July 23, 2014

At least 139 Central American kids relocated to Iowa

An Iowa Latino leader says several children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who crossed into the U.S. along the southern border are now living in Iowa, but their arrival has been kept quiet to avoid controversy.

“There’s a number of Latino families who have extended family members who are in those three countries, so they have been driving down to Texas and elsewhere to pick up those children and bring them back,” Joe Henry, state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, told Radio Iowa today. “But they’re keeping this kind of secret right now because our governor has not embraced this effort.”

Just this past Monday Governor Terry Branstad repeated his opposition to having any of the unaccompanied kids who came into the U.S. from Central America placed in Iowa.

“I’m very empathetic for these teenagers and kids, but they’ve come here illegally and it would be wrong for us to send a signal: if you come here illegally, we’re going to just disperse you throughout the country and you don’t have to go home,” Branstad said. “…The country can’t afford that and I’m not the only governor that’s taken that stand.”

State and federal officials now confirm up to 139 undocumented children from Central America were relocated to Iowa in the past six and a half months. According to Henry, many of the children need mental health counseling because of the violence they were subjected to before they got to the U.S., but he said the governor’s stand makes that difficult.

“Actually what the governor’s been doing is he has been creating a chilling effect on the whole process, so things are being done behind the scenes,” Henry said.

Henry calls the unaccompanied children refugees. Branstad calls them law breakers.

“The problem’s been caused by the federal government and the administration’s unwillingness or inability to secure the border and protect American citizens against the influx of illegals,” Branstad said Monday.

A spokesman for Branstad says the federal government didn’t notify state officials when these immigration children were being placed in Iowa. After questions from reporters this week, the governor’s staff confirmed nearly 12 dozen unaccompanied kids had been placed in Iowa homes since the beginning of the year, but “it remains unclear” whether all those children are from Central America. Jimmy Centers, Branstad’s spokesman, says the governor is concerned the situation “may encourage others to attempt the very dangerous journey across Central America and Mexico.”

Rally calls for bringing children entering U.S. illegally to Iowa

Several hundred people gathered at a rally in Des Moines Monday night advocating for Iowa to offer refuge to thousands of children from Central America entering the country illegally at the southern border.

Wendy Vasquez of Des Moines was at the rally and plans to travel with nine other Iowans to Washington, D.C. later this month to protest the children’s detention and deportation. “Think about your own children. What if your children had no food, no future? Think about your children and what you would do for them. If it were them, would you welcome them in your country? Yes, you would,” She says.

Governor Terry Branstad said last week he has empathy for the children, but said they should not come to Iowa because they had entered the country illegally. The Democratic candidate for Governor, Jack Hatch, said it’s time to form a non-partisan “Iowa Coalition of Mercy” to discuss how the state can respond to the “humanitarian crisis” of unaccompanied kids from Central America who’re walking into the U.S.

The U.S. government estimates up to 90,000 unaccompanied children will enter U.S. this year.


Hatch has $183,000 cash on hand, compared to Branstad’s $4 million

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, continues to trail Republican Governor Terry Branstad in fundraising.

Hatch raised about $269,000 from the last week in May through the middle of July. Hatch’s campaign had about $183,000 in the bank on July 14. That compares to the $4 million in cash Republican Governor Terry Branstad reported in his campaign account at the end of the latest campaign disclosure reporting period.

Hatch has raised about $983,000 since he launched his campaign last summer and the Branstad campaign is ridiculing Hatch for failing to cross the million dollar mark, which Hatch said was a milestone he hoped to cross last December. Hatch’s campaign, in turn, blasts Branstad for accepting donations from Donald Trump and other New York and New Jersey donors.

From May 28 through July 14, Hatch received over $143,000 from 23 different political action committees representing labor groups. Branstad got $75,000 from three different PACS — one represents the Republican Governors Association and another is Wellmark’s PAC.

The single-largest individual contribution during the reporting period came from Josh Nelson of Spencer, the owner of a local phone company who wrote a $50,000 check to the Branstad campaign. John Smith, the CEO of a Cedar Rapids-based trucking company, wrote Branstad’s campaign a $25,000 check. Mark Falb of Dubuque, the executive of a textbook publishing company, also contributed $25,000. Bruce Rastetter, the agribusinessman who was Branstad’s number-one contributor in 2010, wrote the campaign a $10,000 check earlier this month.

Hatch’s single-largest donation from an individual was $10,000 and it came from Toni Urban of Des Moines, who runs a retail stationery shop in West Des Moines. Her husband, Tom Urban, is a former Des Moines mayor.

This morning, hours before the detailed reports were filed on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board’s website, Hatch declined to reveal his fundraising totals to reporters.

 “We’re going to have a campaign that’s going to work our plan and allow us to have a substantial election effort,” Hatch said during a statehouse news conference.

Job fair in Davenport Thursday for retiring soldiers

Home-baseOver three dozen companies plan to participate in an event in Davenport this Thursday aimed at connecting veterans with job openings in Iowa. It’s part of the state’s “Home Base Iowa” initiative and Governor Terry Branstad plans to be there for the job fair.

“Last November I announced the new program, including an incentive package for veterans, that would help recruit veterans to work in Iowa after they complete their military service,” Branstad says.

So far 86 veterans have contacted the State of Iowa through the Home Base Iowa website and officials say 23 veterans have gotten jobs through the program. Branstad signed legislation on Memorial Day that erases state income taxes on military pensions and allows veterans and their families to pay in-state tuition if they go to an Iowa college or university. Howard County and Greene County have offered additional local incentives for veterans and have been declared “Home Base Iowa” communities. To earn the designation, an area must get at least 10 percent of the area’s businesses to agree to hire veterans.

“Scranton Manufacturing is located in Greene County,” Branstad says. “They have already hired a veteran throught the Home Base Iowa program and they have interviewed several additional veterans.”

Twenty-nine other cities and counties are completing the paperwork in hopes of being declared “Home Base Iowa” communities as well. Branstad says national publications for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion have listed the new benefits available in Iowa for soldiers who are leaving the military.

Hatch blasts Branstad for returning $1 million grant to promote solar energy in Iowa

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch

Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, says it is “disturbing” that Governor Branstad returned a federal grant that was to be used to find ways to help the solar energy industry grow in Iowa.

“Not to be controlled by the special interests of the utility companies that pressured his department to return the million dollar grant,” Hatch says. “That in itself shows the interests of this governor, not so much in really renewable energy, but protecting the larger corporations at the expense of the smaller producers and the individual homeowners that could benefit dramatically from this.”

Hatch says the solar industry is poised to make the same kind of economic impact on Iowa as wind turbines.

“The governor has backed away from this state’s ability to enter into the solar market by his refusal and his returning of a grant back to the Department of Energy that would be a modest approach to us beginning our solar energy capability,” Hatch says.

Email correspondence obtained by The Associated Press shows the State of Iowa returned the million dollar grant after Iowa utility companies complained about how the grant money would be used and insisted any reference to solar power’s benefits also include a list of its draw backs.

“This is something that’s going to make an enormous impact on the economy of this state and he’s just turned a blind eye because of the utility companies,” Hatch says.

A spokesman for Governor Branstad issued a written statement.

“Jack Hatch can continue to bloviate from the sidelines, but all Iowans know that the Branstad-Reynolds administration has fought to expand and protect American energy resources so that Iowans have cheaper costs at the pump, their homes and their businesses,” said Tommy Schultz, Branstad-Reynolds communications director.

Hatch is also praising a July 11th Iowa Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to expansion of solar power development in Iowa. The court ruled any church, school, city or other “non-taxable” entity can enter in “power purchase agreements” with solar power developers. It means a company can install solar panels on a public building and get paid for the electricity generated by the panels. Iowa’s two major utilities had challenged such deals, arguing that Iowa regulations gave MidAmerican and Alliant exclusive rights to sell electricity in defined areas of the state.

(This post was updated at 1:46 p.m. with additional information.)

Branstad concerned about Iowa Supreme Court ruling on juvenile sentencing

Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad is raising concerns about an Iowa Supreme Court ruling which declared all mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles unconstitutional.

“It would be my hope that we could review the court decision and work with legislators with the intention of doing something in this next session to address this issue,” Branstad says, “and make sure the safety of the citizens of Iowa is protected.”

The court ruled mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles do not distinguish between the diminished capacity of a young person and the cold and calculated conduct of an adult. Branstad says public safety should be “paramount.”

“When we have a juvenile that commits a murder of a violent, dangerous crime, if they’re treated as a juvenile when they turn 18 they can be released and we don’t dangerous, violent people being prematurely released and endangering our citizens,” Branstad says. “We don’t want to become Chicago.”

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison for crimes other than murder and Iowa legislators deadlocked on how to respond, so the governor issued an executive order commuting all those life sentences to 60 years. Last week’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling directed state officials to resentence about 100 juveniles who were tried before 2013 and received mandatory minimum sentences.

“As I understand, this was a 4-3 decision and it went beyond what other states have done and so I think we’re going to work with the legislature and review and look at what is the appropriate response to make sure the public in Iowa is protected,” Branstad says.

Two of the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court wrote dissenting opinions, arguing the court’s majority had gone too far in interpreting recent U.S. Supreme Court guidance that juveniles should not be treated differently than adults in criminal sentencing.

Branstad made his remarks at the end of his weekly news conference.

AUDIO of governor’s news conference, 25:00

RGA chair defends tone of ads running against Hatch

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left), and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left), and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

The chairman of the Republican Governors Association is defending the ads his group is running against Jack Hatch, the Democrat who’s running for governor. A reporter asked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about the tone of the ads during a news conference yesterday in Marion, Iowa.

“We have an obligation to let the people know about the record of Governor Branstad’s opponent. He’s probably the only one who thinks its negative,” Christie said. “It’s truthful and, you know, If he’s unhappy with his record, he should have done something about it before he developed it.”

Hatch’s campaign manager uses the words “misleading” and “false” to describe the ads, which suggest Hatch may have conflicts of interest in his work as a property developer and long-time service as a state senator. Christie brushes the complaints aside.

“My job as chairman of the RGA is to make sure that the people of Iowa and any other state where we participate have a complete picture of these picture of these candidates,” Christie told reporters, “and we will do what we need to do to make sure they have a complete picture.”

Hatch’s campaign manager says Christie’s using “New Jersey-style politics” in the ads to help “bail out another legally and ethically challenged career politician.” Branstad and Christie campaigned together yesterday. Tickets to a private fundraiser in the morning for the Republican Governors Association cost $25,000 each.