myself, that the court would be suggesting that Iowa may go the way of what’s called maybe a negligence theory,” Newkirk says.

The case was first brought in 2007. Newkirk doesn’t believe anything has changed in the years the lawsuit has been making its way through the court system. “I would say almost without fear of contradiction — that other than platitudes and that state saying it is been making continual improvements — that there have been zero substantive changes to how the state runs its hiring and promotion system from the time we exposed this problem to them, to the present day,” according the Newkirk.

He says the Supreme Court ruling suggests the state remains open to more legal action. “Unless they want some other law firm coming in and applying some new theory to it, they need to get on the stick and get it fixed,” Newkirk says. “We’ve offered to help them for the last seven years to get it fixed, but they have continued to ignore us. And I am fearful that they will continue to do so.”

Iowa Solicitor General Jeff Thompson says since the suit was filed, Iowa has worked to make hiring more objective. “Justice Waterman points out that some of the statistics raise questions. We’re aware of that, we’ve been working on that, and we’ve been actively perusing improvements in the hiring process to address those issues,” Thompson says. There are 29 named class members in the lawsuit and as many as 6,000 members involving over 20-thousand employment applications going back to 2003.