Robb Hogg newsletter Nov.13
Governor Branstad’s current push to privatize Iowa Medicaid has upset many Iowans. Critics say it tries to do too much too fast, and is too disorganized, and does not accomplish any public benefit. Last month, I asked Governor Branstad to show the documentation on how this change would save money without cutting benefits or access to health care. He said he had no documentation.
I hope we can slow down or stop Governor Branstad’s proposal. If you agree, please take a moment today to sign a petition urging a six month delay until July 1, 2016. The petition can be found at www.IowansForQualityMedicaid.com.
Let’s take time to get this right.
CEDAR RIVER WATERSHED COALITION
I am attending the Cedar River Watershed Coalition meeting today in Waterloo, where the focus is on urban measures to reduce the risk of future flood damage. Although it has been more than seven years since the Flood of 2008, recent flood damage in South Carolina and Texas underscores the ongoing need for flood preparedness. If you would like to be involved in the Cedar River Watershed Coalition, please contact Mary Beth Stevenson at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at email@example.com.
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS TOUR
As part of a “climate solutions” tour, I visited facilities this week in Cedar Rapids (solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations), Pella (green buildings), Coon Rapids (land management), Carroll (solar-powered green building), Ames (biorenewable research), Decorah (solar power), and Charles City (ethanol plant and wind farm) to highlight the fact that climate solutions work for the environment and for our economy.
We need to act to address climate change, and the good news is we have solutions that work. Please speak up with federal and state elected officials to urge their support for public policy that promotes clean, home-grown renewable energy and other solutions to climate change.
INDEPENDENCE MHI VISIT
On Wednesday afternoon, November 18, I will be visiting the Independence Mental Health Institute as part of my service as chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. It is critical that we have facilities and programs that are working to meet the needs of our most vulnerable Iowans. I look forward to learning more about what the Independence MHI is doing and how it is serving the people of Iowa.
You will need ear buds or headphones to listen to this video but it is incredible what you will hear.
This woman describes stink so bad they can’t go outside, but also large clusters of flies on her window sills and being covered with welts from fly bites, a dumpster in one of the driveways piled with dead animals…”you can see carcasses coming out the top.”
Iowa allows this.
Even though the boat may have sailed in the US senate, there still may be time to help stop it in the House. The following press release and letter were sent by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators including Iowa State Representatives Charles Isenhart, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelly, Charles McConkey, Art Staed and State Senator William Dotzler.
Representative Charles Isenhart: (563) 5998839, firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Virginia Lyons: (802) 8283616, email@example.com
Representative Denise Provost: (617) 8728805, Denise.Provost@mahouse.gov
STATE LEGISLATORS FROM ACROSS NATION SIGN LETTER URGING CONGRESS
REJECT FAST TRACK TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY
Bipartisan group of 110 state legislators from 41 states oppose Fast Track bill; raise concerns about secret trade negotiations, private investor remedies that threaten progressive state environmental and energy policies
State legislators from across the country have sent a letter to Congressional leadership and Senate and House members urging a “no” vote on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation as voted out of committee. The letter (below) was circulated by Iowa State Representative Charles Isenhart and Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons, both of whom are members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and environmental leaders in their states and nationally. The letter was signed by 110 legislators from 41 states.
“Congress has a unique opportunity to protect our democracy, environment, and workers by rejecting fast track authority. Free trade negotiations go beyond tariffs and include policies that can threaten state environmental regulations,” said Lyons, who serves on the Vermont
Legislature’s Joint Energy Committee and is CoChair of the state’s Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty.
“Emerging local renewable energy and other businesses lose when large multinational organizations determine rules of trade and rules of regulation all behind closed doors,” Lyons stated. “So-called ‘fast track’ authority limits Congressional oversight over a process that lacks transparency and threatens the fabric of our democratic system of state sovereignty. ”
Rep. Charles Isenhart echoed these concerns. “Trade agreements are negotiated in secrecy and state legislators are not at the table,” he said. “While virtually every investor group is well represented among the USTR’s more than 600 ‘citizen’ advisors, almost no legislators are. Yet these agreements can put at risk important state initiatives including clean energy policies and advanced biofuel incentives.”
Isenhart is the Ranking Member of the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and also serves on the Economic Growth Committee and Ways and Means Committee. He added, “Changes in the current Trade Promotion Authority legislation fall far short of fixing fundamental flaws in both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves, including the system of private justice that sidesteps our courts and gives foreign investors greater authority over policy than elected officials. Whatever the promises of the current administration, there are no guarantees that future administrations will follow through on the commitments of this one. In other words – as state legislators, we have no say, we can’t see, and we reap what others sow.”
Among the signers of the letter was Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost, who spoke to negotiators of the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) during the 9th round of negotiations in New York City in April.
“As an elected official, I am particularly concerned about provisions in these agreements that subordinate our domestic legal systems to Investor State Dispute Settlement tribunals, which betrays constitutional principles, and represents the worst kind of corporate domination,” Provost said.
The legislators’ letter raises concerns not only about the pending Trade Promotion Authority legislation but also about likely provisions in the TTIP, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) with the potential not only to undermine existing state environmental laws and regulations but also to chill future state policies inconsistent with the terms of these agreements. All would be covered by the speededup review and approval process known as Fast Track.
Letter Re: Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track)
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Senate Democratic Leader Reid, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi:
As elected members of our state legislatures from across the United States, we write to urge you to reject the “Fast Track” version of trade promotion authority legislation as currently drafted and instead support a new process that is transparent, democratic, and accountable.
In July, we wrote to the Senate Finance Committee with suggested changes to the Fast Track legislation as introduced. We stated then, and reiterate now, the need for a new trade authority to provide significant and substantive opportunities for Congress to hold executive branch negotiators accountable. We remain eager to work with you to develop a process that can achieve the level of review and oversight intended by the U.S. Constitution. We believe such oversight to be absolutely necessary for modern international agreements with the breadth and reach of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP).
The lack of transparency – indeed, extreme secrecy – of the trade negotiation process, coupled with the failure of negotiators to meaningfully consult on the far-reaching impact of these agreements on state and local laws, even when binding on our states, is of grave concern to us. As state legislators, we are not at the table. Of the more than 600 cleared advisors to the U.S. Trade Representative, two state legislators have been invited to participate. Thus, we depend on Congress to create a new mechanism that provides for Congress to conduct the in-depth review and oversight these powerful international agreements require. When Congress abdicates much of its authority, as it does in the Fast Track process, our democracy suffers.
Moreover, requirements for “regulatory coherence” and “minimum standard of treatment” provisions included in these trade agreements, and the investor-state system of private justice that can be invoked by investors to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations, threatens the U.S. system of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. Our federalist system reserves significant authority to state legislators to regulate to ensure a level playing field for workers and businesses and to implement meaningful human rights, labor and environmental standards – authority that is threatened by these trade pact provisions.
The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures included in recent and pending trade agreements, including the recently leaked TPP investment chapter, are of particular concern. ISDS allows foreign investors the right to sue governments directly in offshore private investment tribunals, bypassing the courts or allowing a “second bite” if the investors do not like the results of domestic court decisions. Although the investor-state tribunal has no power to directly nullify U.S. federal, state, and local laws, in practice, when a country loses to an investor, it will change the offending law, or pay damages, or both. Moreover, a country need not even lose an ISDS case for the chilling effect of a case merely being threatened or filed to impact its future policy making deliberations.
Indeed, in our own experience as state legislators, we have directly experienced that chilling effect. It is not uncommon for investors and foreign governments alike to seek to chill non-discriminatory state legislative action on matters of public health, safety and welfare, with threats of legal challenges based on international trade agreements. State legislative examples we are aware of include electronic waste producer responsibility laws, regulation of water extraction, tax haven restrictions, GMO labeling, and regulation of toxics in consumer products. Current ISDS litigation includes many challenges to environmental regulation, including oversight of hydraulic fracturing and mining.
State legislators have a longstanding and clear position opposing investor-state dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements, memorialized in the policy of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which represents all 50 states and the District of Columbia: “…NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a nondiscriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.” [Readopted August 2013: http://www.ncsl.org/ncsl-in-dc/task-forces/policieslabor-and-economic-development.aspx#trade ]
The undersigned state legislators strongly endorse this position, and urge you in your oversight capacity to remove any investor-state dispute settlement clause from inclusion in the TPP, TTIP or other international trade or investment agreement that may be negotiated in the future.
Many of the undersigned legislators serve on the environment and natural resources committees of our legislatures and have leadership roles advancing environmental protections in our states. We are deeply concerned about public reports of potential provisions in both the TPP and TTIP agreements that would undermine these protections, including provisions on or related to investment and energy exports. With respect to TTIP, we are troubled by reports that the European Union is seeking binding provisions that would facilitate expanded exports of both liquefied natural gas and crude oil. With respect to the TPP, we are very concerned that the U.S. Department of Energy would lose its ability to even review whether exports of natural gas are in the interest of the public, should that agreement include national treatment for trade in gas.
The trade negotiation process is deeply flawed, and it appears to be resulting in deeply flawed trade agreements, namely the TPP and TTIP. Congress has the ultimate responsibility to oversee these agreements and put a stop to overreaching provisions that usurp the legitimate, non-discriminatory exercise of legislative authority to protect the public health and welfare. The pending Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority legislation undermines this Congressional responsibility. We urge you to reject this approach and instead engage in robust, transparent and inclusive oversight of both the negotiation process and the agreements themselves.
(unable to reproduce signatures due to technical difficulties)
Dear Friends –
I spoke with State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann today on my talk show and he announced big news on the Eminent Domain Bill:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28th at 12:00 noon in Room 22 of the Iowa State Capitol, a joint House-Senate sub-committee will meet to debate and possibly vote on SSB 1276!
There are three things you can do:
1. COME!! Sub-committee meetings provide one of the few opportunities for average Iowans to speak on and influence legislation directly. I will be there and would love to have a slew of pipeline fighters join me.
2. Share this message and the Facebook Event invite with as many people as possible.
3. Write or call sub-committee members. If you write, carbon copy your own Representative and Senator. To figure out who your Representative and Senator are, and get contact information for them, click Find Your Legislator.
Sub-committee members are:
– Senator Rob Hogg – firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 281-3371
– Senator Julian Garrett – email@example.com or (515) 281-3371
– Senator Brian Schoenjahn – firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 281-3371
– Representative Bobby Kaufmann – email@example.com or (515) 281-3221
– Representative Greg Heartsill – firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 281-3221
– Representative Mary Wolfe – email@example.com or (515) 281-3221
My take is this: The bill needs to be simple and straightforward. All we are saying is that a private, for-profit business that does not provide a public service to Iowans should not be granted the power of eminent domain. My concern is that there is pressure from Big Oil’s friends at the Statehouse to craft a compromise that will weaken this core position.
The bottom line is this: We want the strongest possible bill to come out of sub-committee, as it becomes more difficult to strengthen it later.
Thank you! This is a pivotal moment, and I hope you can take a little time today and tomorrow morning to do what you can. And if at all possible, come to the State Capitol tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12:00 noon!
Letter to Landowners
Posted on March 9, 2015 by Ed Fallon
This is the letter Ed is sharing with landowners and others he meets along the pipeline route.
Dear Fellow Iowan,
As I’m sure you know, a Texas billionaire named Kelcy Warren wants to build an oil pipeline through Iowa. I am walking across Iowa following roads near the path of the proposed pipeline. As a state lawmaker for 14 years, I worked to toughen eminent domain laws to protect property owners when government and developers tried to take land for private gain. I also served on the House Environmental Protection Committee because I care deeply about Iowa’s land and water.
Warren is offering landowners a lot of money for an easement to their land. But it’s important that you and other landowners in the path of the pipeline know the risks involved.
* Pipelines break. You may have heard about the big ones, like Yellowstone and Kalamazoo. But the full list of spills is incredible (See Wikipedia: “List of pipeline accidents in the United States in the 21st century”). It’s not a question of if Warren’s pipeline will break, it’s a question of when and where.
* When the pipeline does break, there isn’t enough money to clean-up even one spill. Warren’s company has pledged only $250,000 to clean-up efforts in Iowa. The Kalamazoo spill has cost almost $1 billion – and it’s not done yet. In Wisconsin, the pipeline company pledged $100 million – for one county!
* Even if the pipeline doesn’t break on your land, it will still affect your property values. No one has ever seen their property values increase because an oil pipeline ran through it.
* You won’t be the only one affected if something goes wrong. Iowa’s water is important to us all.
There are many unanswered questions and potential problems. The pipeline company wants you to think this is a done deal, that you should just sell them an easement to your land. But the Utilities Board hasn’t even granted them the right of eminent domain. And there is a bipartisan bill in the Iowa Legislature that would, among other things, make it clear that a pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to refineries in Texas (most of which will be exported) does not constitute a public benefit for Iowa.
I talked to one farmer who’s against it because it goes through the pasture where he wants to build a home for his grand kids. I talked with another landowner whose forest would be decimated. I met a couple who were going to lose their home to the pipeline before they found a loophole that protected them. I have spoken with many other landowners, each with their own reason why they hope and pray that this pipeline will be stopped.
For the sake of these and many, many other landowners – and for your own sake – I ask you to carefully consider whether it’s worth a one-time cash payment, given the potential long-term damage to your property, your neighbors and Iowa’s waterways.
Thank you for reading this letter. I would be happy to talk with or meet with you or any of your neighbors. Here’s my cell phone number: 515-238-6404. And you also can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elections matter – and the 2014 election results could mean disaster for efforts to clean up & protect Iowa’s rivers, lakes & streams …. our sources of clean drinking water.
Senator-Elect Joni Ernst has said she supports getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and thinks the Clean Water Act is just meddlesome regulation. Gov. Branstad vetoed $20 million that would have protected sources of drinking water and improved Iowa’s parks & natural areas. Long story short … Iowa could be moving in the wrong direction fast.
Are you tired of Iowa politicians putting out of state special interests before protections for clean drinking water? Take action and help us fight back!
Sign the petition to join Citizens for a Healthy Iowa and #CleanWaterVoters from across the state in sending Governor Branstad and Senator-Elect Joni Ernst a message:
It’s time to acknowledge the potential for a statewide public health crisis due to contaminated drinking water, and to stop condemning the environmental agencies and programs that are fighting to protect Iowa’s waterways from pollution.
But it is tempting to be cynical because we’ve been having Earth Days since 1970. When Earth Day started, it signified the beginning of a mass environmental consciousness, a wonderful, hopeful new awakening! You would think something repeated for 44 years would have improved conditions, educated and enlightened people, resulted in positive change, but that hasn’t really happened. People have become more informed about environmental issues, but things have still gotten worse.
Earth Day should not be like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretaries Day, Boss’s Day, etc. A day set aside to make us all feel like we’re doing the right thing. Then when the day is over most of us move on and forget about it. Unlike other (fill-in-the-blank) days, the point of Earth Day is to actually do something, not to merely acknowledge.
Truly, we need more than an annual Earth Day. We should have an Earth Year or an Earth Decade or two where every day is dedicated to repairing and making amends to our abused planet. Perhaps this Earth Day will be the one that marks the environmental tipping point.
For some, like CCI members, every day is Earth Day because they are fighting every day for Iowa’s environment.
So in the spirit of doing something meaningful on Earth Day, the one day every year that we are all designated environmentalists, why not take an action that could help? There is a fight going on right now for something as basic as clean water. Let’s try to win this fight.
CCI Action Alert:
We are a few days into our 28-day Clean Water Fight public comment period and we need your help to demand a stronger rule to protect our water.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been hit with 200 comments. Let’s double that number for Earth Day!
Today, people will be celebrating our planet. What better reason to lift up the need for clean water in our own backyard.
Help us get 200 more comments into the DNR for Earth Day!
Make your voice heard. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION
Let’s make Earth Day count and let the DNR know we care about our water.
They dump it. You drink it. We won’t rest until they clean it up!
Thank you for being a part of the Clean Water Fight.
There is a petition to Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors: John Logsdon, Dennis Karlsbroten, Mark Kuhn, Floyd Ashbacher, and Dean Thompson, which says:
“We, the people of Winneshiek County, call for a rights-based ordinance banning industrial frac sand extraction and processing.
NO FRAC SAND MINING. Period!”
Will you sign this petition? Click here
Frac sand mining and processing cause long-term economic and environmental destruction.
To prevent this imminent danger we must act now to protect the health and integrity of our community.
For more information, please go to: CommunityRightsAlliance.org
Previous BFIA posts about fracking in Iowa