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Terry Branstad

"Quality care" is in the eye of the beholder

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 20:05:00 PM CDT

The nursing home industry already had too much political power in Iowa before Terry Branstad returned to the governor's office. Since late 2010, Branstad has repeatedly demonstrated that he prefers a more lax inspection regime for residential care facilities, with fewer nursing home inspectors than state lawmakers are willing to fund.

But Branstad may have hit a new low this month, according to a story by Clark Kauffman in Monday's Des Moines Register. Kauffman has reported extensively on substandard care in Iowa nursing homes. Following up on this year's winners of the "Governor's Award for Quality Care in Health Care Facilities," Kauffman learned that one of the three honored facilities "was cited by inspectors seven weeks earlier for widespread unsanitary conditions and failure to meet residents' nutritional needs."

At this writing, I could not find the July 9 press release announcing the awards on the governor's official news feed. I found it on the Department of Inspections and Appeals website and posted the full text after the jump.

I also enclosed excerpts from Kauffman's report, but you should click through to read every disgusting detail about the Woodland Terrace in Waverly (Bremer County). I challenge Branstad or Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to move any of their own beloved relatives to a home with such low standards of hygiene. It's bad enough that Woodland Terrace wasn't fined after the conditions inspectors found when they visited in May. To honor that facility is outrageous.

Regarding the other two award-winners, Kauffman noted that Prairie View Home in Sanborn did not have any violations during its most recent inspection, but Friendship Haven in Fort Dodge was cited in late 2013 "for failure to provide adequate incontinence care for residents; failure to adequately treat bedsores; and failure to keep food at the proper temperature before serving."

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More Iowa political reaction over unaccompanied immigrant children (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 20:49:39 PM CDT

As new reports indicate that Iowa families are caring for more than 100 unaccompanied immigrant children who have entered the U.S. illegally during the past year, Governor Terry Branstad stands by his cold shoulder to the kids, while leading Iowa Democrats have called for a more welcoming stance.

I enclose below some recent news and commentary about how Iowans should react to the humanitarian crisis.

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Lots of links on potential 2016 Iowa caucus candidates

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 14:16:13 PM CDT

It's been a while since Bleeding Heartland dedicated a thread to the potential 2016 presidential candidates. Please share any comments related to the next Iowa caucus campaign in this thread. Lots of links on various Democratic and Republican contenders are after the jump.
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No welcome mat from Terry Branstad for unaccompanied immigrant children

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 13:46:09 PM CDT

For two days I've been trying to find the words to react to Governor Terry Branstad slamming the door on unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children who are staying in crowded facilities near the U.S. southern border. Since last fall, at least 50,000 children are estimated to have entered the country via Mexico from various countries of origin, mainly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The Obama administration has asked governors to help house the kids. During his Monday press briefing, Branstad made clear he doesn't want any of the children sent to Iowa.

It's not that I expected Branstad to welcome any of these kids. This is a guy who demagogued on illegal immigration during his last campaign and disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows undocumented children to be educated in public schools. Still, for those of us old enough to remember Governor Bob Ray welcoming refugees from Asia to Iowa during the 1970s, it's dispiriting to hear Branstad trot out tired excuses and talking points. He wants "empathy for these kids" but doesn't want to "send the signal to send these children to America illegally." As if these children deliberately broke the law. As if families in desperate circumstances, trying to save their kids from murderous gangs in central America, would be influenced by "signals" from generous Iowans.

I have nothing profound to say, I just find it depressing to hear the governor cite some charitable work by his wife as an excuse not to do anything to alleviate a humanitarian crisis. After the jump I've posted some news clips on the story, along with a call to action from the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- What a disgrace for WHO-TV to allow reporter Aaron Brilbeck to file a story referring to human beings as "illegals" in the headline and the lede. Where were the newsroom editors? I expect that kind of language in a press release from Representative Steve King's office, not from a reputable media organization.

P.P.S.- Philip Brasher, formerly of the Des Moines Register, filed an excellent feature for Roll Call about "The Other Side of the Border."

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Change in Iowa Medicaid policy hasn't reduced abortion access

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 20:43:35 PM CDT

A year after Iowa law changed to require the governor to approve all Medicaid reimbursements for abortions, the new policy does not appear to have limited low-income women's access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, threat to the mother's life or severe fetal abnormality.

On the other hand, the policy has in effect ended Medicaid coverage of abortion in Iowa, which was already among the most restrictive states in this area.  

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Weekend open thread, with Iowa medical marijuana links

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 13, 2014 at 08:36:13 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Among the new Iowa laws that took effect at the beginning of the current fiscal year on July 1, the act legalizing the use of cannabis oil for certain seizure disorders drew the most media attention. Senate File 2360 (full text) passed the Iowa House and Senate during the final hours of the 2014 legislative session. This week the Iowa Department of Public Health released draft rules on how Iowans can gain legal access to this drug derivative for medical purposes. This page on the Iowa DPH website contains details on how to obtain a "Cannabidiol Registration Card." Eligible Iowans will be able to pick up cards through their county's Iowa Department of Transportation office, because DOT offices are more accessible for many people.

During negotiations with Iowa House Republican leaders and staff from Governor Terry Branstad's office, the scope of Senate File 2360 was narrowed to cover only the use of cannabis oil (not marijuana in any smokeable form), and only for seizure disorders, meaning that roughly a few hundred Iowa families will benefit from the new law. But a criminal trial verdict that made headlines this week may spur future efforts to help the thousands of Iowans who seek to use marijuana to treat chronic or terminal health conditions. A Scott County jury convicted Benton Mackenzie, along with his wife and son, of drug charges for growing marijuana plants. Mackenzie's elderly parents are due to stand trial soon for allowing the plants to be grown on their property. The presiding judge didn't allow Mackenzie's attorneys to tell jurors he was growing the drugs to treat a rare cancer, because medical marijuana is not legal in Iowa.

Quad-City Times reporter Brian Wellner covered the Mackenzie case and discussed it on Iowa Public Radio this week. After the jump I've posted excerpts from a few news reports on the verdict. I agree completely with State Senator Joe Bolkcom, the leading advocate for medical marijuana in Iowa, who called the decision to prosecute Mackenzie and his family members a "waste of taxpayer money."  

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Report highlights immigrants' impact on Iowa economy

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 09:05:00 AM CDT

A detailed analysis by the Iowa Policy Project shows that immigrants contribute substantially "to Iowa's economy both as workers and employers," and could contribute more "if immigration reform were to make work authorization or a path to citizenship possible" for some undocumented Iowa residents. You can read the full report by Heather Gibney and Peter Fisher here (pdf). I've enclosed excerpts from the executive summary after the jump.

One key finding is that contrary to the image fostered by some politicians, undocumented immigrants are not a drain on state or federal budgets. They generate significant revenue for public assistance programs, from which they cannot benefit. Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) is notorious for his demagoguery against "illegals," but sadly many other Iowa Republican elected officials, including Governor Terry Branstad, have promoted myths about undocumented immigrants taking state benefits.

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IA-Gov: "Stache-less" Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 11:14:20 AM CDT

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch announced today that Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon will be his running mate. In addition to following the Iowa tradition of female lieutenant governors, Vernon balances the ticket geographically and ideologically. An elected official in Iowa's second-largest city for seven years, she has been campaigning around northeast Iowa since last summer as a Democratic candidate for Congress. She carried Linn County and finished a strong second to Pat Murphy district-wide on June 3.

Some Democrats are grumbling that Vernon is a longtime Republican who joined our party just five years ago. But frankly, Hatch isn't running in a Democratic primary. He needs to appeal to a statewide electorate including thousands who have become disaffected from the GOP, just like Vernon did. Anyway, she is arguably more progressive than Governor Chet Culver's running mate, lifelong Democrat Patty Judge. Despite the complaining, there shouldn't be any major snags when the Iowa Democratic Party's statewide convention officially nominates Vernon for lieutenant governor this Saturday.

After the jump I've posted background on Vernon and other recent news from the Hatch campaign, including his first television commercial for the general election and highlights from his weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program.

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Branstad vetoed funds for Iowa civil rights history project

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 17:10:00 PM CDT

I was so focused on the environmental impacts of Governor Terry Branstad's recent vetoes, I failed to look closely at other appropriations in a supplemental spending bill he axed. Today I learned from Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg,

Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the start of Freedom Summer and the murder of Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney - it is too bad Governor Branstad vetoed the $300,000 the Legislature appropriated on a bipartisan basis to help the African-American Museum of Iowa collect Iowa's civil rights history and educate the public about these historic events.

There it is on page 4 of Senate File 2363: $300,000 for "an oral history of civil rights" at the African-American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids.

It's maddening that Governor Branstad has no problem with tens of millions of dollars in tax giveaways to wealthy corporations, yet he pleads fiscal prudence when vetoing spending like this, which serves the public interest without major impact to the state budget. Many of the 1950s and 1960s civil rights activists have already passed away, and those who haven't are senior citizens. "Freedom Summer" was a major event in 20th century American history. Some Freedom Summer veterans with connections to Iowa City or the University of Iowa have already told their stories to historians or recorded their memories on paper or film. The Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network are doing their part too, and you can follow their work here. I'm disappointed that the African-American Museum of Iowa won't have the funding to collect and archive these stories on a larger scale.  

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Weekend open thread, with Iowa GOP state convention highlights

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 21:58:07 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The Republican Party of Iowa held its state convention today in Des Moines. Links and highlights are after the jump.

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Sam Clovis will run for Iowa state treasurer

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:55:00 AM CDT

Sam Clovis, who finished a distant second in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, will likely be nominated for state treasurer at the Iowa GOP's statewide convention on June 14, The Iowa Republican blog reported last night. No Republicans stepped up to run for the office long held by Democrat Mike Fitzgerald in time for the March filing deadline. John Thompson, a native of Jefferson and army veteran, recently declared his candidacy for state treasurer and was hoping to be nominated at the state convention. Earlier this week, Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson published a hit piece backgrounder on Thompson that read like a desperate plea for some other candidate to seek the treasurer's office.

Today's exclusive report by Kevin Hall says "Clovis has received a lot of encouragement to run over the past couple of days," including a "Thursday evening phone call" from Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. They offered to help Clovis raise money for a statewide campaign, and he would need their help, as fundraising was his weakest area by far as a Senate candidate. Apparently the governor does not want to run on a ticket with Thompson, given the "interesting background" Robinson highlighted.

Fitzgerald is the longest-serving state treasurer in the country, having been first elected in 1982, the same year Branstad was elected governor for the first time. He has been re-elected seven times, twice amid huge Republican landslides (1994 and 2010). He defeated Dave Jamison by more than 60,000 votes in 2010.

One of Branstad's staffers, Adam Gregg, will be nominated for attorney general at tomorrow's GOP convention. That's the only other statewide office for which no Republican filed in time to appear on primary ballots.

Final Iowa trivia note: Fitzgerald's 2002 opponent was Matt Whitaker, the fourth-place candidate in this year's GOP Senate primary.

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Coalition forming against Monte Shaw before IA-03 nominating convention?

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 13:59:13 PM CDT

Roughly 500 Republican delegates from the third Congressional district will meet at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale on June 21 to select a nominee against Staci Appel. I consider Monte Shaw the best-placed candidate going into the convention, despite his fourth-place finish in the June 3 voting. Several signs point to the other campaigns developing a strategy to stop Shaw at the convention. Executing that strategy won't be easy.
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What caused the big drop in Iowa Republican primary turnout?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 13:39:01 PM CDT

Earlier this year, I would have predicted high Republican turnout for Iowa's June 3 primary elections. The five-way race for the U.S. Senate nomination was highly competitive, as was the six-way contest in the open third Congressional district. Multiple candidates contested GOP primaries in the first and second Congressional districts too. The 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses, which involved going out for an hour or more on a cold night in January, attracted a record turnout of roughly 122,000 people.

Yet according to unofficial results, just 158,031 Iowans cast ballots in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, and 156,275 cast ballots in the governor's race, where Terry Branstad had a token challenger.

The 2010 midterm election saw much higher Republican turnout, with some 227,404 people voting for one of the three GOP gubernatorial candidates. There weren't any high-profile statewide Republican primary contests in 2006, but in the 2002 midterm year, 199,234 Iowans cast ballots in the three-way GOP primary for governor, and 197,096 Iowans cast ballots in the two-way GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

In IA-03, five of the six Republican candidates raised enough money to run district-wide campaigns before this year's primary. Yet only 42,948 Iowans voted in a Congressional district with 160,660 active Republican voters as of June 2014. The seven-way 2010 GOP primary in IA-03 attracted more than 46,000 votes in a district that included only one-fifth of the state's population at the time and 118,850 active Republican voters. (Iowa lost one of its Congressional districts after the 2010 census).

A similar story took shape in IA-02, where about 30,500 people cast ballots in this year's GOP primary, compared to nearly 40,000 who voted in the 2010 primary, at a time when the district covered one-fifth of the state's population rather than one-fourth.

In this thread, please share your thoughts on why Republicans didn't show up to vote in larger numbers this year. Julie Stauch, a veteran of many Democratic campaigns, speculated that the low turnout "is the cumulative result of every extreme and outrageous statement over the last four years. The current Republicans in Iowa are only talking to those who agree with them 100 percent, which creates a rapidly shrinking base as every outrageous statement drives away a few more people. We can see the effect of this from the loss of 40 percent of the 2010 participants. That's a serious decline over any range of time, but very bad over four years."

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Iowa Supreme Court allows lawsuit to proceed against Branstad and key officials (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 09:57:21 AM CDT

In a 5-2 split decision, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a District Court judge should determine whether Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey can sue Governor Terry Branstad and five other administration officials individually for defamation, extortion and other claims. Follow me after the jump for background, links and details about the opinion.  
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IA-Gov: Republican Governors Association hits Hatch as Branstad launches positive ad

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 08:07:06 AM CDT

The Republican Governors Association jumped out the day after the primary election with a television commercial attacking State Senator Jack Hatch, the Democratic nominee against Governor Terry Branstad. I've posted the video and transcript after the jump, along with the Branstad campaign's opening tv ad, touting Iowa's "comeback" under his leadership.

It's standard procedure for incumbents generally, and Branstad in particular, to try to define challengers before they've had a chance to introduce themselves to most voters. That said, this spot is also a sign that the RGA may be more concerned about Iowa than they're letting on. I wonder whether their internal polling is showing a shrinking lead for Branstad over Hatch, as we've seen in several polls released in the last two months. Hatch plans to start running a biographical television commercial later this month, but he can't match Branstad and Republican-aligned forces in money spent on advertising.

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Iowa primary election results thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 20:20:00 PM CDT

Polls close at 9 pm, and I'll be updating this post regularly with primary election results. Rumor has it that turnout was relatively low, even on the Republican side where there are hard-fought primaries for U.S. Senate and the third Congressional district. According to the Polk County Auditor's office, as of this afternoon only 1,506 absentee ballots had been requested and 1,350 absentee ballots received for today's GOP primary. Keep in mind that roughly half of all Republican voters in IA-03 live in Polk County, and six campaigns were competing for their votes. Not to mention that five U.S. Senate candidates should have been locking in early votes in Iowa's largest county.

By comparison, 2,883 Democratic primary absentee ballots were requested in Polk County, and 2,296 of those returned by today. The lion's share were from Iowa Senate district 17 in Des Moines, where three candidates are seeking to replace Jack Hatch (2,475 absentee ballots requested and 1,950 returned). Democratic campaigns have long pushed early voting more than Republicans, but still--that's a shocking failure to GOTV by the various Republican campaigns.

Share any comments about any Iowa campaigns in this thread, as well as any interesting anecdotes from voting today.

UPDATE: Polls are now closed and updates will continue after the jump.

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Branstad staffer Adam Gregg will run for Iowa attorney general

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 11:47:00 AM CDT

No Republican stepped up to run against Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller in time to appear on the primary election ballot, but yesterday Adam Gregg announced that he will seek the GOP nomination for attorney general at the state party convention later this month. Gregg worked in private practice for the Des Moines-based Brown Winick law firm before joining Governor Terry Branstad's staff as a legislative liaison in 2012. (He's quitting that job to run for office.) His press release touted his work to help pass "the largest tax cut in Iowa's history, historic education reform, and a state based, Iowa alternative to Obamacare." The tax cut refers to the property tax reform approved during the 2013 legislative session. The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is more accurately described as an alternative to Medicaid expansion rather than an alternative to "Obamacare." Iowa is still implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Gregg promised "to fight everyday for Iowa families, Iowa farmers, and our constitutional freedoms," to "be an advocate for open government," and to "hold Washington, DC accountable when the federal government oversteps its bounds." Around the country, many Republican state attorneys general have used the job to grandstand against federal policies they don't like for ideological reasons. Sounds like Gregg will be emulating that model.

I don't give him much chance of beating Tom Miller. Four years ago, Brenna Findley got in the race early and ran a strong and well-financed campaign, only to come up well short amid a huge Republican landslide. Running a statewide campaign will raise Gregg's profile, though, and possibly open doors to future political jobs. The Des Moines rumor mill expects Miller to retire rather than seek another term in 2018. In that case, Gregg could join Findley as prominent candidates in a much more winnable race.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2014 Iowa primary election prediction contest

by: desmoinesdem

Sat May 31, 2014 at 16:10:00 PM CDT

I forgot to put up this year's primary election prediction contest earlier this week, but better late than never. To enter, post your answers to the twelve questions after the jump as a comment in this thread sometime before 7 am central time on Tuesday, June 3. It's fine to change your mind about some or all of your answers, as long as you post a comment with your new predictions before the deadline.  

Only comments posted in this thread will be valid contest entries. Predictions submitted by e-mail or twitter will not be considered. Please try to answer every question, even if it's just a wild guess. We're all guessing anyway, since few polls have been published about these races.

The winner receives no cash or other prizes--just bragging rights in the Bleeding Heartland community. Can someone stop ModerateIADem from "three-peating"? He won both the 2010 and the 2012 primary election prediction contests.  

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Branstad will sign cannabis oil, e-cigarette bills; undecided on dog racing

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 23, 2014 at 14:05:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad plans to sign a bill that would allow possession of cannabis oil for the treatment of some seizure disorders, he announced while taping Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program today. He noted the bill will help some children with epilepsy, and he's satisfied its "limited" scope will not increase abuse of marijuana in smokeable form.  

The governor also said he will sign a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to children, adding that his wife is a "militant" anti-smoker. Trouble is, that bill was backed by tobacco industry lobbyists. Many public health groups lobbied against the bill.

Branstad has not decided whether to sign the dog racing bill, which would end greyhound racing at one casino in Council Bluffs and get a non-profit casino in Dubuque off the hook for subsidizing the races. His concern isn't the massive giveaway to dog breeders and kennel owners, which makes no sense to me. Rather, he is worried that lobbyists for horse racing interests didn't get their cut from the bailout. O.Kay Henderson reports for Radio Iowa,

"I understand the benefits that the people in Council Bluffs and Dubuque see from this, and the greyhound industry," Branstad says. "My concern is the horse industry was left out of this." [...]

However, the governor's concern is over provisions in the bill that would give the greyhound industry authority to strike deals to simulcast dog and horse races at any of the state's casinos and get all of the profit from it. Today simulcasting deals are only allowed at the casinos in Altoona, Council Bluffs and Dubuque and Iowa's horse industry gets the financial take.

"There is some concern that I'm hearing from my friends in the horse industry. I've always been close with them," Branstad says. "We have a very big and significant horse industry in the state of Iowa."

Branstad has 'til June 2 to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

"I'm trying to weigh all those things," Branstad says. "I want to do something that's fair to all the communities involved and fair to all the parties and the one group that seems to be, because of the simulcasting provisions of that bill, having some concerns is the horse industry and so I'm carefully reviewing that," Branstad says. "I have not made a final decision."

Environmental activists in Iowa are nervously awaiting the governor's decision on a bill to expand solar tax credits and several spending bills that include record-high funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) conservation program. The governor recently said he is concerned about various parts of a supplemental spending bill that contained $5 million of the REAP funding. In 2012, Branstad line-item vetoed half a million dollars for Iowa food banks on the Friday before Memorial Day.

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One easy way to help protect Iowa soil and clean water

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 21, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

In August 2012, Governor Terry Branstad issued an executive order creating a mechanism for "stakeholder groups" to block potentially "burdensome" administrative rules proposed by state agencies. Those groups include representatives of businesses that would be affected by any new regulation. One of those stakeholder groups is meeting next week to discuss the fate of a rule the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has advanced in order to reduce soil runoff and storm water discharge associated with construction activities.

You can view the rule here (pdf). The main point is to require developers and home builders to leave four inches of topsoil on the ground after construction, so that yards will be able to absorb more of the expected rainfall. Some business interests oppose the rule because it will add costs to construction. But they are not considering the hidden costs of runoff (increased water pollution and a loss of irreplaceable topsoil). State government needs to act in the public interest and not only consider the bottom line of a few companies.

An action alert I've posted after the jump provides more background and details. Lucy Hershberger, an Iowa City-based landscaper who serves on the stakeholder group, wrote it and gave me permission to publish here. The Iowa DNR is accepting public comments on this issue via e-mail: Adam.Schnieders AT dnr.iowa.gov. It would be better to submit those comments before the public hearing scheduled for May 29. People can also attend that hearing, either in person or by telephone (instructions for calling in are below).  

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