Branstad gives business more leverage against new regulations

Governor Terry Branstad’s latest executive order gives businesses and their advocates new opportunities to pre-empt government regulation of their activities. The governor’s spin on the new order presents it as a way to meet his administration’s job-creation goals:

“Executive Order Seventy-One will ensure that state government’s eyes are affixed on job creation, retention and development when issuing rules and regulations,” said Branstad. “This rule making process will assist in our administration’s goal of creating 200,000 new jobs and putting the roughly 106,000 unemployed Iowans back to work.”

The executive order will identify policies that hurt jobs before they impact job retention and development. […]

“As we travel the state we have heard Iowans voice their concerns over the burdens of bureaucracy that fails to understand the relationship between excessive regulation and job creation,” Branstad added. “Executive Order Seventy-One encourages a job-friendly environment as we build a strong foundation for the future.”

I’ve posted the full text of Executive Order 71 after the jump. It requires all government agencies to prepare a “jobs impact statement” before adopting any new rules and regulations, and to “minimize the adverse impact on jobs and the development of new employment opportunities before proposing a rule.” Furthermore,

Each Agency shall accept comments and information from stakeholders prior to the Jobs Impact Statement. Any concerned private sector employer or self-employed individual, potential employer, potential small business, or member of the public is entitled to submit information relating to Jobs Impact Statement upon a request for information or notice of intended action by a Department or Agency.

So, the governor is instructing agency employees to make “jobs impact” a greater consideration than other public-interest concerns (for example, reducing air pollution that causes life-threatening and costly illnesses, or restricting lending practices that trap consumers in cycles of debt). Furthermore, agency employees need to hear input from “stakeholders” (businesses and business owners) when drafting the jobs impact statements. Also, certain sectors receive privileged status:

The analysis in the Jobs Impact Statement should give particular weight to jobs in production sectors of the economy which includes the manufacturing, and agricultural sectors of the economy and include analysis, where applicable of the impact of the rule on expansion of existing businesses or facilities.

The likely outcome is that “doomsday scenario” analysis from advocacy groups like the Iowa Association of Business and Industry or the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation will now carry new credibility as part of the official “jobs impact statement” issued by state agencies. Any potential rule that manufacturers or agricultural operators view as too “burdensome” will be discarded, regardless of how many other Iowans might benefit.

For as long as I can remember, industry trade groups and lobbyists have exaggerated the potential jobs cost of regulations ranging from the Clean Air Act to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Meanwhile, no one is calculating the economic impact of, say, preventable respiratory illnesses in communities with high levels of particulate matter in the air, or making Des Moines Water Works customers pay to clean up pollution agricultural producers create in the Raccoon River Watershed.

Executive Order 71 dovetails with other recent Branstad efforts to increase business leverage against government regulations. All four of his appointees to the Environmental Protection Commission have close ties to agribusiness. The governor is also leaning toward moving Iowa’s water monitoring and water quality protection programs from the Department of Natural Resources to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Continue Reading...

Des Moines City Council adopts moratorium on payday lending

The Des Moines City Council voted 6-0 today to impose a six-month moratorium on new payday lending operations and pawn shops.

City leaders will spend the next 180 days examining long-term zoning regulations on such businesses. The action was taken partly in response to concerns voiced by neighborhood leaders and business owners.

Plans to open new Pawn America shops on Merle Hay Road and SE 14th Street prompted the City Council to act. Ideally, Iowa would have enacted stronger regulations on the payday lending industry long ago, because the industry’s business model depends on trapping borrowers in cycles of debt. Some Iowa Democrats tried to pass new regulations on payday lending during this year’s legislative session, but unfortunately the bill didn’t have the votes to get out of subcommittee before the first “funnel” deadline.

After the jump I’ve posted Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement‘s reaction to today’s news. Iowa CCI was one of several organizations that urged the legislature to act to protect consumers from payday lenders.

It’s not yet clear whether payday lending restrictions will be part of the federal financial reform legislation Congress is now considering.

Continue Reading...

Iowa is top-ranked state on workers' comp

I saw on the Iowa House Democrats’ blog that the Work Loss Data Institute recently released “2009 State Report Cards for Workers’ Comp, using the most current data available at this time.” Excerpt from the summary:

Similar to past releases of this report, the 2009 State Report Cards also provide five different outcome measures compared among the states for each year: (1) Incidence Rates, (2) Cases Missing Work, (3) Median Disability Durations, (4) Delayed Recovery Rate; and (5) Key Conditions: Low Back Strain. An essential requirement for production of this report was the proprietary crosswalk program that has been developed by Work Loss Data Institute, which converts OSHA-reported data into an ICD9 code format.  More details on the methodology used are located at http://www.odg-disability.com/…  

Iowa performed the best of all the states for 2006 and Minnesota came in a close second. Both states received a grade of “A+” based on an average of their 2006 scores in the five categories above. Illinois came in last, with Wyoming, Rhode Island and New York very close to the bottom. In total, nine of the 43 states received a grade of “F” in 2006. A summary of each grade for all states is shown on a U.S. Map Showing Grades by State, located at http://www.odg-disability.com/…

In terms of the tier ranking system, the Tier I states are Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia. Tier I means that the state had an average grade of “B+” or better, and a trend going up or level. Those five states were doing great and continuing to improve.

Look for Iowa Republicans to keep claiming that this is a terrible place to do business despite the conclusions of independent analysts such as the California-based Work Loss Data Institute.

Continue Reading...

Events coming up this weekend and next week

Not a whole lot is happening yet, but things will pick up quickly once the legislature is back in session, beginning January 12.

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I’ve left out.

Saturday, January 3:

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is organizing a “Roadmap to Economic Recovery” town hall meeting from 10:30 am to noon at the Bidwell Riverside Center, 1203 Hartford in Des Moines. For more details about the event, read this post at Century of the Common Iowan.

Monday, January 5:

At 10 am the Des Moines Register’s editorial board will interview top Iowa Republicans in the legislature: Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, and House Minority Whip Linda Upmeyer. People will be able to watch the interviews live at the Register’s website.

Tuesday, January 6:

At 9:30 am the Register’s editorial board will interview top Iowa Democrats in the legislature: Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, House Speaker Pat Murphy, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. People will be able to watch the interviews live at the Register’s website.

Thursday, January 8:

From the Iowa Environmental Council e-mail bulletin, via Angela Clark of enrgPATH:

Sustainable Business After Hours meet monthly at Mars Café, the second Thursday of every month. Jan 8 is the next one at 5:30 p.m. This is for anyone in business that is interested in hearing about how others are incorporating sustainability into their business. We feature a non-profit group each month from the Sustainability spectrum as well. Hope to see you there!

Practical Farmers of Iowa is giving you a chance to see the documentary “King Corn” and meet the film-makers:

The movie King Corn is coming to Des Moines, along with co-star Curt Ellis and director Aaron Woolf, for a Practical Farmers of Iowa fundraiser on January 8. The screening will be at the Fleur Cinema, and movie time is 7:00. After the movie, join Curt Ellis and Aaron Woolf for dessert, drinks, and discussion.

King Corn’s Curt Ellis: “We are supporting Practical Farmers of Iowa through this fundraiser because they provide a vision for what all Iowa agriculture might look like a generation from now: family-driven farms growing healthy and sustainable food in thriving local communities.”

King Corn tracks two college kids’ quest to understand the food system.  “As city kids from the coasts, we had no idea that the food we were eating–meat, milk, or soda–had its roots on a corn farm.  When we found out just how much of our diet was coming from that one crop, we decided to see the Corn Kingdom for ourselves,” said Curt. “We moved to Iowa , grew an acre of corn, and followed the fate of our crop as food. Along the way, we found out some wonderful things about agriculture, and some disconcerting things about our food.”

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $10 for students. To purchase tickets, call Suzi at (515)232-5661 or fill out and send in the ticket order form.

Sponsors for this fundraiser are Des Moines Area Community College , Drake University Environmental Science and Policy Program, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, Iowa Farmers Union, Sage, Slow Food Des Moines, and the Wallace House Foundation.

Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of farmers and nonfarmers. Corn, soybeans, beef cattle, and hay are the top enterprises for PFI farmers, although many have a variety of other operations, including fruits and vegetables. PFI’s programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences, and more. For more information, call (515)232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.

Friday, January 9:

The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women is having a lunch and learn to discuss its legislative agenda for the coming session:

12 noon – 1 p.m.

State Capitol, Room 116

Free and open to the public * Bring your lunch and join us!

2009 Policy Agenda

1.      Enhance protections for equal pay.

2.      Provide sustainable funding for domestic violence and sexual assault centers across the state.

3.      Extend gender balance requirement on boards and commissions to political subdivisions of the state.

4.      Support policy and research to assist low-income women entering skill shortage areas.

The annual conference of Practical Farmers of Iowa opens in Marshalltown:

The 2009 PFI conference, “Biological Harvest: The Sustainable Farmer’s Hidden Opportunity,” will take place at Marshalltown Community College January 9 and 10. Keynote speaker Joel Huesby, fourth-generation farmer who farms in Washington State, speaks with great optimism about the future of agriculture and the tremendous opportunities for “farming with the sun.” Friday evening of the conference King Corn co-star Curt Ellis and director Aaron Woolf will show a sneak preview of their new film, tentatively titled “Big River,” that looks at the environmental impacts of high-intensity corn production. Dave Baker from the Beginning Farmer Center is available for private consultations. Holistic veterinarian Will Winter will host a one-on-one coffee shop Saturday. Other highlights include: business meeting, member posters, Iowa-grown meals, silent auction, and many opportunities to network with fellow farmers and agriculture advocates. The conference offers a diverse line-up of workshops. For more information or to register, visit www.practicalfarmers.org or contact Suzi Berhnard, (515)232-5661, suzi@practicalfarmers.org.

Saturday, January 10:

From the Iowa Environmental Council e-mail bulletin:

A meeting of anyone interested in habitat and water quality issues in the Walnut Creek Watershed will occur on Saturday, January 10, in the morning. The exact time and place will be announced later. Walnut Creek is a tributary of the Raccoon River, and it has significant rural and urban watershed areas. The tentative meeting schedule includes an introductory slide presentation and overview, interest- and issue-based working groups, and discussion of outreach to communities and potential funding sources. If you want a detailed announcement of the meeting, please send an email to Lee Searles at searleslr@msn.com or contact him at 515-979-6457.

Continue Reading...

Walmart's Faux Greening = McCain's Faux Change

If Walmart is a green company then John McCain is a candidate of change. Both are ridiculous suggestions, and both are being propagated by these two antiquated refuges of Republican America.

McCain, for his part, is suddenly casting himself as an agent of change after spending the last two years cozying up and currying favors from the Bush-Rove-Falwell axis.

And Walmart?  Well, the world’s largest retailer has launched a much-ballyhooed greening initiative that has won acclaim from everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Bill Clinton.

Just to be fair, let’s take them at their word for second – Maybe McCain and Walmart read some polls and learned that, wow, people want change and want to go green.  

But even if that’s the case, it doesn’t make them the gold standard.  They’ve still got a lot of atoning to do.

Continue Reading...

Learn how the business sector can solve the climate change problem

I missed these when I compiled my calendar of events for this week, but I learned from the Center on Sustainable Communities that Edward Mazria, an “internationally recognized architect, author, educator and visionary,” is in central Iowa today and tomorrow.

Mazria will present “Now, it’s Personal….A three-pronged solution for achieving energy independence and solving climate change via the business sector, the largest energy consumer in the U.S.. ”

He is giving a free lecture in Ames tonight:

Ames Lecture

Wednesday, September 24th

7:00 pm

Iowa State University

College of Design

Kocimski Auditorium

He will speak on the same topic tomorrow at lunchtime:

Des Moines Luncheon

Thursday, September 25th

11:30a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Arthur Davis Conference Room

Greater Des Moines Partnership

700 Locust St., Suite 100, Des Moines

Cost to attend is $20 for COSC members, $30 for non-members. (Price includes lunch.)

Questions? Contact Meg Fitz at 515-286-4934 or mfitz@desmoinesmetro.com.

You can learn more about Edward Mazria and his 2030 challenge at http://www.mazria.com.

Sounds like an interesting program. If anyone goes to hear Mazria, please post a comment or a diary afterwards.

Continue Reading...
View More...