August 2, 2015

Rand Paul touts ‘one page’ federal income tax return

Rand Paul during a campaign stop.

Rand Paul during a campaign stop.

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is campaigning in eastern Iowa today, touting his proposal to get rid of the complicated federal income tax code and replace it with a simple “flat” tax.

“We have a 70,000 page tax code and I think it’s chasing American jobs and chasing American companies overseas,” Paul said.

Paul proposes a 14.5 percent “flat” tax on income.

“You could fill out your tax return on one page,” Paul said. “It would be a big boon to Iowa. It would leave a lot of money — millions and millions of dollars would stay in Iowa and never get to Washington.”

Paul started early this morning by speaking to about 50 voters in Waterloo, where nearly 14 percent of the city’s population is black. Paul has been an advocate of criminal justice reform and he has called for making more non-violent drug crimes misdemeanors rather than felonies.

“I wouldn’t be locking up whole generations of young people,” Paul said. “Our drug war has disproportionately locked up African Americans.”

Paul made a midday stop in Williamsburg and afternoon stops in Washington and Tipton. He’ll take batting practice Saturday morning in Davenport with the Quad City Bandits, a minor league baseball team.

(Reporting in Waterloo by Scott Fenzloff of KCNZ Radio; additional reporting and editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Walker: GOP nominee may be chosen by convention

Scott Walker

Scott Walker

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker is not ruling out the possibility a clear winner will fail to emerge after next year’s primaries and caucuses around the country and delegates at the GOP’s 2016 national convention will wind up picking the party’s White House nominee.

“It’s possible. I mean, it’s a great field, a lot of great candidates…Sooner or later it will be easier to tell how many are not running in the Republican field than those that are,” Walker joked over the noon-hour during an interview on KMA Radio.

Walker, who is the governor of Wisconsin, said he will not “speak ill” of his Republican competitors, but he’s telling audiences he’s different from his rivals because he’s both a  “doer” and a “fighter.”

“I just didn’t win three elections in four years in a blue state,” Walker said. “I won on the issues that people care about.”

Walker’s most high-profile fight was his successful effort to roll back the collective bargaining rights of unions the represent government employees.

“Unions are just fine. What we did is we took on the big government union bosses and we put the power back firmly into the hands of the hardworking taxpayers,” Walker said today. “That was good for the taxpayers. It was pro-worker.”

Walker signed a “right to work” law in Wisconsin early this year. It forbids organized labor from forcing non-union workers to pay union dues or fees in a workplace where employees have voted to unionize. Walker is on a campaign swing through southwest Iowa today, with stops scheduled in five counties.

(Reporting in Shenandoah by Chuck Morris of KMA Radio; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson; photo by Brent Barnett, KMA Radio)

Petition drive for remaining MHIs in Cherokee, Independence

A half dozen people delivered more than 5,000 petition signatures to the governor’s office Thursday afternoon, urging Governor Terry Branstad to keep the two remaining state-run Mental Health Institutes open. Branstad closed the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant this year and Aubreeanna Dolan of West Des Moines organized the online petition drive.

“The resources are not out there for these individuals that are in these homes,” she says.

Legislators passed a bipartisan compromise that would have temporarily restored services at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute for frail elderly patients who are mentally ill. The plan also called for reopening the Mount Pleasant facility for treatment of patients with the dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse. Branstad vetoed those proposals and has not ruled out closing the remaining two Mental Health Institutes. Dolan says the mental health care system cannot stand the loss.

“I know several individuals that have gotten services from these institutions and it’s saved their lives,” Dolan says.

Dolan points to a recent Pew Charitable Trust report which ranked Iowa 47th among the states for the percentage of the state budget spent on mental health services. The state president of the AFSCME union and 20 state legislators have filed a lawsuit challenging Governor Branstad’s closure of the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. Fewer than 200 mentally ill patients are cared for in the state hospitals in Cherokee and Independence.

Iowa Senators vote for federal transportation bill

Senator Joni Ernst. (file photo)

Senator Joni Ernst. (file photo)

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, voted for the Senate transportation bill today. Ernst talked with reporters before the vote, and says she decided to move ahead after addressing some questions with Iowa groups.

“With the assurances that have come from the various groups in Iowa — they are okay with the measures that are in the bill — so, I am going to support it. I think we have to have a multi-year bill,” Ernst says. Ernst was asked about concerns raised by some over 18-year-olds being allowed to drive trucks.

“I haven’t seen any studies to contradict that. I think younger that drivers are fine,” according to Ernst. “We have laws in place already that will be followed, so I feel very confident.” Ernst says the bill isn’t perfect, but she says they needed to take action.”I look at this as a good bill, again a multi-year bill, that’s what we are striving for, and hopefully we can find a consensus on it,” Ernst says.

She says the six-year bill gives more certainty to state transportation departments as they set their schedules. “We have it fully funded for three of those years. It’s not the perfect solution, but it is a multi-year solution,” Ernst says. “It will considerably help our states and make sure that they have funding available for the projects.”

Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, also voted for the bill. The U.S. Senate also passed a three-month extension of the current funding bill to keep transportation money available until a long-term bill is passed.

The U.S. House has left for its August recess, so a long-term bill would not move forward until the fall.


‘I didn’t know I was that powerful,’ Huckabee says of complaints he caused Straw Poll’s demise (AUDIO)

Mike Huckabee in Des Moines.

Mike Huckabee in Des Moines.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is pushing back against the idea that he’s the main cause of the demise of the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll.

“Well, gosh, I didn’t know I was that powerful,” Huckabee said this morning.

The Iowa Republican Party’s chairman told the National Journal there is “a lot of anger” about the “damage” Huckabee did when Huckabee announced in May that he would not participate in the event.

Huckabee pointed out today that he wasn’t the first to say he’d skip the event. Jeb Bush was. And Huckabee added that no other candidate had committed to participating either.

“There’s 17 candidates running for president and if I singularly killed the Straw Poll, then you should go ahead and declare me the Caucus winner because that’s a heck of a punch I must carry,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee finished second in the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll eight years ago and he won the 2008 Caucuses. He’s committed to visiting each of Iowa’s 99 counties this time around.

“We’ve been now to over 30 (counties),” Huckabee told reporters. “We have county chairmen in over 60. We understand that the process in Iowa is the old-fashioned, just knock it out a county at a time, get structure and organization and that’s what we’re doing.”

Huckabee’s trip to Iowa comes after he made national headlines this past weekend by saying the proposed nuclear deal negotiated among six world powers and Iran would march Israelis “to the oven door.” Huckabee bristles at critics who’ve suggested he’s using the graphic reference to the Holocaust to try to stand out in a crowded field of candidates.


“They don’t know me very well. They don’t know that I’ve been Auschwitz three times. They have no idea how many times I’ve been to Israel. They have no idea about the passion I have for never, ever, ever wanting to see this horror repeated,” Huckabee said. “I have seen up close and personal what happens when people are naive and when they neglect the threats of a government that says: ‘We’re going to kill people,’ and I’m not going to do that.”

Huckabee met with reporters this morning outside WHO Radio studios in Des Moines and answered questions on a variety of topics, including the recent controversy over a video of Planned Parenthood representatives speaking about the use of aborted fetuses for medical research.

“Talking about it with such a cavalier and callous attitude is just numbing,” Huckabee said. “…It’s so cold and just inhumane.”

Beyond the discussion of ending all taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, to cover services like women’s health screenings, Huckabee said it’s time for a “more thorough discussion” of ending what he called the “scourge” of abortion.

AUDIO of Huckabee speaking with reporters this morning, 12:00

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Governor’s chief of staff resigns

Matt Hinch

Matt Hinch

Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff announced Wednesday he’s resigning to take a job in the private sector. Thirty-five-year-old Matt Hinch has been Branstad’s chief of staff the past two years.

His last day on the job will be August 7th. Hinch is Branstad’s second chief of staff since the governor returned to public office in 2011. A news release from the governor’s office did not provide details about Hinch’s next job. A spokesman for Branstad said the governor will name a new chief of staff in the near future.

Senator Ernst and others introduce bill to cut Planned Parenthood funding

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst takes questions at the news conference.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst takes questions at the news conference.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst took the lead today in introducing a bill that would cut federal funds to Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of videos showing leaders in the organization talking about harvesting body parts from aborted babies to be sold.

Ernst was joined at a Washington, D.C. news conference by 7 other Republican Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“The recent footage depicting Planned Parenthood’s role in the harvesting of organs — heart, liver, kidneys — of unborn babies is morally reprehensible and vile,” Ernst says. “The American people, Republicans and Democrats alike, are horrified by the utter lack of compassion shown by Planned Parenthood for these women and their babies.”

Ernst says people in both parties are upset by the videos, including a Democrat candidate for president. “In fact, now Hillary Clinton is calling these Planned Parenthood images ‘disturbing.’ And I agree. These videos are hard for anyone to defend, and hit at the moral fiber of our society,” Ernst says.

Ernst says the bill she is backing will take away federal dollars from Planned Parenthood. “In addition to defunding Planned Parenthood, our legislation ensures that federal funding taken from Planned Parenthood will be made available to other entities that provide health services for women,” Ernst says.

She says the bill won’t hurt the availability of health services for women.”I want to make clear that there will be no reduction in overall federal funding to support womens’ health,” according to Ernst. Ernst was asked if the bill would also include state funding.”What we are discussing right now is just that federal legislation, and then how those state dollars, local dollars are handled, is another issue that will have to be addressed later on,” Ernst says.

She was also asked if she is against all research using fetal tissue. “That is a separate issue. What we’re seeing right now is absolutely reprehensible. There are a number of questions that have been raised by these videos,” Ernst says. “I have joined and led 49 other Senators in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking that she take a look at this. We want to make sure that any documents regarding this issue are preserved and that she is doing a thorough investigation. And we will see what the results are after she does that.”

Other Republican Senators who appeared with Ernst are: Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas; Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota; Deb Fischer of Nebraska; Johnny Isakson of Georgia; James Lankford of Oklahoma, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign released this statement from Jill June, the former president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, in response to the Republican Senator’s news conference:

“Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are nothing but a callous and political attempt to put ideology ahead of the health and well-being of Iowa women. We’ve seen this movie before. Senator Ernst and other Republican senators should drop their latest attack on Planned Parenthood that provides health care each year to nearly 60,000 patients in Iowa and surrounding states, including in hard to serve rural areas. Hillary Clinton believes health care should be left between a woman and her doctor – full stop. It’s time politicians stop trying to insert themselves in these personal decisions and instead focus on the issues Iowans elected them to solve.”