Governor Tom Vilsack is proposing a 10-thousand dollar payment to every Iowa National Guard soldier who is “seriously injured” in combat. During his annual “Condition of the State” speech today (Tuesday), Vilsack revealed the idea came from a woman in his hometown of Mount Pleasant whose husband was injured in Iraq.
Vilsack says, “While Bobby Briggs was in Iraq he sustained serious injuries after a rocket was fired into the base camp.” During our brief visit Bobby bravely talked of his hope for the future while Michelle shared her feelings about Bobby’s service, his deployment, his injury and the impact on her family. Michelle gave up her job in Mount Pleasant to have the time to take care of Bobby and their children, and to insure he got the care he deserved. ” Vilsack says she pointed out how expensive the travel was for trips to and from hospitals in and out of state.
Michelle Briggs told Vilsack the state of Minnesota provides a one-time benefit of us to 10-thousand dollars for its guardsmen and women who are seriously injured on active duty. “I made a promise to them that I would ask the General Assembly to adopt a similar plan for Iowa,” Vilsack said. “Today, I keep that promise. The National Guard and Reserve are all about community. Our guard and reserve members dedicate themselves to protecting us. They do it to make our state, our community safer and more secure.” Vilsack says a strong community values that service. When a member of the community hurts, a strong community helps. He says that’s why the first bill passed and signed into law should be Bobby and Michelle’s bill to help injured soldiers and their families. Bobby and Michelle Briggs were in the audience today when Vilsack delivered his Condition of the State message, and the roomful of politicians and guests applauded the couple.
A primary goal in his last year — Vilsack’s so-called “Strong Start” initiative which calls for the state to spend more to ensure Iowa kids go to a quality preschool. “To meet that important responsibility, I am asking the General Assembly to ensure that every four-year-old child should have access to quality preschool.” Last year we helped more children access that important opportunity, but we can not rest until all of our children have that opportunity,” Vilsack said. “During this session we must increase our investment in Strong Start until quality preschool is accessible to all. For all of our children who have dreams bigger than a skyscraper on wheels — a strong start will make those dreams their reality.”
Vilsack also asked legislators to raise the salaries of teachers in Iowa’s K-thourgh-12 public schools to the national average within five years. “Our teachers deserve it, and more importantly, our children’s future depends on it… Now in a future dependent upon creativity and innovation, what more needs to be done in education that is not being done? Now is not the time and Iowa is not the place for complacency. Schools more than ever before must be creative learning centers where innovation and experimentation are encouraged.”
Vilsack also proposes a state grant program that would reward money to schools experimenting with new ways of teaching or doing things like changing the school calendar. Vilsack says , “The future will be challenging and if we finish the good work we started in early childhood education and preschool access, the good work we started in a bipartisan way in teacher compensation.” Vilsack says the work together will enable our children to shape a brighter and better future for themselves, their state, and their nation. We have no more important work.”
Vilsack also talked about public safety. Vilsack has been saying for the past few weeks that Iowa should consider building a new prison to replace the aging maximum security facility in Fort Madison that two inmates escaped from in November. And Vilsack has suggested that if a new prison is built, it should be constructed on the outskirts of Fort Madision. Today in his speech, however, this is all Vilsack said. “And indeed we must invest more in corrections so the prisoners who go into prison stay in prison,” Vilsack said.
In another move that will spark a fierce battle in the legislature, Vilsack told lawmakers he wants them to repeal the state law he signed that bans the use of human embryos in research. Vilsack says,” Several years ago we placed a ban on certain types of medical research at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, involving nuclear cell transplants. We never dreamt that treatments resulting from those research opportunities would ever develop so quickly. Would ever develop into life-saving treatments. But they have. It requires us to think differently. I suggest that we lift the ban. That we lift the restrictions on nuclear cell transplant research.”
Vilsack said we should allow life saving treatments to be administered to Iowans here in Iowa rather than forcing them to leave our state. The governor also repeated his call for an increase in the state tax on cigarettes. Republican leaders in the House refused to allow a vote on the issue last year and promise to block it this year, too. Vilsack says the public supports an increase in the tobacco tax, and higher-priced smokes will prompt some smokers to quit and deter young people from taking up the habit.