July 7, 2015

Ted Cruz, on national book tour, makes Iowa stops

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says his new book will show grassroots Republicans how their current national leaders are corrupted by the “cartel” of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.

“I think what Republican primary voters want to know is when have you stood up to Republican leadership, standing with the people, standing with the constitution, standing with freedom and when have you endured the beatings from Democrats, from the media and from the Republican leadership, from the Washington cartel,” Cruz told reporters this afternoon before going into a Barnes & Noble to sign copies of the book for two hours.

Cruz accused GOP leaders in the House and Senate of being “in bed” with lobbyists who are pushing programs, like subsidies for sugar, that aren’t benefitted the country as a whole, but are lining the pockets of a few.

“If you’ve ever wondered what’s happening when Republican leadership is breaking the promises that they’ve made to the grassroots conservatives who’ve elected us to serve in congress,” Cruz said, “this book is a candid and frank discussion of what’s happening behind the scenes.”

There’s a “bipartisan culture of corruption” in Washington, according to Cruz, and he said it’s time to end government policies that pick economic “winners and losers.”

About 60 people were waiting for Cruz when he arrived at the West Des Moines bookstore to sign copies of his book, titled: “A Time for Truth.” Cruz will be at the Barnes and Noble in Sioux City at 10 o’clock Tuesday morning for another book-signing event.

Iowa GOP chair ‘will not tolerate’ having GOP ‘brand’ associated with Confederate battle flag

Iowa GOP chair, Jeff Kauffman.

Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann

The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party says he’s all for free speech, but he does not want his party associated with the Confederate battle flag.

The issue has flared up after a couple from Pleasantville displayed three Confederate battle flags on their truck as they towed the Marion County Republican Party’s float in Independence Day parades in Pella and Pleasantville.

Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said today that he “will not tolerate” having the Republican “brand” associated with the Confederate battle flag.

“As the chair of the party, that is not where we want to go,” Kaufmann told Radio Iowa.

The couple involved — Owen and Linda Golay of Pleasantville — has resigned from the Marion County GOP’s governing board. One of the county’s GOP co-chairs told the local radio station he was “sickened” when he saw the Confederate flags on the vehicle pulling the GOP’s parade entry.

The county’s other cochair says, in retrospect, she should have asked the couple to take the flags off their truck, but she thought it was probably a free speech issue. Kaufmann said he’s left a “straight-forward message” with Marion County GOP officials about this episode.

“There are 17,000 young Iowa men that are laying in graves that fought against that very flag and everything it stood for,” Kaufmann said. “There’s really not a lot of conversation to have about that.”

And to the couple who displayed the Confederate battle flags, Kaufmann has this suggestion about their First Amendment rights: “Stand on a street corner and quote Robert E. Lee. I don’t care. While they’re on their way home, they might pick up a few flowers to put on the graves of the thousands and thousands of dead Union soldiers that gave their life to fight under the United States flag.”

A volunteer firefighter in Minnesota has been suspended after he flew a Confederate battle flag on a city-owned fire truck in a 4th of July parade in Albert Lea. Governor Terry Branstad told The Cedar Rapids Gazette the display of the Confederate flag in an Iowa parade was “just wrong and disrespectful” to Iowans who fought in the Civil War.

The Republican Party has its roots in the anti-slavery movement and the party’s first national convention in 1856 called for an end to slavery. Crawfordsville, Iowa — a stop on the Underground Railroad — claims to be the site of the first organizing meeting of the Republican Party. The meeting was held in February of 1854, in a Presbyterian church in Crawfordsville.

Today, South Carolina’s senate voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from a monument on the statehouse grounds in Columbia.

Legislative leaders react to governor’s explanation of school funding veto

Kraig Paulsen (file photo)

Kraig Paulsen (file photo)

The top-ranking Republican in the legislature disputes Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s assertion that lawmakers “absolutely” knew he was likely to veto nearly 56 million dollars in spending for Iowa’s K-12 public schools.

“The governor or the governor’s office had not indicated a veto threat or that they would sign it to me or, to the best of my knowledge, to any House Republican,” says House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha.

Branstad has said he rejected the spending proposal because he is philosophically opposed to using bonus payments or “one-time money” for on-going expenses. Paulsen says he and other Republicans share the same philosophy — and that’s why the 55-point-seven million dollars in additional money for schools was to be used for one-time expenses, like new textbooks and school buses.

“Obviously I supported it and I voted for it,” Paulsen says.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal — the top-ranking Democrat in the legislature says the governor’s “surprising” action is “especially egregious in light of the fact that the legislature worked in a bipartisan fashion to not use one-time money to fund ongoing needs.” Gronstal and Paulsen both noted the legislature’s overall spending level was actually less than what Branstad himself had proposed in January.

Branstad says it was ‘abundantly clear’ he’d reject $55.7 million in school funding (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad today said legislators knew he would likely veto the nearly $56 million they set aside for Iowa’s K-12 public schools.

“My staff made it clear that was my position…it was made abundantly clear to them,” Branstad told reporters this morning during his weekly news conference.

Branstad did approve a 1.25 percent increase in per pupil spending, but he rejected the additional money legislators voted to provide for the current school year.

“I always reserve judgment on legislation ’til I see it in its final form, but I also try to be as clear as I can be as to what’s acceptable and what isn’t,” Branstad said. “Using one-time money for on-going is something I have consistently said it a bad budgeting practice.”

Branstad took action late Thursday on 14 bills that legislators passed, bills that outline a state spending plan for the next 12 months. School administrators say without that extra $55.7 million boost, many districts will have to make cuts, expand class sizes and either lay off staff or delay hiring. Some rural districts see the move as a back-door way to force cash-strapped districts to consolidate. Branstad said that’s “absolutely” not his intention.

“But the only way that we’re going to be able to keep our smaller school districts vital and successful is if we’re able to attract young families that have children,” Branstad said.

And the governor told reporters that’s one reason why he’s pushing to boost the Renewable Fuels Standard, since the ethanol industry is a boost to rural Iowa.

On Friday, Branstad’s staff released a statement emphasizing the governor had approved $3 billion in spending on K-12 public schools. Today, Branstad emphasized he had approved additional money for the state’s relatively new teacher leadership and mentoring program and two-thirds of school districts will be splitting that new money.

“That’s $100 million of additional money on top of the money they’re getting for the supplemental state aid,” Branstad said. “Plus we are focusing on early reading in the pre-K through third grade and providing through Reading Resource Center assistance there.”

According to Branstad, the “turmoil” in Iowa’s public schools is primarily caused by the legislature’s failure to follow the law and approve the level of general state aid for schools by the legal deadline — which was February of last year.

AUDIO of Branstad’s news conference, 27:00

Rand Paul appeals to the ‘Leave Me Alone’ coalition

DSC_0517Over 100 people gathered to greet Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul at the “official” opening of his Iowa campaign headquarters Thursday evening.

“Is anybody here from the ‘Leave Me Alone’ coalition?” Paul said as he started a 20-minute speech to the crowd. Paul got cheers and applause in response. “Your right to be left alone is one of your most precious rights.”

And Paul argued he’s the Republican candidate with the best appeal to younger Americans who are upset with the government’s mass collection of phone data.

“Our phone records are none of their business,” Paul said, to applause.

Paul said privacy rights are important to the so-called “liberty movement” activists who voted for his father, Ron Paul, in previous presidential races and who helped carry Rand Paul to victory in Kentucky in 2010 and vault him into the top tier of 2016 presidential candidates.

“We combine both being for principles, being for ideas, being for new ideas and winability,” Paul said. “…It’s because of your help. It’s because of this liberty movement that’s spreading throughout the country and I want to thank you for your help in this mission.”

Paul posed for pictures with many in the crowd before he spoke. Geno Carver of Des Moines likes Paul’s Libertarian views.

“You’ll never find a perfect political candidate, but I think he’s as close as I’ve found so far,” Carver said.

John McClain of Des Moines was the first in line for a handshake and a photo with Paul and, while he likes some of Paul’s views, McClain is not ready to commit.

“I’m still undecided. It’s too early,” McClain said. “Walker hasn’t announced. Kasich hasn’t announced.”

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to formally enter the race on July 13th. And Ohio Governor John Kasich hasn’t revealed when his official campaign start date may be.

(Photo by Asya Arca)

Branstad axes extra money for K-12 public schools, three state universities

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad has been hinting for weeks that he was unhappy with the legislature’s bipartisan compromise on education funding — and late this afternoon the governor used his item veto authority to reject nearly $56 million in proposed funding for K-12 public schools.

Branstad points to $3 billion in state aide that he did approve for public school districts, but the governor says he cannot approve a one-time allotment of $56 million more. This past Monday Branstad told reporters that kind of one-time spending could “set the state up” for an across-the-board budget cut if state tax revenues fall.

“I want to maintain stability and predictability,” Branstad said. “And I want to make sure that we have a sustainable budget for the long term.”

The president of the state teachers union says the extra money would have been “a small degree of relief” for some school districts and Branstad’s decision to cut that money out of the legislature’s budget plan shows “his lack of commitment to public education.” A top Democrat in the Iowa Senate says the governor’s move not only “undermines” the bipartisan deal legislators struck, it jeopardizes a proposed tuition freeze at the three state universities. Branstad rejected one-time spending increases for the University of Iowa, Iowa State Universty and the University of Northern Iowa.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee says there’s “no reason” for the governor to cut so deeply since there’s been strong growth in state tax revenue. The state collected more than $8 billion in taxes in the last 12 months.

In other official action Thursday, Branstad followed through and formally rejected the bipartisan proposal that called for keeping the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant open. The two facilities actually were closed for good earlier this week.

In addition to approving 14 budget bills that outline state spending plans for the next 12 months, there were a host of policy items stuck in the bills Branstad took action on today. For instance, non-public schools in Iowa are now required by state law to abide by the same school start date approved for public schools. The school start date debate raged until earlier this spring when legislators and the governor agreed that August 23 is the earliest day school may start in the fall.

Due to another policy item stuck in a budget bill, developers of a new reservoir near Osceola will have to prove they’ve exhausted all other options before they may seize property through eminent domain for the project. Backers of the project say they first started talking about Osceola’s limited water supply in 1992 and the area can’t grow economically without more water. Legislators who pushed for the new hurdles for  the project say they doubt developers’ claims that a current lake in Osceola couldn’t be expanded instead.

Loebsack says some in GOP ‘hyperventilating’ over same-sex marriage ruling

Congressman Dave Loebsack (right) with Dean Borg.

Congressman Dave Loebsack (right) with Dean Borg.

Congressman Dave Loebsack — the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation — says last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act means “ObamaCare” is “here to stay” and the court’s decision on same-sex marriage was “a great victory for equal rights.”

“Upwards of 60 percent of the American people think that that was the right decision,” Loebsack says.

Many of the Republican presidential candidates who’ve traveled through Iowa in the past few days have criticized the decision. Some have advocated for nationwide judicial retentions elections for members of the Supreme Court, as a means to ending life-time appointments to the court. A few have called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. Loebsack says that’s just “hyperventilation.”

“The American people have decided already that same-sex marriage is accectable…and they are for it,” Loebsack says. “Now look, if folks on the Republican side of the aisle, whether it’s at the congressional level or those running for president, if they want to continue down this road they are not going to find a lot of support for the kinds of things they’ve been talking about.”

Loebdsack says the Constitution’s First Amendment already protects religious insitutions that refuse to marry a same-sex couple, but he is “open” to considering proposals from Republicans that might offer additional legal protections to churches, synagogues and mosques.

“To protect religious institutions, I can understand that, but to call it tyranny and use the kinds of language they’ve used before — this is the kind of language that Americans are tired of,” Loebsack says.

Loebsack made his comments this afternoon during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that will air on Iowa Public Television Friday night.