October 10, 2015

Group urges Iowans to ask candidates about climate change

ISU professor David Swenson, Dr. Yogi Shah of DMU & UI professor David Osterberg. (L-R)

ISU professor David Swenson, Dr. Yogi Shah of DMU & UI professor David Osterberg. (L-R)

A group of almost 200 Iowa scientists, researchers and educators is urging Iowans to ask the presidential candidates what they’ll do to address problems associated with climate change.

“We believe the upcoming Iowa presidential Caucuses provide Iowans with a unique opportunity to bring their questions about need for better climate action into national conversation,” says Dr. Yogi Shah, associate dean of global health at Des Moines University.

Democratic candidates argue that human activity is causing climate change, but some Republicans reject that. David Osterberg, a professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Clinical Health, says the bottom line is “science says climate change is a reality.”

“That’s nobody’s view,” Osterberg says. “It’s good data and when you look at that good data, then it’s time, maybe, to begin making some policy based on it.”

Earlier this year, 188 Iowa scientists, researchers and educators from 39 Iowa colleges and universities released a “Time for Action” statement on climate change. The group has concluded “a warmer and wetter Iowa climate” is causing water and air quality problems. It’s also spawning the growth of super weeds that trigger more allergic reactions in humans. Those weeds are creating difficulties for farmers trying to keep their fields weed-free.

“Climate change in Iowa is having an impact on agriculture that is discernable,” says Iowa State University economist David Swenson. “It’s having an impact on commerce. It’s especially having an impact on communities, especially their ability to cope with disasters, both to fund and anticipate.”

The three men spoke at the start of the third annual Iowa Climate Science Education Forum which is underway today at Des Moines University.

AUDIO of Shah, Osterberg and Swenson speaking at news conference

This afternoon, a University of Northern Iowa professor will present research with this title: “Why some members of the public are ‘immune’ to the evidence on climate change.”

Santorum says it’s ‘baloney’ to blame ‘inanimate object’ for Oregon shooting

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says blaming guns for last week’s mass shooting at a community college in Oregon is “baloney.”

“We have fewer per capita now than we used to years ago and we have more crimes, so what do you think the issue is?” Santorum says. “Do you think the issue is guns?”

Santorum says there are trends in society to blame instead, including “the breakdown of the family.”

“The breakdown of morals and culture in America,” Santorum says. “The president’s not going to talk about that. He’s going to blame some inanimate object…and I think most Americans know that’s a bunch of baloney.”

On Friday President Obama plans to visit Roseburg, Oregon, where nine people were killed last week at a community college. The gunman committed suicide. Since then, Obama has been more vocal in denouncing opponents of gun control measures. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Tuesday during a stop in Davenport that she’d take aggressive executive action on gun control if she was elected. Santorum says Obama and Clinton are politicizing the Oregon tragedy.

“You look and you say, ‘How low can they go?'” Santorum says. “They continue to set the bar lower and lower. I mean, I think they have to start digging holes to set the bar lower.”

Santorum made his comments earlier this week in Mason City as part of a three-day swing through Iowa.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KGLO, Mason City)

State senator from Ottumwa running for congress in first district

Mark Chelgren

Mark Chelgren

Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa is running for congress in Iowa’s second district.

“I can work incredibly hard at the state level and we can improve things for jobs in the state of Iowa and get a lot of things accomplished and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done for the last five years, but all of that is for naught if the federal government fails us,” Chelgren says. “And I think we need to have those voices up there that are holding them accountable.”

Chelgren says U.S. trade policy is one of the major issues he’ll discuss during the campaign. If Chelgren were in congress now, he’d vote no on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership.

“It’s really important as a country that we refocus on making sure we have careers and jobs available for our citizens,” Chelgren says. “I think we’ve done a very poor job of negotiating treaties and trade agreements.”

Chelgren formally kicked off his congressional campaign yesterday with stops in Iowa City and Davenport. Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, plans to seek reelection next year. Chelgren doesn’t plan to ask voters to fire Loebsack, though.

“That’s been argued over the last 10 years and I don’t think that should be the case,” Chelgren says. “What we really should be looking at not who in office should be fired, but who is going to stand up for this country and who is going to fight for our principles.”

Chelgren considered running for congress in 2010, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks, one of his neighbors in Ottumwa, announced she was running that year. Chelgren ran for the state senate instead back in 2010 and defeated a long-time Democratic incumbent by 10 votes.

“I chose again not to run for congress directly after that because I felt that I should try to prove myself again that I could get re-elected, even in a difficult district,” Chelgren says.

Chelgren defeated his Democratic challenger by 374 votes in last year’s state senate race. Chelgren, who is 47 years old, is an entrepreneur who started a company called Frog Legs, Inc. in 1996. The company makes wheel chair parts, specifically the suspension systems and the wheels. Chelgren is a native of California who settled in Ottumwa, which is his wife’s hometown. The Chelgrens have four children and four grandchildren.

Six presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa today

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says within a week she will unveil a plan to “go after Wall Street abuses” that caused the last recession.

“I’m going to go after what I think are the real problems,” Clinton says. “Not the problems of the past, the problems of today because what I am interested in Is stopping something like this happening again. That is my goal.”

Clinton made that vow during a town hall meeting in Davenport Tuesday afternoon. Clinton began by touting the Affordable Care Act and outlining steps she says would “rein in” health care costs. Clinton also promised to confront “monopolistic control over pricing” in states like Iowa.

“Iowa doesn’t have enough competition to get the costs down,” Clinton said. “You know, you have one big insurance company — Wellmark — which covers a lot of people and has just gotten approval from your insurance commissioner to raise premiums between 18 and 28 percent. That is a lack of competition.”

Clinton is campaigning in Mount Vernon this morning and in Council Bluffs this afternoon. Five competitors for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination are campaigning in Iowa today as well. Jeb Bush has stops scheduled in Muscatine, Oskaloosa and West Des Moines. Donald Trump has a midday rally planned in Waterloo. Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum are campaigning in western Iowa. Mike Huckabee will be in central Iowa.

In Davenport, Clinton stresses approach to gun control

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is promising aggressive executive action on gun control if she’s elected president.

“I’m really tired of people in public life saying our thoughts and prayers are with families whose children are murdered in community colleges or elementary schools,” Clinton said today in Davenport.

Clinton suggests Americans should no longer “tolerate” candidates who offer just words and no action when there are mass shootings like the one in Oregon late last week. During a town hall meeting early this afternoon in Davenport, stressed the range of gun control measures she supports. The move highlights differences on the issue with challenger Bernie Sanders who has voted against gun control proposals in the past. Clinton also seemed to strike at Republican candidate Jeb Bush for comments he made last week about responding to a crisis.

“This is not ‘stuff that happens.’ We let it happen and we have to act against those people who should not have guns in the first place,” Clinton said, to applause.

Clinton promises as president she would use executive action to classify high-volume sellers at gun shows as firearm dealers. The move would subject those gun sales to background checks. Clinton also backs a ban that would prevent anyone with a domestic abuse conviction from buying a gun.

Several Republican candidates are campaigning in Iowa today as well, including Bush, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

‘Caucus 101’ curriculum teaches history, mechanics of Iowa Caucuses

Caucus-101-artIowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is unveiling “Caucus 101” — a seven-part instructional series to teach high school students the basics of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses.

“It’s written by Iowa teachers, for Iowa classrooms,” Pate said today.

Canada Snyder, a teacher at Des Moines Central Academy, is one of the three teachers who co-authored the lesson plans.

“I hope they learn the history and the background concerning Iowa’s important status as first-in-the-nation and that teachers utilize this in a variety of different ways,” Snyder said.

Adam Arthur teaches government at Des Moines Lincoln High School and he is another collaborator on the lesson plans.

“We came at it not from a national standpoint, but from an Iowa standpoint and tried to make it real for kids, so that way they become less intimidated when they go to caucus,” he said. “…Hopefully that will increase civic participation.”

The lesson plan describes how to hold “mock” caucuses. For Republicans, it’s a simple ballot, but for Democrats, it’s different. That’s why Snyder and the two other teachers decided rather than having students use candidate names, the students participating in a mock Democratic Party Caucus declare their support or preference for a particular kind of fruit.

“They can choose which corner of the room they want to go to by using different kinds of fruits and making sure they have that idea of the 15 percent viability and being able to argue with each other about why my fruit is better, so it makes it less engaging and interactive for the students,” Snyder said. “…It makes it less divisive.”

Pate served one term as secretary of state in the late 1990s and offered a “Kids Caucus” program. “Caucus 101” is “more relevant” and “cooler,” according to Pate.

“Offering so much more at a pace that teachers can take as much or as little as they want,” Pate said. “The community can. Anyone can go online and pull up these pieces are learn just as much as anybody else about what a caucus is.”

Each presidential campaign has been invited to submit a video that will be included in the lesson plan — and will likely be viewed by thousands of Iowa students. Pate told reporters Democratic candidates have been much quicker to respond to that invitation, but he’s giving Republicans a few more days to submit videos. Pate says the non-partisan “Caucus 101” lesson plan has been “endorsed” by both political parties and by the Iowa Council for the Social Studies. Pate spoke at the council’s annual convention in Ankeny this afternoon.

“The curriculum is fun,” Pate said. “It’s easy. It’s accessible and it provides a great avenue to encourage your students, parents and the community to become more engaged in the electoral process.”

Find the lesson plans here.

Senator accuses governor of seeking ‘absolute power’

Joe Bolkcom

Joe Bolkcom

The chairman of the committee in the state senate that drafts tax state policy says Governor Terry Branstad is trying to push through a $37 million tax break for businesses that senators reviewed but did not approve two years ago.

“He’s making an end run around 150 legislators who, at this point, have not come to consensus on whether or not in fact we ought to approve this policy,” says Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City who is chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Bolkcom says the governor is abusing executive power by having the proposal drafted as an administrative rule and implemented by his state agency.

“This governor has been around so long he thinks that he gets to make all the decisions and this is just another example,” Bolkcom says. “Earlier this year he closed two Mental Health Institutes. A year and a half ago he closed the Juvenile Home for girls. He shut down 60 Workforce Development centers. All of those things illegal, but he believes that he has absolute power at this point.”

Bolkcom says the move is also suspect because Branstad item vetoed millions of dollars worth of state spending for schools in July.

“Three months later we apparently are flush with money and are able to give another major corporate tax cut,” Bolkcom says.

The proposal deals with “consumable supplies” that are used in the manufacturing process, like hydraulic fluids and drill bits. Branstad’s Department of Revenue is proposing an administrative rule that would exclude “consumable supplies” from the state sales tax. It’s an estimated savings of $37 million for Iowa businesses. Branstad describes it as a way to “modernize” the tax code. A bill that would have achieved the same goal passed the Republican-led Iowa House in 2013, but stalled in the Iowa Senate, where Democrats control the debate agenda. A legislative committee reviews all administrative rules and could block the proposal.