April 19, 2014

Iowa Legislature honors Iowa State basketball team

The Cyclone basketball team and Coach Fred Hoiberg were honored by the Iowa House  and Senate.

The Cyclone basketball team and Coach Fred Hoiberg were honored by the Iowa House and Senate.

The Iowa State basketball team visited the statehouse this afternoon where both the house and senate passed resolutions honoring a Cyclone squad which won the Big 12 Tournament and made it to the “sweet 16″ of the NCAA Tournament.

“This is such a tremendous honor for our basketball team. Just the support that we’ve had all across the state of Iowa has been absolutely tremendous,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg told lawmakers.

Hoberg says  the Cyclones appreciated the bi-partisan support during their NCAA tournament run. “To have Congressman King, to have Governor Branstand come into our lockerroom and talk to our teams. To be able to talk to Senator Harkin on the phone — who called just before we went out to  New York to play in the that Sweet 16 game against Connecticut — where if fully health, I fully expect we would have won that game. It would have been us cutting down those nets in Dallas — but hey, it happens,” Hoiberg says.

Hoiberg introduced the players in both chambers and said it was a “great day for Iowa State.”

Steve King says Putin has thrown down the ‘Iron Curtain’ & the ‘Cold War’ has resumed

Republican Congressman Steve King says it appears Russian President Vladimir Putin has revived the Cold War.

“Putin has reconstructed the iron curtain and he’s in the process of reconstructing the old Soviet Union,” King says. “The first strong move was Georgia. We were weak then. We were offering Georgia NATO membership. Some of our European allies in NATO rejected that idea and shortly after that Putin moved into Georgia.”

The Russians invaded Georgia in 2008. King says once the referendum was scheduled in Crimea earlier this month, the outcome was already determined.

“Who would go to the polls and vote to the contrary?” KIng asks. “They’d have to fear the retribution.”

King says now is not the time to cut the U.S. military’s budget or reduce troop levels.

“We’re back in the ‘Cold War’ and we need to start setting ourselves up in the Cold War posture militarily, diplomatically, economically. One of them would be to freeze those military cuts,” King says. “We just cannot be advertising to the world that we’re determined to be weak.”

In February the U.S. Defense Department proposed cutting the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, cancelling orders for a class of attack jets and reducing personnel costs to adjust to budget limits imposed by congress.

Russia’s president has recognized Crimea as a “sovereign and independent country.” President Obama has imposed sanctions against several Russia and Ukrainian officials. The European Union has announced travel bans and the accounts 21 Russians have in European banks have been frozen.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)

Steve King: businesses, not government, should set wage levels

Congressman Steve King.

Congressman Steve King.

Republican Congressman Steve King says the federal government should not have a minimum wage law.

“The federal government should have never been involved in setting wages. That’s not their business,” King says. “The wage agreement, the employment agreement, is a contract between an employer and an employee and they should be able to reach any kind of agreement they choose to.”

Congress established a 25-cents-an-hour national minimum wage in 1938. Democrats in D.C., including President Obama and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, argue congress should vote now to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by the middle of 2016.

“If there are to be minimum wages set, they should be set by the states,” King says. “The states know better. The states know whether it’s good or bad.”

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wage rates that are above the national rate of $7.25 an hour.  King points to a recent Congressional Budget Office report which concluded raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 could mean there’ll be half a million fewer jobs in the U.S.

“We need more people working, not less, and that’s what brings us out of this economic situation that we are in,” King says.

On Wednesday President Obama will be in New England to have a public event with four governors who support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in their states.  Earlier this year President Obama issued an executive order which calls for the higher, $10.10 minimum wage to be paid to government contract workers.  King says Obama is violating the constitution, as that’s a decision for congress to make, not the president.

Jim Mowrer, King’s likely Democratic challenger in November, says that shows King “does not understand the struggles thousands of Iowa families are going through to make ends meet” because they’re working full time and earning the minimum wage – and living below the poverty line.

Photo courtesy of Congressman King’s office

Iowa congressmen all vote in favor as U.S. House passes Farm Bill

The U.S. House passed a Farm Bill today. Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, talked with reporters shortly after the vote. “While the wait to pass a Farm Bill has taken far too long, I’ve very happy that a plan with strong bipartisan support just passed today in the House by a vote of 251-156,” Braley says.  Iowa’s entire House delegation voted for the bill.

Braley, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, says the bill is not perfect, but will give farmers the certainty that they need. “When you’re working with a bipartisan House and Senate with people representing very different interests form their House and Senate districts, sometime you have to weigh the benefits of the comprehensive bill that we voted on today, and the things that disappoint you,” Braley says.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley raised concerns that the payment caps in the bill were watered down.  Braley says he has some concern about that, but says there had to be some compromises. “I think we’ve made substantial progress in eliminating direct payments and I think we’ve made substantial progress in making sure that these payments go to people who truly deserve them. And we could do more to reduce the deficit through the Farm Bill, but there were a lot of competing interests,” according to Braley.  Senator Grassley, a Republican said he is not yet sure if he will support the bill.

Congressman Dave Loebsack released this statement on the bill:

“This day is more than two years overdue. I am pleased that the Farm Bill finally got to this point, but the fact it took so long is another black eye for Congress. Farmers across Iowa and the nation have been waiting for this new legislation to provide the stability they need and deserve to be able to plant crops, raise livestock, and make investments that create jobs with certainty.

“While this legislation does take steps in the right direction, in the true form of compromise, not everyone got what they wanted. I am pleased that this farm bill includes a robust investment in the Energy Title so we can continue to create good jobs, provides strong crop insurance options, and found an agreeable path forward on SNAP assistance. This bill also contains other much needed reforms along with lowering the deficit.”

“I urge the Senate to take up this legislation quickly so it can be sent to the President and signed into law.”

Congressman Steve King issued this statement:

“This has been a long time coming for a final Farm Bill to be completed,” said King. “I am pleased that we have produced a 5-year Farm Bill for the people of Iowa and all Americans so they can have the agriculture policy predictability they deserve. The Fourth District is one of the leading agricultural production districts in America and I look forward to this bill helping continue that growth.

However, I’ve had my reservations. The livestock industry was not treated right by Senate Democrats and I resolve to bring those issues to a proper conclusion.

This was a good, bi-partisan effort and I am grateful for the hard work and efforts of Chairman Frank Lucas and my fellow Agriculture Committee Members. I was honored to be a voice at the table for Iowans throughout this process and I will continue my work to support sound agriculture policy moving forward.”

Iowa congressional delegation reacts to Obama’s State of the Union speech

President Obama gave a sort of “shout out” to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin in his speech to congress tonight.

“After 40 years, I finally got mentioned in a State of the Union message,” Harkin told Radio Iowa after the speech, laughing. “Kind of nice.”

The president praised Harkin’s plan that would raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“I hope that his strong support for increasing the minimum wage just sort of sent a message to everyone that we have to get this done,” said Harkin, who announced a year ago he would not seek reelection in 2014.

Harkin, a Democrat, said the senate’s Democratic leader has indicated the senate is likely to vote in March on legislation to boost the minimum wage. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said the president mentioned a few things during the speech that might get bipartisan support in congress, but Grassley doesn’t think the president made much progress in advancing an agenda tonight.

“When you work with congress, it’s a meticulous sort of job. It’s hard work and he hasn’t demonstrated that hard work,” Grassley told Radio Iowa. “It’s almost like he’s shunned congress to some extent.”

Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, said he “heard a lot of platitudes” but nothing new from the president.

“I’m not sure what the speech actually was meant to accomplish,” Latham told Radio Iowa. “I thought it was more divisive than it was constructive as far as congress and the relationship with the White House.”

Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, said Obama offered a “strong start” to the year by calling for a “year of action” in Washington.

“Based upon the year we just finished I think that was an important challenge to us,” Braley told Radio Iowa, “and I think we’ve seen some positive signs based on the budget agreement, the spending bill, the negotiated Farm Bill that we’re going to be voting on tomorrow that shows we are starting to move in a direction of greater action.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, said everyone can agree on the president’s overall priorities of U.S. economic growth and national security.

“We’re going to have differences, of course, about how to do that, especially about how to get the economy moving again,” Loebsack told Radio Iowa. “But there are a lot of folks I think who are very aware that we’ve got to look to the future.”

Republican Congressman Steve King of Kiron posted a video statement on his website, calling Obama’s speech “tepid…and pretty much predictable.”

The president did not mention the controversy over an EPA proposal that would reduce the amount of ethanol and biodiesel that’s produced in 2014, nor did Obama mention the Farm Bill compromise which is likely to be voted upon in the U.S. House today (Wednesday). Obama got negative marks for those omissions from both Republicans and Democrats in Iowa’s congressional delegation.

Iowa leaders blast EPA over proposed cut in ethanol use (audio)

Sign from today's ethanol hearing.

Sign from today’s ethanol hearing.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was the opening speaker today at a hearing in Des Moines on the EPA proposal to cut the amount of ethanol used in fuel for vehicles in the U.S.  Branstad says they asked the EPA to hold a hearing in the midwest and then scheduled this hearing when the agency declined.

The governor says cutting the ethanol mandate would hurt the many farmers and businesses who built the industry from it’s early beginnings in the 1970′s.

“It’s easy to see that the growth is a result of the hard work and farmers that have invested their own money in a lot these ethanol and biodiesel plants. And some of us have gained and some of us have lost,” Branstad says. “I’ve invested in some that went broke, but I’ve invested in some — like Lincolnway — that are doing well. But that’s the risk that  and it’s made a difference.”

Governor Branstad.

Governor Branstad.

Branstad says the ethanol industry has benefits that go well beyond Iowa. “Including diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio and reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. It’s been a significant move in the right direction for the first time in recent years,” Branstad says.  He went on to say it also reduces pollution and gives consumers a choice at the gas pump, and pointed out that ethanol blended gas is cheaper than regular gas at the pump.

The governor says the industry has grown the economy and the change would kill that growth. “It’s estimated that the EPA would cost 45,000 jobs. We’re trying to create jobs, not destroy jobs in this country,” Branstad says. Branstad says big oil companies have been trying to kill the competition that ethanol creates.

He says one campaign that says the use of corn for ethanol has caused high food prices has been disproven as corn prices have dropped. “You know what happened? The price of food didn’t go down when the price of corn went down,” Branstad explains. “We know that and we know that the false information about this food versus fuel thing is just that — it is absolutely wrong, misinformation. There’s virtually no connection between the price of corn and the price of food.”

Branstad was first governor during the farm crisis of the 1980′s and says he doesn’t want the cutting of ethanol to trigger something like that again. “I never want to forget what happened, and I never want to return to those bad old days. The EPA should not trigger that kind of a negative downturn in rural America,” Branstad says.

Audio: Governor Branstad’s full comments 19:00

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says the EPA believes there would be no harm in cutting back on the use of ethanol. “I’ve heard it said that EPA has thought that this was maybe a deep breath, that maybe this was good for the industry. I think they’ve heard very, very clearly, certainly if they listen to the things that come out today, what kind of damage this would do to the industry,” Northey says.

He questions whether the EPA even has the authority to make the change. “The legality of EPA being able to do this outside of their authority to grant waivers is in huge question. Most of us would say in this room it is not legal to do what they did,” according to Northey. “They can’t pick and choose something that was not legally provided for them  in the law, to choose  to say this is the basis of a waiver.”    Audio: Northey’s full comments. 8:56

Congressman Steve King listens to speakers at the renewable fuels hearing.

Congressman Steve King listens to speakers at the renewable fuels hearing.

Iowa Congressman Steve King represents western Iowa where a majority of the ethanol in the state is produced. King says farmers created the ethanol industry without any help from the oil companies. “They were not interested in sharing their engineering and their design and their biotech with us, and so you had people who grew up on the farm in places like Minnesota and Iowa who got out their welders and their torch and biochemistry books and said ‘okay we’ll build it.’ And they did,” King says.

King says those same producers pushed to get the ethanol they created into use. “The petroleum industry didn’t want to have a competition within their 100-percent defacto petroleum mandate that they had going into liquid burning fuels on the roads in America, so they wanted to lock ethanol out,” according to King. “It took government to uncrack that market, government to let us into that marketplace. And those decisions were made through the voice of the people reflected through the United States Congress and through the state legislatures.

King, a republican, says the EPA proposal is meant to weaken the ethanol industry so the oil companies can buy it out for pennies on the dollar. “There’ll be support for it then if they own it. Right now they are locking the competition out,” King says. “And the RFS is market access, market access, that’s all it is. It’s not a tax on anybody, it’s a benefit to consumers.”  Iowa’s entire congressional delegation is supporting the effort to block the EPA’s proposed cut in renewable fuels.

Audio: Congressman Kings full comments. 8:35

Officials from Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, North and South Dakota, are also scheduled to speak at the day-long hearing.


Hearing on the use of ethanol opens in Des Moines


Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds opens the hearing on ethanol in Des Moines.

Governor Terry Branstad says the country is trying to create jobs, not get rid of them and that’s why the EPA needs to keep the amount of ethanol required in fuel where it is and not cut it.

Branstad spoke first today at what is billed “Hearing in the Heartland: Supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Branstad says governors and ag officials all across the midwest also support the effort.

“Today, we must stand together and let the policy makers in Washington, D.C. hear our collective voices. Today, we must firmly tell them that taking a step backward on the RFS is unacceptable,” the governor says.  “We should be continually moving forward to grow the production and use of ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels.Today, we must share the facts and address the misperceptions related to the RFS.  We cannot afford to have misunderstandings or muddled policies when it comes to the RFS.   As citizens, who have seen first-hand the positive impacts that the RFS has had in Rural America, we believe we have an obligation to help educate others.”

Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey and Congressman Steve King were among the other Iowans to speak on the first panel at the hearing today in Des Moines. Officials from Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, North and South Dakota, are also scheduled to speak at the day-long hearing.