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Archive for April 15, 2011

TV Ad Challenges Iowa’s Radioactive Rate Hike Bill

Ad Challenges Iowa’s Radioactive Rate Hike Bill

imageFriends of the Earth’s ad encourages public to call state senators

Washington, D.C.—The watchdog group Friends of the Earth today released a TV ad opposing legislation that would allow MidAmerican Energy to raise electric rates in order to pay for new nuclear reactors—and allow MidAmerican to keep the money regardless of whether the new reactors are actually constructed.

The ad, which begins with stirring images of the disaster at Fukushima and is titled “Iowa’s Nuclear Risk,” can be viewed online here.

“The bill is nothing more than a handout to MidAmerican for reactors that would endanger Iowans,” said Damon Moglen, director of the Climate and Energy Project at Friends of the Earth. “MidAmerican knows that with the historic default rate of reactor projects and the often exponential cost overruns, it can’t get investors to back these plants, so it needs consumers to pay for a service they won’t receive for years—if ever.”

The 30-second ad, which will air in selected Iowa markets over the next week, explains that the bill “isn’t just unfair; it’s dangerous.” Friends of the Earth opposes nuclear reactor construction because of the risks of a nuclear accident, highlighted recently by the ongoing disaster in Japan, and the deadly waste produced by the irradiation process, as well as the high financial and economic costs.

“Investors won’t take the gamble, so MidAmerican wants you to foot the bill,” an announcer says in the ad. “What’s worse—they’d keep your money even if they abandon the project.”

Friends of the Earth has also mobilized its members in Iowa to write to their state legislators about the bill. Members of the public can send Iowa legislators messages via

~Friends of the Earth is fighting to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world.  Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

Iowans Find Opportunity on Dove Bill

Iowans Find Opportunity on Dove Bill

by Paul Deaton

Janelle Rettig,
member of the Iowa Natural Resources Commission and a Johnson County Supervisor, has been receiving mail on establishing a dove hunting season now that the bill has been passed into law.

Today, Rettig posted the following on Facebook:

“Woke up to another 36 dove hunting emails. The Legislature and Governor rushed this through without public comment, so the last chance to comment is before May 24 to DNR. If enough people comment we may be able to at least get a lead shot ban. Comments will get counted if sent to:”

If you have been following this law, you know what to do.

Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail
Paul Deaton

Iowa Governor Branstad Responds on Indigent Defense

Iowa Governor Branstad Responds on Indigent Defense

[Editor's Note: Earlier this month, the author submitted a letter to Governor Branstad on the failure of the government to fund indigent defense. His staff responded in a timely manner on this important issue, although not the hoped for response].

April 12, 2011

Dear Paul:

Thank you for contacting the Office of Governor Terry E. Branstad regarding funding for the indigent defense program.  The Governor has offered a supplemental appropriations bill to fully fund indigent defense and other areas of state government to protect the health and safety of Iowans.  
Both legislative chambers have passed a supplemental appropriation for indigent defense, Senate File 512. On April 12, 2011, Governor Branstad vetoed the section of Senate File 512 that would have provided the governor with the specific authority to transfer funds to the office of the public defender for payment of court-appointed attorneys for indigent defense purposes. 
The language Governor Branstad disapproved of attempts to end the current legislative stalemate over supplemental appropriations for the provision of indigent defense services administered through the State Public Defender's office. However, the transfer authority does not specify which department, institution or agency of the state should see a decrease in funds as a result. 
In other words, in order to comply with the provisions of Senate File 512 Governor Branstad would be asked to reduce by nearly $20 million the current appropriations in other state agencies to secure the resources necessary to transfer to the State Public Defender's office. 
This method is totally unacceptable and is a continuation of the numerous bad budgeting practices that has created the fiscal mess our state currently faces. Governor Branstad strongly supports an appropriate supplemental appropriation to pay our indigent defense costs and will continue to work with the General Assembly to resolve this matter.
Again, thank you for contacting our office and know that Governor Branstad is working diligently to get this dispute between the House and Senate resolved and the funds appropriated.  Please feel free to contact our office with any additional questions or concerns. 
Office of the Governor

Dr. Miller-Meeks and the Iowa Department of Public Health

Dr. Miller-Meeks

Dr. Miller-Meeks

Iowans had an opportunity to look under the hood of the new Branstad Reynolds administration on April 11 when Iowa Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks appeared at an event organized by the Johnson County Task Force on Aging. Doug Beardsley, Director of the County Public Health Department made the introduction and for an hour, Dr. Miller-Meeks answered questions and talked about her vision for the IDPH. She started her talk with a hat tip to Johnson County as “one of the healthiest counties in the state.” Once a politician, always a politician.

If Blog for Iowa has been skeptical about Dr. Miller-Meeks’ appointment to IDPH, the word around the state is that she takes her roles and responsibilities seriously and has worked diligently to understand department functions, funding streams
and workforce development issues. As a former President of the Iowa Medical Society, a nurse and an ophthalmologist, Dr. Miller-Meeks is well credentialed for her position at IDPH. Those of us following her two failed attempts at election to the U.S. Congress in the Second District must acknowledge she is a hard worker and is used to working long hours. It is only fair to give her the benefit of a doubt.

During an answer to the first question, Dr. Miller-Meeks outlined her vision to “ensure that the public health infrastructure stays intact” during a time of budget cuts and government reorganization. To do this, much of her attention has been towards what she described as the “strange animal of public health funding streams” (52% from federal grants, 23% from the state and 22% from fees and licenses). Her focus is on maintaining the funding streams that provide services. There was no discussion of new services, and she indicated as much in answers about over-medication of seniors, senior addiction to prescription drugs, geriatric care and Alzheimer disease treatment.

When she took office in January, IDPH was presented with an $84 million cut for FY 2011 from the 2010 legislative session. Since the prior director, Tom Newton, had made the assessment of where to make budget cuts, Dr. Miller-Meeks could focus on FY 2012 which was not targeted for further budget cuts by incoming Governor Branstad. Even though FY 2012 was not targeted for cuts, Dr. Miller-Meeks has to accommodate the 3% funding cut made in FY 2011 for FY 2012.

Dr. Miller-Meeks has been charged by the Governor to work with the Directors of the Department of Inspections and Appeals, Department on Aging and Department of Human Services to determine efficiencies that cut costs while leaving delivery of current services seamless to individuals. Her view of public health is more “holistic” in that she does not believe single issues, such as treatment of Alzheimer disease,should be broken out and handled separately. What she favors is that as the state transitions to the 2014 Affordable Care Act implementation, an overarching view of public health be considered, departments that overlap with Public Health work together and funding streams are channeled towards continuing current services to the extent possible. It is a tall order, but if she is successful, her vision could save Iowans money without compromising public health services.

One can tell Dr. Miller-Meeks is not long off the campaign trail, using transparent and politically correct language to refer to former IDPH Director Tom Newton and members of the Culver-Judge administration. She also mentioned the familiar theme, “where does the law prevent us from doing things?” It seems a government version of the Republican “Red Tape Tour” has found its way into IDPH.

When asked about legislation in the 2011 session, she was disappointed that the bill creating the health information network did not pass and favors mental health reform. Whatever the legislature does, she said her department “can continue without legislation.”

Dr. Miller-Meeks closed the forum with a discussion of preventative care, saying what most doctors will tell us, eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise 30 minutes at least three times per week, engage in our community, brush your teeth twice daily and floss, moderate alcohol consumption and quit smoking. She added an ophthalmologist’s perspective saying make sure you blink while looking at a computer screen or smart phone and “look for joy in life.”