March 9, 2017
Cuts proposed to FEMA, Coast Guard, airport security
The Gazette Staff and Wires
A federal agency that poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Cedar Rapids to help it recover from the historic 2008 flood is among those that face budget cuts as the Trump administration searches for ways to pay for a multibillion-dollar border wall with Mexico and a crackdown on illegal immigration. Under a proposal drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget, the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides relief after natural disasters, and the Transportation Security Administation, which provides security at airports, would each be cut about 11 percent. That would reduce FEMA’s budget to about $3.6 billion and TSA’s budget to about $4.5 billion. Additionally, the Coast Guard’s budget would be cut 14 percent, to about $7.8 billion. The cuts are proposed even as the planned budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all of them, grows 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion, according to the draft obtained by the Washington Post. Some $2.9 billion of that would go to building the border wall. About $1.9 billion would be for “immigration detention beds” and other enforcement expenses; and $285 million would go toward hiring 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and staff. “The Budget aggressively implements the President’s commitment to construct a physical wall along the southern border,” the draft states.
‘Real’ NAFTA talks unlikely until later 2017
The U.S. government probably won’t begin “real” negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement until later this year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. “I would like the results tomorrow, but that is not the way the world works,” Ross said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. He said it probably will be “the latter part of this year before real negotiations get underway.” Ross, who was sworn in last month as Commerce secretary, said he hopes the talks don’t take “substantially longer than a year.” The secretary’s comments come as U.S. partners in the agreement brace for negotiations that could grow contentious and even result in an end to one of the world’s largest free-trade zones. Canada has called for talks to begin soon amid concerns that uncertainty over the outcome will stymie investments, while Mexico’s government has already started discussing the deal with businesses that depend heavily on NAFTA. The Mexican peso has depreciated 6 percent since Donald Trump won the presidency as investors bet his pledge to narrow the U.S. trade deficit with its southern neighbor will hurt the economy. The Canadian dollar has weakened 0.9 percent since the U.S. election.
Brianne Pfannenstiel // Des Moines Register
The Iowa House of Representatives debated a contentious voter identification bill into the evening Wednesday as Democrats fought changes they say would disenfranchise voters. Debate was ongoing, but Republicans hold a strong majority in the chamber and are expected to approve the measure. “Voter ID is a commonsense reform that makes it easier to vote, harder to cheat and nobody is turned away,” said the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids. If approved, House File 516 would make numerous changes to the state’s election laws that Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says are needed to ensure the integrity of the process and prevent fraud. Among them is a provision that would require every voter to present government-issued identification at the poll on Election Day, which Democrats argued would disproportionately hurt voter turnout among minority people, elderly people, disabled people and others. “I think the bottom line that we have to ask ourselves is: Does this bill make voting easier or harder?” asked Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington. “I think it makes it harder, and that is not good for Iowa.”
Kay Henderson // Radio Iowa
The Iowa House has been the site of a partisan battle over proposed changes in Iowa election laws. Republicans like Representative Ken Rizer of Cedar Rapids support the idea of requiring that voters confirm their identity with an ID before casting a ballot on Election Day.
“Voter ID is a common sense reform that makes it easier to vote, harder to cheat and nobody is turned away,” Rizer said to open debate. Rizer said the state will be able to spend $150,000 and provide a voter ID card to the estimated 85,000 eligible voters who currently do not have a drivers license or some form of photo ID. House Democrats are staunchly opposed to the bill, labeling it “voter suppression.” Representative Amy Nielsen, a Democrat from North Liberty, said research shows voter fraud is “rare” in the U.S. “Certainly no where near the numbers necessary to have an effect on any election,” Nielsen said. “Or, to put it another way, about as many people say they’ve been abducted by space aliens as say they’ve committed voter fraud.” Representative Ras Smith, a Democrat from Waterloo, pointed to data indicating I-D requirements in other states have depressed voter turn-out among minorities. “This proposed legislation threatens to revert our state to a time when isolated populations of Iowans’ voices were silenced,” Smith said.
Erin Murphy // Lee Newspapers
His job will be to represent the entire United States and act as an intermediary between two of the world’s most populous countries. But some Iowa business and agriculture leaders think the state could benefit from Terry Branstad serving as U.S. ambassador to China. Branstad, the nation’s longest-serving governor with more than two decades of service as Iowa’s chief executive, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next ambassador to China. Branstad has not yet been confirmed; that is expected this spring. Branstad will have broad responsibilities as ambassador to represent the entire country, but some say Iowa very well could benefit from having Branstad serve in that role. “He’s been such a wonderful advocator for Iowa,” said Li Zhao, president of China Iowa Group, a West Des Moines-based business that contracts with Iowa companies seeking to enter the Chinese market or build business relationships in China. “I think he’s going to be a fantastic ambassador, and Iowa will definitely benefit from that.”
William Petroski // Des Moines Register
Victims of sexual abuse could ask an Iowa judge for a civil protective order prior to the arrest of a suspect under a bill approved Wednesday by the Iowa Senate. Senate File 401 would provide a victim and the victim’s family the same civil protections as victims of domestic abuse. The legislation would apply to crimes of sexual abuse, incest, sexual exploitation of a minor, and similar crimes committed in other jurisdictions. If a court determines an order is justified, a judge could order a defendant to stop the sexual abuse and to stay away from the victim’s residence, school or place of employment. The victim could seek help from the court with or without the help of an attorney and with or without the payment of court costs. “This is not creating a new system. It extends a system built around domestic abuse to victims of sexual abuse,” said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs. The bill was approved 49-0, sending it to the House for consideration. Under current law, a defendant accused of sexual abuse must be arrested for sexual abuse before a victim can apply for a criminal no-contact order, or the victim can apply for a criminal no-contact order upon the defendant’s release from jail or prison. Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said there is no question about the need for the legislation, remarking that it’s hard to believe that rape victims currently don’t have such legal protections. One of her concerns, she added, is protecting rape victims whose assailants are not prosecuted.
Rod Boshart // The Gazette
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s governor-in-waiting, assured a conservative group Wednesday that income tax relief is on the way but might not arrive this year. Pressed for details by the Westside Conservative Club, Reynolds said she and Gov. Terry Branstad have been looking at various computer “runs” designed to make the state’s complex individual and corporate income taxes “simpler and flatter,” but the state’s uncertain economic situation — especially the farm sector — has slowed the timetable. “There are a lot of different scenarios that we’re looking at. How we get the biggest bang for the buck, but have it impact all Iowans in a positive way, and so we’re going to continue to run the numbers and you will see something with that. You will,” she told the breakfast gathering. “It continues to be a priority.” Reynolds is slated to become Iowa’s governor once Branstad is confirmed as President Donald Trump’s choice to become U.S. ambassador to China. She said that so far, Republicans working with state Department of Revenue tax specialists have been unable to “make the numbers work,” but the process is ongoing to assemble a comprehensive tax change package.
Kay Henderson // Radio Iowa
Iowa’s next governor is reviewing different ways to make Iowa’s income taxes “simpler and flatter,” but is not yet ready to reveal her preferred approach. “There’s a lot of different scenarios that we’re looking at,” Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds told a crowd in suburban Des Moines this morning, “how we get the biggest bang for the buck, but have it impact all Iowans in a positive way and so we’re going to continue to run the numbers and you will see something with that. You will.” Reynolds will take over as governor when Terry Branstad resigns to become ambassador to China. Reynolds said since lower-than-expected tax revenue has forced reductions in the state budget, now is not the time to make “comprehensive” changes to Iowa’s tax system, but she’s hinting 2018 may be the prime time. “We have to do it,” she said, “because that’s what’s going to continue to make us competitive not only in the nation, but around the world.” Shrinking the number of income tax brackets, cutting the corporate income tax rate and getting rid of the deduction for federal income taxes paid are all ideas being considered.
James Q. Lynch // The Gazette
A joint meeting of Iowa House committees that deal with taxes and spending might be the starting point for a review of tax credits, their value and effectiveness. “Given the current fiscal situation, we need to consider the scope and duration and the generosity of tax credits,” House Ways and Means Chairman Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, said Wednesday after the Legislative Services Agency presented a 50-minute catalog of tax credits. The LSA tracks $427 million in “contingent liabilities” tax credits, another $103 million in state individual income tax credits, $74 million paid directly from the general fund and $562 million in property tax credits and exemptions. Vander Linden wants lawmakers to look at whether the credits are doing what they were intended to do. “In a lot of cases, it is difficult to determine,” he said. “Some previous Legislature put them in place. I hope we can go back and say it was a good idea or, maybe, it’s no longer a good idea or it’s a bad idea. We’re going to re-evaluate it.” It won’t be easy, however, and Vander Linden isn’t sure lawmakers will be able to answer those questions about every tax credit.
Key committee leaders in the Iowa House have launched an examination of the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits the state awards every year. They range from the earned income tax credit for low income Iowans to tax credits for companies that conduct research.
“One of the things we’re going to find out pretty quickly if we get serious about looking at tax credits is who’s getting ’em,” says Representative Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa who leads the tax policy committee in the Iowa House, “because they’ll show up, pretty quickly, to weigh in.” Critics charge the state is handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare. House Appropriations Chairman Pat Grassley says all tax credits should be reviewed — and he expects Democrats and Republicans will be “upset” that their preferred tax credit might be eliminated “I think you’re going to have everyone from every part of the state and every party that wants to protect certain ones,” Grassley says. Members of the House Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees heard an hour long presentation today about the wide range of tax credits the state offers and how much each is worth to Iowa taxpayers. Legislators say it may be necessary to hire an outside consultant to come wtih an analysis that shows if the tax credits are providing the kind of results envisioned when the credits were established.
Ryan Matheny // KMA Land
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst spoke in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to introduce a native Iowan who is nominated for a position in the Department of Justice. Rachel Brand of Pella was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as Associate Attorney General, which is the third-ranking position in the DOJ. Brand’s nomination comes at a time when the DOJ is under scrutiny after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any case involving Trump’s campaign and Deputy AG nominee Rod Rosenstein refused to commit to whether or not he would appoint a special counsel to oversee allegations of Russian hacking into the election. Speaking in front of the Judiciary Committee — which is chaired by senior Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley — Ernst said Brand has extensive experience working in Washington. “She has at one time or another served in all three branches of government – she was previously confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, and before that, she clerked for Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Ernst. “And perhaps the most prestigious of all – she worked as an intern for Senator Grassley.”
The plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is out, and President Trump wants Congress to get it to his desk–a process that will begin in a House committee on Wednesday. The new healthcare law eliminates the penalty for people who do not have insurance. It also uses tax credits rather than subsidies to help people pay for insurance. Children would still be allowed to remain on the their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old, and insurers would still be required to cover patients with pre-existing conditions. Lawmakers around the country have mixed opinions regarding the potential impact of the bill. “Well, Trumpcare is here and you are going to hate it,” said Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. Texas Republican Representative Kevin Brady said, “The American Health Care Act transforms power from Washington back to the American people. We restore state control of health care so it can be designed for the families and communities in each state.”
Ed Tibbetts // Quad-City Times
The Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act has drawn criticism from some conservative groups, but so far, Iowa Republicans are staying on the sidelines over the proposal. The House GOP released a copy of its health care proposal late Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, the Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America and FreedomWorks already had weighed in against it. FreedomWorks called it “Obamacare-lite,” and Heritage said insurance consumers wouldn’t see any major difference from the Affordable Care Act. Iowa Republicans in Congress weren’t that harsh. “I’m still studying details of the legislation,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. Grassley said he agrees with the goal of “protecting access to health care while moving to a market-driven system that provides coverage people want at affordable prices.” But he didn’t weigh in on details of the new plan. A representative of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said in an email: “Senator Ernst is currently reviewing the bill.” Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, said, “I’m going to read the bill and do my homework.”
Joseph Morton // BH News Service
Iowa lawmakers have had plenty to digest the past few days. The Republican Party unveiled its new health care plan this week, drawing scorching criticism of the proposal from hard-line conservatives who have denounced it as “Obamacare lite.” Proponents, meanwhile, argued the GOP blueprint would return flexibility to the states – and that a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act with nothing to replace it simply isn’t possible. Democrats have been quick to attack the GOP approach, saying it would leave millions uninsured. But conservative groups and lawmakers have not held back in blasting the proposal as essentially creating a new permanent entitlement in the form of refundable tax credits to help pay for health insurance. Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, passed on the opportunity to weigh in on the plan. “Congressman Young is doing his due diligence by reading through the full bill, having ongoing conversations with his constituents on the measure and waiting for the yet-to-be-released cost and coverage metrics before deciding if he will support or oppose this legislation,” spokesman Taylor Mason said in a statement.On his official Facebook page on Tuesday, Young reiterated he would wait before taking a position on the bill.
A large crowd of Monroe County Cattlemen welcomed three of its long-time members into the Monroe County Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame at the annual banquet Saturday at the Albia American Legion. A prime rib dinner catered by Jim and Charlie’s set the stage for the evening’s activities. New Hall of Fame members inducted were John and Patty Judge and John Joe Curran. A basketball star at Melrose High School, Curran would attend Iowa State University for a year on a basketball scholarship before returning home to become one of the original partners in the Russell Sales Company when it opened in 1945. He would eventually be named Iowa Sale Barn Operator of the Year by his peers as the sale barn grew into one of the largest in Iowa. Turning the business over to his sons, Curran began doing order buying and formed Curran Cattle Company, a company now operated by his son, CD. The 84-year-old Curran still backgrounds cattle on his Melrose farm. He and his wife of 65 years, Margie, have long promoted beef in Monroe County. John and Patty Judge may be better known as the first family of Democratic politics in Monroe County, but their ties to the Monroe County beef industry go back enerations. John Judge is the son, grandson and great-grandson on both sides of Monroe County beef producers. Raised on Smokey Hollow farm east of Albia, Judge’s family raised registered Angus breeding stock. In 1959 he showed the grand champion steer at the Monroe County Fair.
Katarina Sostaric // Iowa Public Radio
A Latino advocacy group is warning undocumented immigrants in Iowa to watch out for federal agents, following a string of immigration arrests in the state. The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC) reported several recent arrests this week in a news release.
LULAC National Vice President for the Midwest Joe Enriquez Henry said he is concerned about possible racial profiling by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. “It’s very important for immigrants to be prepared, to make sure that if a family member does get detained, that there is information available to schools. [So] if parents are arrested, there is a safe place for the kids to go,” Enriquez Henry said. Federal agents arrested four undocumented immigrants working at Mills Manufacturing in northeast Iowa. According to court records, an investigation of employment documents led to those arrests and charges of document fraud.
Amy Mayer // Iowa Public Radio
President Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, bucking a recent trend of Midwest leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and making many in the farm country of the Midwest and Great Plans a little leery.
Coupled with the appointments of leaders from Oklahoma and Texas to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, respectively, there looks to be a shift in the power center of the parts of the federal government that most directly impact agriculture.
Trump picked former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Energy Department. When the presidency changes from one party to the other, political appointments can lead to an ideological shake-up across departments. In this case, however, it is not the change from Republicans to Democrats that has some Midwest farmers worried.
Dar Danielson // Radio Iowa
Two Iowa casinos were issued penalties from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Tuesday for gambling violations. Harrah’s Casino in Council Bluffs was fined $3,000 for allowing a person who had signed up for a self-ban to get onto the gambling floor and win a jackpot. Casino vice president, Janae Sternberg, says this case revealed an issue with their screening system. She says the casino management system is usually foolproof, but in this case the person involved moved to a different state and changed their name. Sternberg says the person was named Smith and that added to problem as the system had to go through thousands of customers at casinos with that name. “Unfortunately it was a very common name and it did not flag on the birthdate and the last name,” Sternberg says. She says they’ve made an adjustment to check more information when someone wins a jackpot. “We’ve implemented some additional procedures for both our casino services teams and our cage teams. Anytime we have a jackpot that’s hit they do obtain the Social Security number — but as a rule that’is put in for W-2 purposes only, for tax purposes only– so we’ve added that to our casino management system,” Sternberg says. “Anytime someone has a jackpot hit that isn’t playing with a car, we now we run that Social Security scan as well.” The casino also paid the state $16,200 dollars for the jackpot that was paid out to the person.
Dar Danielson // Radio Iowa
State regulators heard pitches from six companies Tuesday to do a market survey of the gambling industry and a review of proposals for a casino in Cedar Rapids. Iowa Racing and Gaming administrator, Brian Ohorilko says they will review the plans and likely select a firm at next month’s meeting. He says they could select one or more of the companies as they have selected more than one company in the past to get a read on the market. There are three casino proposals for Cedar Rapids and Ohorilko says they are in the process of setting up times to hear presentations on each one. “I think those will be announced in April,”Ohorilko says, “there still some dates and locations being worked out with respect to meetings dates for the next fiscal year. But I anticipate that the decision will be made in April as to what the process will look like, with the final decision coming late fall.” The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted 4-1 to deny a gambling license for a Cedar Rapids casino back in 2014 in part because of concerns about the impact on existing casinos. Ohorilko isn’t sure if a new gambling market study will impact any decision on the latest attempt to bring a casino to the city.
Mary Pieper // The Globe Gazette
More than 50 people gathered this week to start making plans for welcoming one or more refugee families to Mason City. The Rev. Chuck Kelsey, pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ, said two families currently in hiding in the Central Africa nation of Cameroon have been identified as possible candidates to be relocated to Mason City. “We have everything we need in this room,” Kelsey said during Tuesday night’s meeting at First Congregational UCC. Those who attended the meeting included people who have experience working with refugees, as well as health care workers, linguists, English Language Learner teachers and other educators, social workers, pastors, landlords and immigrants. Others indicated they were there simply because they want to help any way they can. Kelsey said one of the families being considered for relocation has been targeted for assassination by radicals “due to their work in the community.”
Mary Pieper // The Globe Gazette
Nearly 30 people attended the Day Without a Woman rally in Central Park Wednesday, joining others throughout the United States and the world participating in similar events on International Women’s Day. Those at the Mason City rally, which included a few men, held signs stating, “Don’t Make Policy About Us Without Us” and “Men of Quality Do Not Fear Equality.” Many of the attendees wore red. Those participating in the Day Without a Woman protest were encouraged to stay home from work if they could to demonstrate how vital they are to the economy, join rallies and wear red in solidarity. Tahmyrah Lytle, co-organizer of the Mason City rally, said many women can’t take a day off from work. “We are here for them,” she said. Rally co-organizer Edith Haenel, head of the Worth County Progressives, said years ago she wanted to become a doctor, but was told “my training would be wasted” when she got married and had children.
John McCormally // Quad-City Times
Last month, nearly 6,000 people in Dallas County were informed their votes in the November election were not counted. Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate chalked it up to a “human error,” a human error that disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters. The same secretary of State has now proposed legislation that would suppress voter turnout and make it more difficult for Iowans to vote. Most of the attention on Pate’s bill has been on the Voter ID requirement, but HF 516 contains a laundry list of voter suppression efforts. In addition to narrowing opportunities for absentee and early voting, the bill also mandates signature verification at the polls. This means that the election day official — almost always a temporary employee with minimal training — will have the power to refuse a voter if the voter’s signature doesn’t sufficiently match the signature on file. This will only magnify “human error” and will result in eligible voters being turned away, especially those whose health affects their handwriting.
Des Moines Register
Donald Trump is the president of the United States. The director of the CIA reports to him, as does the director of the FBI and the attorney general, who heads the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s important to keep those facts in mind when assessing the president’s demand that Republicans in Congress investigate allegations that his phones were tapped by President Barack Obama in October, just before the election. There is not one scintilla of evidence to suggest the allegation is true, and there’s plenty to suggest that it’s false. But that’s not the critical factor here. No, what’s important to remember here is that the people who know definitively whether this claim is true — the people who run the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Department — all report directly to Trump and all are in a position to tell him, at a moment’s notice, whether there’s any merit to it. They would know not only whether Trump was subjected to a court-ordered, fully authorized wiretap, but also whether Obama circumvented the courts, violated the law and commissioned government agents to conduct the sort of black-bag job that once was the specialty of former Nixon operative G. Gordon Liddy.
Patrick Rynard // Iowa Starting Line
The Iowa House passed the Republican omnibus gun bill yesterday, but not before many Democratic legislators made impassioned pleas to vote it down. The most striking moment came when first-term Representative Ras Smith showed his colleagues how he could easily be seen as a “threat” under the new law, donning a grey hoodie and headphones. The 29-year-old Smith hails from Waterloo, where racial tensions continue to be a problem. “While I agree that we are created equal, I do not agree that all Iowans are treated equal, or protected equally,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon. “While as a young man playing football in Representative Fisher’s district, and Representative Salmon, with your sons, in that football field in Garwin, Iowa, I didn’t feel like I was treated equally. I was called racial slurs more than ten times, spit in my face and told, ‘If I could kill you and get away with it, I’d do that.’” The gun bill sponsored by Republican Representative Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley will allow Iowans wide latitude in the use of deadly force. People will be able to exercise deadly force so long as they have a “reasonable belief” that such force is necessary, even if they are incorrect. “The idea that you can be wrong in your estimation of a threat, but as long you have good reason, is terrifying for some of us,” Smith said. “The impact of this legislation on people who look like me, but may not dress like I do when I’m here Monday through Thursday, will be an increased risk to being kill. As recent as April 2016, there were cross burnings in Dubuque. I wonder if those who set that cross ablaze will see Stand Your Ground as a get-out-of-jail-free card based on their ‘reason.’”
Robert Leonard // Iowa Starting Line
Newspaper tucked under my arm, I entered my favorite cafe in one of our neighboring towns. A light crowd for lunch, I thought, as the waitress led me to my regular booth. I was ready for lunch, and some quiet time alone with my newspaper. The waitress put her finger to her lips as she put my menu down on the table, and nodded her head toward another table. I looked toward where she was indicating. Two middle-aged women were sitting across the table from each other, holding hands, heads bowed. Saying grace, I thought. Not uncommon around here. I nodded to the waitress that I knew to be quiet, and as I sat down, I realized one of the women was my friend. She owned a shop in town, and her husband has an executive position at a local company. Both are evangelical Republican conservatives well respected in the community. Good people doing good things. As I pondered my order, I realized that I could hear the women’s earnest prayers. While I tried not to listen, it was impossible not to. When I heard what they were praying for, I was stunned. They weren’t saying grace, they weren’t praying for good health, the safety of the high school basketball players who had a game that night, or for world peace. They were praying for money. Cold, hard, cash. Thinking back to this moment, I believe that Democrats have what may seem to be an unlikely path to gaining influence in largely Christian rural America. Through our churches.
The Gazette Staff Report
VOTER ID DEBATE — Iowa lawmakers are moving toward joining 34 other states with laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification before casting a ballot. The Iowa House spent the Wednesday afternoon and evening talking about House File 516, a Republican proposal that would make several changes to election administration. Read more: http://thegaz.co/2mIoMrK ‘SURVIVOR’ RETURN — Vowing to play “like a criminal,” Cedar Rapids police officer Sarah Lacina, 32, of Marion, survived Wednesday night’s first round of “Survivor: Game Changers,” filmed in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands. The two-hour Season 34 premiere marked the 500th episode of the popular CBS test of stamina and strategy. Like all 20 competitors vying for the million-dollar prize, Lacina has played the game before. Read more: http://thegaz.co/2m3Uigy LEGAL FIREWORKS? — Members of a Senate tax-writing panel expressed concerns Wednesday whether a proposed fee structure for licensing and regulating fireworks businesses and tents is sufficient to cover initial costs, but a majority voted to forge ahead with plans to begin sales and use of consumer fireworks by June. Read more: http://thegaz.co/2mHZ7Qa
Illinois lawmakers are more interested in winning votes than placing good bets. And the Quad-Cities would lose should six new casinos get green-lit as part of the state Senate’s “grand bargain.” Stops, starts and politically induced comas have plagued the Senate’s proposed end to Illinois’ devastating budgetary statement. The dozen-bill package wins over minority Republicans one day, loses a few key Democrats the next. And then it’s back to the penny slots for a beer and a quick cry. Senate President John Cullerton and Minority Leader Christine Radogno deserve credit for at least dealing. It’s more than can be said for the state House or the governor’s office. But simply behaving like fully formed adults doesn’t equate to good policy, even if the state stands to benefit from startup fees. For years, lawmakers from across Illinois have wanted to score a shiny, new casino for their home districts. They boost property taxes, sales taxes and provide direct and indirect job creation. Surely, if scoring a few votes is the goal here, which it is, casino expansion is an easy way to win over a few hold-outs.
Daniel Finney // Des Moines Register
Between them, two Republicans — moderate Robert D. Ray and conservative Terry Branstad — have governed Iowa for 36 of the last 48 years. But their political positions, in many ways, stand in stark contrast to each other. Ray built the modern state government. He greatly increased state funding for schools with the underlying philosophy that a student in Iowa should get a good education regardless of their address. Ray expanded the collective bargaining powers of public employees, including teachers, in exchange for workers forfeiting their right to strike. The idea was that Iowa needed those people on the job regardless of labor disagreements. In his most celebrated act of humanity, Ray rallied then-President Gerald Ford to open America’s borders to Southeast Asian refugees displaced by the Vietnam War and then welcomed them to the state — against the wishes of a great many Iowans who did not want the competition for jobs. Branstad as governor has taken nearly the opposite approach on these issues, particularly in recent years.
Kathie Obradovich // Des Moines Register
Iowa governor-in-waiting Kim Reynolds has been carefully biding her time and biting her tongue when anyone asks what she’ll do when she takes over as governor. “There’s going to be plenty of time for me to lay out what my objectives are, but right now we’re focused on the work that’s at hand,” she told reporters on Monday. On Wednesday, however, she offered a few hints of how she might handle tax cuts and some other issues after ambassador-to-be Terry Branstad has ridden off into the East. There was no discernible shift from the administration’s current positions and outlook. But Reynolds laid down at least one marker for the future.
“You will see something done” on income taxes, she promised, even as she explained that lagging revenues are making it difficult to do this year. She was speaking early Wednesday to the Westside Conservative breakfast club in Urbandale. “Our corporate tax is way too high; even with federal deductibility it brings it down, but people don’t see that, the first glance is what it is and we lose them,” she said. “We’re a right-to-work state, but we know we need to be very competitive.”
Barbara Beaumont, North Liberty // The Gazette
Funny how Iowa Republican legislators have hustled to do the Koch Brothers’ bidding while all the time arguing for the need for local control and less interference from big government. HF 259 opposes local control and will remove counties’ ability to make a decision for a livable minimum wage. Why should the legislators care if counties want to raise the minimum wage? What is wrong with requiring a livable wage?
Dean E. Owens, Palo // The Gazette
Someone should have told the governor that a private corporation can never perform a project cheaper than the government. It would have saved Iowa this managed care mess. There are primarily three elements in doing a project. They are labor, technology and finance. The government and corporations draw from the same labor and technology pools. The finances are completely different. The corporation must borrow all its money from stockholders or lending institutions and these groups expect to get paid back with interest. The government gets its money from taxes that do not get paid back and there are no interest payments. If the government chooses to borrow even its costs are lower than for corporations. In the governor’s first term of office he was going to save the taxpayers money by privatizing the maintenance of the highway rest stops. The first corporation turned the rest areas into cesspools. The second corporation cleaned them up right except it now costs the taxpayers double the cost. The same thing has started with the Medicaid corporations complaining they need more money. The conservatives in Washington want to make the Medicaid payments to the states into block grants. That means as the states’ costs for Medicaid increase because of inflation and higher cost, the Washington grant money will stay the same or be reduced. Our new governor thinks this is a great idea.
Gee! I wonder who will pick up the tab for this conservative nightmare?
Bob Krause // Blog for Iowa
Veterans, especially disabled and low income veterans and their families are directly affected by this bad bill – especially in the area of low income rental housing and minimum wages….Now the sponsor of the bill proposes an amendment to remove the destruction of local civil rights ordinances from the bill. But the alternate language proposed is just as bad for veterans. It blocks local governments from stopping landlords from discriminating against disabled and homeless vets. It does so by preventing local governments from stopping landlords from refusing HUD-VASH payments or HUD Housing Choice Section 8 payments from a prospective renter,” said Krause.