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News Analysis: April 3, 2008

posted on April 4, 2008 at 8:43 AM

Beck: Right now we're turning to Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson who has been monitoring the Iowa legislature as it tries to address a couple of legislative matters that promise to follow lawmakers home and into the '08 election campaigns. Kay, thanks for joining us. Legislature is only a couple of weeks from scheduled adjournment ...

Henderson: Allegedly.

Beck: Allegedly -- but there are big issues that continue to loom. We sound a little bit like a broken record -- we keep telling people they're maybe going to meet this week and address that smoking ban in public places but nothing.

Henderson: No puff of smoke yet from the meeting room. Don't know if the Pope is going to get involved at all. We have no idea what they're going to do and as you noted in a story when this group of ten people was assembled to try to come to some agreement it looks as if they bring viewpoints that make it very hard to agree. It is also very hard to agree or come to some agreement when you are actually needing to come up with one. So, who knows what they're doing on that. There is a whole host of other issues that have yet to be resolved as well as legislators do try to push and leave this part-time job and go back to their regular lives.

Beck: If we could get a couple of days of sunshine in a row that always encourages them to get out. On this smoking issue we now see the committee as a whole is not meeting but there are sometimes little groups of three of the members, pods, that are discussing and to the outsider it might seem like, well, this is going to fall apart because the momentum has stalled but they tell us that no, we're going to do something this year. What do you think?

Henderson: I have no idea. The fallback position perhaps is the proposal which the Governor endorsed early on which is letting cities and counties enact local smoking ordinances if they can't come to some agreement on a statewide ban of some sort that would perhaps exempt casinos so that you could still go ahead and plug your money into the machines and light up.

Beck: One of the things that could also follow them home is what they do with this union bargaining legislation that passed both chambers but has been held up because the Governor has threatened to veto it. Are negotiations continuing on that?

Henderson: Well, if by negotiations you mean if there is a meeting of the minds and people are talking calmly I have some idea that behind the scenes people's tempers are being shown at this point. As we discussed on this program I think last week, AFSCME, which is the state union for public employees, endorsed Michael Blouin when he ran against Chet Culver as a Democrat and so perhaps there's not much love loss between some portions of Iowa's union community and Governor Chet Culver.

Beck: One thing that we haven’t seen any action really on this session that democrats campaigned on, republicans campaigned on is property tax reform and some effort to lower property taxes for homeowners and especially businesses. Is that going to follow them home on the campaign trail?

Henderson: It certainly will and the reason is it's a very tough problem to tackle. Senate Democratic leader Michael Gronstal has described it as a $1 billion problem and lawmakers really don't have much of a clue at present what could actually be accomplished to lower business property, commercial property taxes and at least keep steady the taxes that homeowners are paying and it is all sort of interconnected with agricultural property. And as you and I have seen and reported on agricultural property values are going through the roof. So, all of this is sort of tied together in this miasma that is really difficult to resolve.

Beck: You were on a conference call today with Senator Tom Harkin. He's concerned almost about his role as a super delegate.

Henderson: I think he doesn't much want to be a super delegate if indeed people will start throwing spears at him and the rest of those poobahs for picking the wrong nominee. Senator Harkin was asked by a reporter from the Cedar Rapids Gazette if he were concerned that perhaps Bill Clinton, the former president, may be doing his wife more harm than good. Many Iowans may remember that Ruth Harkin, Tom Harkin's wife who herself was a county attorney back in the day in Story County endorsed Hillary Clinton early on, campaigned with Hillary Clinton across the state starting last summer. Well, so Tom Harkin's wife has endorsed Hillary Clinton. There was some discussion of what the discussion was at home and he refused to say what may be going on at the breakfast table between himself and his wife. But he also said that Bill Clinton needs to, in Tom Harkin's words, "chill out." There was a report this week that Bill Clinton just came unglued with a group of super delegates in California. So, there is some indication that there is concern among party poobahs like Tom Harkin about the image that Bill Clinton is portraying to the country.

Beck: And this also stretches back to other super delegates in Iowa. Just Friday on Iowa Press Bruce Braley expressed similar concerns at the role they suddenly have and the power they have that they are concerned about.

Henderson: Actually it was quite funny when I first asked Bruce Braley about his role as a super delegate he said, "I'm not that super." But Braley did go on to say that he just thinks the things should be resolved at the convention. If it needs to go all the way to the convention that's fine. He survived a bitter primary, he says, and became a better candidate because of it and so I think from his personal experience he thinks that this showdown between Clinton and Obama might not be that bad for the party.

Beck: Alright, Kay, thank you for your insight.


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