Rep. Greg Forristall Ignores Public Records Request, Claims All Iowa Legislators are ALEC Members
Des Moines, Iowa — Rep. Greg Forristall ignored a request to release information about the May 2-3 meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he will serve as Chair of the Education Task Force, according to correspondence released by Progress Iowa today. Forristall also claimed that all Iowa legislators are members of ALEC, despite reports to the contrary from members of the Iowa House and Senate.
“Representative Forristall failed to meet his own definition of participatory democracy,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “In order for Forristall’s constituents and all Iowans to fully participate in the democratic process – which he claims to want – the Representative should release all documents related to the ALEC meeting in May, as well as information detailing how much of our tax dollars are being spent to fund this secretive organization.”
The records request was sent in part as a response to a column Forristall wrote last month defending ALEC. Progress Iowa has engaged in a longstanding effort to educate the public about ALEC, which has been described as a “corporate bill mill” by local and national media due to the influence it grants to corporations with legislators.
Rep. Forristall’s column, published in the Des Moines Register on March 20, 2013, described the “participatory” nature of government, and described ALEC as having a “voluntary membership.” Despite what he wrote, Forristall chose to ignore a request to make public documents that would shed light on the otherwise secret activities of ALEC. The Iowa Supreme Court has denoted the House is exempt from disclosing the data Progress Iowa is seeking.
In an email message to Rep. Forristall on April 17, Progress Iowa’s Executive Director Matt Sinovic requested that he release the following information: any “35-Day Mailing” from ALEC (they typically send a mailing 35 days prior to their meeting with information about upcoming proposals); the roster of ALEC members in Iowa; the roster of membership in Forristall’s education task force; financial records detailing payments from the State of Iowa to ALEC for the payment of membership dues and any other payments.
Forristall responded with just one sentence, ignoring the remainder of the requests: “Mr. Sinovic, All Senate and House members of the Iowa Legislature are members of ALEC, NCSL, and CSG.” However, the Iowa House Democratic caucus sent a request before the legislative session that none their members join ALEC. During the past several years House members have automatically been “opted in” to ALEC membership, and their request was meant to pre-empt that membership and any taxpayer funded dues associated with membership.
Progress Iowa is asking all Iowans to contact Rep. Forristall to ask him to live up to his definition of participatory democracy, and release the requested information about ALEC membership and the May 2-3 meeting in Oklahoma City. For more information visit progressiowa.org.
There are some legislators in Iowa that seem to think that they are invulnerable to whatever sickness or illness that may be unleashed on the populace. As long as they have access to medical aid they will be OK. There concern about medicine ends at their own nose and their own wallet. They deride the idea of helping anyone else out through public funds is derided as “welfare.”
This is a truly ignorant and selfish idea. When it comes to matters that involve the whole public we need to think of the welfare of the entire citizenry first. Withholding medical care from the poor is not only ignorant and selfish, but it may bomerang on those who feel they are somehow innoculated by their money.
In recent years we have seen the rising of new bacteria and viruses that are resistant to our ability to treat them. Giving these strains of diseases what is basically a laboratory of poor people to grow and develop in is really a foolish course. Yet we have legislators who are much more tied to some short term stand on taxes than the long term good of the whole.
Once more we have a warning that there may be an evolved strain of an old bug that may cause havoc among humanity soon. If not this one there will be another and another ad infinitum. Yet if we have our doctors and clinics open only to the wealthy, you have to know medicine will not be able to hold back the ravages for long. When a fourth of our population is allowed to access only the most expensive form of health care and then only at a time of dire emergency it is like opening up the banquet hall to diseases.
In short, the question before the Iowa legislature is public health versus what exactly the other side is fighting for is a mystery. We will all be paying taxes for services we won’t be getting. So they are not saving anyone a nickel. Seems like all they are trying to do is keep an underclass of Americans who can’t access health care now as an underclass in perpetuity. I guess keeping some segment of the populace in a form of poverty must be important – we do it all the time.
If public funding were such a scourge we would be limiting access to public roads, public buildings, public parks, public schools and on down the line to those who can pay. Maybe that is the way we should conduct our society – you don’t pay, you get no access. Sound like democracy to you?
Or said another way, this can be seen as a selfish vote. In order to save money covering the use of the most expensive health care by the poor, in order to save myself and my family from epidemics or pandemics, the smart vote would be to let all people have access to preventative medical care. Besides, this is Walmart’s health care plan. Got to take care of Walmart.
Just to let you know that diseases continue a ceaseless onslaught on humans, read this story from very conservative magazine Forbes magazine.
Today at the beginning of the Iowa Senate workday, Senator Dennis Guth of Klemme took advantage of “points of personal privilege” to make horrific comments about the LGBT community, describing how he feels he and his family have been hurt and how civilizations have fallen by what he describes as the “homosexual lifestyle.” Not only did Sen. Guth dismiss the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a “lifestyle,” he then went on to say that it was “a lie.”
In a vitriolic rant, Senator Guth spread lies and ignorance at the Iowa State Capitol today:
“There are health risks that my family incurs because of the increase of sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites. For example, there are more and more medical tests required before giving blood or giving birth.”
Please donate $100 today to help us fight back against these ignorant and dangerous lies.
Senator Guth, how dare you? How dare you denigrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of Iowa? How dare you hurt our family and friends with your public tirade? How dare you perpetrate the myths and the misinformation that have fueled the discrimination, prejudice and hostility that has for so long impacted our community?
Iowa has stood as a beacon of justice and fairness as the third state in the nation to embrace marriage equality. More than 6,000 gay and lesbian couples have been married in our state. We live here, we work, we pay our taxes, we VOTE, we raise our families, we go to church and we contribute a great deal to our neighborhoods and communities.
And, Senator Guth, today you chose to infect the business of the legislature with your painful and homophobic rant. Shame on you, Senator Guth! Shame on you!
Please call or email Senator Guth today and tell him that your family is not “a lie.” Demand an apology for his remarks and urge him to represent ALL of his constituents.
Senator Guth’s diatribe reminds us that even though we celebrate the freedom to marry in Iowa, even though we move equality forward every day, even though the world is changing and we are winning–we must remain vigilant. We must continue to use our voices and our stories to change hearts and minds. We must never forget where we came from or where we are going. As long as there is one person in Iowa who carries such fear and ignorance, our job is not over.
Please contribute $100 today to ensure that our fight against these attacks continues. One Iowa will not rest until despicable comments like these from our public servants are no longer accepted.
But we’re not the only people speaking out against Senator Guth’s shameful comments.
Married couple Heather Yeoman and Rachel Olson, Lake Mills residents, responded:
“It is clear that Senator Guth, our so-called ‘representative’ does not value our family nor the love and commitment we have for one another. I am disgusted and ashamed of my Senator for spreading such ignorant and hurtful lies about our family and countless other Iowa families. Make no mistake, Senator—our marriage and our love is not a lie.”
Joy M. Newcom, District 4 resident from Forest City, responded:
“As an Iowan, a former educator and a mother, I am ashamed of my Senator and his horrific comments about the LGBT community. LGBT people are a part of my extended family. They are my friends and have been my coworkers. They are students I have taught and continue to respect for the manner in which they live their lives today. These comments, parroted from erroneous ideology from anti-gay groups, are beyond outrageous. They are dangerous lies.
Senator Guth, we, the Newcom family, are your constituents and your fellow Iowans. You claim to be our public servant, but you are hurting our community by spreading lies posed as science. You are breeding a culture of injustice for people we live with and work alongside. Please stop. You were not elected to legislate your morality or to spread falsehoods.”
So we ask you to please take action today. Stand up for Heather and Rachel and the Newcom Family. They deserve a state Senator who doesn’t attack his constituents, but rather embraces all families.
Is that too much to ask?
Donna Red Wing
One Iowa Executive Director
Editor’s note: Senator Courtney has been out of action with some medical problems. We are quite happy he is back to work.
I talked with university students on April 2 about the importance of affordable, high-quality public universities to Iowa. More than 100 students, alumni and university leaders traveled to Des Moines to discuss higher education issues, especially the tuition freeze proposed by the Board of Regents. I support a freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition for next year.
LOCAL IOWANS MAKE LAND GIFT TO STATE
April 1 was the Fifth Annual “Gift to Iowa’s Future” Day at the State Capitol. This event recognizes, celebrates and honors those public-spirited folks who’ve donated land or a conservation easement to benefit Iowa’s parks, trails, fish and wildlife habitat, natural areas, open spaces and public recreation areas. More than 20 families and organizations were honored this year, including WG Block Co. and the Chris and Mary Rayburn Family of Bettendorf. They donated land in Muscatine County. Bruce and Kathy Mountain of New Virginia donated land in Des Moines County.
EXPANDING MIDDLE CLASS BY HELPING IOWANS FILL SKILLED JOB OPENINGS
Our community colleges give thousands of Iowans the opportunity to improve their skills and build a better life for their families. They’re also helping to solve one of the biggest problems facing Iowa: the skilled worker shortage.
All over Iowa, businesses are struggling to find the skilled workers they need. Yet compared to other states, Iowa does relatively little to help low-skilled workers move up. For example, Iowa is one of only three states that does not invest in adult literacy.
If we don’t solve Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers, local businesses won’t grow and our state will become less attractive to outside investment. That’s why the Iowa Senate gave bipartisan support this week to investing an additional $25 million to expand skills training at every community college.
Our nationally respected community colleges already work closely with local businesses. Those relationships are an asset when it comes to identifying job openings and helping Iowans fill them—jobs as welders, truck drivers, biofuel technicians, nurses and other skilled occupations.
In five years, 62 percent of all Iowa jobs will require education and training beyond high school. Right now, however, one-sixth of Iowa’s working-age adults don’t even have a high school diploma. If we write off all those folks—nearly 300,000 Iowans—we will shut the door on a stronger Iowa economy.
Senate File 429 is a smart move for Iowans and the Iowa economy. Such Iowa business organizations as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, the Master Builders of Iowa and the Iowa Chamber Alliance support this effort. It is now under consideration by the Iowa House.
BUDGETING FOR A STRONGER IOWA ECONOMY
This legislative session is all about expanding the middle class. That means working for policies and budgets that put Iowans back to work, help businesses create jobs and improve Iowa’s economy. The Economic Development budget we’re putting together this year will do just that.
Senate File 430 provides incentives to attract businesses to Iowa and help existing businesses expand.
This effort includes economic development initiatives at our state universities. They work with businesses throughout the state on technology commercialization, marketing, entrepreneurship and technical assistance. New initiatives will help the University of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI work with Iowa companies to promote their goods and services outside of Iowa, support new laboratories for biorenewables and bioscience research, and expand entrepreneurship.
In addition, the Senate voted to reopen some of the workforce offices that were closed last year. These offices help connect unemployed and underemployed Iowans with businesses looking to hire.
Finally, we are also investing in the revitalization of local business districts in rural and urban communities through the Main Street Iowa Program. For almost three decades, “Main Street Iowa” has helped communities revitalize their local economies by capitalizing on what makes them unique, including Burlington.
MAIN STREET PROGRAM PROVIDES GREAT RETURNS TO COMMUNITIES
Iowa’s main streets are the heart of our small towns and urban neighborhoods. This year, we want to increase funding for “Main Street Iowa,” a proven program that turns historic commercial districts into thriving centers of commerce.
A recent study found that Main Street Iowa offers a great return on investment. For every $1 the state puts into the program, there is a local building investment of $71.93. In 2012, the estimated sales tax revenue from new businesses in Main Street communities was about 48 times the budget for the program.
An average of 623 jobs are created per year through building rehabilitation alone. And property taxes from Main Street building renovations provide an additional $10.8 million to local governments every year.
It takes a big commitment for a community to be accepted into the Main Street Iowa Program, but the excellent results are unmistakable. Communities interested in revitalizing their historic main streets are encouraged to apply for the Main Street Program. Learn more here.
MAXIMIZING EXPERIENCE, MINIMIZING RISK FOR YOUNG DRIVERS
When a teen dies in a car accident, the grief is shared by the entire community. Everyone asks, “Could that accident have been avoided?” While no law can prevent all accidents, tougher license requirements for people learning to drive have been shown to help.
On March 27, the Senate decided to make Iowa roads safer with two key changes to our state’s graduated driver licensing program. Under Senate File 115:
1. Drivers under 18 must hold an instruction permit for a full 12 months. That way every teen has a chance for supervised driving practice in Iowa’s four seasons. The most dangerous time for new drivers is in the first six months, but accident rates decrease with each additional month behind the wheel.
2. Drivers under 18 are allowed to have only one unrelated passenger in the vehicle during their first 6 months with an intermediate license. Parents may opt their teen out of this restriction. Accident rates jump dramatically when young drivers have young passengers in the car, according to study by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Forty-five other states with similar laws have benefited from a decrease in the number of fatalities and accidents on their roads. I hope the House will also approve this effort to make Iowa roadways safer and send it to the Governor for his signature.
NEW WAY TO HELP IOWA NONPROFITS
Iowa organizations will have a new way to promote their cause and raise money if Senate File 371 becomes law. The bill will make it easier for nonprofits in Iowa to get their own special license plate.
The Iowa Department of Transportation will create a special plate with a spot for an organization’s decal. The decal will be designed, produced and issued by the organization, and fees charged for the decal will go to the organization.
A qualifying organization must be a nonprofit with at least 200 members that serves the community or contributes to the welfare of others. A group of organizations with a common purpose could also qualify. The plates can even be personalized.
ENCOURAGING IOWANS TO MAKE CHARITABLE FOOD DONATIONS
More than 408,000 Iowans can’t afford the food they need, according to the Iowa Food Bank Association. This includes Iowa seniors on fixed incomes and working families on tight budgets. One in five children in Iowa does not get enough food at home. But more help will soon be available if Iowa joins 37 other states in fighting hunger through a State Emergency Food Program.
SF 367, approved by the Senate Ways & Means Committee, would provide $2 million for food bank organizations to purchase food and promote healthy
eating. In addition, the bill creates a new tax credit for farmers and other growers that donate produce to Iowa food banks or other Iowa emergency feeding organizations. The tax credit is equal to 15 percent of the wholesale value of the food donated, and is limited to no more than $5,000 per taxpayer per year.
I am encouraging members of the Iowa House to support this bill.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
“An Act requiring consumer labeling information for food, providing penalties, and including effective date provisions”
Thank your Democratic representatives in the Iowa House and Senate who introduced the bills, Bolkcom, Thede, Anderson, Steckman, Berry, Abdul-Samad, Mascher, Hunter, Hanson, and Kearns. Click here to support the passage of SF 194 and HF 463
Rally and press conference today at 10:00 am
Monsanto: A Corporate Profile (report can be downloaded here)
New Food & Water Watch report sheds light on GE seed giant that is major force behind keeping GE food unlabeled
Des Moines, Iowa—As consumer demand and grassroots efforts grow in support of SF 194 and HF 463, bills to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods in Iowa, the consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch will release a new report – Monsanto: A Corporate Profile. The new report provides a thorough overview of the biotechnology giant that now holds 1,676 patents on seeds, plants and other agricultural applications, outlining Monsanto’s history and its undue influence over lawmakers, regulators, academic research and consumers.
WHAT: Press conference and rally to announce key findings of Food & Water Watch’s new report on Monsanto and its implications for the movement to label genetically engineered foods in Iowa.
WHO: Food & Water Watch along with its allies.
Speakers will include:
Matt Ohloff, Iowa-based organizer with Food & Water Watch; Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck, Leadership Development Minister for Social Justice and Mission with the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church; George Naylor, family farmer and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition; Chris Petersen, family farmer and past president of the Iowa Farmers Union.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 3 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: West Steps of the Iowa State Capitol, E. 9th and Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319
CONTACT: Matt Ohloff, email@example.com, 515-988-3737
Grassley’s proposal would remove requirement teaching students how to vote
DES MOINES, IOWA — Yesterday State Representative Pat Grassley, grandson of Senator Chuck Grassley, introduced House File 423, which would eliminate the high school social studies requirement to teach voting procedures, and instead require teaching “the principles of American citizenship.”
HF423 would specifically remove the requirement to teach “voting statutes and procedures, voter registration requirements, the use of paper ballots and voting systems in the election process, and the method of acquiring and casting an absentee ballot.” In addition, Grassley’s proposal would require high school students to learn the “tenets of American citizenship” and “the principles of American citizenship.”
“Grassley’s proposal flies directly in the face of Iowa’s proud tradition of voter participation,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “If he doesn’t think voting is a principle of American citizenship, then what is? Nothing is more fundamental to being American or Iowan than exercising our right to vote.”
Iowans turned out in record numbers in 2012, with more than 1.5 million reaching the polls. The percentage of registered voter turnout (72%) was the highest in 20 years. Turnout was 71% in 2004 and 2008. In addition, a record high 584,000 Iowans participated in early voting. That number bested the 2008 record of 545,000 early voters.
In response to Grassley’s proposed legislation, Progress Iowa launched a grassroots petition, asking Iowans to tell Rep. Grassley that voting is an American and Iowan principle. The petition can be found online here:
Iowa sets record for voter turnout
Iowa voters turn out early in record numbers
Our family has been able to afford health insurance, and has had continuous coverage since my career in transportation began in 1984. It is a budget priority, regardless of our work situation. With the April 2013 16.3 percent increase from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, our health insurance policy payments will comprise one third of our household budget, by far the single highest expense we have. Nonetheless, we have been able to make the payments, even in the toughest of times.
Not so with about 400,000 Iowans who participate in Iowa Medicaid. This number is expected to grow should Iowa opt into the Medicaid expansion proposed under the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a quick look at how health care is provided outside private insurance in Iowa.
Iowa has a four-part plan to help with access to health care. There is Medicaid, hawk-i, IowaCare and Medicare. Eligibility requirements for Medicaid are located here, and the program includes low income, children, the disabled, elderly and other categories of people. Children make up 57 percent of Medicaid participants, and they make up 19 percent of the costs. The hawk-i program is for uninsured children of families whose income exceeds the eligibility requirements for Medicaid. According to the IowaCare web site, “IowaCare is a health care program that provides limited services for people who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. The purpose of IowaCare is to provide some health care coverage to people who would otherwise have no coverage.” These programs, and Medicare for people 65 and older, are part of Iowa’s social safety net.
Jennifer Vermeer, Iowa Medicaid director, recently provided an overview of Iowa’s Medicaid system to the Legislative Services Agency. The audio can be heard here. Here and here are recent presentations she gave to the legislature.
There are two points of interest in the current discussion over how lower income people will be treated under the Affordable Care Act. First, our family might become a lower income family, and will potentially need coverage through one of the programs, including Medicare. Second, there will be a cost associated with covering additional people who do not have the means to purchase health insurance. Costs should be studied, and thoroughly vetted, as it will impact us as taxpayers.
I favor further public discussion of the issue, but the discussion has to move beyond whether one is for or against Obamacare. In a letter sent to my state representative, I laid out what I think should happen in the public debate. I am looking forward to seeing how the conversation develops, and whether a conversation develops in lieu of the mutually assured political destruction of launching hyperbolic talking points back and forth across the legislative aisle.
We are proud and grateful to be represented by Joe Bolkcom in the Iowa Senate.
Bolkcom: “Was the competition from Illinois real or was it simply a fabrication?”