November 28, 2014

Hawkeyes look to stay in conference race, Cyclones look for conference win

The Iowa Hawkeyes host Wisconsin in Kinnick Stadium and the Hawkeyes need a victory to keep their division title hopes alive. Not only do the Badgers have the Big Ten’s best running game they also have the top ranked defense and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says the Hawkeyes must avoid third and long. “The challenge is to try and get into manageable third downs, and we didn’t do a good job last year,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says.

Running back Melvin Gordon gets most of the attention but Ferentz says Badger quarterback Stave gets overlooked as he has led them to wins. He says Wisconsin’s quarterbacks don’t always get the spotlight, but they do a good job of running the offense. Iowa is 7-3.

Iowa State looks for its first Big 12 win at home against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 1-6 in league play and coach Cliff Kingsbury must decide on a starting quarterback between Davis Webb and Pat Mahomes. ISU coach Paul Rhoads says Texas Tech will throw the ball and he feels the Cyclones will play hard to finish out the season.

Rhoads says the trenches will decide the outcome as the run game and run defense will be important to both teams.

Iowa State is 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the Big 12.


Branstad: no ‘big changes’ in his staff in 2015

Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Don’t expect the top brass in the Branstad Administration to look all that different in 2015. Republican Terry Branstad does not plan to use the start of a new term to make wholesale changes in top administrative positions in state government, but a “few” people will exit and be replaced.

“We’ll be making a few staff changes in the governor’s office,” Branstad said this week. “We may have some changes in terms of department heads.”

Some key state senators have said a few of Branstad’s agency chiefs might not win confirmation from two-thirds of the senate to serve another four years. Iowa Workforce Development director Teresa Wahlert has been heavily criticized by Senate Democrats for her management style and the changes she’s made in the agency. Branstad won’t be asking for any resignations, but he hinted some top state agency managers may “retire” rather than stay on for his sixth term.

“We’re not ready to make any announcements at this time, but I don’t expect there’ll be big changes, but I expect there will be a few,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during a Wednesday afternoon interview shortly before his departure to the Republican Governors Association meeting in Florida.

Branstad served 16 years as governor, from January of 1983 to January of 1999. After 12 years out of office, Branstad was reelected as Iowa’s governor in 2010. His victory in 2014 sets the stage for Branstad to claim the record as the nation’s longest-serving governor. He’ll cross that mark midway through his sixth term.

Congressman King suggests ‘censure’ for Obama over immigration order

Representative Steve King.

Representative Steve King.

The reaction from Iowa’s congressional delegation to Predident Obama’s immigration order includes one suggestion that congress vote to publicly and formally reprimand Obama for his actions.

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin says Obama has taken “common sense steps” and “is doing the right thing.” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says Obama has taken “the wrong way forward” and is “poisoning the well for future action” om immigration reform. Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City says he has “concerns about the president acting without congressional approval,” but Loebsack says he hopes the president’s executive order now spurs House Republicans to vote on an immigration reform bill.

Republican Congressman Steve King of Kiron is a leading critic of “amnesty” for any illegal immigrant. King says no one in congress wants to throw the country in turmoil and impeach the president, but King suggested during an appearance last night on CNN that congress might vote to censure Obama instead.

Senator Harkin says inaction by Congress forced president to act on immigration

Senator Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he understands why President Obama will likely issue an executive order today providing temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. Harkin, a Democrat, blames the Republican-led U.S. House for its inaction on immigration. He notes, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill 18 months ago, a bill that hasn’t yet come up for debate in the House.

“So, it’s forcing the president to do something on an executive basis, which, I would admit should be done legislatively, but the crisis is real and the president has to act, so keep that in mind.” Harkin says if House leaders would allow the bill to go to a vote, it would likely pass. He’s expecting the president to take action today where the legislative branch of government has failed.

“I think he’s going to clarify in an executive order what his lawyers tell him that he can do executively,” Harkin says. “I think he’s going to do something about the “dreamers,” the young kids who are brought here as children or young kids, to let them be a part of our society and go to college here.”

The most controversial part of the expected executive order would grant legal status, at least on a temporary basis, to as many as five-million immigrants who are now in the country illegally.

Harkin says, “I believe that he’s going to stay the deportation of certain segments of people who have been here for a long time and are working and paying their taxes and everything else in this country.”

One Republican U.S. Senator says the president’s actions today may spark violence and “anarchy” from immigration opponents. Harkin says the comments from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn go too far in predicting such a negative reaction about the president’s pending executive order. “I wish Mr. Coburn would use less inflammatory language,” Harkin says. “This is the kind of thing that stirs people up and implicates fear and anxiety in people rather than calmly discussing it and talking about it.”

The president is expected to address the nation from the White House tonight.


Senator Grassley gives emotional tribute to retiring colleague Tom Harkin (Video)

Senator Chuck Grassley giving tribute speech to Senator Tom Harkin.

Senator Chuck Grassley giving tribute speech to Senator Tom Harkin.

Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley gave a glowing tribute speech to the state’s junior and retiring Senator Wednesday. Republican Chuck Grassley spoke in honor of Democrat Tom Harkin on what was Harkin’s 75th birthday. Grassley has served with Harkin in the U.S. Senate for 30 years after both had served together in the U.S. House.

“Although some of our silver-tongued critics over the years may have ascribed Tom’s views as those of a bleeding heart liberal or mischaracterized mine as that of a cold-hearted conservative, we both know that our hearts have always been in the right place,” Grassley says. Grassley said neither one of them was born with a silver spoon in their mouths and they have worked to keep alive the dream of prosperity and the pursuit of happiness for hardworking Iowa families.

“It’s true that we have vastly different views on the government’s influence on America’s ladder of opportunity,” Grassley said, “However, we whole-heartedly agree that it is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of our state. For some reason, our respective reelections every six years have confounded political observers.”

Grassley says outsiders couldn’t understand how the state could elect two people from opposite sides of the political spectrum. “To explain, I think I don’t have to, because it is widely understood that Iowans aren’t casual political observers. Our electorate takes pride in retail politicking and its first-in-the-nation political caucuses. We certainly have given Iowa voters a night-and-day choice between these two U.S. Senators,” according to Grassley.

He said the two managed to put politics aside when it came to things like recovering from natural disasters, farmers and agriculture, renewable energy and rural infrastructure. “While we may not see eye-to-eye on politics and ideology, we do see eye-to-eye when it came to working for Iowa’s best interests,” Grassley said.

Grassley said Harkin will leave behind a legacy of fiery floor speeches, passionately delivered on behalf of individuals with disabilities, for Iowa farmers, for the elderly and child laborers. “To his credit, my colleague’s legacy reflects the priorities that he set out to achieve decades ago — to make a difference for those on the down side of advantage,” Grassley said.

Grassley became emotional near the end of his speech as he looked up and saw Harkin and spoke directly to him. “As you start life’s next chapter, may you enjoy the blessings of hearth and home, health and happiness,” Grassley said. “Although Tom is retiring from public office, I’m confident he is not retiring from serving the public interest. From one constituent to another, I thank you for a lifetime of public service. And I wish you good luck and Godspeed.”

Harkin is a Navy veteran who served 10 years in the U.S. House before being elected to the U.S. Senate. Grassley is 81 and was asked about retirement last year when Harkin announced he would not run again. Grassley said he plans to seek another term in 2016.

Senator Grassley to vote for Keystone pipeline


The U.S. Senate will vote today on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’ll be voting today in favor of construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that will run from the oil sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Vital sections of the pipeline through Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana have been on hold, awaiting approval, since 2008. Grassley, a Republican, says the issue deserves action that’s long overdue.

“It would transport underground rather than posing greater risk to the public, traffic and environmental safety that happens when you ship by railroad,” Grassley says. “We’ve had two or three fairly destructive and with many casualties, in the case of Canada, of these sort of rail accidents.”

Opponents fear the pipeline would cause irreparable harm to the environment should there be a leak, but Grassley says those concerns are overblown. “The State Department released its analysis this year concluding this pipeline would not bear significant environmental impact and would provide the safest way to transport oil,” Grassley says. “It also found that rejection of the pipeline would not affect Canada’s decision to develop their own oil resources.”

The U.S. House passed the measure approving the pipeline last week though if the Senate should okay the measure, it’s unclear how President Obama will react. Grassley says the pipeline would help strengthen North American oil production. “The Keystone XL pipeline is an opportunity to advance U.S. energy security with a partnership with one

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

of our most stable trading partners in the world,” Grassley says. “Wouldn’t you rather get your oil from Canada than from the volatile Middle East?”

TransCanada has applied for a presidential permit to build the Keystone X-L pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. It would connect with the southern portion of the pipeline, which is operating from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas. The northern portion of Keystone XL is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude -daily- from Canada to the refineries.

Iowa Congressmen, Tom Latham, Steve King — both Republicans — voted for the pipeline in the U.S. House, as did Democrat Dave Loebsack. Democrat Bruce Braley voted against it.


Iowa Public Information Board has new executive director

Charlie Smithson

Charlie Smithson

A lawyer who has worked in key state government roles has been named executive director of the Iowa Public Information Board.

Members of the Iowa Public Information Board have chosen Charlie Smithson as the board’s new executive director. The Public Information Board was created two years ago to field citizen complaints about lack of access to public records and violations of the state’s open meetings law.

Keith Luchtel, a lawyer who is a retired lobbyist, has been executive director of the Public Information Board since it started operations in 2013.  Charlie Smithson — the new executive director — served almost a decade as executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board before Republicans hired him to be chief clerk of the House in 2010. In 2012, he began legal counsel and legislative liaison for Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz.