April 28, 2015

Senator Grassley considers review of all deaths of minorities involving police

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

As fires from overnight riots in Baltimore still burn, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s considering calling on the U.S. Justice Department to review all cases where minorities die at the hands of police. Grassley, a Republican, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and he says all options are on the table as these cases appear to become more frequent, with very violent public reactions.

“We’re in the early stages of looking at what the committee can or should do, perhaps it’s a hearing, perhaps it could be legislation or it could be nothing. We just don’t know yet,” Grassley says. “I think we need to be very judicious in any response.” Starting with the Ferguson, Missouri, case last summer, there have been multiple, high-profile incidents in recent months in many states, including New York, Maryland and South Carolina, where lethal force was used by law officers against minorities.

Grassley says he’s not sure about any of the options as possible solutions. “There have been many suggestions, including one by my friend, Senator (Tim) Scott of South Carolina, who is a minority, that would require the federal Justice Department to review any deaths of minorities by law enforcement.” The latest case involves 25-year-old Freddie Gray of Baltimore.

Gray died earlier this month while in police custody, and his funeral Monday sparked riots that culminated overnight with dozens of large fires, more than 200 arrests and at least seven police officers injured. “People have every right to protest peacefully, but the looting and unrest only shows disrespect for Baltimore and disrespect for Mr. Gray’s family,” Grassley says.

As the law now stands, the Justice Department can involve itself in instances where it’s believed federal laws may have been violated, but an investigation is not mandatory in all cases involving police-involved minority deaths.


Fight continues over state funding for Iowa’s public universities

Walt Rogers

Walt Rogers

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have embraced a controversial Board of Regents “performance-based funding” plan that will send more state taxpayer dollars to the public universities that enroll more Iowa residents.

The committee-approved plan would send nearly $13 million more to the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University — and that $12.9 million would be taken out of the University of Iowa’s allotment of state funding.

“I just feel like they don’t need that,” said Representative Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls, where UNI is based. “They have $700 million in their cash reserves.”

The Republican plan that cleared the House Appropriations Committee last night does not provide an inflationary increase in state funding for any of the schools either. Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, notes the Board of Regents said they’d only be able to freeze tuition rates for in-state students for the fall semester if state support of all three universities increased one-and-three-quarters of a percent.

“I would think that the tuition freeze would be off the table,” she said during last night’s meeting.

Senate Democrats have drawn up a preliminary budget plan of their own that does include the inflationary increase in state support of the state universities, but it does not embrace the performance-based funding formula that shifts funds from the University of Iowa to the other two universities.

Congressman King plans to attend as U.S. Supreme Court hears gay marriage arguments

Congresman Steve King.

Congresman Steve King.

Congressman Steve King has introduced legislation that seeks to forbid the federal courts from hearing same-sex marriage cases. “I wish our founding fathers might have named that Supreme Court something other than supreme,” King said.

King plans to be at the Supreme Court today as it hears arguments in a case that could make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. “Now we have a Supreme Court that thinks, ‘Oh, it’s no problem. We can redefine marriage,'” King said. “We just do that because we’re the Supreme Court, after all.'”

King cites the 1857 Dred Scott decision as evidence the nation’s highest court is sometimes wrong on social issues of the day. “It said that African Americans…could never be citizens of the United States — a Supreme Court decision,” King said. “They decided that congress could not ban slavery.”

King calls his bill the “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015.” King also warns the federal courts were created by congress and they can be abolished by congress, too, with just the U.S. Supreme Court remaining. “Down to the Supreme Court that doesn’t have to be nine judges, seven judges, five judges or three,” King says. “It could be reduced to the chief justice of the supreme court at his own card table, with his own candle, working pro bono. That’s all it takes to have the minimum amount in the Constitution.”

King says the U.S. Supreme Court should not have the “final answer” on marriage and there is “no way” he is going to accept a decision that legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50 states. “Marriage is at stake and the arguments before this court may well determine the future of this country,” King says. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the same-sex marriage case is likely to be released in June. Federal judges have thus far struck down same-sex marriage bans in 22 states.

Same-sex marriage bans remain in effect in 13 other states. Iowa is among the 15 states where same-sex marriage is legal either by a state court’s decision or because state legislators have enacted laws allowing it.


2016ers highlight opposition to same-sex marriage

The future of same-sex marriage was a focus for most of the speakers and the audience gathered in a central Iowa church this weekend. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments tomorrow in a case that could make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

“States should be the ones to make that decision,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who drew whistles and enthusiastic applause from the crowd of evangelical Christians gathered at the Point of Grace mega-church in Waukee — even though Walker was the final of nine likely competitors for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination who spoke in a five-hour-long program.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the next to last speaker, argued Christians are “called to stand and fight” on this issue.

“This week I introduced in the United States Senate a constituional amendment to preserve the authority of the states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Cruz said, to applause and cheers.

2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, said Christians who believe in traditional marriage are under attack.

“I’m not backing off because what I’m saying is true,” Huckabee said. “We are criminalizing Christianity in this country.”

It was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who drew the loudest cheers — and two standing ovations from the audience — for his declaration on the subject. Jindal began his speech, however, by talking about his own conversion to Christianity.

“I had an overnight epiphany that only took about seven years to happen,” Jindal said, drawing laughter and many nods from the crowd.

Jindal said his views on marriage aren’t “evolving with the times” like President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s — and he classified this fight over marriage as part of the culture war with “Hollywood and the media elites.”

“The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America and it’s the reason we’re here today,” Jindal said, to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the program’s first speaker, said “thousands of years of human history” prove the family is the “most basic cell of society.”

“The institution of marriage as one-man and one-woman existed before our laws existed,” Rubio said, to applause.

An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted nationally in mid-April found 61 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage and some in the GOP have said they hope the party’s presidential nominating contest would focus on other issues. In 2009, Iowa became the third state in the country where same-sex marriages were legal and over the past six years the issue has dimmed for many, but it remains a key rallying point for Christian conservatives and they are an important voting block in the Iowa Caucuses.

Nine Republicans in 2016 field speak in Waukee church

A large crowd was on hand for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event.

A large crowd was on hand for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event.

Nine Republicans who will likely compete for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination spoke to hundreds of evangelical Christians Saturday evening at a church in Waukee.

The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s event featured the three U.S. senators who are officially in the race.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told the crowd it was time to “push back” and “flip the tables” against Democrats on issues like abortion and he railed against foreign aid to countries that persecute Christians.

“Washington is so out of step, Washington is so broken, it’s not going to change…if you nominate ‘Democrat Lite,'” Paul said.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the youngest candidate in the field, urged the crowd to “embrace” the future.

“It begins by turning the page on these leaders that are trapped in yesterday,” Rubio said.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is the third senator who’s officially in the race and he accused Democrats of being “radicalized” on the same-sex marriage issue.

“The modern Democratic Party has gotten so extreme, so intolerant, there is a liberal fascism that is dedicated to going after and targeting believing Christians who follow the Biblical teaching on marriage,” Cruz said.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was the victor in Iowa’s 2008 Caucuses and is likely to enter the race next month. He, too, blasted those who accuse Christian conservatives of discrimination if they support bans on same-sex marriage and refuse to do business with same-sex couples.

“It is the criminalization of Christianity. We cannot stand by silently,” Huckabee said, to applause.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, likely to be among the latest to formally enter the race, said the federal courts should not be defining marriage.

“In Wisconsin and other places across the country marriage is defined between one man and one woman and states should be the ones that make that decision,” Walker said, to applause and a few whistles.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said corporate America should be wary of throwing in with the “radical left” on same-sex marriage.

“I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman and unlike President Obama and Secretary Clinton…my views, they’re not evolving with the times. They’re not based on poll numbers,” Jindal said, to applause.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina plans to announce her candidacy next month and she spent the opening and closing moments in her speech to lambaste Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton.

“And I’ll tell you what — when the General Election rolls around we’d better have a nominee that can throw those punches all day long,” Fiorina said, to applause.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is likely to run a second time for president, talked of Biblical figures like Moses and Paul who had been given second chances by God.

“But I happen to think that America is ready for a second chance right now,” Perry said. “America is ready for a leader to give this country a second chance.”

Former Senator Rick Santorum, the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, argued the GOP’s message needs to change and that’s one reason he has come out in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“We can go out and talk about how we have to bail out Wall Street, that we have to bailout auto companies, but when it comes to providing worker protection for the lowest-wage workers, we have to be Adam Smith. No!” Santorum said. “We need to say that we’re on the side of the American worker.”

The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition plans another fundraising event this fall at the Iowa State Faigrounds and that’s likely to draw some of the same candidates.

Governor Walker: a national ‘Right to Work’ law a ‘legitimate’ goal

Scott Walker talks with Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson.

Scott Walker talks with Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he has the “courage…and capacity” to take on powerful interests, including unions, at the federal level.

Walker, a Republican who is likely to enter the presidential race soon, signed a “right to work” law in Wisconsin this year and he sees a need for a similar federal law.

“As much as I think the federal government should get out of most of what it’s in right now, I think establishing fundamental freedoms for the American people is a legitimate thing and that would be something that would provide that opportunity in the other half of America to people who don’t have those opportunities today,” Walker said this morning during an interview with Radio Iowa.

Twenty five states, including Iowa and Wisconsin, have “right-to-work” laws that forbid organized labor from forcing non-union workers to pay union dues or fees in a workplace where employees have voted to unionize. Soon after he was elected governor in 2010, Walker gained attention and plaudits from Republicans and business interests across the country by pushing to make changes in tenure and benefits for teachers and public employees in Wisconsin.

“Really what we did wasn’t just fight unions. It was fight the stranglehold that big government special interests had on state and local governments,” Walker said today. “I think in Washington we need that even more.”

The federal government has “grown too much,” according to Walker, and, if elected president, he’d seek changes in the civil service system for federal employees.

“For example, we got rid of seniority and tenure. You can hire and fire based on merit. You can pay based on performance,” Walker said. “We found in our schools and our local and state governments you can put the best and the brightest in those positions.”

Walker and eight other potential competitors for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination will speak this evening to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. It’s an organization that represents evangelical Christians, an important voting block in the Iowa GOP. Walker, who is the son of a Baptist minister, said his faith impacts how he conducts himself and how he listens to others.

“My faith is not a litmus test. I don’t get a Ten Commandments handed down to me on a tablet, saying: ‘You should be this on this issue and that on that issue,'” Walker said. “…I’m a Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I firmly that someone can be a fellow believer and have different views than I do on policy and I don’t think that makes them any less of a believer if they differ. I just think you get to it in different ways.”

Walker vaulted into the national spotlight in January after a well-received speech at Congressman Steve King’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” in Des Moines. When asked today about his choice to literally roll up his shirt sleeves for that and other key political appearances over the past four months, Walker — whose suit jacket was hanging on the back of the chair in which he was sitting during the Radio Iowa interview — laughed.

“I give a few speeches in a coat,” Walker said, then he offered up the reason why he often goes coatless: “You’ll get the simple truth out of me. It’s usually just because I’m hot.”

Nurses discuss ‘gold star’ of accreditation at MHIs

Employees at the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant that are being closed say the hospitals have provided high-quality care, even if the facilities do not have the “gold star” of accreditation.

Cindy Fedler, a nurse clinician, was hired at the Mental Health Institute in Mount Pleasant in 2007 — to prepare for the tests required for the accrediting process.

“That plan was aborted due to financial reasons,” Fedler said.

Fedler worked at the MHI in Mount Pleasant until April 6, when she was laid off.

“The accreditation would not have changed the way we admitted folks,” she said this week. “It would not have changed the way those who had payment, insurance — the way they paid, it would not have changed that.”

And Fedler said Mount Pleasant’s MHI met all the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “best practices” guidelines.

“The accreditation we keep hearing in the media, I want the truth to be known that that would have affected us not at all,” Fedler said, “other than a nice little title and a gold star behind our name.”

Governor Terry Branstad has said the two MHI’s are being closed because they’re antiquated and are not accredited. Ann Davison, a nurse clinician at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute, was hired in 2005 to prepare for the accreditation process there — but state officials decided not to spend the money.

“So no, we can’t get accredited if we don’t get a chance to do the test,” Davison said this week.

According to Davison, only half of Iowa’s private hospitals have paid the money and gotten accreditation.

“Are you all that concerned we’re not accredited and that’s why you’re shutting us down?” Davison asked during a senate committee meeting. “Please think about that.”

Davison and Fedler made their comments this week during testimony before the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

A spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Human Services says the accreditation fee is in the range of $8,850 to $11,850 per year.