October 4, 2015

Governor signs executive order on anti-bullying actions

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad on Monday signed an executive order formalizing pieces of anti-bullying legislation he tried to get through the Iowa Legislature the past three years. The order designates the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Violence Prevention as the program responsible for developing public school anti-bullying tools, including a reporting hotline.

“Also, we’re going to ask them to put together a plan to deal with cyber-bullying and how that can best be handled by the schools,” Branstad said. The order, signed at Arthur Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, also allows athletes who’ve been bullied to transfer without penalty. “It’s not really fair for some child who’s been bullied and wants to transfer schools to have to sit out a semester,” Branstad said.

The governor is hoping the UNI Center for Violence Prevention will also tackle inconsistencies in how Iowa schools report bullying. “Consistent reporting — that’s something that hasn’t been addressed previously. The reporting is required by law, but has not been done in any consistent way,” Branstad said. Michael Fleming is the director of research and assessment at the UNI Center for Violence Prevention.

“Part of what we’re hoping to happen with this type of program is that students step up and intervene before the bullying happens…so that culture changes,” Fleming said. UNI is picking up the initial costs of operating the new Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention. Branstad said he will ask the next legislature for additional funding.

(Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio contributed to this story)


Increased pressure on Branstad to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood

The Family Leader Foundation is pushing Governor Branstad to defund Planned Parenthood.

The Family Leader Foundation is pushing Governor Branstad to defund Planned Parenthood.

A Christian conservative group is again calling on Republican Governor Terry Branstad to use his executive power and stop any taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood organizations in Iowa.

The Family Leader Foundation released a video yesterday to put more pressure on Branstad. A female narrator mentions that during the 2010 campaign Branstad said he didn’t think any government funds should be directed to Planned Parenthood.

“We’ve been waiting five years, governor,” the narrator says.

The web video ends with this demand of Branstad: “It’s time you keep your promise and defund Planned Parenthood now.”

The State of Iowa does not provide funding for any abortions, but Planned Parenthood operations in Iowa received $2.8 million last year to cover other services like reproductive health exams and cancer screenings for Medicaid patients. Branstad says Medicaid is a program administered by the state, but under federal guidelines, so there are no direct state contracts with Planned Parenthood that he can cancel. Branstad says Planned Parenthood has been “quick to sue” over state restrictions, like the Board of Medicine’s unsuccessful attempt to ban so-called tele-medicine abortions, so any action taken at the state level must be on “solid legal footing.”

Pressure on the issue intensified nationally this summer after an anti-abortion organization released videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of tissue from abortions. None of the Planned Parenthood officials in the videos are from Iowa. Democrat Tom Miller, the state’s attorney general, has said he has no authority to launch a criminal investigation at the state level because “there are no state laws governing the transfer of fetal tissue.”

The Family Leader started a public campaign in early August to pressure Branstad to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood.


Governor Branstad hopes to return from Seattle with trade deals

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is in Seattle today attending the U.S. China Governors Forum.

“We will be attending a conference with five either governors or party leaders from provinces in China and five American governors. And this will be the third time that we’ve had this meeting with American governors and the provincial governors from China,” Branstad told Radio Iowa.

The governors from California, Oregon, Washington and Michigan are at the forum with Branstad. “We’re going to be talking about renewable energy. Iowa has been a real leader as you know in ethanol, biodiesel and wind energy and we are going to be talking about how the states can cooperate and collaborate with our Chinese counterparts,” according to Branstad.

He says the Dupont company which is building a cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa is also building one in China, as an example of how technology is shared between the countries. “So, there’s a lot of opportunity for additional collaboration, and we are going to also have a large Chinese delegation come into Des Moines on Thursday, ” Branstad says. “And we are very hopeful that we will be able to announce some major purchases of soybeans, and possibly other things as well.”

Branstad says he envisions several opportunities where Iowa can trade its products with China in return for the products the Chinese produce. “Obviously we produce a lot of the food products they need like soybeans and pork and corn and eggs, but there’s also an opportunity for technology,” Branstad says. “Another area of opportunity is in the area of annuities. And Principal Financial Group is working with a partner in China. There’s a great opportunity in financial services in China as well being done in partnership with a Chinese company.”

Branstad plans to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping on the trip. The governor has known Xi for years through a sister state relationship Iowa has with the country.


Branstad urges Army to maintain Guard at post-9/11 levels

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

The governors of Iowa and Minnesota testified today before the National Commission on the Future of the Army.

“Our hope is that what the Commission on the Future of the Air Force accomplished a couple of years ago, this commission can do with the Army and that is convince the leadership at the Pentago that the National Guard needs to be a full partner and we need to be involved early on in the decision-making on budget items,” Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa in an interview shortly after his testimony concluded.

Branstad said billions of dollars have spent in the past decade to ensure guard units are capable of carrying out military missions around the globe. And the governor argues that money would be wasted if the military’s top brass decides to revert to a pre-9/11 mindset and restrict the guard to mostly to missions in the U.S.

“The National Guard can basically do for about one-third of the cost what it costs to have the regular Army,” Branstad said. “With constraints in the budget, it just makes more sense to keep more strength in the guard because it’s more economical.”

In addition, Branstad made a specific pitch about Apache helicopters.

“Instead of taking all of those away from the National Guard and only having Apache helicopters in the regular Army, the national governors have come out strongly against that proposal,” Branstad said, “and we think the Pentagon, the Army in particular, has failed to listen to the concerns expressed by adjutant generals from the states and the governors about the importance of maintaining this as a strategic part of our combat-ready defense.”

The Iowa National Guard does not have Apache helicopters, but seven state guard units have Apache battalions on which guard soldiers from other states serve as pilots, crews and maintenance workers. The states of Mississippi and Texas have a joint Apache unit.

Branstad testified this morning before the National Commission on the Future of the Army during a hearing in Arlington, Virginia. Branstad is co-chairman of the Council of Governors that advises the Pentagon on Guard-related issues. Branstad said one of the generals on the commission served with the unit of Iowa and Minnesota National Guard soldiers who spent 22 months in Iraq.

“He was very complimentary of how they were an important part of the total force and was proud to serve with them,” Branstad said.

Branstad and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton fielded questions from nearly ever member of the commission. The panel expects to make its final recommendations in February.

In the past 13 years, more than 17,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers have been deployed outside the country. Nearly half of current Iowa Guard soldiers have combat experience.

The governor’s full testimony, as prepared for delivery, is as follows:

Chairman Ham, Vice Chairman Lamont and distinguished members of the Commission, I am Governor Terry Branstad from Iowa and co-chair of the Council of Governors. I am pleased to join Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to testify on behalf of the National Governors Association, or NGA, and the Council of Governors, or Council.

We have submitted joint written remarks that we ask you to include in the formal record of today’s proceedings. In the interest of time, Governor Dayton and I will each make a brief statement to provide you with additional state perspective.

I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to provide governors’ views on the future of the Army.  We appreciate the Commission’s efforts to seek governors’ thoughts during your examination of the Army’s force structure and aviation restructuring proposals. Governors particularly appreciated the participation of Vice Chairman Lamont and Commissioner Stultz during the NGA Summer Meeting in July.

Through NGA and the Council of Governors, we have made progress working with the Department of Defense to improve coordination and understanding of military issues between states and the federal government.  Since the beginning of the Council of Governors, we have worked with our federal partners to address issues affecting the security of our states and the nation. 

As Co-Chair of the Council of Governors since 2011, I have seen firsthand the challenges and struggles that our federal partners have in handling major budget decisions. Governors also face difficult budget decisions.  

The need for more robust dialogue led to the 2013 National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.  I was pleased to see that through a collaborative process, 42 total force recommendations were submitted for consideration.  And the Air Force leadership embraced all but two recommendations.

I’m optimistic that through this Commission’s efforts there will be as much progress bringing Army components together as we saw within the Air Force following the Air Force Commission. I encourage you to consider the Army National Guard’s capabilities, value, and strategic importance for our states and the nation’s security.  As Iowa’s Commander-in-Chief, I want to ensure that our National Guard continues to remain an operational force as part of the Total Army, while delivering on the state mission.

I have witnessed many times the critical role that the National Guard plays for our nation.  In the last 13 years, we have mobilized more than 17,000 Iowa National Guardsmen and women for combat and combat support duties in Iraq and Afghanistan, peacekeeping duties in the Balkans and on the Sinai Peninsula, and for other operational missions around the globe.  Approximately 4,000 currently-serving Iowa National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are combat veterans, more than 45 percent of our force, the highest percentage in modern history.  And our men and women have operated in more than 35 different nations since 9/11.

In 2006-2007, during the Iraq surge, one of Iowa’s infantry battalions was mobilized for over 22 months, making it one of the longest deployments for an Army unit during the Iraq war.  In 2010-2011, Iowa’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed in its entirety to Afghanistan, supporting the 101st Airborne Division’s mission by conducting full-spectrum operations along the eastern border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Last January, one of Iowa’s medical units was alerted to deploy in support of the West Africa Ebola mission, before it was cancelled due to changing demands managing the disease. Since the beginning of Operation Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the Iowa National Guard has met every required operational assignment for deployment and has performed superbly. 

While I understand the Army is facing difficult budget challenges, I believe that recent efforts to cut Army Guard force structure and remove the Guard’s Apache helicopters is a step backwards and would make lasting, irreversible changes to the Guard.  It would undo years of progress by returning the Army Guard to a pre-9/11 role and fail to leverage its cost-effectiveness in retaining mission capability at home and overseas.

Specifically, the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative undermines the Guard’s ability to augment the Army as its combat reserve and fails to leverage the National Guard’s cost-effectiveness to retain additional manpower, expertise, and attack aircraft at a reduced cost to taxpayers.  I would agree that Apache aircraft have limited application for the homeland mission; however, I value and recognize the broader, long-term importance that strategic depth for the total force provides to states and the nation.

The Army also proposed reducing Army Guard end strength to its lowest level since the Korean War.  National Guard personnel, equipment and capabilities are key resources built into our states’ emergency response plans and the federal National Response Framework.  The National Guard also has the unique ability to perform law enforcement functions that have proven valuable in the response to natural disasters, episodes of civil unrest and other national special security events.  These capabilities are enhanced by well-developed relationships with state and county emergency managers and local law enforcement agencies.

The turbulence created by force structure and personnel cuts affects people, readiness, training, equipment and facilities.  This all comes with a cost to implement, which the National Guard Bureau estimates would be about $179 million in its first year.  Funding to cover these costs was not included in the Army’s fiscal year 2016 budget.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cuts to Army Guard personnel would save the Army $170 million in its first year – $9 million less than the unfunded implementation costs. When these costs and long-term effects are considered, governors believe it simply does not make sense to implement the Army’s proposals.  While some reductions to Army Guard force structure may ultimately be necessary, they should be done through a collaborative approach that considers future needs, limits turbulence, and maintains Guard readiness.

I would like to recommend that the following principles guide your work:

The National Guard must continue to serve as an operational force and the combat reserve for the Total Force;

The National Guard is a highly trained, battle tested asset that should continue to be properly resourced and equipped to meet the needs of both the federal government and states; and

The National Guard’s cost-effectiveness should be leveraged to the fullest extent to meet the fiscal and operational challenges confronting the Total Army.

As the Army is forced to evolve in the wake of declining budgets and continuing global instability, I hope this Commission will help bring the Total Army together to address these challenges in partnership.

Governors urge this Commission to consider recommendations that will preserve the Army Guard’s role as the combat reserve of the Army, resource and equip the Army Guard to meet both federal and state needs, and leverage the Guard’s cost-effectiveness and operational capability as part of a Total Army solution for the future.  To do otherwise would risk wasting billions of dollars invested over the past decade in making the Guard an experienced, globally deployable and combat-ready force.

I will continue to advocate for a strong Guard that is “Always Ready – Always There.”  The Commission is an important voice in this endeavor.  On behalf of the State of Iowa, and my fellow governors, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. 

I look forward to hearing Governor Dayton’s perspective and answering any questions you may have.

Lawyer fees awarded to governor’s brother appealed to Iowa Supreme Court

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case involving lawyer fees awarded to Governor Terry Branstad’s brother Monte in a decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals.

The Appeals Court ruled Monte Branstad is due court fees after successfully getting the restitution from a fish kill dropped from nearly $62,000 to $5,300. The ruling said Branstad pointed out the DNR error in figuring the fish kill damages and his fees should be paid despite exceptions for state agencies in the law.

Jefferey Thompson

Jefferey Thompson

Attorney Jeffrey Thompson argued the Appeals Court was wrong. “The decision maker is the NRC (Natural Resources Commission), not the DNR. And so all these arguments about the DNR miss the point here, they are not even before you, that’s not the final agency that is here,” Thompson says.

Thompson says the process was set up to allow the state to give someone a fair hearing. “This point of having this opportunity to object without going to court to an agency’s action and invoke the right to a contested case was the goal of the Administrative Procedures Act, to give people protection, and it does that,” Thompson says. “And to then say that that now is subject to attorneys fees, I think walks it backwards.”

Thompson says Branstad was given a fair hearing and admitted to the spill and killing fish. “It wasn’t that they had to follow a certain methodology and then just didn’t have any facts to back it up. They had facts to support their position, it was just the legal conclusion was: you didn’t apply the right standard,” Thompson says.

Christine Branstad

Christine Branstad

Justice David Wiggins expressed concern about giving an exemption in this case and asked attorney Christine Branstad about it.

“One of the problems with adopting your position –and my troublesome position — is that you’re going to penalize the agency when they act as an adjudicator and come up with the wrong decision. I don’t think I’d like to be a judge and when I am wrong, I’ve got to pay,” Wiggins says.

Branstad replied to Wiggins. “Well, that was essentially the argument made by the state at the Court of Appeals, was under this interpretation, DNR officers will have to think twice before issuing fines,” Branstad says. She says she doesn’t see anything wrong with making the officers think twice about the fines they issue.

Branstad argued this is the very type of case where there should be an exception to the rules, because Monte Branstad had to appeal to get the amount of restitution dropped. “Someone is going to have to pay the attorney’s fees to litigate. And if an agency has not followed their own rules, not followed their own practices and created an unfair situation — it seems like it makes more sense for that agency to pay for the attorney’s fees,” Branstad says.

The fish kill happened after a silage discharge from a basin on Monte Branstad’s property near Forest City entered the Winnebago River.



Iowa delegation on ‘prospecting’ mission in South Korea

Economic Development director Debbi Durham, Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds. (file photo)

Economic Development director Debbi Durham, Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad and a delegation of about 20 Iowans are wrapping up a week of meetings with officials and business leaders in South Korea. Branstad and Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham briefed Iowa reporters by phone this morning.

“The past several days have proven to be quite hectic and fruitful, but it appears that is how we roll,” Durham said, with a laugh. “Elevating international trade and investment is absolutely the right strategy for Iowa and the nation.”

Branstad and Durham have met with executives from South Korean companies that already have operations in places like Cedar Rapids and Fort Dodge, plus Durham said they’ve been “prospecting for new opportunities” that they cannot discuss. The governor and his economic development director also met with one of the top three law firms in South Korea.

“It’s a law firm that really specializes in business law and they work with a lot of companies as they’re looking to invest and what they were telling us is, ‘Obviously we see great opportunity with investment in America and more importantly in the Midwest,'” Durham said. “And so that was an extremely positive meeting not only for us to learn more about their services in the Korean market, but more importantly for us to tell them the Iowa story.”

South Korea is the 9th largest purchaser of Iowa goods and commodities. Durham said exporting more Iowa pork and beef to South Korea has been one focus of the trip.

“Korea is a country two-thirds the size of Iowa with only four million acres of farmland to feed a growing population of 51 million people,” Durham said. “Iowa, on the other hand, has over 31 million acres of farmland and three million people.”

The president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, the dean of the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering, Iowa business executives and professional developers from cities around the state are part of the Iowa delegation. The U.S. Ambassador to South Korea hosted a reception at his residence Wednesday night for all the Iowans. The ambassador told Branstad no other U.S. governor has traveled to Korea more frequently.

Branstad and the delegation leave Korea on Sunday, headed to Tokyo for the annual Midwest U.S./Japan Association’s annual conference. Iowa hosted the conference last year.

Branstad defends hiring of new president, says ‘change is essential’ at UI (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad today said it’s time for change at the University of Iowa and he’s confident the businessman chosen as the university’s new president will be able to change the university for the better.

“I think change is essential,” Branstad said this morning. “And having been a university president at Des Moines University, I can tell you that change at a university is always difficult.”

Branstad, who has a law degree, served six years as president of Des Moines University. Branstad was the only president of the 117-year-old institution who did not have a medical background.

“Being a non-academic as I was and being chosen president of Des Moines University, I was immediately suspect from the faculty,” Branstad said. “I’m proud to say that I did win ’em over.”

The Faculty Senate at the University of Iowa this week issued a vote of no confidence in the Board of Regents after the board unanimously voted late last week to hire businessman J. Bruce Harreld as the university’s new president. The governor held a news conference via telephone early this morning from South Korea where he’s in the midst of a trade mission and Branstad defended the decision to hire Harreld.

“Somebody that I think has great leadership abilities and potential to make some significant changes that will benefit the University of Iowa and the State of Iowa,” Branstad said. “…I understand that academics have a kind of a distrust for somebody that’s not one of them, but I think we’ve got a dynamic leader here that can do some great things.”

The governor met briefly with Harreld last Friday in Iowa City and Branstad said Harreld’s public statements right after his hiring set the right tone.

“It was really good that he said he recognized he had a lot to learn and he could learn a lot from the faculty and wanted to work with them and listen to their ideas and I think that’s important and that’s the approach I took at Des Moines University,” Branstad said. “…I’m proud to say we were very successful. We grew the enrollment. We grew the endowment.”

AUDIO of Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette asking Branstad about Harreld, 3:15

The board that governs the University of Iowa held public forums with the four finalists for the top job on the Iowa City campus before hiring Harreld. Branstad spoke by phone with Harreld, though, before he it was announced he was a finalist. Branstad told reporters this morning he “was not involved in the process” of hiring Harreld, but spoke with him in August because Harreld had asked to speak with Branstad.

“I assured him as a University of Iowa alumni that I respect the separate governance of the Regents,” Branstad told reporters, “and I would be supportive of whoever the Regents chose.”

Harreld has been vice president of marketing and strategy for IBM. Harreld also served for two years as president of Boston Chicken, the company that operates the Boston Market chain. A fake “Bruce Herrald” twitter account and Facebook page have sprung up, with tweets about the “liberal eggheads” in Iowa City and a joke about Harreld’s new gig being “the country’s most ambitious job training program.”

The Board of Regents set Harreld’s annual salary at $590,000 a year.

(A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Harreld’s name.)