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Archive for April 23, 2011

USDA to Enable GMO Approval

USDA to Enable GMO Approval

[Editor's Note: This article appeared in Capitol Press on April 14, 2011].

USDA Plans to Outsource Biotech Studies

by Mateusz Perkowski

The USDA plans to experiment with a new way of evaluating biotech crops for potential commercialization. Under the agency's new two-year pilot project, biotech developers would conduct their own environmental assessment of transgenic crops or pay contractors to perform the analysis. Currently, officials at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are responsible for the studies.

Federal environmental law requires the agency to complete such reviews before deregulating biotech crops.

The goal of the new pilot program is to make the process more timely and efficient, according to APHIS. The approach has met with support from the biotech industry, which wants to reduce delays in the approval of transgenic crops. Critics of genetic engineering, on the other hand, worry the program will result in biased and inaccurate environmental reviews

~Mateusz Perkowski is an agricultural reporter at Capital Press Agriculture Weekly, Salem, Oregon.

Iowa State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

State Capitol News – Weekend Recap

by Paul Deaton

The session is winding down and this will be our last Weekend Recap of Iowa State Capitol News in 2011. ]

Governor Orders Flags at Half-Staff in Honor of Sgt. Brent Maher & Spc Donald Nichols

Thursday Governor Branstad ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in
honor of two Iowans killed while on patrol in Afghanistan. The Westboro
Baptist Church has announced plans to picket Nichols' funeral in Waverly
on Saturday.
Read the story in the Waverly Democrat here.

Senator Joe Bolkcom Sums it Up

Senator Joe Bolkcom summed up the feelings of many in his weekly newsletter, from which we quote at length:

The last day of the legislative session is scheduled for next Friday. I do not see any way that we will finish by then. In fact, Governor Branstad’s vetoes yesterday set the stage for a rough finish. It is time to come home.

I could not be more disappointed in Governor Branstad. He is the ultimate political animal. Every word out of his mouth is a campaign sound bite. Governor, the campaign is over. It is time to govern.

I don’t how the Governor slept last night after vetoing a bi-partisan tax cut that would have helped 240,000 working Iowa families making less than $45,000 a year. He is thumbing his nose at middle-class Iowans struggling to recover from the national recession.

The Governor is sending a clear message that he will only support tax cuts that give away millions of Iowans’ hard-earned money to out-of-state corporations and the richest handful of Iowans.

In his veto message, Governor Branstad says “…it is my desire to approach tax policy in a comprehensive and holistic manner.” 

This excuse doesn’t hold water. The Governor has already signed a tax cut for Iowa’s wealthiest citizens, one worth almost exactly as much to them as what the working families tax cut would have provided to a quarter of a million Iowans.

*  And he approved the section of Senate File 209 that creates the $60 million Taxpayers Trust Fund.
Let’s stop wasting time. The Governor can’t be trusted, and he is clearly against a tax cut for 240,000 working families that every member of the Iowa Legislature has already voted for.

* Senate File 512 was signed by Governor Branstad on April 12. This tax cut provides $13.1 million dollars to Iowa individuals making at least $83,000 and Iowa married couples with a joint income of more than $166,000. The increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which the Governor vetoed, would have cost $14.7 million and would have benefited 240,000 Iowa taxpayers making less than $45,000.

With only one week to go there are a bunch of really bad policy ideas still alive. I wrote about some of them a couple of weeks ago. They include legislation (HF 657) that interferes with a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions, a bill (SF 500) that would transfer our already challenged clean water programs from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture,  legislation (HF 431) that would prevent whistle blowers from videotaping animal abuse and legislation setting the stage for a nuclear power plant (SF 390).

It is going to be a stressful week. I am opposed to moving any of these bills forward and will be working to STOP them all.

We also have a big battle ahead on education funding. The Senate passed the education appropriation bill this week in committee. It restores public university and community college funding. We have a lot of work to do to defend this support in the final negotiations.

This week, we debated a controversial gambling bill on the floor of the Senate, SF 526. This bill would revise Iowa’s casino referendum laws, allow advance deposit wagering on horse races, and revise purses for horse racing. It would also require the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to produce a study on the regulation and societal impacts of Internet poker by December 1st. I voted no.

We will be doing a lot of debating this coming week. You can listen from your computer at the Legislature’s website.

Redistricting Map is Law

On Tuesday, Governor Branstad signed House File 682 into law, confirming that the first redistricting map from the Legislative Services Agency was accepted. Campaigns have been launched, candidates sought, real estate agents notified and Christie Vilsack announced she is running for congress in the new fourth district. Could Iowa send four Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013? Looks like we have a shot.

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