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The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

Excerpts from Sen. Tom Courtney’s weekly legislative report. The full newsletter can be found here:


Iowa leaders, parents, students and teachers are calling on Governor Branstad and lawmakers to make our local schools a top priority again. They’ve launched a new organization to connect concerned citizens across the state.

Called Parents for Great Iowa Schools, the group is fighting to make sure every child in Iowa gets a world-class public education that will prepare them for the 21st-century economy, generate the skilled workforce Iowa needs, and encourage problem-solving, critical-thinking, creative and innovative young people.

Iowa’s public schools provide education for about 475,000 elementary, middle school and high school students. That means the short- and long-term effects of underfunding our public schools could be significant. In the short term, our students need access to the best teachers and techniques in a top-notch setting. In the long term, they must be able to address life’s challenges and contribute to their communities as thoughtful adults.

Last month, school leaders told lawmakers another year of inadequate state funding would force them to pack more students into classrooms, rely on old textbooks and technology, and cut back on literacy efforts.

That’s bad news when you consider that at least 22 percent of Iowa third-graders last school year failed local reading tests. Starting next year, any student who is substantially deficient in reading at the end of third grade will have to take a summer reading program or be held back.

Local schools need to know they’ll get adequate funding in a timely way. In addition, the Iowa Department of Education is asking for additional money specifically for summer school and literacy efforts throughout the state. Unfortunately, Governor Branstad’s budget does not call for funding these critical requests, even though he wants to hold kids back if their reading isn’t on par by the end of third grade.

If you share these concerns, go to to sign a petition encouraging Iowa lawmakers to invest in public schools again. You can also follow the Parents for Great Iowa Schools group on Facebook at


This week, a bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate to stop Governor Branstad’s unilateral decision to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid program.

I’m supporting this legislation—Senate Study Bill 3081—because many of my constituents tell me that the Governor’s plan tries to do too much, too fast, and it fails to protect vulnerable Iowans. There is no excuse for putting the health and wellbeing of more than 560,000 Iowans at risk.

Specifically, the legislation directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to immediately terminate contracts with three private out-of-state managed care companies.

As an alternative, the legislation calls on Iowa to continue improving patient outcomes, increasing access to care and making the existing public management of Medicaid more efficient. This common sense legislation is necessary because Iowa still isn’t ready—even after a 60-day delay—to implement a privatized Medicaid system operated by for-profit, out-of-state companies.

Since the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a delay in privatizing Iowa’s Medicaid system in mid-December, we have seen no evidence that state officials and private companies have taken the steps to ensure the health and wellbeing Iowans receiving Medicaid services.

The main concerns I’m hearing from constituents include:

* Arbitrary and unrealistic implementation timeline
* Failure to establish adequate provider networks in advance
* Disruptions of longstanding patient-provider relationships
* Diminished quality and access to health care services
* Compromised patient care
* Inadequate communication with patients and providers

You can review Senate Study Bill 3081 on the Iowa Legislature’s website at


Expanding Iowa’s middle class and maintaining fiscal responsibility are key elements of the state budget proposed by Senate Democrats this week.

Our number one goal is to make investments that will grow Iowa’s middle class. We propose strategic investments to help Iowa workers gain new skills, improve local schools, grow Main Street businesses, and create more cultural and recreational opportunities.

Our plan calls for $7.4 billion in general fund spending. Iowa law allows the Legislature to spend up to 99 percent of available revenues. Our budget is below that level, which means we’ll end the year with a surplus and full rainy day accounts.

According to December estimates by the state’s nonpartisan Revenue Estimating Conference, our budget proposal works out to 98.9 percent of available revenues, which is less than what Governor Branstad wants to spend.

We are announcing our budget proposal early in the legislative session in hopes of avoiding the budget gridlock of recent years. Iowans want us to focus on their priorities, not bickering about numbers.

Sunday Funday: Who Cares About The Super Bowl

chili bowl never lets you down

chili bowl never lets you down

The Super Bowl is much like Donald Trump. Since you hear about it in nearly every other sentence at some point you become curious about what it looks like. But I have fallen for that trick before. Yet again this year I will try not to watch any of it. Pro football to me is quite boring. Fifteen minutes of “action” fit into sixty minutes of game clock crammed into 200+ minutes of TV time. By my counting that is 200 minutes – 15minutes of “action” = 185 minutes of what? Mostly commercials.

I hate commercials with a passion. I especially hate commercials after being subjected to 6 months of the most intense lying in the guise of Republican commercials I have ever seen. “But what about those new commercials for the Super Bowl?” you ask. Chances are if I turn on TV sometime in my future life I will run into one of those commercials. If not and I really want to see it, youtube will have it I am sure.

Were you paying attention?

1) In one of the saddest moments of the campaign, what Republican presidential candidate had to ask his audience to “please clap” following one of his statements?

2) Ted Cruz’s campaign tweeted that what competitor had dropped out just before the Iowa caucuses?

3) The State Department’s Inspector General revealed Thursday that what former female Secretary of State used private email for classified information?

4) Who won the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses Monday?

5) Ted Cruz won the Republican caucuses. Who accused Cruz of cheating to do so?

6) The threat of what forecast for Monday night fortunately held off until the caucuses were over?

7) The nation’s right wing went crazy after the president visited what Wednesday?

8) Can you name the three Republicans who dropped out after the Iowa caucuses?

9) It is Black History Month. What is Brown’s full name from the famous Brown v. Board school anti-segragation case?

10) In the above case what Board was the defendant in the case?

11) Once the darling of the early tech companies this former giant announced they would lay off 1700 workers this week?

12) (black history) Claudette Colvin did it first but was hardly noticed. A year later what civil rights icon sat down on a bus and launched the Montgomery bus boycott?

13) She’s baaack! What daughter of a former vice-president announced she would run for the House seat from Wyoming?

14) Apple stock has struggled and Alphabet is now the most valuable public company. What does Alphabet do?

15) (black history) 1967 in the case of Loving v. Virginia, SCOTUS overturned what that was previously banned especially in southern states?

16) What documentary film maker and famous former Flint resident found himself in the hospital with pneumonia as his latest film opened in the US?

17) What former head of the NAACP endorsed Bernie Sanders late last week?

18) What Iowa politician had previously asked Republicans to vote against Ted Cruz at the caucuses?

19) What Republican came in third and acted as if he had won the Iowa caucuses?

20) Mitt Romney promised unemployment under 6% by 2020 if he was elected president in 2012. What was unemployment officially as of Friday?

Got to admit, the caucuses really took it out of me. The good news is that the next caucuses will be much easier as we meet to re-elect the Democrat that wins in November.


1) Jeb! Bush

2) Ben Carson – Carson went home to Florida to change clothes. The Cruz capping claimed Carson dropped out

3) Condoleezza Rice

4) Officially so far Hillary Clinton

5) Donald Trump ( Terry Branstad did so also)

6) blizzard or a major snowstorm

7) a mosque

8) Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee

9) Linda Brown

10) Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

11) Yahoo!

12) Rosa Parks

13) Liz Cheney

14) it is the parent company of Google

15) inter-racial marriage

16) Michael Moore

17) Ben Jealous

18) Terry Branstad

19) Marco Rubio

20) 4.9%

Shoot I don’t even know when kickoff is……..

Grassley, Ernst Proudly Vote Stupid

Climate change? You got a campaign contribution?

Climate change? You got a campaign contribution?

Republicans vote to deny climate change caused by human activity.

In a little reported amendment offered by Sen. Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii) our nation’s senators voted on whether climate change was caused by human activity.

This has been settled science for a couple of decades with the exception of some highly bribed scientists. Seems like for most people in the US that deny climate change has any connection to human activity, you can find a paycheck written to them by one of the Koch brothers or someone else in the oil business.

So here are a couple of America’s top decision makers who occasionally have to make decisions based on some understanding of facts. Facts being things that are demonstrably true. In this case, facts that have been proven over and over and over. Scientific facts are facts which allow us to not only show how they were true based on experience, but can also be the basis for predictions of what will come.

Climate change science has allowed us to predict with some amount of accuracy the rise in temperatures on earth and the disruption it will cause. These predictions are currently starting to come true and the forecast for what is to come is frightening.

So Grassley and Ernst are 2% of one of the most powerful groups in the world that is tasked with, among other things, dealing with climate change and its effects. AND THEY DENY IT IS HAPPENING AND DENY THE SCIENCE. They proudly vote to deny the science, to deny facts. Their denial only serves to make consequences of climate change worse as the US continues to bury its head in the sand – pushed in there by Republicans who only serve their donors and ignore the general good.

We knew Joni Ernst was bought lock, stock and barrel by the Koch brothers. No one ever tried to hide that.

Whatever Grassley’s motivation for voting to loudly proclaim his stupidity it is a more than sufficient reason for Iowans to loudly proclaim that we need a senator who is grounded in reality. Climate change will soon enough claim the corn and soybean industries in Iowa as temperatures become to hot to grow those plants here. Now is the time to remove Grassley and get started on turning climate change around.

You don’t need to worry about Chuck by the way. He has done plenty of favors for his “campaign contributors” that they will make sure he is taken care of.

joni ernst the perfect Koch investment

Branstad, Snyder Typify Republican Party


When I think of Republicans, especially Republicans in power I think of incompetence beyond anyone’s worst nightmare. In their drive to enrich their wealthy donors, they push hard for cuts to any programs that help the poor and help maintain the middle class so they can cut taxes for the rich. Seems like there are as many examples of Republican incompetence especially in the nation’s governorships as there are grains of sand on a beach.

This week we have a couple of shining examples of Republican incompetence at their worst.

Here in Iowa old bumbley, stumbley Terry Branstad is sticking with his brilliant idea to take money from a tax earmarked for school improvement and use it for something else. It almost makes no difference what the something else is. This is the 3rd time in only 7 months that Branstad has taken aims at cutting school funds in some form or another. This is a game plan that has been used over and over again across the country to force the privatization or profitization of public schools systems.

Starve the beast it is called. The beast in this case is government. One of the largest governmental outlays in most states, Iowa included, is for public schools. Republicans believe that if they slowly take the money away from the school systems, the systems will eventually turn to a profitized system as a solution. They do so in what has been described as the “boil the frog” method. As a frog is cooked the heat is slowly turned up in such a way that when the frog finally realizes he is being boiled alive he is incapable of escaping because he is too far gone. By slowly removing money from the schools, schools must change how they function and will continue to do so until they no longer function.

So late June, Branstad vetoed a compromise from the legislature that would have given a much needed shot of one time money claiming Iowa could not afford it. Just a couple of months later Branstad moved unilaterally to cut a long existing tax on consumables for businesses. As stated by state Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City at that time:

Today, however, after large corporations lobbied him for a $37 million, on-going tax cut that legislators had rejected, Governor Branstad says Iowa can afford it. Furthermore, he says he doesn’t need the Legislature’s approval to do it.

“The agenda for the October 13 meeting of the Administrative Rules Review Committee reveals that the Branstad-Reynolds Administration is proposing a rule change to exempt consumable supplies used in manufacturing from the Iowa sales tax. If the Branstad-Reynolds Administration does not withdraw this rule, it will take effect on January 1, 2016, even though this $37 million annual tax cut has never been approved by the Iowa Legislature.

“This rule would change more than 15 years of existing policy.”

Less taxes = less money for schools.

Now Branstad wants the one percent sales tax that was long ago approved as earmarked for schools to be split for what he deems as a crisis of water quality in Iowa. There has been a crisis in water quality in Iowa for a long time. Branstad sees this as yet another opportunity to cut into school funding. If this attempt fails, expect another assault on school funding from the governor claiming some other crisis next year. Cutting school funding is his mission. All while claiming to be a friend of Iowa schools.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a real crisis of monumental proportions with toxic lead in the drinking water of Flint is being met with perhaps the worst leadership possible. What Flint needed was a leader who would have stopped the poisonous water from flowing into homes in Flint immediately when the problem was found. Then the legislature should have been called into session and money and manpower should have been dedicated to fixing what is a huge public health problem immediately.

Since Governor Snyder was part of the problem his first move as state leader was to try to hide the problem. His next order of business was to try to slough the blame onto someone else. Such tactics never work and are not doing so in the Flint crisis. Now, even at this late date Snyder still refuses to deal with reality and deal with Flint as the emergency it is. Instead he is offering Flint residents a discount for the poison that flows into their homes in the guise of water.

The connecting theme between Branstad and Snyder is that both are dedicated to continuing to deliver tax cuts to the rich. Cutting taxes for the wealthy is the connecting theme for incompetence in the Republican governor’s chairs across the country. Brownback in Kansas has driven his state to near bankruptcy in pursuit of cutting taxes while ruining public schools. Christie in New Jersey diverts federal money to cover huge budget holes. Bevin in Kentucky has already embarked on a path to take away health care from the poor and no doubt will slash other programs for the holy grail of tax cuts.

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Caucusing Made Easy

While this is a video from the Sanders campaign the mechanics of caucusing are standard and well illustrated here.

Please pay close attention to your caucus leader. He or she only does this once every 4 years. While we (yes, I am one) have been trained, there are many little rules to follow closely to make the caucus work. So we will take our time to make sure we follow the rules.

The eyes of America are on Iowa. We are all Democrats and we all have nearly the exact same goals in mind. We vary mostly in approach. Democrats in, Democrats coming out. And for the sake of the country may we win in the fall.

Sunday Funday: Happy Caucus Eve

Who will emerge tomorrow night?

Who will emerge tomorrow night?

Well I guess this is Iowa’s version of the Super Bowl. The eyes of the nation, and some around the world will be watching to see what the farmers, factory workers, clerks, small business owners, students and professionals that call Iowa home will do as they gather in community centers across the state tomorrow. Then at 9PM as if ordered by some supreme master people and equipment will be leaving Iowa en masse to swarm on the next step in the process.

While Tuesday morning may feel like the day after Christmas to many here in Iowa – you know the “is the magic really over?” feeling – Mother Nature has already chosen an activity for us. Snow removal. One of Iowa’s favorite wintertime activities will be there waiting for us the next morning. Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful?

Were you paying attention?

1) When the clown bus unloaded in Des Moines Thursday night and attendance was taken before the Republican debate one was missing. Which one?

2) Friday (Jan. 29) was the seventh anniversary of the Fair Pay Act being signed into law. This law is better known by what person’s name?

3) Iowa’s caucus system was forced to move to much earlier in the process following new rules for selecting Democratic delegates following what tumultuous convention?

4) As the biggest newspaper in the first state test of presidential politics, the Des Moines Register endorsed what two candidates last week?

5) Super Bowl next week. Who’s playing?

6) In Des Moines what Republican presidential candidate hijacked a pre-school field trip to the botanical gardens to use the kids as props for an anti-abortion rally?

7) The owner of what major league baseball team is running ads against Bernie Sanders in Iowa prior to the caucuses?

8) Last Sunday in Muscatine Donald Trump added what religious group to the long list of groups he hates?

9) Feb. 1, 1960 in Greensboro, NC, 4 black students were refused service at a Woolworth lunch counter but stayed at the counter starting what form of protest?

10) Texas tried to prosecute Planned Parenthood, but last week the prosecution had some surprise results when the grand jury instead indicted who?

11) When federal officials arrested protesters near Burns, Oregon one protester was shot and killed. This man was best known for pictures of him covered by what?

12) Canada announced they will screen travelers to Central and South America from blood donations in an attempt to slow the spread of what virus?

13) President Obama banned what for juveniles in federal prisons Monday?

14) Prior to the Republican debates in Iowa Thursday fast food workers picketed the venue with what demand?

15) A $25 repair fee seemed to be the cause of a gunfight between the owner of what kind of store, his son and two customers in Mississippi last week?

16) Iowa’s caucuses got big media attention when what democratic candidate was propelled to an eventual gig in the White House with a good showing in Iowa?

17) Now here’s endorsements that might mean something. Donald Trump was endorsed by what two U of Iowa groups at a rally at the U of Iowa Fieldhouse Tuesday?

18) What evangelical ran second to Bob Dole in Iowa’s Republican caucus in 1988?

19) McDonald’s latest offering, mozzarella sticks, is facing a hard introduction due to what problem?

20) In 2008, Hillary Clinton finished in what position in the Iowa caucuses?

Now don’t forget we are all democrats, so play well together.


1) Donald Trump. They lost the Donald

2) Lilly Ledbetter

3) Chicago 1968

4) Hillary Clinton (dem) and Marco Rubio (rep)

5) Denver and Carolina. The game will be played in San Francisco a city that now seems to located in Santa Clara

6) Carly Fiorina

7) Chicago Cubs

8) Sikhs – Trump had a Sikh man removed who was silently holding a sign that said “Stop Hate”

9) sit-ins

10) the pair that filmed the bogus”documentary” that led to the investigation for falsifying records.

11) a blue tarp

12) The zika virus that may be the cause of microcephalic babies

13) solitary confinement

14) $15/hr. minimum wage

15) a gun store. The shop owner and his son were killed and the cutovers, also father and son, were gravely injured. Not sure who the good guy with the gun was here.

16) Jimmy Carter

17) members of the U of Iowa football and wrestling teams

18) Pat Robertson. Just imagine him as president

19) the mozzarella cheese is often missing from the sticks

20) 3rd behind Obama and Edwards

Will The Legislature Let Medical Marijuana Happen This Year?

medical marijuana

Two years ago, Iowa seemingly became the latest in a string of states to allow marijuana to be used in limited medical situations. In Iowa, the situations were centered around epilepsy. All agreed this was very necessary and very good policy.

What was missed in allowing the use of medical marijuana in Iowa was that the possession of marijuana continued to be illegal. In order to legally use marijuana a person had to possess it first which is illegal.

Last year Republicans in the Iowa legislature refused to even discuss legalizing possession of marijuana by those who needed to use it medically.

Republicans need not wonder too long why Iowans think their legislators are a joke. They won’t fund schools, they keep women’s wages stuck in the 1950s and when they do try to take a step forward it appears they can move only leg.

This is not rocket science. In order to use the marijuana that will alleviate a terrible medical problem a person must first be able to possess the marijuana. This will be a huge step forward for those who need it. To the Republicans in the Iowa legislature, please do the right thing and make it possible for those who need this drug to be able to get it.

If I was cynical I might think that their opposition was based on getting “campaign contributions” from drug companies that are working across the country to halt the use of medical marijuana. But surely that couldn’t be it.

An Unspoken Message From Flint

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Simply stated while more and more Americans concentrate in urban areas, right wing propaganda pushed by corporate media portrays America’s cities as crime ridden hell holes run by incompetent politicians and inhabited by slothful citizens who live off the dole, spawning generation after generation of citizens dependent on government. Right wing politicians at the state and federal level have used these perceptions to push laws that make it difficult at best for cities to even run let alone succeed. That is the crux of my rant.

While most news sources and opinion leaders are rightly hammering about the tragedy in Flint and how easily it could have been avoided, as far as I know no one has spoken of one of the underlying reasons that goes totally unspoken and ignored. Simply stated, America hates its cities. Americans through its politicians day after day and year after year creates hurdles and barriers to keep cities from operating in a manner that could optimize life for its citizens.

This should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Since the day a European first set foot in the new world, owning land and being beholden to no one has been what is now called the American Dream. Being a self-sustained family unit growing your own food, making your own clothes, living on a large acreage in a home built with your own hands. Land is at the basis of much of the American Dream. “A man’s home is his castle” and all that, but the bottom line was that every person was expected to strive for that little chunk of land that is their own.

Wars and famines in Europe in particular and elsewhere to a degree sent droves of refugees to our shores in the 19th century. Many of these folks were considered less desirable. Often for their own protection as well as the need for some familiar setting, these folk often congregated together. The congregating places became the cities. As most know living conditions in the cities were often that of hell holes. Thanks to social activists living conditions were gradually raised. Open sewers and dirty water eventually became indoor plumbing. Electricity was deployed. Cities slowly became more livable. Businesses and jobs moved into the cities where labor was cheap and plentiful.

The pastoral American Dream gave way to a reality of life in or near a city. The Great Migration of rural southern blacks to jobs in northern cities was the next phase. At this point race became a factor in how cities were treated. Following WW2 transportation and government policies around land and housing led to a movement to the suburbs by whites. Segregationist governmental policies led to white suburbs with good jobs surrounding an increasingly poor and jobless inner core city.

Mostly this was ignored by our media except for uprisings borne out of frustrations in the inner cities. While the pastoral American Dream remained as the ideal, reality was that most of America became increasingly tied to cities either in the city itself or as part of the burgeoning suburbs. As of the 2010 census slightly over 80% of Americans are listed as urban dwellers. Thus the vast majority of our population is tied to cities.

Over the decades as African-Americans became majorities in urban areas, they took the reins of government. During that same time period it seems that restrictions on what cities were allowed to do became much more restrictive, mandates on what a city must do for its citizens became broader without accompanying tax increases and the tax base deteriorated as industry and wages left town.

Post WW2 as inner cities began to deteriorate, the federal government made at least an attempt to help solve the problems through a program known as revenue sharing. Money was returned to cities based on population for them to use as they saw fit. Unfortunately this revenue stream was cut by the Reagan administration. Funds from this program were for the most part not replaced. Thus programs and improvements went by the wayside and cities really began to struggle to simply provide basic services amid lower revenues and another new wrinkle from the Reagan Administration. unfunded mandates. Prior to Reagan, new rules in areas such as environmental standards would come with some money from the federal government to implement programs. Under Reagan no money was attached to mandates which left cities scrambling to readjust monies to meet the mandates. The money often came from social programs.

As cities were lost revenue and faced new outlays a new anti-tax movement began to take hold in this country thanks in great part to corporate media constantly driving the propaganda that government doesn’t work. It is hard to beat propaganda pushed on nearly all TV and radio stations day in and day out. Cities were often used as examples of government failure where jobless people lived off government checks and sat around doing nothing all day while schools failed and local governments dithered. Pictures on TV cemented that view.

Cities unfairly became the right wing’s and the media’s example of out of control government spending that fostered dependency and sloth. Stories made it seem that incompetence and greed abounded. Forget that the financial binds that most cities were driven to were impossible to solve. TV and radio pushed the meme that cities were wastes of tax dollars and were incapable of solving their own problems. Add into the mix the toxic mortgage backed bonds that many cities used to park some of their funds in hopes of making some interest while waiting to use the money. City after city saw their money disappear while they were stuck with sales charges connected to buying the toxic bonds. This only added to the story of incompetent governments running cities.

All of this along with a racist lore that “others” were incapable of self-government. One more toxic item to add into the mix was the move to starve government at all levels of revenue along with the related push to privatize or profitize goods and services that were once the province of government. At the local level this meant hiring janitorial services for building maintenance rather than employing their own people and it meant hiring garbage pick up services. This also meant that parks went up for sale, buildings were sold for pennies on the dollar, water services were privatized. In Illinois and Indiana toll roads were privatized; in Chicago parking meters were sold to a private concern for a one time shot of money at pennies on the dollar.

With all this as a background, Michigan enacted a series of “emergency management” laws that stripped elected city officials in cities that the governor decided could not run themselves. As has been noted over and over the only cities so designated have been majority African American. And under an emergency management situation with no real check on their powers, the decision was made to change Flint’s water system.

More and more Americans live in a fantasy world where every man has a castle to protect with a cache of weapons. Bad people are consigned to a deservedly lousy existence in the teeming cities where sin, drugs, disease and desperation are rampant. But those who live there deserve what they get because they have somehow offended God and are being punished. Government doesn’t work and only fosters the wretched conditions in the cities. The only hope is dispense with government and empower strong and wise men to run the affairs of the cities without being encumbered by trivial rules.

Reality is that most of America lives in or near cities. Trends seem to show that renting will be the norm and home ownership will suffer a downward trend. What i happening in the inner cities will move to the suburbs as jobs flow overseas or become more and more concentrated as giant corporations continue to merge and consolidate.

America needs visionary leadership that will begin to address these problems now. These problems will not go away, nor can they be legislated or wished out of existence.

Iowa has these problems. There is nothing that makes Iowa cities immune from shrinking revenues and huge burdens. The state legislature continues to enact legislation that makes it harder and harder for cities to maintain libraries, parks, cemeteries, fire services, police and other services. Profitizers are already licking their chops and getting ready to buy up Iowa’s municipal water systems and sewer systems. Experience shows that once something is profitized it is hard to unprofitize. Beware Iowa and watch your legislature closely.

The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

The Iowa Legislature is back in session. We are quite happy to once again turn a corner of this blog over to excerpts from the newsletter of State Senator Tom Courtney and occasionally others. The full newsletter can be read here.


Another year of inadequate state funding for K-12 schools will result in larger class sizes. That’s what school administrators tell us in a new survey.
Superintendents, principals and other school officials completed the survey in recent weeks to help us better understand the consequences of shortchanging public schools, and to determine the impact of the Governor’s veto last summer of bipartisan school funding.

Underfunding local schools limits educational opportunity for our students. That’s bad for Iowa’s future at a time when business leaders say Iowa needs more skilled workers just to fill current job openings. When we underfund education, we undermine our state’s economy and the ability of Iowa families to get ahead.

In addition to packing more students into classrooms, school leaders say underfunding schools will force them to:

* Delay purchasing books and classroom materials (77 percent of respondents).
* Leave positions unfilled (71 percent).
* Delay new technology purchases (56 percent).
* Cut back on programs that help kids learn to read (43 percent).

An increase of at least 4 percent in basic state aid to schools is what’s needed for the next school year to avoid these types of drastic cuts, according 88 percent of school leaders who responded to the survey.

It’s time to make public schools a bipartisan priority of the Legislature again. We can afford to do it. Our state savings accounts are full at $719 million. That’s a record high level, equal 10 percent of state budget. In addition, we expect to end the year with a surplus of $264 million.

To view complete results from the school administrator survey, go to here.


Medicaid is the health care safety net for 560,000 Iowans. One in five Iowans depends on Medicaid for vital health care services, including the elderly, people with disabilities and mental health concerns, children and moms.

Because of an ill-conceived and poorly executed plan by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration, Iowa families may not be able to count on that safety net anymore.

The Governor’s unilateral decision to turn Medicaid and $4.2 billion over to a few private out-of-state companies is fiscally irresponsible and risky to the health of Iowans. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has stepped in to slow down the process until at least March 1, but many are still concerned that the Iowa Department of Human Services and the out-of-state companies will be not be prepared to make the transition by then.

Members, caregivers and families are in turmoil over the major changes to Iowa Medicaid. It could result in increased costs to taxpayers and denial of health care to Iowans. Some providers are unsure they’ll survive the new payment structure.

We will continue to help Iowa patients and local community health care providers as best we can with their individual circumstances.

In addition, Senate Democrats are developing stronger oversight legislation this session. We want safeguards in place to protect Iowans who rely on Medicaid and our local health care providers from potential negative impacts of privatizing Medicaid.

Veterans from across Iowa visited the State Capitol on January 20 for the annual Veterans Day on the Hill. I was pleased to welcome veterans from our district, and to listen to their concerns and ideas.

They had a full schedule of activities, including a special ceremony in the rotunda honoring their service. In addition they had the opportunity to meet Adjutant General Timothy Orr of the Iowa National Guard, Commandant Jodi Tymeson of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Col. Robert King (Ret.), and members of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.

The Legislature’s Veterans Affairs Committee has worked in a bipartisan way to expand benefits for our veterans, service members and their families. For example, last year we:

* Provided a stable source of revenue for the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund by transferring $2.5 million in lottery revenues each year to the trust fund (SF 323).
* Offered flexibility in using college aid by providing a total of 120 undergraduate credit hours through the National Guard Educational Assistance Program, instead of administering aid by term (SF 130).
* Expanded college credit for military education, training and experience to include National Guard members and Reservists, saving them time and money in completing their degrees (HF 205).
* Ensured a full property tax exemption through the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Credit to veterans who have 100 percent service-connected, permanent disability that makes it impossible to work (HF 166).
* Added “service-disabled veteran” to the definition of targeted small businesses, which are eligible for low-interest loans and grants, as well as consideration when that state seeks bids for goods and services (SF 499).

This year, we continue to explore opportunities to support our veterans, enhance existing services at the state and county levels, help returning service members reenter civilian life, and encourage more veterans to make Iowa their home.

Iowa troops who have answered the call to duty deserve this dedicated support.

Sunday Funday: Sara’s Back Edition

Comedians of America breath a sigh of relief as Sara Palin gives them material to cover another several weeks of jokes. Stephen Colbert is on it early.

Stop laughing, it’s time for the quiz.

1) What city in Iowa was lucky enough to host these two incomparable people last week for this endorsement?

2) Another member of rock and roll royalty died early this week. What founding member of the Eagles passed on last Sunday?

3) What soft-core porn magazine became a victim of easily accessed online porn and announced it will cease publication in the future?

4) Hoping to avoid a disaster like last year in Iowa, officials believe a strain of what was contained in Indiana?

5) In the gambling world, one of Iowa’s chief concerns this year will be what, like many other states?

6) Forty-three years ago last Friday the SCOTUS announced its decision in what controversial case?

7) Calls have been issued for a boycott of the Oscars over what issue?

8) In what may be a sad note on the humor front, satirical magazine The Onion was reportedly bought by what corporation?

9) Cases of what mosquito borne disease that appears to be a cause of babies born with microcephaly (small head syndrome) have been reported in the US?

10) Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad sent shock waves throughout the Republican Party when he called for the defeat of what presidential candidate?

11) Oxfam released a new study that said that half of the world’s population has as much total wealth as the richest how many?

12) Looks like Pluto has a big brother. A new planet may have been discovered way beyond Pluto. It appears to be comparable to what other planet in size?

13) In a first, Taiwan elected a what as their new president?

14) Iranian prisoners held in the US chose to do what following their release in the prisoner exchange with Iran last week?

15) A film released this week purports to be a documentary on what recent incident?

16) The British parliament held a three hour discussion on banning what or who from entering Britain?

17) Track Palin was arrested and charged with domestic battery in Alaska last week. Who did his mother, Sara Palin, blame for there incident?

18) A feature of government in Michigan allows the governor to usurp locally elected officials with a what?

19) Conservative magazine National Review devoted its latest issue to taking down which Republican presidential candidate?

20) The NLRB ruled that what company retaliated unlawfully against strikers in 2013 and must reinstate the 16 workers it dismissed?

How many climate deniers have gone on Fox this weekend and made a snowball to show climate change doesn’t work?

1) Ames

2) Glenn Frey

3) Penthouse

4) avian flu ( let’s hope they are right.)

5) fantasy sports betting

6) Rowe v. Wade (abortion)

7) lack of diversity among the nominations

8) Univision

9) zika virus. It started showing up in Brazil last year. Hawaii had a case last month. Two pregnant US women were infected after travel to Central America.

10) Ted Cruz

11) 62.

12) Neptune

13) woman

14) stay in the US

15) Benghazi. “13 Hours” is a right wing hit job on Clinton and Obama. But a huge bomb at the box office.

16) Donald Trump

17) President Obama

18) an emergency manager or an emergency financial manager

19) Donald Trump

20) Walmart

See you next week!