September 16, 2014

Grassley likely to vote in favor of training troops to fight ISIS

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

A vote is expected in Congress this week on President Obama’s request to step up the U.S. response to militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, says he’ll likely vote in favor of the plan, which includes sending another 500 U.S. military personnel to Saudi Arabia to train and equip rebels to fight the group known as ISIS.

Grassley says, “If the American people don’t want American soldiers on the front lines in the battle against ISIS and if the people that should be on the front lines aren’t trained to do it and if we can help with that training, we should do that.” It’s also an effort by the U.S. to show it’s willing to put action behind its words, according to Grassley, and demonstrate to the world we’re serious about taking on and destroying ISIS.

“I think it also lends credibility to the other people that may be reluctant to go forward in our coalition, even though 40 countries have said so, but they have not said what they’re going to do,” Grassley says. “There’s some question of are they going to do anything?” Leaders from 30 nations met in Paris on Monday to discuss the threat from ISIS terrorists. U.S. allies pledged they’ll help Iraq “by any means necessary.”


Senator backs use of troops to stop Ebola spread

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says President Obama’s plan to send U.S. troops into Africa to help contain the Ebola outbreak sounds like a wise, preventative move. Reports say the president today will unveil a proposal to dispatch 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to build treatment centers and to train health care personnel.

Grassley says, “Getting it under control may sound like we’re just giving foreign aid and throwing away money but it could be a good investment.” The proposal would reportedly cost $500 million, money that would be diverted from the Department of Defense for the effort.

The plan includes building 17 treatment centers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, each with 100 beds. Grassley says, “I know $500-million is a lot of money when you have all the deficits we have but we could end up spending a lot more and the quality of life being hurt in the United States and losing a lot of lives if it did spread to the United States.”

Ebola has killed nearly 2,500 people in the region in recent months and three American aid workers contracted the virus and were brought back to the U.S. for treatment. Two were released from a hospital in Atlanta while a third is still undergoing treatment in Omaha.


Braley concerned about ‘scope’ of Obama’s ISIL request

Congressman Bruce Braley says there is “bipartisan concern” about President Obama’s new plan of attack against Islamic terrorists who’ve ruthlessly taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria.

“Democrats and Republicans are going to be spending a lot of time digging deeper into the president’s proposal because of the scope of the committment he’s asking for and because of the concerns many of us have about what exactly is going to happen with that money,” Braley says.

Last Wednesday President Obama asked congress to authorize spending half a billion dollars to train and arm rebels inside Syria who are fighting the Islamic State. Braley says the U.S. already spent far more than that to train “nearly a million” Iraqis to police and defend their own country.

“And recently they were rolled back by somewhere around 15,000 terrorists associated with ISIL,” Braley says. “So from the standpoint of the America people I think we need to have some real firm answers about how this committment is going to protect American security interests, stabilize the government of Iraq — and it’s absolutely clear that a military solution alone is not going to solve this problem.”

According to Braley, Iraq’s central government must show a willingness to allow all factions to be represented, rather than favor one side or another in the centuries’ old conflict between the two main branches of Muslims — the Sunnis and the Shias. Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, is running for the U.S. Senate. However, as a current member of congress, he attended a security briefing held last week for members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There were a lot of things brought up — obviously things that I can’t talk about,” Braley says. “But there was bipartisan concern about the scope of the request, what would be accomplished with the financial resources the president is asking us to commit.”

President Obama has also authorized air strikes into Syria. Obama has also said a coalition of countries would join the effort “to ensure the U.S. doesn’t act alone.” That’s a key question that needs to be answered, according to Braley.

“Do we have the support of key allies?” Braley asks. “Do we have the support of the American people and what is our exit strategy?”

Braley says congress should take some sort of a vote to authorize expanded U.S. action against the Islamic militants, which President Obama refers to as ISIL, but Braley says it’s unclear whether congress will have all the information it needs in order to take such a vote before the election.

The leaders of 30 countries gathered in Paris yesterday to talk about combatting the threat of the Islamic terrorists known as ISIL. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, plus the leaders of key European countries, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the key Arab states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are there.

Braley faces Republican Joni Ernst in this fall’s election.

Hatch says new cannabis oil law ‘needs more work’

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says allowing the production of cannabis oil in Iowa is a logical step after decriminalizing possession of the marijuana derivative. Hatch, who is a member of the Iowa Senate, voted this spring for the new law that shields Iowans who have severe epilepsy from prosecution if they use cannabis oil as treatment for their seizures.

“I think what was finally negotiated showed a willingness on the part of Republicans and Democrats to solve a problem,” Hatch told reporters today. “Clearly we have not. It needs more work.”

The parents of children diagnosed with a rare and severe form of epilepsy are asking Iowa officials to allow marijuana to be grown here, so cannabis oil can be produced and purchased here. Hatch said those parents make a compelling case, because if they go to Colorado to buy cannabis oil, they have to bring it back through Nebraska, where it’s illegal. Some states where cannabis oil can be legally purchased also restrict sales to residents of that state.

“So we really haven’t done very much,” Hatch said. “I think the obligation and the committment we made to those families has got to be fulfilled and if it means that we have to produce it here and dispense it here under tight regulations, then that needs to be part of our obligation.”

Governor Branstad this morning said he’s willing to discuss the idea, but he wants to ensure “the safety of Iowans is protected.” Hatch suggested Branstad’s living in a time warp when it comes to pot.

“He still falls in this category of this cultural recognition that marijuana was a recreational drug and he’s got to get over that,” Hatch said. “It now has sound medical purposes and our consumers are needed it. Our families need it.”

Hatch also faulted the governor for failing to speed up the process for issuing the I-D cards that will protect epileptic patients from prosecution if they’re caught with cannabis oil. The state law on the subject took effect July 1st, but officials at the state agency in charge say those cards won’t be issued until January 30.

Branstad to be questioned Nov. 26 about attempt to fire gay employee (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says he’s too busy campaigning to be questioned about his attempt to force the state workers compensation commissioner to resign.

“I’m very interested and willing to have a deposition, but we’ll have it after the election,” Branstad said today during his weekly news conference. “The election’s only a month and a half away and my schedule between now and then is extremely busy.”

Branstad’s top aides asked Christopher Godfrey, the state workers compensation commissioner, to resign in early 2011 so Branstad could choose his own person for the position. Godfrey had been appointed to the job in 2009 by Democratic Governor Chet Culver. When Godfrey wouldn’t resign, his pay was cut dramatically. Godfrey has sued Branstad, arguing he was targeted for dismissal because he’s gay.

“This lawsuit was filed years ago and the plaintiff has delayed and delayed and delayed it,” Branstad said. “We have totally cooperated in every aspect and I think asking me to have a deposition before the election when my schedule is already extremely busy is not appropriate.”

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate challenging Branstad’s bid for a sixth term as governor, today said voters deserve to know more about Branstad’s actions on this case.

“I think he’s using the election as an excuse not to give the deposition,” Hatch said, “and not to have the case resolved before the election.”

Hatch suggests this case shows Branstad “bullies” state employees.

“For him to delay it is clearly a political tactic that is preventing people from really seeing what kind of a government and management of his government that he has,” Hatch said during a news conference.

The lead attorney handling the case against Branstad is Roxanne Conlin, Branstad’s opponent in 1982, which was his first successful campaign for governor. After negotiations between Conlin and the private attorney Branstad hired to handle the case, November 26 is the date set for Branstad to be questioned under oath in the defamation case. That’s the day before Thanksgiving.

Godfrey resigned from his state post in August to become the chief judge of a federal panel that rules on employee compensation appeals.  Branstad appointed an acting state workers compensation commissioner last week.

Find the audio of Branstad’s weekly news conference here.

Branstad ‘willing to look’ at production of cannabis oil in Iowa (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad is not immediately ruling out a request from the parents of children with chronic epilepsy who want to buy cannabis oil grown and produced in Iowa.

“I’m willing to look at all proposals,” Branstad says. “I just want to make sure that the safety of Iowans is protected and that we don’t have unintended consequences.”

Branstad signed a bill into law this spring that decriminalizes possession of cannabis oil as treatment for severe epilepsy, but caregivers must go out of state to buy the product. Last week, six of the 10 members of a legislative committee appointed to study implementation of that law said it’s time for Iowa to make growing and distributing marijuana legal, if it’s used for medical purposes.

Governor Branstad was opposed to decriminalizing cannabis oil possession earlier this year, but then changed his mind after meeting with the parents of children with chronic epilepsy who believe the oil can help reduce the duration and severity of seizures. Now those parents are pushing to get cannabis oil produced here.

“I think you’ve got to be very careful because you don’t want unintended consequences, you don’t want marijuana being grown and then being used illegally,” Branstad says, “so I think it would really depend upon how carefully and strictly it could be managed and controlled.”

The caregivers of children with chronic epilepsy say they’ve seen how cannabis oil is helping children in Colorado, for example, who’ve been able to take cannabis oil.

Branstad made his comments in answer to a question posed during his weekly news conference.

AUDIO of Branstad’s news conference



Pate outlines his priorities for secretary of state’s office

Paul Pate

Paul Pate

The Republican candidate for Iowa secretary of state has released a list of proposals to deploy new technology for voter registration and require a photo ID check to ensure all voters are eligible to vote. Paul Paul, the Republican running to be Iowa’s next secretary of state, says he wants to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.

“We want to encourage voter participation and we want to maintain the integrity,” Pate says.

Pate says 93 percent of all eligible Iowa voters currently have a driver’s license and he’d seek funding from the legislature to ensure the other seven percent get a state-issued photo ID. Pate favors a state law requiring eligible voters to have that photo ID — and he says with new technology, electronic poll books for precincts on Election Day would have a photo of the voter beside their name, as another cross-check for poll workers.

“You’d have to have some proof of who you are and once that’s done, clearly we’ve done the best we can to ensure you’re a legitimate voter,” Pate says.

Pate’s also proposing that auditor’s offices in all 99 Iowa counties be equipped with software that could verify a voter’s signature on an absentee ballot.

“Dallas County, for an example, has over 50 percent of its voters voting absentee and it’s going to be growing more and more,” Pate says, “so I think we need to step up some of the protections if we can on that.”

Pate’s Democratic opponent is Brad Anderson. Anderson says he’s glad Pate has joined his call for “electronic poll books,” but Anderson says some of Pate’s other proposals, like new photo IDs and the new signature verification software, would require a dramatic increase in taxpayer spending. Pate says it wouldn’t cost that much to buy a laptop for each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Pate is a former member of the Iowa House and Senate who also served as Iowa’s secretary of state for one term in the late 1990s. He’s seeking the job again this year. The current secretary of state, Republican Matt Schultz, is not seeking reelection.