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Statehouse News, School Funding Crisis Continues‏

kirstem marquard

Ed. note: This week’s newsletter comes from the desk of Representative Kirsten Running-Marquard and the staff for Democratic members of the Iowa House.

Although today is the “official” last day of Session, our work is not yet complete. Session is now going past its scheduled end date. There is still grid lock on setting basic funding for our k-12 schools (Supplemental School Aid or Allowable Growth). The House Republicans continue to stay at 1.25% which would result in over 20 teachers getting pink slips in the Cedar Rapids School District alone. We have to do better, and we have the funds to invest adequately in our children’s future. I will continue to fight for our kids.

It looks as though next week we will be moving the Economic Development Budget Bill; I serve as Ranking Member of this committee charged to move this important budget bill forward into law. I also serve on the Appropriations Committee, where all budget bills and legislation dealing with state expenditures move through. The last few weeks of session are busy for the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees.

There are now only a few bills left to pass through the Iowa legislature this year. I will continue to support education, workforce development and smart economic development. These are the three priority areas I see as critical in making Iowa a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Public Schools to Lose Over 1,000 Educators Next Year

The school funding crisis carried on for another week as schools reported there will be over 1,000 fewer educators in Iowa schools next year because of the budget uncertainty. This week, because of the school funding impasse, schools were forced to hand out pink slips to over 400 educators for the upcoming school year. Schools also said they plan to leave at least another 626 positions (which are typically retirements) open next year, meaning class sizes will increase. Despite not knowing how much money they will receive from the state, Iowa school districts were forced to set their budget for the upcoming school year in mid-April.

The school funding crisis started last year when the House Republicans and Governor Branstad refused to set basic state funding for k-12 schools. Democrats have offered a 6% increase, then 4%, then 2.625% in an effort to compromise, but the majority party has rejected every offer to resolve the school funding crisis this year and continue to stay at 1.25%. Again, playing politics with our kid’s education is wrong. What 1.25% means is teachers being fired and larger class sizes negatively impact performance.

Besides raising class size with fewer teachers and raising property taxes, superintendents said they will also be cutting back other opportunities for students because of the budget uncertainty. Art, sports, wood shop, agriculture programs, consumer science, library services, STEM and Talented and Gifted are just a few of the programs being considered by school districts for elimination.

The above information was compiled through a survey of Iowa superintendents. Iowans can learn about the impact of the school funding crisis in their own school district by going to www.iowahouse.org/GOPpinkslip/.

Medical Cannabis Bill Equals Care for Sick Iowans

Iowans gathered at the State Capitol again this week to urge members of the Iowa House to support a medical cannabis bill for those suffering from debilitating diseases, like epilepsy, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. With strong support from the public, many lawmakers are considering a new bill this year to expand the applicability of that law and the availability of the oil for some of our sickest Iowans.

Senate File 484 passed the Senate and moved to the House. Senate File 484 creates a safe and secure medical cannabis program under the supervision of the Department of Public Health and uses the registration cards developed last year to assist with compliance. The bill allows persons with a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, Crohn’s, and multiple sclerosis to apply for a registration card, with verification from their doctor, to allow them to access medical cannabis. The medical cannabis must be manufactured at a licensed facility and all medical cannabis manufactured must be tested at the hygienic laboratory at the University of Iowa for content, contamination, and consistency.

Proponents of SF 484 are encouraging the House to pass the legislation to ensure that patients and their doctors can determine for themselves whether this is a fit for them. Additionally, backers of the bill feel confident that this proposal includes regulation and safeguards to ensure that the cannabis is used only by those who are suffering from a debilitating medical condition. It is very late in session but I and many others hope we can move forward.

New Exhibit Honors Iowan’s Vietnam Soldiers

This year is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Vietnam, which effectively ended the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975. More than 865 Iowans were killed in the conflict and five Iowa service members earned the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for heroism. The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, at Camp Dodge in Johnston, has a new Vietnam War interactive exhibit including a helicopter display, a utility truck, and other artifacts. A scrollable list of Iowans who were killed in the Vietnam War is available, as are television monitors featuring stories from the Vietnam War, and a full-scale diorama and mural. The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs will host the 2015 Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Remembrance Ceremony on Thursday, May 7, 2015. The ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located south of the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines. If you are from the Linn County area and are planning to attend, please let me know.

Sunday Funday – Six Years Of Gay Marriage In Iowa

Tough one today

Tough one today

Hard to believe that April slipped by with hardly a mention of the anniversary of the UNANIMOUS decision in Varnum v. Brien that made Iowa the 3rd (after Massachusetts and no one ever remembers who was 2nd) to allow same sex couples to be legally married. It almost stopped in Iowa. Only 32 more states have joined the band wagon since. I was reminded of this as the oral arguments were made before the SCOTUS Tuesday in the case that may make (or break) gay marriage in this country.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment since the Iowa decision is the lack of divorces that the right wing promised would happen in the wake of the decision. I would certainly have expected at the very least that those preaching the imminent death of marriage in this state would have been among the first to line up at a lawyer’s office to file for divorce because of the gay.  So i call on Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley and all the other loud and proud gay haters to show you believe in what you say and file for divorce before your next public humiliation of Republican candidates in July in Ames.
iowadailydemocrat.com/news/2015/04/vander-plaats-and-the-family-leader-to-host-summer-summit-as-iowa-gop-works-to-elevate-far-right-candidates/

Lots happened last week.

1) In a SCOTUS case with a decision that seemed to counter Citizens United, the SCOTUS decided unlimited money in judicial elections was not a good idea. Who wrote the majority (5-4) decision?

2) In China, the government is cracking down on the custom of using strippers at the end of what events?

3) The Pope shocked many by calling what a major scandal?

4) Nepal was hit hard by an earthquake measuring what on the Richter scale?

5) 200 girls and 93 women were rescued from where Tuesday after over a year of captivity?

6) The US celebrates Labor Day in September, but the rest of the world celebrates what similar holiday on May 1?

7) What ally of Chris Christie and appointee to the Port Authority agreed to plead guilty to charges concerning the closure of the George Washington Bridge Thursday?

8) The fastest two minutes in sports took place yesterday. What are the fastest two minutes in sports?

9) Who is the Attorney General of Maryland that brought charges against six policemen in the death of Freddy Gray?

10) Since no education funding has passed the Iowa legislature, how many fewer educators can we expect in Iowa classrooms next fall?

11) Rep. Bill Flores has insights others don’t. To what does Mr. Flores attribute the protests in Baltimore this week?

12) 45 years ago tomorrow, the country was shocked when it heard that what had happened at Kent State University?

13) May 4, 1886. Police attack labor activists in Chicago in what has come to be called what?

14) Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has declared a state of emergency in Iowa. Why?

15) The presidential field gets more crowded. What senator announced his candidacy Thursday?

16) Regents president Bruce Rastetter is pushing hard for a university funding plan that would give the state schools money based on what?

17) An anti-gay Republican legislator in North Dakota was outed sending explicit pictures to a gay dating website. What is his very apropos name?

18) Workers’ Memorial Day was celebrated around the nation on April 28th. Why was this date chosen?

19) Police in Iowa City were called to a residence where they found what dangerous souvenir had been uncovered in a storage area?

20) So ugly it could stop a watch! What ancient body adornment was revealed this week to have the power to stop the new high tech Apple watches?

Police were called to a Seattle playground to help extract a man who was stuck in a basketball hoop. I wonder just how big the guy was who stuffed him in there.

Answers:

1) CJ John Roberts

2) funerals. The strippers are used to draw large crowds for the deceased.

3) unequal pay for women

4) 7.8

5) boko haram camps in Nigeria

6) International workers’ day or Labor day

7) David Wildstein – he is expected to give evidence that Christie was in on the bridge closure

8) The Kentucky Derby

9) Marilyn Mosby

10) up to 1,150

11) gay marriage. Make up you own connection.

12) 4 students were shot dead by National Guard troops during an anti-Vietnam war protest

13) the Haymarket Riot

14) The spreading bird flu in northwest Iowa

15) Bernie Sanders

16) number of Iowa kids enrolled at the school.

17) Randy Boehning (pronounce it as you wish)

18) on April 28th, 1971 the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) went into effect

19) a live World War I grenade

20) a tattoo that comes in contact with the watch – e.g. a tattoo on the wrist

See you next week for Mother’s Day

Trade Treachery

As the Trans Pacific Partnership steams toward a senate vote, opposition has been coming from many quarters. This opposition needs to unite with a message that is coherent. However, that has been hard to do since no one except a few negotiators have any idea what is in the treaty. What little that has been leaked gives us a hint that the treaty is not built with the American people in mind.

Here is Alan Grayson from the new website tradetreachery.com with a 9 minute discourse on the known problems with the top:

A short story on the Buffet Trade Plan can be read here.

Here is a short excerpt that sums it up:

The Buffet Plan

Buffet proposed a simple plan to balance our trade. The government could issue “Import Certificates (ICs) to all U.S. exporters in an amount equal to the dollar value of their exports.” The number of import certificates determines the level of trade imbalance or balance that we allow.

Each exporter would, in turn, sell the ICs to parties–either exporters abroad or importers here–wanting to get goods into the U.S. To import $1 million of goods, for example, an importer would need ICs that were the byproduct of $1 million of exports. The inevitable result: trade balance.

The idea was sort of like cap-and-trade. Exporters would get a certificate for the value of their exports. The certificates allow anyone holding them to import that dollar amount of goods or services. So selling these certificates would mean extra cash to exporters, and would help them modernize factories, pay specialists and the other things needed to revive our in-country industries. Or the extra cash would let them sell for less, which would counter currency manipulation and other subsidies that other countries provide to their exporters.

There are a number of pluses and minuses, and Buffett goes on to list some of the negative effects of balancing trade. For one thing, prices would necessarily go up. But, of course, jobs and wage gains would return to our economy.

Independent Survey Shows Bob Vander Plaats’ Irrelevance With Voters

progress iowa

Editor’s note: With the coming of the first in the nation Presidential test Iowa caucuses, Bob Vander Plaats is moving into the role of a potential king maker within the Republican Party. Since the Republican caucuses in Iowa have a preponderance of so-called evangelical voters, Republican candidates increasingly will be coming to Iowa to kiss the ring of the Don of this sector of the Republican Party. The note below reminds us that while Vander Plaats and his ilk may hold sway of an active sector of the small turnout of Republicans on caucus night, his beliefs and tactics turn off most common sense Iowans. Kissing up to Vander Plaats may be a short term gain for a candidate but come with a long term negative.

By the way, the next public ring (or butt) kissing of Bob Vander Plaats will be July 18th at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames. Might be a good time for some gay weddings in the area.

Increasing unpopularity comes in the wake of Vander Plaats & the Family Leader praying for the physical harm of their political opponents

Des Moines, Iowa — Surveys released by Public Policy Polling (PPP) of Iowa voters show the irrelevance of Bob Vander Plaats in the Republican Presidential caucus, as well as his lack of influence with Iowa voters. Just 13% of Republican primary voters say his support will make them more likely to vote for a candidate in the caucus, while 17% say his support makes it less likely. Vander Plaats’ approval rating with all Iowa voters is only 18%, while 36% view him unfavorably, and 46% do not have an opinion.

Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in reaction to the poll results:

“The survey results released this week by PPP show the increasing irrelevance of Bob Vander Plaats and his organization, the Family Leader, with Iowa voters. After years of working to insert their influence in political races from Presidential caucuses to local ballot initiatives, it seems that Vander Plaats’ 15 minutes of fame is up. More Republicans say they are less likely to vote for a candidate than vote for a candidate based on Vander Plaats’ endorsement, many Iowans have never heard of him, and those who have do not have a favorable impression.”

“While Bob Vander Plaats loses relevance in Iowa politics, he and the Family Leader appear to be losing their grip on reality as well. Within the last few months, Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have prayed for the physical harm of their political opponents. The organization posted a prayer online suggesting that the organizers of the Governors conference on LGBTQ youth ‘be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ And Tamara Scott, a lobbyist for the Family Leader, prayed for someone to be struck down by lightning because they offered a non-Christian prayer at the Iowa Statehouse.”

“The hateful rhetoric and policy positions put forward by Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have no place in our political discourse. And they absolutely do not represent Iowa values. The survey results released this week prove that Iowans have had enough of Bob Vander Plaats’ divisive brand of politics.”

From the PPP survey of Republican primary voters, conducted from April 23-26:
If a candidate for President was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, would that make you more or less likely to vote for them, or would it not make a difference?
More likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats: 13%
Less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats: 17%
Wouldn’t make a difference: 62%
Not sure: 7%

From the PPP survey of all Iowa voters, conducted from April 23-26:
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bob Vander Plaats?
Favorable: 18%
Unfavorable: 36%
Not sure: 46%

Progress Iowa is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization with a network of more than 60,000 progressives. Year-round, Progress Iowa advocates for a stronger middle class, first-class public education, and fairness for all Iowans under the law.

###

Background:

Public Policy Polling: Iowa Survey Results, Republican Primary Voters (Question 23)

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_IA_42815.pdf

Public Policy Polling: Iowa Survey Results, All Iowa Voters (Question 29)

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_IA_43015.pdf

The Family Leader: Unprecedented spiritual challenge hits Iowa

http://www.thefamilyleader.com/unprecedented-spiritual-challenge-hits-iowa/

Right Wing Watch: Bob Vander Plaats warns of divine retribution for Wiccan prayer in Iowa state capitol

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/bob-vander-plaats-warns-divine-retribution-wiccan-prayer-iowa-state-capitol

The Family Leader: Governors conference on LGBTQ youth not what you think (includes prayer for conference planners to ‘be drowned in the depth of the sea’)

http://www.thefamilyleader.com/governors-conference-on-lgbtq-youth-not-what-you-think/

Cedar Rapids Gazette: And how will they know us?

http://thegazette.com/subject/opinion/blogs/lynda-waddington/and-how-will-they-know-us-20150417

Pathetic Republican Action On School Funding

things to do when not legislatin'

things to do when not legislatin’

Once again Iowa’s legislature becomes the laughing stock of Iowa through its lack of action concerning Iowa schools at all levels. Iowa was once the gold standard for schools in this country and stood well across the world. Thanks to some real as backward leadership we sink every year.

While we give the collective blame to that group “legislature,” the truth is we should be much more specific and narrow it down to “Republicans in the legislature and Governor Branstad.” Led by tea baggers, Republicans these days have just a couple of criteria – cutting taxes for their cronies and then funneling what tax money they do get to those same cronies in sweetheart deals.

We can see both of these in action this year in Iowa’s government. We see Terry Branstad acting as if he is a one man wrecking ball in taking our tax money and handing it to some private for profit company to run Iowa’s portion of the Medicaid program. This will no doubt result in huge profits for that company and a loss of services for those in the Medicaid system through denials and new processes. It is good to be a friend of Terry’s.

But the most cynical is the way Republicans in the legislature have refused to even discuss school budgets, let alone do any serious negotiations. They claim that they are offering a substantial rise in school funding, but in reality theirs is a cynical game that has been played out in states across the nation. As usual Iowa’s Republican party is a party of followers whose last major accomplishment was to do what they could to maintain as much Prohibition in the state even after it was repealed nationally.

The process for wrecking local school systems has an established recipe that various legislatures have followed. It goes like this:
1) cut taxes especially for corporations claiming this will entice businesses to move to your state -(hint: it doesn’t)
2) cut services, especially education which is usually the states largest single expenditure.
3) Schools can not maintain previous standards or meet new more stringent standards due to lack of resources.
4) Schools and teachers (as lazy government employees) are vilified for the perceived failures.
5) the fire of perceived failures are fanned by Republicans up and down governmental offices. Corporate media report such stories without telling the whole story.
6) A few more years of underfunding worsens the problem for school
7) Republican leaders claim for profit charter schools are the answer to the “failure.” (hint: they are worse than public schools)
8) Money is found to pay for charter schools by removing it from the public system.
9) In Iowa, new governor Kim Reynolds will oversee the dismantling of the public school system declaring it “great for Iowa, praise the Lord.”

In an editorial earlier this week, the new blog on the block the iowadailydemocrat.com hits the nail square on the head in chastising Republicans for their cynical actions:

“It’s as predictable as the start of the baseball season, but Branstad’s status-quo approach to nearly everything creates long-lasting and complex harm to everyone involved and causes Iowa to fall behind when it comes to educational excellence. And experts across the ideological spectrum tell us educational excellence is the single biggest factor in whether a given city, state or region succeeds in the global economy.

Branstad’s accomplishments on education for the 2015 session are nonexistent. The Governor may actually be doing more harm than good.

On pre-K (or preschool) education, there’s absolutely no progress. The U.S. Department of Education released its report “A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America” two weeks back. While Iowa ends up near the middle, ranked in the second quartile of states, we’re actually losing ground since 2007 when Governor Chet Culver proposed statewide universal preschool and began providing the funds to make it happen. Branstad singled out that program by name for repeal and has done a fantastic job at hammering away at our 4-year-olds, making sure they don’t all have preschool. Now, 30 percent of our eligible 4-year-olds don’t have access to state-funded preschool. It’s worthy of shame, but the Governor is long past that point in his career.

The K-12 picture isn’t much better as the Governor and Republican legislators are stuck on a below-inflation funding level of 1.25 percent, and the Democrats seem intent on negotiating against themselves now that they’ve adjusted their ask to 2.62 percent. As usual, the two parties will wait until the end of session, far too late for most school districts trying to plan fall budgets and make hiring decisions. They’ll agree on a paltry 2 percent and all go home calling themselves heroes for doing their basic constitutional duty, and doing the barest minimum at that.

At the higher education level, though, Iowa is drowning by comparison with states that are serious about higher education. The Regents are spending more than a million dollars on two out-of-state consultants whose job is to find places to cut at the three state universities, all while attendance costs go up every year and student debt for Iowa’s public universities ranks 6th in the nation. (Did you realize the cost of books and supplies, over and above tuition, is north of $1,200 a year at our state schools?)”

In a few short years Iowa has moved from the top of the heap to the middle in a slide that has us headed down to eventually challenging Mississippi for the bottom if the trend continues. But it should be noted that other once proud states like Kansas will be fighting us for that position. But will we ever really know when for profit corporations are in charge of our educational structure and it will be nearly impossible to measure?

Affordable College, Medicaid, Economic Development, The Courtney Report

Courtney Report
Note: this is an editted version of Senator Courtney’s newsletter. For the whol newsletter, please go here.

ENSURING COLLEGE STUDENTS CAN AFFORD THE EDUCATION THEY NEED

We’re working to keep college affordable so that all Iowans get the educational opportunities that lead to great jobs. Almost half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in Iowa come from our private colleges and universities. Iowa Tuition Grants help them pay their way.

Iowa Tuition Grants are awarded to Iowa residents enrolled at Iowa’s private colleges and universities. Priority goes to applicants with the greatest financial need. The exact amount each student receives depends on the funding available and number of students awarded grants. Students may receive grants for up to four years of full-time, undergraduate study.

With the funding we are proposing for Iowa Tuition Grants in this year’s Senate Education Budget, the maximum annual award would be an estimated $5,000 per student next year—up from $4,550 per student this year. For the 2013-14 school year, almost 15,000 students received the grant, which is matched by their school.

Iowa is one of 11 states that have scholarship programs specifically for students attending private colleges and universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A survey from the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs shows that Iowa dedicates almost 80 percent of its need-based grants to resident students attending private colleges and universities — well above the national average of 28 percent.

A boost in the Iowa Tuition Grant will ensure more students can afford the education that’s right for them, which is an important part of our efforts to expand Iowa’s middle class. For more on grants, scholarships and other help to pay for college, go to www.iowacollegeaid.gov.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BUDGET IS GOOD FOR IOWA WORKERS
Senate Study Bill 1281 contains an Economic Development Budget that will expand Iowa’s middle class and move our economy forward.

The state’s Economic Development Budget funds Small Business Development Centers, research and economic development at our state universities, arts, cultural and historical projects, worker safety programs, and employer and worker assistance through Workforce Field Offices.

This year, Senate Democrats have proposed a budget that:

• Increases trade assistance for Iowa small businesses to expand their sales to national and international markets.

• Provides funding for an initiative to match returning veterans with jobs at Iowa companies.

• Invests in public transit systems that provide Iowans with transportation to and from work.

• Increases funding for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors.

• Increases funding for more wage theft investigators at Iowa Workforce Development.

In addition, the budget provides for financial assistance for businesses to locate and expand in Iowa, and for our state universities to work with businesses on research, development, marketing and entrepreneurship.

HEALTH CARE FOR VULNERABLE IOWANS IN JEOPARDY
In January, Governor Branstad surprised Iowans by proposing to privatize almost all of Iowa’s Medicaid system.

Medicaid provides free or low-cost health coverage to just over a half million Iowans who are some of the most vulnerable people in our state. This includes families and children, pregnant women, seniors and people living with disabilities. More than 71 percent of Medicaid dollars go toward services for the disabled and seniors.

In the Legislature, there is bipartisan support for a responsible, cautious approach to making changes with input from stakeholders. That’s the sort of approach that has worked best in other states and has been Iowa’s traditional approach.

Under Governor Branstad’s plan, however, Iowa will make bigger changes faster than any other state regarding health care services for Iowans who need them the most. After a similar transition in Kansas, the Disability Rights Center of Kansas reported that citizens with disabilities were denied services, struggled to navigate the new system and lacked resources to advocate for themselves.

Senate Democrats are committed to providing robust oversight to ensure that Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens don’t fall through the cracks. Earlier this year, the Iowa Senate unanimously approved SF 452. The bill would have created a process to closely monitor the Medicaid transition, ensured that tax dollars are spent wisely and maintained close-to-home access to critical healthcare services. Unfortunately, the Iowa House did not take up the bill.

There’s still time to act this year. Senate Democrats will continue to advocate for proper oversight of Iowa’s Medicaid transition and focus our attention on making sure resources are used wisely for crucial health, disability and senior services.

IOWANS SPEAK OUT ON NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTES
The Senate’s Government Oversight Committee heard testimony this week from a patient and employees of the state-run Mental Health Institutes (MHIs) that have been targeted for closure by Governor Branstad.

Under current Iowa law, the state must maintain and operate MHIs in Cherokee, Clarinda, Independence and Mount Pleasant. The Governor’s unilateral decision to close the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant facilities has drawn criticism from community leaders, legislators and mental health advocates because his plan hurts Iowans who need the critical services they provide. Layoffs have already begun in Mount Pleasant.

A former patient and staff describe Clarinda and Mount Pleasant as modern, efficient operations that provide services often not available in other locations, including inpatient dual substance use disorder and mental health treatment. The facilities have trained, dedicated, professional staff that provide compassionate care to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Anna Short, a former drug abuse counselor at Mount Pleasant, told legislators that Iowa has a mental health crisis. “A lot of our patients are mandated treatment by the courts. If we didn’t serve them, the prisons would house them, and that would cost much more to the state,” she said.

Cindy Fedler, a former nurse at Mount Pleasant, believes the transition is hard on patients, saying, “Just because someone has a mental illness, doesn’t mean they don’t know what’s going on.”

Ann Davison, a nurse from Clarinda, told the committee that since January 15, Clarinda has received 180 calls from 60 counties asking for help.

Christina, is a former patient at Clarinda, said she needed the inpatient experience and that she would not be here today without treatment at Clarinda.

The Senate has passed two bipartisan bills to address the MHI closures. SF 333 would require the Department of Human Services to admit eligible Iowans to the MHIs through the current fiscal year that ends June 30. The funds to support these services were appropriated by the Legislature and approved by the Governor last year. His administration should now follow through on its commitment to use those funds as approved.

SF 402 would set up a process for the Department of Human Services to develop and implement crucial community-based mental health services. The services must be approved by the Legislature and in place prior to considering MHI closings. The plan would include input from stakeholders and experts, require transitional services without reducing access or quality, ensure ongoing local access to highly trained community and institutional care providers, and identify stable funding for new services.

These bills have been eligible for debate in the Iowa House for weeks but have not been taken up.

Gov. Walker’s Economic Development Agency Under the Microscope

Walker 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2015 CONTACT: Mike Browne
CELL: (608) 444-3483

‘Record Shows He’s Enriched His Cronies While Failing to Deliver for the Rest of Us’

MADISON, Wis. and DES MOINES — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has come under scrutiny by media nationally and in Iowa recently for a $62 million-plus award of state funds to the retail outlet Kohl’s doled out under his watch as chair of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that more transactions by Walker’s WEDC deserve scrutiny, including over $86 million in state economic assistance to businesses that outsourced jobs to foreign countries.

As Walker treks to Iowa again this weekend as he auditions for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic commented, “It’s the time of year where a lot of politicians are coming to Iowa trying to win our support. But we need to take a good hard look at what they’ve done too.”

According to a One Wisconsin Now analysis of WEDC grant awards and federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) filings, since 2011 the quasi-private state economic development agency, whose board is chaired by Gov. Walker and whose key staff are hired by him, has approved over $86 million in state tax credits, grants and other aid to businesses that have outsourced jobs to foreign countries.

Ross noted there’s a vast disconnect between Walker’s actions as governor, overseeing millions in state aid going to outsourcers of American jobs, while on the campaign trail for president alleging his most recent immigration flip flop is being made out of concern for “American jobs and American wages.”

Progress Iowa’s Sinovic commented, “When Scott Walker was in Iowa in March he tried to tell us that he’s on our side on the critical economic issue of renewable fuel, despite a long history of doing and saying the exact opposite. Now he’s saying he cares about American jobs and American wages but we find out in Wisconsin he doled out millions to companies that were shipping jobs to foreign countries.”

Independent audits of Gov. Walker’s WEDC found an agency plagued with incompetence and questionable practices. The agency lost track of millions of dollars in state loans to businesses, failed to confirm aid recipients were fulfilling the terms of their agreements, failed to follow basic accounting practices and even used taxpayer funds to purchase liquor, football tickets and iTunes gift cards.

A report released by One Wisconsin Now, W is for WEDC, found that, in addition to providing aid to job outsourcers, a majority of aid went to businesses whose owners and employees contributed to help Gov. Walker’s campaigns, funds failed to produce promised job creation and recipients included companies engaged in health and safety violations, mass layoffs and conflicts of interest.

Ross concluded, “The cronyism, corruption and incompetence of Gov. Walker’s WEDC is a big reason Wisconsin’s economy is such a mess — last in the Midwest on jobs, lagging wages and a middle class that’s shrinking faster than any other state in the nation. With Scott Walker you know he’ll say anything to win an election, so you have to also pay attention to what he’s done. On jobs and the economy, the record shows he’s enriched his cronies while failing to deliver for the rest of us.”

# # #

One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

Sunday Funday: Bump And Grind For Donations Edition

Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Saw this Mike Lukovich cartoon and just had to share it. Being in Iowa we will be viewed as the epicenter of politics until sometime in January. Yet in the Republican Party the epicenter is actually a much smaller group. You may have heard that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, will be involved in picking the next Republican candidate in this election round. They were a bit put out that the party chose such a stinker last time around. Even though he was wealthy, Mitt Romney just didn’t meet their criteria.

Charles and David will be holding a beauty contest among 5 candidates – their own Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and another damned Bush. Winner gets as much from them as they will from the Republican party itself. Perhaps as much as a billion dollars. Those two are their own third American Political Party.

1) Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced legislation to extend what just in case Republicans get the win they want in King v. Burwell?

2) After all the bluster against Loretta Lynch, who was the only senator to not vote on the confirmation of Lynch for Attorney General?

3) Freddie Gray died while in police custody last Sunday. What major US city did this happen in?

4) How did Iowa’s senators vote on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as US Attorney General?

5) The FBI stunned the jurisprudence world this week when it admitted that it faked what type of forensic investigation?

6) Loretta Lynch’s confirmation vote was held up until a vote could be taken on what issue?

7) The former president of what country was sentenced to 20 years in prison?

8) The World Meteorological Association has removed what name for hurricanes starting in 2016?

9) The Prime Minister of New Zealand had to issue an apology for continually doing what to a waitress?

10) President Obama issued an apology when it was revealed that an American and an Italian citizen were killed by what in January?

11) What brand of ice cream has made a major recall due to a listeria problem?

12) Chicken and turkey farmers in northwest Iowa have been hit with a major outbreak of what disease?

13) An anti-bullying bill pushed by Gov. Branstad and passed overwhelmingly by the Iowa senate is being stalled by who?

14) A century ago (boy April seems like a violent month) last Friday was the anniversary of beginning of the genocide of what people?

15) Twenty-nine years ago today, the world is stunned by the meltdown of a nuclear power plant at what city in Russia?

16) A speed record for trains was achieved in Japan when one recorded going 590kph. What kind of train made this record?

17) A blogger who pushed a vegan diet claiming it cured her cancer was revealed to never had to have had what?

18) The son of what presidential candidate was cited (not arrested) for DUI after running into a parked car?

19) Pumps at what nuclear plant that suffered a meltdown stopped last week causing radioactive water to leak into the ocean?

20) Despite giving away state secrets what man got a suspended sentence and (for him) a small fine?

Ray-ban has asked Rand Paul to please remove their sunglasses from his online store. No doubt bad publicity for them.

Answers:

1) subsidies to those who now get subsidies through the ACA. These subsidies would last through 2016 (to avoid Repubs being blamed for the loss of subsidies)

2) Ted Cruz

3) Baltimore

4) Both voted no.

5) Hair analysis – great story here

6) Human trafficking

7) Egypt

8) Isis

9) pulling her pony tail

10) a drone attack

11) Blue Bell

12) bird flu

13) House speaker Kraig Paulson

14) Armenian

15) Chernobyl

16) a bullet mag-lev (magnetic levitation) train

17) the cancer she claimed she had

18) Rand Paul

19) Fukishima

20) David Petraeus. 2 years probation and a fine equal to about half of one speaking fee.

Write Grassley And Ernst Regarding The TPP

Charles Grassley, like it or not, will be up for re-election in 2016. There is no time like the present to let him know what he should be doing for the people of Iowa. Joni Ernst is in her first months and has already taken many steps that should be making her unpopular among voters. Like it or not, they are our senators and they need to hear from us.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) may be up for a vote in the senate next week. My expectation, as I am sure yours is, is that Grassley and Ernst will vote for fast-tracking the TPP in lockstep with other Republicans. Remember this vote is not to approve the TPP, but to give the administration the ability to negotiate and approve the TPP basically behind closed doors. This is not what representative democracy is about.

Approving a trade pact the size of TPP in the dark just tears at all the basic tenets of democracy. From what we know TPP will affect every segment of our society. We have also learned that there are many troubling aspects to problem resolution within TPP that may overrule our laws from outside. Not a situation that America should allow itself to get into.

There appear to be many other troubling aspects of the TPP but we do not know for sure what is in this pact since all negotiations have been under super secrecy. The latest rumor is that the TPP is based on the model of the recent (2011) trade pact with South Korea (KORUS) that has been disastrous for the United States. That agreement has sent yet more American jobs offshore while greatly expanding our trade deficit. TPP will do the same on steroids. America can not afford the TPP.

Here is what I will send to our senators:
Senator __________,
I am writing to ask that you vote against fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership. This trade agreement will affect all aspects of the American economy and possibly aspects of out day tot day lives. In a democracy such as ours, any act that will have this much affect on the daily lives of our citizens should have open debate so that all sides may be brought out. There should also be plenty of time and opportunity for common citizens to offer input.

Please vote against fast tracking authority for the TPP when it comes to the senate floor.

Thank you,

Here are the email links for Grassley and Ernst:

http://www.grassley.senate.gov/constituents/questions-and-comments

http://www.ernst.senate.gov/content/contact-joni

To Our Grandchild

Celebrate Earth Day Everyday!

Celebrate Earth Day Everyday!

We want to get our apology in now. We won’t be around a lot longer and it looks like the one thing we had hoped to give you when you reached adulthood was a world that was at least trying to get a grip on its problems so that humans could share the one planet we have in a way that all could survive. If things continue the direction they are going, we will have failed miserably and left your generation in the worst shape of any that inherited the earth.

For the past 35 years the greedy have ruled the planet with money and their own interests in mind. For the most part that meant that they exploited most everything they could. They exploited raw materials around the world where they sowed the seeds of hate and injustice and eventual war in pursuit of that exploitation. They exploited human labor to the very depths they could and bought off government and officials so they would look the other way when they went even lower than was legal.

They exploited the American constitution so they could essentially run the government. Laws were written such that they could exploit American workers and our environment. They used their money and power to influence elections through gerrymandering, through disenfranchising certain segments of voters and also to confuse and intimidate voters. When their candidates were elected they went about the business of changing laws to keep them in power and filling the judiciary with their lackeys so that their view would almost always win in courts.

They exploited and owned the media to its fullest extent. Finding any alternative news source after the presidency of Ronald Reagan was much like looking for Sasquatch. Rumors were that such things existed, but were seldom spotted. We have been given a steady stream of information that tells us that whatever is good for the rich is good for us. This media has led us cheering into war after war. They have led us to believe that the US committing terrorism by drones within foreign countries is good. They have created fear among citizens to the point where we armed ourselves to the teeth ready to shoot strangers at the drop of a hand. And for every drone, every weapon of war, every gun and bullet that was sold the greedy got richer and our society got poorer.

They exploited fear not only of strangers but of an unseen and unprovable entity called a god. They used this god to extract unquestioning loyalty for fear that the exploited would meet some fearful eternity. Using the fear to create a people scared of their own shadows and afraid to question whatever the greedy did.

When people were full of fear and filled with so much misinformation that reality seemed like a fantasy to those people, the greedy then went about destroying the environment that allowed human life to occur on this one lonely planet that we know of. The air became nearly impossible to breath, the water so filthy it could barely be cleaned any more. The temperatures soared and rivers and aquifers dried up in one spot while floods raged in others driving people from their land and eventually covering coastal areas. Food became scarce for many even while food resources were used to feed animals for consumption by the greedy who had money and power.

Your grandmother and I tried to work in the systems of democracy to stop what was going on. Sadly, our letters to people in power, our marching, our phone calls were easily drowned out by the money on influence of the greedy. We were frustrated, but carried on believing that what was best for all would eventually win out. Slowly we learned that a few greedy people with money and power can easily get their way through access, confusion and fear.

And so you inherit a world that is broken. A world where food and clean water are like gold was to many of us. You inherit a world where fear that has been ground into people is one of the driving forces. You inherit a world full of religious prejudice and fear. You inherit a world that is so warm it is nearly impossible to lived in. We are deeply sorry.

We believed that given choices that most people would choose what was best for the greatest number. We were very wrong. We learned that most people will follow what seems to be the crowd, even if it is an artificially produced crowd. Maybe your generation will respond to the crisis we dropped on you, but I fear forces of greed will stop any progress in your time also.

But we will not stop fighting. Mankind is worth fighting for.