The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

April 1, 2013

Regents conflict could impact legislative work

DES MOINES — If two of Gov. Terry Branstad’s nominees to the Board of Regents are not confirmed by the Senate, some think the political fallout could jeopardize progress on tough issues like education spending, property tax reductions and health care.

Democratic senators said two of Branstad’s three nominees to the nine-member board that oversees Iowa’s three public universities face serious problems winning confirmation. Board President Craig Lang, whose tenure has troubled Democrats, and Robert Cramer, a socially conservative businessman from Grimes, did not receive the backing of the Senate education committee.

Branstad has been a vocal advocate for both nominees.

The governor praised Lang’s leadership, including the plan for a tuition freeze in the coming academic year. And he said Cramer’s experience in construction would benefit the university system.

GOP fundraiser and Branstad adviser Doug Gross said there could be bad blood in the Capitol if the nomination process doesn’t change course.

“These things are the toughest because they’re personal. They’re not just numbers, they’re people. People are hurt on both sides. There’s a lot of bile on both sides,” Gross said. “It bodes ill for the rest of the session.”

The nominations require a two-thirds approval vote in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Under state law, the Senate must vote on the nominations or pass a resolution to defer the decision by April 15. The 85th legislative session is scheduled to end May 3. The legislative session can continue after that time, but lawmakers will no longer receive per diem payments.

The governor and the Legislature are dealing with a substantial policy agenda this spring, with proposals for property tax reductions, increased education spending and Medicaid expansion on the table. But discord could lead to little or no resolution on those issues, which has happened in previous years.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor’s office would not speculate on what would happen if the nominees were not confirmed. In an interview, Branstad made clear he was throwing his political weight behind his picks. He has sent letters to all 50 senators seeking their support.

“I want them to know I do take these things seriously. I do try to choose strong, effective people and we shouldn’t have a bunch of clones that everybody thinks the same way,” Branstad said. “I’ve been through this before and I’ve seen some things unfairly done. I don’t want to see a repeat of what was done in the 1990s.”

According to Branstad, a Regents nominee has not been rejected since the mid-1990s, during his previous stint in the governor’s office.

Former Regents President Marvin Pomerantz was not confirmed for a second term in 1993, after critics raised questions about his management style and ties to the governor. Branstad later put him back on the board on a temporary basis. And the Senate rejected businessman David Fisher in 1995, amid some similar concerns about his relationship with Branstad, but confirmed him to the board in 1997.

“They were two of the strongest and best regents we ever had,” Branstad said.

Branstad’s third nominee, Webster City physician Subhash Sahai, was recommended by the Senate education committee and appears to face no threat.

Sen. Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, said rejecting the nominees could sour negotiations on other issues, but he hoped both sides could move past it if necessary.

“We know the politics of the whole session is already difficult and we’re not trying to make it more difficult,” Hatch said. “When personalities are involved you have to get through that. The Senate can separate these issues.”

Lang, a Brooklyn dairy farmer and former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, and Cramer underwent tough questioning during Senate hearings.

Democrats asked if Lang was trying to restrict academic freedom at an Iowa State University policy institute created to honor Sen. Tom Harkin. Lang had supported rules implemented by ISU President Steven Leath that would have limited the institute’s ability to research agriculture. Leath loosened the policy, but Harkin — angry about the restrictions — withdrew plans to donate his papers and blamed “partisans on the Board of Regents” for meddling. The institute now faces an uncertain future.

Senators also took issue with Lang’s criticism of University of Iowa President Sally Mason. The board last year took the unusual step of declining to renew her contract and ordered her to improve the university’s public relations.

Lang, who was appointed to the board in 2007 and has served as president since 2011, acknowledged mistakes during the hearing but asked senators for continued support. He said he supported Mason and didn’t know of any professors who thought academic freedom had been violated at the Harkin Institute.

Cramer was questioned about his conservative social views on issues such as stem cell research, gay rights and academic freedom. Some lawmakers questioned whether those positions could compromise the academic values of the public universities that the board oversees.

Cramer said Friday that he had different beliefs than some senators, but stressed that he valued higher education. He said he would write a letter to the senators to advocate for his nomination.

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Medicaid paid $12M for Illinois dead

    The Illinois Medicaid program paid an estimated $12 million for medical services for people listed as deceased in other state records, according to an internal state government memo.

    The memo dated Friday, which The Associated Press obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, says the state auditor compared clients enrolled in the Medicaid database last June with state death records dating back to 1970. Auditors identified overpayments for services to roughly 2,900 people after the date of their deaths.

    April 19, 2014

  • Ohio couple married 70 years die 15 hours apart

    A couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died 15 hours apart.

    Helen Felumlee, of Nashport, died at 92 on April 12. Her husband, 91-year-old Kenneth Felumlee, died the next morning.

    April 19, 2014

  • Prince reaches agreement with music label

    Prince now owns the rights to the music he recorded on Warner Bros. Records after years of disputes and battles with the record label.

    Warner Bros. announced Friday it had reached an agreement with the pop icon, who was signed to the label from 1978 to the mid-1990s, during which time he released key projects like "Purple Rain," ''1999," ''Diamonds and Pearls" and "Around the World in a Day."

    Financial terms weren't disclosed.

    April 19, 2014

  • Ill. GOP officials who wanted Brady out replaced

    A crop of Republican officials who wanted to oust former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady for his statements supporting same-sex marriage have been replaced in their party positions.

    Illinois Republicans across the state held elections for all 18 state central committee member posts this week, replacing six of the seven officials who signed on to a letter last year to hold a vote on removing Brady as chairman. The seventh person to sign the letter, Mark Shaw of the 10th Congressional District, was re-elected to a four-year term.

    April 19, 2014

  • Iowa gets nearly $72M in yearly tobacco payment

    Iowa received $71 million this week from tobacco companies — its annual share of a 1998 landmark legal settlement in which tobacco companies pay states for smoking-related health care costs.

    The Iowa Attorney General's Office says that since 1999, the state has received more than $960 million in tobacco payments.

    April 19, 2014

  • U of I burn center sees jump in ammonia burns

    The University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center is reporting a higher-than-normal number of patients suffering from anhydrous ammonia burns.

    The center says it has treated five people in the last two weeks. The center's medical personnel say they usually only see one or two cases each year. Official say the high number of patients in such a short amount of time is concerning.

    April 19, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 19, 2014

  • Way of the Cross photo The Way of the Cross By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer The Way of the Cross

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Hood A year after 'chaos'

    It happened two hours after John Hood finished his run. Like many, he thought the loud boom was just the sound of cannons going off, something that shook the ground. It was odd, but Hood — a 1989 Clinton High School graduate — tried to make it logical, associating the noise with another good happening at the Boston Marathon.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video