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Archive for January 14, 2012

The Courtney Report

Stay in touch this session

Please contact me this session if you have something you’d like to share.

You can call me at the Statehouse during the week at 515-281-3371. On weekends, I can be reached at 319-759-5334. E-mail me at tom.courtney@legis.iowa.gov.

You can also join me at local forums, where we’ll have a chance to talk face-to-face about state issues, as well as your ideas and concerns. If you’re looking for more information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/Courtney, where you can read my legislative newsletter, view my latest photos and more.

Keep up on what’s happening in the Legislature

A couple Internet resources can help you to stay informed during the 2012 session. At www.senate.iowa.gov/democrats, you’ll find:
** Articles on legislation, current events, grant opportunities and state resources.
** Summaries of bills voted on in Senate committees and in the chamber.
** Social media links to connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and photos, or our RSS feed.
** Live streaming video of media events at the Statehouse, such as the Legislative Leaders’ weekly news conference on Thursday mornings.

You can also follow what’s happening in the House and Senate at www.legis.iowa.gov, where you can track bills of interest, review what’s happening in legislative committees, listen to live debate in the chambers, and even set up a tour of the Statehouse if you’re planning a visit.

How can we grow Iowa’s economy?

The 2012 session should be all about jobs so that Iowa can continue recovering from the national recession and increase our global competitiveness. I intend to work in a bipartisan way to help Iowans create jobs and grow our economy.

We have plenty of opportunities.

First, we should help Iowa businesses create jobs by cutting commercial property taxes. Last year, the Senate voted to cut property taxes in half for four out of five Iowa businesses. The tax cut would be paid for with state dollars, not by shifting the cost of local schools and services onto the backs of homeowners and farmers. Most importantly, the Senate’s property tax cut helps those who need it: Iowa’s small and Main Street businesses.

This proposal passed the Senate last year on a bipartisan vote of 46 to 4, but wasn’t taken up by the House. Now’s the time to finish our work on this commercial property tax cut and send it to the Governor for his signature.

Second, we should improve education in a way that will lure business to the state and prepare Iowans for high-skilled jobs. We want a more talented, more productive, more competitive workforce, as well as inventive, innovative Iowa entrepreneurs.

The ultimate goal of education reform is a stronger Iowa economy. Talented, skilled workers are the foundation of our economy, which is why student achievement is so crucial to creating jobs. We need great teachers, strong math and science education, and affordable college tuition.

Third, we should finish work on the job creation legislation awaiting action in the Iowa House. The 2012 session is the second year of the 84th General Assembly, so the jobs bills that the Senate approved last year can still be passed by the House and sent to the Governor for his signature.

These measures include:

** Helping 60,000 Iowa businesses through a state tax credit to defray the cost of offering employee health insurance.

** Providing low-interest loans to small businesses struggling to recover from the national recession.

** Helping Iowans earn job training certificates that give them the skills to fill job openings.

** Jumpstarting Iowa’s clean energy industry through consumer rebates for small solar and wind power at homes and businesses.

** Making sure the benefits of rules and regulations outweigh the costs of implementing them.

Improving education, improving Iowa’s economy

Governor Branstad outlined his education reform proposal this week during his “Condition of the State” address.

I’m pleased that the Governor is focusing on our schools. I share his goals to raise standards, improve teaching and encourage innovation in our classrooms. Great schools are what our kids deserve. Great schools prepare them for the workforce and prepare Iowa communities for long-term economic growth.

I’ll consider and evaluate each of the governor’s proposals. If an idea improves our local schools and helps to increase the skills of Iowa’s future workers and entrepreneurs, we should move forward on it. If an idea has been proven to work in other states or countries, we ought to consider it. After all, the goal is to do the best we can for our kids and for Iowa’s future.

I do have some concerns about Governor Branstad’s education plan. His proposals will cost money. Where will that money come from? Unfunded mandates on our local schools won’t help improve student achievement.

I’m also concerned about spending a lot of money on more testing. This approach doesn’t square with what experts had to say at the Governor’s education summit last summer. They said the best way to raise student achievement is improving teaching and increasing collaboration among educators.

I want to help our local schools be the best they can be, and I know you do too. Many of you have shared your concerns and suggestions for improving student achievement. I’m here to listen and bring your ideas to the Statehouse, so please continue to send your thoughts my way.

To review the Governor’s plan for education reform, go to www.educateiowa.gov.

Sound courts make Iowa a good place for business

The Chief Justice of Iowa’s Supreme Court, Mark Cady, delivered the State of the Judiciary address on January 11.

Justice Cady said confidence in Iowa’s legal system is a key ingredient for growth and prosperity. That’s because businesses want to operate in a state with a fair, efficient and stable court system that assures them that “their investment will be fully protected under the rule of law in the same way individual rights are maintained.”

Iowa’s courts have an outstanding national reputation. The foundation for our court system was laid by Iowa’s first leaders in the 1800s when they recognized the need “to properly guard both the lives of the waves of people who were entering this state at the time and the resources these people were investing into the state.”

In addition to being one of the fairest and most impartial systems in the country, Iowa’s courts are known for transparency. We have cameras in the courtroom and an award-winning judicial branch website (www.iowacourts.gov), where citizens can easily find the information they need. Over the last year, the Iowa Supreme Court has heard arguments in communities across the state, giving more Iowans a chance to witness proceedings firsthand.

By continuing to invest in our courts, we can serve Iowans’ legal needs, ensure a safe future for our children, and maintain a climate that boosts economic growth.

News you can use
Take the 100-Day Wellness Challenge

Live Healthy Iowa’s 100-Day Wellness Challenge kicks off January 23. Over the course of 100 days, teams of 2 to10 people take part in friendly competition by tracking their activity minutes or weight loss. Get involved and take advantage of the Live Healthy Iowa website’s personal tracking, goal-setting options and nutrition resources. Learn more at www.livehealthyiowa.org.

Iowa Scholarship for the Arts applications due Feb. 1

Iowa high school students entering college next fall with a major in the arts can apply for a 2012 Iowa Scholarship for the Arts by February 1. The Iowa Arts Council offers the scholarship to students with proven artistic ability in dance, literature, music, theater, traditional arts or visual arts. Each recipient will receive $1,000 toward 2012-2013 tuition and expenses at an Iowa college or university with a major in the arts. The application and requirements are available at www.iowaartscouncil.org/funding/scholarship-for-the-arts.

Iowa no longer mailing out paper tax forms

Iowa taxpayers will no longer receive paper tax forms and booklets delivered to their mailboxes. The Iowa Department of Revenue encourages taxpayers to file their returns electronically, which is more efficient and cuts costs. For forms and instructions, go www.iowa.gov/tax or call 1-800-532-1531.

Contact Tom

CAPITOL:
Iowa Statehouse
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3371

HOME:
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
319-759-5334

tom.courtney@legis.iowa.gov

www.senate.iowa.gov/courtney

A Blast From The Past

This is in contrast to my earlier post on a shortened Republican platform.

To give you an idea how much the Republican Party has sped to the right, here is a summary of the 1956 Republican Platform. Plus this will give you an idea why we seldom hear the name “Eisenhower” spoken, especially by Republicans even though he was and is highly esteemed. Many of the ideas below would be considered beyond the left wing fringe today.

The full platform is here.

Here are a few excerpts from the platform from the teamsters blog from over a year ago. Most of these have to do with workers.

We believe that basic to governmental integrity are unimpeachable ethical standards and irreproachable personal conduct by all people in government.

We shall continue our insistence on honesty as an indispensable requirement of public service. We shall continue to root out corruption whenever and wherever it appears.

We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.

We also propose:

Legislation to enable closer Federal scrutiny of mergers which have a significant or potential monopolistic connotations;

Procedural changes in the antitrust laws to facilitate their enforcement;

Continuance of the vigorous SEC policies which are providing maximum protection to the investor and maximum opportunity for the financing of small business without costly red tape.

Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America.”

The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen’s compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.

Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;

Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President’s Cabinet.

To safeguard our precious soil and water resources for generations yet unborn;

To bring sympathetic and understanding relief promptly to farm and ranch families hard hit with problems of drought, flood or other natural disaster, or economic disaster, and to maintain the integrity of these programs by terminating them when the emergency is over;

We believe that working for the Government is not a right but a privilege. Based on that principle we will continue a security program to make certain that all people employed by our Government are of unquestioned loyalty and trustworthiness. The Republican Party will, realistically and in conformity with constitutional safeguards for the individual, continue to protect our national security by enforcing our laws fairly, vigorously, and with certainty. We will act through the new division established to this end in the Department of Justice, and by close coordination among the intelligence services.

We condemn illegal lobbying for any cause and improper use of money in political activities, including the use of funds collected by compulsion for political purposes contrary to the personal desires of the individual.

The Very Short Republican Platform

I will help out the Republicans by paring down what they truly stand for. This is based on what they do, what bills they have introduced and the rhetoric that is being bandied about.

1) We represent the top 1%

2) We do not care about jobs in America. We do care about wages being too high. To compete, wages must be in line with other countries.

3) Children should have the opportunity to work, just as they currently do in many other countries of the world.

4) Older Americans also need to have the opportunity to be fully gainfully employed until the day they die.

5) We believe in life. As long as someone can pay for it.

6) Our country should should no longer subsidize any individual support programs. This includes Social Security in all its form, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Unemployment insurance, Aid to Dependent Children, LIHEAP and a myriad of others not listed. People must learn to fend for themselves.

7) The state must be involved in the sexual practices of all its citizens. All heterosexual encounters by females in fertile age ranges must be reported immediately. Said female must then be checked for pregnancy immediately and be held criminally liable if said pregnancy is terminated before term.

8) Those refusing to practice normal heterosexuality must not be considered full citizens. They will be subject to loss of employment and housing and allowed to be shunned should non-heterosexual practices become known.

9) The United States has always been a Christian Nation. Those choosing not to practice the dominant religion should be considered suspicious.

10) Corporations are citizens. As such there should no longer be any legislation geared toward regulating corporations that is not generally applicable to all citizens.

11) Upon the inauguration of the next Republican administration, deficits will no longer matter again.

12) The rich should not be taxed. This money should instead remain in their control. This is the money that the rich can use to trickle on the little class. Taxes should then be paid by the little class after they have been trickled on.