August 22, 2014

Garner State Representative arrested on sexual abuse charge

The Iowa DCI has arrested a state representative from Hancock County in northern Iowa on a sexual abuse charge. A news release says 78-year-old Henry Rayhons of Garner is charged with third-degree sexual abuse after he allegedly went to the Concorde Care Center in Garner and performed a sex act on a person who did not have the mental ability to give consent to any sexual activity.

A roommate of the individual reported the May 23rd incident to police. The victim is not being identified. A June 18th report in the Mason City Globe Gazette says Rayhons’ wife is a resident of the Concorde Care Center and his daughter was ordered to be her temporary guardian after issues arose between Rayhons and the center over visits with his wife.

Rayhons is a Republican from House District 8. He recently announced he would not seek re-election.


Lawmaker appeals Iowa Supreme Court ruling in defamation case

A Woodbury County state Senator is appealing a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that threw out a judgment in his favor in a defamation case. Republican Rick Bertrand sued after the Democrat party ran an ad that said the pharmaceutical company Bertrand worked for sold sleeping pills to children.

The Iowa Supreme Court concluded the evidence failed to establish actual malice toward Bertrand and threw out a $231,000 award. Jeana Goosmann is representing Bertrand. “The Iowa Supreme Court applied an unreasonably high standard for defamation and liable in a political action case. And it’s really important to him that truth of information be front and center in balance with the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution,” Goosmann says.

Bertrand had confronted his opponent, Democrat Rick Mullin at a forum and asked him to stop running the ad. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says Bertrand also used the forum and the subsequent filing the defamation lawsuit to score political points and seize the public moment as a means to achieve a political advantage.

Goosmann says they disagree. “Rick Bertrand in this case is really on the side of right. The jury did find that there was defamation, there were lies being purposely told about him in the campaign, and we think it should be up to a jury to make that decision,” Goosmann says. “We thought it was interesting that the Iowa Supreme Court did not the venue, that he did decide to file a lawsuit. But in the United States, that is your venue. If you have a wrong, you are supposed to take it to the judicial system. For them to insinuate that using the judicial system is a political stunt when he won the election and went all the way — I believe over a year-and-a-half later — to a jury that found he was in the right, just seems in the opposite to us. People should be encouraged to go to our courts when they’ve been wronged.”

The justices have the option of hearing the case or letting the Iowa ruling stand. “We think we have a fairly good chance that the United States Supreme Court will look at this issue,” Goosmann says. “The court has the chance in this case to set the standard as far as what is the standard for libel and defamation in politics and make it a very clear standard — especially when we are dealing with defamation by implication.” Goosmann says some of the justices have given an indication recently that this is a subject they are interested in taking up.


Democratic candidate proposes military balloting changes

The Democrat who’s running to be the next Iowa Secretary of State is proposing changes to make voting easier for Iowans who are serving on active duty in the military.

“Iowa has fallen behind in terms of access to voting for our men and women serving overseas,” says Brad Anderson, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state who faces Republican Paul Pate in November.

Anderson says he’s learned 21 percent of the 2012 election ballots sent to Iowans on duty overseas were not returned, and six percent of the Iowa military ballots that were sent in were rejected.

“I just believe and their dedication to our country we need to do everything possible to make sure they can vote and participate in our democracy,” Anderson says.

Anderson proposes streamlining the on-line voter registration for members of the military, a process he says is more complicated than what’s available stateside. In addition, he’d allow active duty military to use the “Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot” for local elections, too. That’s already being done in 41 states.

“It is a small population of voters, but obviously a very important one,” Anderson said. “…We should do everything in our power to allow them to participate in the democracy that they’re fighting for.”

Anderson says there’s a hodge-podge of different processes at the county level for handling military ballots and it’s time for a statewide standard to be set.

Six Iowa locations for public hearing on new cannabis oil law

Iowans have a chance to share their views about the new state law that allows severe epileptics to possess cannabis oil as a treatment.

It’s not legal to buy or sell cannabis oil in Iowa, but the 2014 Iowa legislature passed a law that decriminalized possession of the substance. Advocates say it can help patients with a severe form of epilepsy. The Iowa Department of Public Health has drawn up a set of rules for administering the law. For example, people would go to an Iowa DOT licensing station with a doctor’s recommendation for a card that shows the holder can possess cannabis oil in Iowa. The public health department would process the applications.

A 90-minute public hearing has been scheduled for August 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Iowans who want to speak out on the subject can go to a site in any of six Iowa cities to participate, via a video link over the Iowa Communications Network.  Here’s the list of sites:

Ottumwa Regional Health Center, 1001 E. Pennsylvania, Ottumwa

North Iowa Area Community College, 500 College Drive, Mason City

Iowa Western Community College, 2700 College Road, Council Bluffs

Sioux City Public Library, 529 Pierce Street, Sioux City

Davenport Public Library, 321 Main, Davenport

Lucas State Office Building, Sixth Floor, 321 E. 12th Street, Des Moines

The hearing will be accessible via conference call as well.

Dial-in: 1-866-685-1580

Pass code: 5152814355

Written comments may be mailed to this address:

Deborah Thompson, Iowa Department of Public Health
Lucas State Office Building
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075

In addition, comments may be sent by fax to (515) 281-4958 or by e-mail to

Sex offender’s walk-away from Cherokee facility unlikely to prompt law change

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says it’s unlikely any laws will be changed as a result of the recent incident involving a “sexual predator” who walked away from a northwest Iowa treatment facility.

“This is a delicate area and it’s one the courts have really kind of spelled out what is possible,” Branstad says.

In 2011 a court ruled 42-year-old Cory West was violent and likely to commit another sex crime, so West was sent to the Cherokee Mental Health Institute after his prison sentence expired, then last fall West became eligible for a transition program. He did not return from work early Sunday, August 3. West was captured four days later in Oklahoma.

The governor says there’s a “delicate balance” between protecting the constitutional rights of people like West and protecting the citizens of the state.

“I’m glad we have a law that permits us to hold these people that are dangerous and should not be released, but we also have to obviously make sure it’s done in the appropriate way,” Branstad says. “This would be an example of where the court should look at this and determine if this individual should be held longer in light of what just happened.”

West has had several convictions for sexual abuse. His latest was in 2008, when he pled guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. West was found in a Tulsa hotel last Thursday.

Official urges motorists to be aware that more ATVs, ORVs are on Iowa roads

Two tragic accidents this past week involving all-terrain and off-road utility vehicles are refocusing attention on safety as well as efforts to allow utility vehicles on city streets and county roads. David Downing of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says sales of ATVs and ORVs — the short-hand for “off-road utility vehicles” — are growing rapidly.

“You’re seeing more and more of those vehicles and as the counties start to open up their roads and city jurisdictions open up their roads for ATVs and ORVs, obviously there’s more interaction with motor vehicles and all kinds of other things,” he says, “so people need to be aware of that.”

On Saturday, four 14-year-old boys were killed when the utility vehicle they were riding in was hit by a pick-up truck that ran a stop sign near Epworth. Two nine-year-old boys died in an A-T-V accident Monday on a farm near Mount Vernon. Representative Curt Hansen, a Democrat from Fairfield who taught driver’s ed for 43 years, urges Iowans to take the safety courses that are available.

“They don’t handle like a vehicle designed for roadway use and so there’s a lot of limitations that people have to realize,” Hansen says.

Downing’s agency offers an ATV safety course.

“You can take the class online. It’s available 24 hours a day or you can take a hands-on class,” Downing says. “There’s also the ATV Safety Institute, which you get a certificate back from them, the manufacturers, when you purchase an ATV, then you’re able to take the course free of charge.”

Downing says ATV drivers have to learn how to shift their weight to balance the machine as it moves. Representative Hansen says he worries about the larger, off-road utility vehicles that have bench seats.

“They’re almost golf carts on steroids,” Hansen says. “They’re just very, very fast and the vulnerability increases with the increase in speed.”

Four-wheel ATVs may be driven on rural roads and county highways today if they’re being used for farming. Some local city and county ordinances also allow ATVs, golf carts and other off-road utility vehicles on local roads, but the operator has to be a licensed driver, the vehicle can’t go more than 35 miles an hour and the hours of operation are limited to between sunrise and sunset.

A bill that would have allowed ATVs and off-road utility vehicles on every rural road and county highway in Iowa passed the House this spring, but stalled in the Senate. Representative Brian Moore, a Republican from Bellevue who has been pushing for the legislation, says it only would have applied to Iowans who are above the age of 16 who have a valid drivers license.

“Of course, you get stuff out on the road, four-wheelers and ATVs and more traffic out on the road, there’s going to be a risk,” Moore says. “There’s a risk on bicycles. There’s a risk on walking.”

Moore says he doesn’t plan to introduce the bill again in 2014 unless there are major changes in the make-up of the state senate and he determines the bill could pass the the senate.

Branstad asks Iowans of all stripes to provide ‘more support’ to Iowa teachers

Jon Wibbels of AEA in Sioux City applauds speaker at symposium.

Jon Wibbels of AEA in Sioux City applauds speaker at symposium.

The “leadership symposium” for Iowa teachers and principals underway today  in Ankeny is attracting more than just teachers and principals. Laura Daily is co-chair of the education department at Northwestern College in Orange City.

“We’re beginning a new masters degree and teacher leadership is one of the strands that people will be able to focus on,” Daily said just before the event started, “and so I’m curious about where we are, where different school districts are going with the initiatives and how we might be able to compliment that with training.”

Jon Wibbels of the Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City has helped districts in his area apply for the new state funding available to implement new systems in schools that promote teachers to be mentors to other teachers.

“We have probably 19 of our 36 public districts that were wanting to do it last year and applied. We had three that were accepted, with Sioux City being the largest one,” Wibbels said. “As we looked at it and they started to go through the process, they found out this was the right thing to do with the teachers and the leadership.”

Wibbels is most interested in this afternoon’s presentation by leaders in the Saydel and Central Decatur School Districts who have already launched the teacher mentoring program.

“What bumps there may have been, (how) we can help our districts smooth things out as we move forward,” Wibbels said. “After being in the education business for 40-plus years — I’m getting up there — I’ve seen a lot of things and this is one of the things over the year that I think, really, is the first time we are bringing all of our faculty and our adminitration together to really work for what’s good for kids.”

Some school board members and a few parents are part of the crowd today, too. Governor Terry Branstad delivered the opening address to the group this morning.

“I want to thank all of you for joining us today for this very important conversation about giving our children a world class education here in Iowa,” Branstad said.

The goal is to have all of Iowa’s schools adopt the new teacher leadership ideas by the school year that begins in August of 2016. For the coming school year, 39 districts are implementing the program, which raises the beginning salary for teachers to $33,500 and provides bonuses to talented teachers chosen to coach their peers.

“And we need to do something else — we need to see that teachers have more support from outside their school,” Branstad said. “Students, parents, elected officials, business leaders, all of us need to do what we can to build support for teachers and the educatio profession.”

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds said teachers must be recognized as “full partners” in transforming Iowa’s schools.

“Teachers must be recognized as true professionals who are the real change agents of the 21st century,” Reynolds said to open the event.

About 34,000 teachers are employed in Iowa’s K-12 schools.