Governor Branstad

Iowa Public Radio/Sarah Boden

A federal report released last year shows in 2014, for-profit companies managing part of Iowa’s three billion dollar Medicaid program made far fewer faulty payments than the state-run portion of the program.  

Governor Branstad says that shows fraud and abuse will go down, now that for-profit companies are in charge of most of Iowa’s Medicaid patients.      

JOHN BOLLWITT

Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered a review of Iowa’s alcohol laws. A working group will likely begin meeting in the next month to review existing regulations and make modernization recommendations.

"There is a huge emergence of entrepreneurial enterprises like craft distillers, micro brewers, family wineries," says spokesman Robert Bailey of the Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division. "It’s changed a lot since (Iowa's alcohol) law was first written when prohibition was first repealed."

Gage Skidmore/flickr

A spokesman for Governor Branstad confirms that the governor has agreed to advise the Donald Trump campaign on renewable fuels and other issues, what the spokesman calls “issues important to Iowans".  

But the spokesman declined to comment on reports that another prominent Iowan, agribusiness leader Bruce Rastetter, is on the list for a job in a Trump administration.  

Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes is downplaying the announcement about the governor advising Trump.

Joyce Russell/IPR
Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is urging the administrators who oversee spending for Iowa’s Regents universities to keep a close eye on their budgets, after reports of large salaries at the Regents administrative offices.   

Due to the salary for the board’s executive director and other expenses, over $3.5 million will come from the universities themselves to keep the board office running.   

Branstad says the cost of running the board should stay as reasonable as possible.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, after Trump got into a so-called war of words with the father of a soldier who died in Iraq.  

At last week’s Democratic convention, with his wife by his side, Khizr Khan spoke out against Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States until security concerns are addressed. 

Trump calls that a vicious attack, and he questioned why the dead soldier’s mother didn’t speak. 

Branstad suggests Democrats set a trap for the candidate by having Khan speak.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is unhappy with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a Texas abortion law.    

The case dealt with the same issues the Iowa Supreme Court considered when it upheld Iowa’s telemed abortion program.   

The Texas law required abortion clinics to be near hospitals, so doctors performing abortions can admit patients if there are complications.

It also required abortion clinics to meet certain building, equipment and staffing regulations.

Branstad says states should be able to protect the wellbeing of their citizens.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad and the top Democrat in the Iowa Senate exchanged harsh words Monday over the legislature's failure to approve a plan for water quality improvements before adjourning last week.    

Governor Branstad's proposal to tap school infrastructure dollars to raise billions of dollars for water quality fell flat.  

On a bipartisan vote, the House passed a bill to divert money from other state programs but the bill was not debated in the Senate.  

Branstad says Majority Leader Mike Gronstal wasn't serious about doing something about water quality this year.

John Pemble/IPR

A state senator who oversees spending on public buildings, including the capitol complex, has harsh words for Governor Branstad as state lawmakers move toward adjournment.  

The governor has rejected borrowing for infrastructure repairs, including more than $600 million in deferred maintenance.

As a result, repairs will be left undone at the Wallace State Office Building, the State Historical Building, and the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Des Moines Democrat Matt McCoy charges that Branstad will not leave public buildings in better shape than he found them.

Photo by John Pemble

A controversial measure to defund Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions is again under consideration at the statehouse, with the blessing of Governor Branstad. 

Republicans have added the measure to a human services budget bill, setting up a showdown with Democratic critics.   

The governor won’t comment on the specific legislation, but at his weekly news conference he made his views clear.

Joyce Russell/IPR

It will be another year before Iowa schools will be required to offer mandatory summer school for third graders not reading at grade level, under a preliminary education budget unveiled at the capitol today.

Lawmakers of both parties say there’s not enough money to start the program as scheduled in 2017.   

Under the proposed budget, schools will now have until 2018 to offer summer help to struggling third graders and to require children to repeat the grade if they don’t attend.      

Reji/flickr

Republicans in the Iowa House Monday added more money to their water quality initiative, proposing to spend nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars over the next 13 years.  

But experts estimate that meeting goals for nitrates in the water will cost as much as five-and-a-half billion dollars.

“We have a severe water quality issue in the state of Iowa,” said Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids).   “Especially with nitrates.”

Anders Adermark/flickr

A Republican-sponsored water quality bill passed by a wide margin in a House committee today in spite of reservations from Democrats.  

The bill takes existing tax revenue, and commits it to cities trying to get pollutants out of their drinking water.  

Iowans who live in cities pay a tax on metered water.  The bill would direct the tax to a special fund for water treatment upgrades.   

But Democrats say farm chemicals and other contaminants will still be in Iowa waterways.  

Jo Naylor

Governor Branstad had harsh words today for Iowa’s public schools who want a penny sales tax extended to benefit school infrastructure projects.

The one-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2029.   Schools use the money to back up bonding for everything from building repairs to technology upgrades.  

The governor wants to extend the tax, but he wants some of the revenue diverted to water quality.

At his weekly news conference, Branstad lashed out against schools for opposing his plan.  

John Pemble/IPR

A compromise tax policy bill passed the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday and will now go to Governor Branstad for his consideration.    

The bill matches up the Iowa tax code with federal law at a cost of nearly $100 million to the state treasury.  

Backers say farmers and small businesses have enjoyed a tax break on major purchases in the past.  

They bought machinery expecting that this year, so there was an outcry when Democrats and the Governor wanted to change course.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

African-American activists cheered as Governor Branstad today signed into law one of the legislative priorities of the NAACP.    

The bill will keep court records confidential in most juvenile cases.  

The bill came out of the Governor’s Working Group on Justice Policy Reform.

Activists argue that black juvenile offenders are most affected because of their disproportionate  numbers in the courts.   

Todd Lappin/flickr

A shortage of mental health physicians could be alleviated under a program Governor Branstad announced today.

Iowa ranks 41st in the nation in the number of practicing psychiatrists.   So the state will spend $4 million for new psychiatric residency programs at three Des Moines medical centers, Broadlawns, UnityPoint Health, and Mercy Hospital.  

Branstad says Iowa educates a lot of doctors at U of I and at Des Moines University.

“But if they go and do their residency out of state, they tend to get job offers there and they don’t come back," Branstad said.     

Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday praised the timing of a high-profile endorsement for leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but he didn’t say whether or not he agreed with the endorsement itself.   

New Jersey Governor and former candidate Chris Christie on Friday threw his support behind Trump.   

Governor Branstad says that shifted media attention away from Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

“I think it was a brilliant move and it obviously changed the coverage, so it was strategically a good move,” Branstad says.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

Democrats in the Iowa House today banded together to try to take down Governor Branstad’s bill to use  some future school infrastructure funds for water quality instead.  

But Republicans prevailed and the bill remains eligible for debate.  

Years ago, county by county, voters agreed to pay an extra penny of sales tax for school infrastructure.  That tax is about to expire.   Governor Branstad wants to extend it and use some of the growth for water quality.    

Riverside Democrat Sally Stutsman says taking the money away from schools reneges on a promise to voters.

Save Medicaid Action

Democrats in the Iowa Senate today ratcheted up their challenge to Governor Branstad’s plan to privatize Medicaid, the state’s health care program for the low-income and disabled.  

They introduced a bill to repeal the initiative, but Republicans are standing by the Governor’s proposal.  

Democrats say privatizing Medicaid will disrupt long-standing relations between patients and providers and compromise patient care.   Their bill would cancel the contracts with three for-profit, out of state companies chosen to manage the program.     

Photo by John Pemble

Governor Branstad’s proposal to pay for millions of dollars in water quality improvements now has some competition in the Iowa House and it’s coming from the governor’s fellow Republicans. 

Branstad wants to extend a penny sales tax for schools that is set to expire. 

The tax currently goes into a special fund for school infrastructure.  

Under Branstad’s plan, some of the growth in the fund would be used to clean up Iowa’s waterways.  

House Education Committee Chair, Republican Ron Jorgensen, says he needs more information on the governor’s proposal.

Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today defended his call for Republicans to vote against Texas Senator Ted Cruz in next week’s caucuses.  

Branstad objects that Cruz opposes ethanol mandates.  

Branstad typically does not endorse candidates in Republican races, and he says he’s sticking to that this year.

“I’m not backing any candidate,” Branstad says.  “I'm advocating on behalf of my state and renewable energy which is critically important to our state.”

Branstad has long urged all candidates to come to Iowa early and often.   But he says there are limits.

John Pemble

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a major initiative this week – a plan to increase funding for water quality. 

The governor teamed up with former Democratic governor and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a proposal that would extend the one-cent sales tax currently spent on school infrastructure. While the plan would extend the sales tax, most of the inflationary growth would be diverted to finance water quality projects. Critics say that money should go only to education infrastructure.

IowaPolitics.com

Now that he’s been recognized as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, Governor Branstad says he has not decided whether to run for a seventh term in 2018.   

Branstad has made clear he’s grooming Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to become the state’s first female governor.     

However, he says he won’t decide until election year, following the lead of Governor Ray back in 1982.

“He was very popular and I was his third lieutenant governor,” Branstad says.  “He didn’t make the decision until February of the election year not to seek reelection.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad met wellwishers in his formal office this morning on his 7,640th day in office.   That makes him the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.  

Childhood friends and longtime supporters came to the open house to congratulate Branstad on the milestone.  

Branstad explains his longevity this way.

"Growing up on a farm and learning to work hard at an early age," Branstad says.  "I had great teachers who encouraged me to go into public service."

Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday opened the door to the possibility of settling Syrian refugees in Iowa if a bill before Congress to tighten screening procedures becomes law.  

The bill would require that the director of the FBI and other top security officials approve all applicants from Syria and Iraq and assure they pose no threat.   

Otherwise, Branstad says letting the refugees in is not safe.

“If instead we're working as a country I'd feel much safer and more willing to do that,” Branstad says. 

General Frank Grass/flickr

Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered a review of security at all Iowa National Guard facilities including recruiting stations after last week’s fatal shooting of Marine and Navy personnel in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

The Chattanooga shootings began at a recruiting station and ended at a military base, killing five people. In several states governors ordered the arming of guardsmen and women at recruiting stations and other facilities after the fatal attack.  

Photo by John Pemble

Governor Branstad Thursday vetoed millions of dollars in state spending the legislature approved last month, saying some of the appropriations are unsustainable. 

He trimmed back the more than seven billion dollar state budget for the fiscal year that started this week. 

The vetoes cut education spending for K-12 schools, community colleges, and the Regents Universities.  

Education advocates call the K-12 cuts shameful.   Regents President Bruce Rastetter says they’ll begin considering what tuition levels should be next spring. 

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Branstad is hearing from county attorneys around the state, as he debates whether to sign a last-minute item in a catch-all spending bill.  

The provision would privatize the collection of court fines and fees to bring in an estimated $12 million more next year.    

The Judicial Branch has pushed to improve the collection of delinquent fines.  The bill would bypass the state’s Central Collection Unit and assign the work to a private debt collector.   

Joyce Russell/IPR file photo

Governor Branstad says last week’s momentous U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not have a big impact in Iowa, since same-sex marriage has been well-established in the state since 2009.  

The governor today commented on the fact that county officials in other states may try to deny licenses to same-sex couples in protest.   

Branstad says he’s not aware of any way that could happen here.

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Governor Branstad’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last year.  

Democratic lawmakers and a public employee union leader sued, claiming the governor exceeded his authority by closing the home after the legislature appropriated money to run it.    

The court ruled the case is moot since no money was appropriated to reopen the home.  

Pages