Sen. Tom Harkin retires from the U.S. Senate in January. He discusses his congressional legacy with Morning Edition, and gives a hint to his life's next chapter.
Clay Masters: It’s Morning Edition on Iowa Public Radio. I’m Clay Masters. U.S. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is retiring. He’s been a member of congress for 40 years—10 years in the House, and 30 in the Senate. Sen. Harkin is with me to discuss his career, and also what’s next. Hello, Senator.
Sen. Tom Harkin: Good Morning. Good to be with you, Clay.
Governor Branstad Monday reacted with anger to a federal judge’s ruling affecting egg production in Iowa and five other states. The judge threw out a lawsuit challenging California’s law on how hens can be housed.
Iowa leads the U.S. in egg production. California’s law says laying hens must have enough space to fully extend their limbs, and any state like Iowa with different standards can’t sell eggs in California. Branstad says the law violates the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. constitution:
The head of an Iowa Senate committee looking into the hiring and firing practices of the Branstad administration is warning that the governor’s department heads may face tough prospects for reappointment in the Iowa Senate.
A two-day hearing got underway at the state capitol with job protections for state workers hanging in the balance. State employees are fighting back after the Branstad administration reclassified their jobs so they can be fired without cause.
The Branstad team changed the status of some 350 jobs in a reorganization of state government they say is legal and is saving the taxpayers money. Administrative law judge Ann Smicek is hearing the case of four state employees who lost their job protection.
The social activist group Nuns on the Bus got a boost today for their 36 city tour to encourage voter registration. They are launching the trip from Des Moines accompanied by Vice-President Joe Biden. Speaking from the terrace of the State Capitol, Biden calls for the raising of the minimum wage. “The middle class is in real trouble. It was devastated by this recession. It was already losing ground the previous ten years.” says Biden.
Former Secretary of State and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa Sunday for the first time since her 3rd place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008. She was the featured speaker at retiring Democratic Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry. Even Harkin admitted she stole the show.
Senator Harkin took the stage before some ten thousand activists and said this is a hell of a crowd:
“And to think you all came here just to see me,” Harkin joked with the crowd. “Who am I kidding? You've had some steak now it’s time for some sizzle.”
Democrats in the Iowa Senate failed to stop a new rule at the Iowa Department of Administrative Services that they say will chip away at Iowa’s merit system of employment. The rule would let state agencies lay off some permanent employees ahead of temporary workers in the event of a reduction in force.
The new rule survived a challenge before the legislature’s administrative rules review committee. DAS Human Resource Officer Michell Minnehan said sometimes it makes sense to keep temporary workers on.
Iowa’s Crime Victim Assistance Program was under scrutiny before a Republican-dominated committee at the statehouse. The committee’s chairman says he got his questions answered about whether money was being misspent.
A group known as Ready for Hillary is offering an all-expense paid trip to Iowa and the 37th annual Tom Harkin Steak Fry later this month. Bill and Hillary Clinton will be the featured guests, and Hillary Clinton’s backers want a big turnout.
The head of Iowa Workforce Development Teresa Wahlert took questions for nearly two hours from the Iowa Senate Oversight Committee. One senator calls the agency dysfunctional, but Wahlert defends her leadership style.
The Iowa Senate Oversight Committee questioned current and former judges who rule on unemployment benefits for laid-off state workers. Senators are looking into allegations that management at Iowa Workforce Development favors employers over employees in contested cases.
State officials who oversee unemployment benefits for laid-off workers say they are beefing up their fraud investigations, even as unemployment claims have fallen. Half the investigative staff quit when they took advantage of an early retirement offer.