The Republican senator who’s been leading the charge this year for a death penalty debate told Iowa Catholics just last year that he did not support the death penalty. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, told the Iowa Catholic Conference that if he was reelected, he’d help maintain Iowa’s status as a “no death penalty state.” McKibben admitted today (Tuesday) he has “run the gamut” on the issue. “Eight years ago when I first came to the Senate I was a very strong supporter of a broad death penalty,” McKibben says. “Last year in my campaign, I said that the law could stay status quo, with no change in it.” McKibben’s political opponents, like Senator Mike Gronstal, accuse him of flip-flopping to suit whatever may be the political winds of the day. Gronstal says McKibben’s “core values” have apparently changed. Gronstal says McKibben never pressed Republicans to take a vote on the death penalty when Republicans controlled the debate agenda in the Senate.”He’s trying to take this family’s tremendous tragedy and use it for political purposes,” Gronstal says. McKibben says the Jetseta Gage case helped change his mind. “This is the most heinous thing that’s happened since Anna Marie Emry was killed in this state,” McKibben says, referring to the kidnapping and murder of a Grinnell girl in the mid-1990s. McKibben says lots of politicians change their minds on issues, just like he did on the death penalty. “Circumstances change…public opinion changes,” McKibben says, citing this week’s Des Moines Register Iowa Poll which found 67 percent of those surveyed back the death penalty. McKibben says he’s changed his mind on other issues, too.He says he always opposed the increase in the speed limit in the state and did right up until the vote this year. McKibben says he finally decided that in this case with this bill, raising the speed limit made good sense and he supported it. McKibben’s 2004 anti-death penalty pledge was distributed to Catholics who attend two churches in Marshalltown as well as six Catholic churches in neighboring towns…………..Eastern Iowans might want to pay closer attention to the debate over storage of nuclear waste in the proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. It turns out, there’s a large deposit of spent nuclear fuel sitting on an island in the Mississippi River just north of the Iowa border — and it’s in a flood plain. Doreen Hagen, president of the Prairie Island Tribal Council in Minnesota, says the waste needs to go to Nevada. Hagen says “Because right now we have 17 nuclear waste storage casks sitting 600 yards from our community and it’s above ground on the Mississippi River and Yucca Mountain is a better place to be because it’s in a desert, about 90 miles from anywhere.” The state of Nevada is fighting the proposal, citing health and safety concerns with a nuclear waste dump. Hagen says her Native American community is closer to a nuclear power plant than any other in the nation. She says “Highly radioactive nuclear waste is something that we do not want in our backyard and sitting in a desert in the mountain is much better than sitting above ground on the Mississippi River, in a flood plain.” Hagen was among the speakers Monday in Washington D.C., asking Congress to fully fund the Yucca Mountain project. The plan is opposed by Nevada officials, some of whom say it appears federal energy officials falsified data used to establish the safety of the site.
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