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Iowa News Analysis: Veterans' Legislation and CIETC Verdicts

posted on April 25, 2008 at 1:18 PM

Yeager: Right now we turn to Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa who continues to be chained to the legislature that just won't go home. Aside from some big issues that remain in question there have been some winners and losers in the session. We'll talk about those in a moment. First we need to talk about the CIETC trial. There was a verdict this afternoon, Kay.

Henderson: There was -- Karen Tesdell who was the CFO at the institution was convicted on a variety of counts. Jane Barto, who many will remember as the woman at the Department of Employment Services, she was convicted on one count of trying to obstruct the investigation. And the other person who was on trial, Dan Albritton, he was a CIETC board member; he was not found guilty on any of the counts.

Yeager: And there's still one more to go with Ramona Cunningham if and when she clears a mental status evaluation?

Henderson: And I believe that hearing will be next week.

Yeager: Let's move back to the legislature now. There's been a couple of winners as we wind down to the final maybe hours, maybe days, who knows. What have been some of the winners of this session? Or have there been just all losers?

Henderson: No, there have indeed been some winners. One of them is a person, Michael Morrow, Iowa's recently new Secretary of State, he was able to get legislators to approve pretty sweeping legislation from the standpoint of schools. School board elections from hereafter will be held every other year.

If you recall they are held every September and the terms of office for school board members will move from three to four years. He argues that immediately that will save counties half the money they currently spend on school board elections because they'll be having them half as often.

The other significant piece of that bill would establish four dates on which counties may have special elections. He said any given Tuesday in the calendar there is a special election somewhere in Iowa. It's very expensive. By consolidating them quarterly that will also save counties money.

There is a portion of that bill which allows voting centers to be established whereby you consolidate precincts. So, all in all the legislation may end up saving property tax payers money because property taxes are basically what support your county government.

Yeager: And easier to remember for those of us covering the elections because we won't be every Tuesday but every shorter amount of time.

Henderson: Exactly. The other thing about this is the previous people who have been in that office, Elaine Baxter, Paul Pate, Chet Culver, all had aspirations beyond it and that made relationships with legislators a little difficult, to be blunt.

Yeager: And there was another winner, you're saying veterans.

Henderson: Correct. If you look at all of the bills that dealt with veterans issues, for instance, there was a bill relating to child custody which forbids judges to alter the child custody arrangements of soldiers while they are on active duty.

There was also an attempt to fill the already existing veteran’s trust fund at the state level, a lottery game has been created and that will be -- the proceeds from that will be poured into the veteran’s trust fund. But most significantly and it was discussed on this show a few weeks ago is a piece of legislation which seeks to professionalize, if you will, the veterans service offices in each of Iowa's 99 counties.

The legislation specifies you have to be open specific business hours. It also tries to help train the people who are in those offices. The argument being that if those people are better trained they'll be better able to help veterans in the counties sign up for the federal benefits for which they are entitled.

For example, in Palo Alto County, which happens to be the county where Jack Kibbie, the senate president, bronze star winner, Korean tank war commander -- he said they have a new veteran’s affairs commissioner. In the past year they were able to secure $2.1 million for the veterans who live in Palo Alto County. The year before $600,000.

So, that is significant savings for county taxpayers who here before have been picking up the difference. And the other interesting thing about this is you have a couple of Iraq War veterans in the Iowa legislature, you have a couple of really high ranking Iowa National Guard people and you have Jack Kibbie who is now the senate president who is a decorated veteran of the Korean War and so I think all of that together sort of created this zone where there was this advancement of veterans' issues.

And Ray Zirkelbach, who was part of the unit of Iowa National Guard troops who served longer in Iraq than any other military unit, people may remember their story -- he is the chairman of the house veteran’s services committee. He told me that there are 225,000 veterans in Iowa. That is one-twelfth of Iowa's population. And he argued to me that veteran’s issues will certainly be something that will be discussed at the legislature for years to come.

Yeager: Because it's not going away, we have a whole new crop and no timetable on when we may be out. There could be even more veterans and that number will probably grow. One other thing here in the final 30 seconds, Kay, is the Governor. It looks like he's got some legislation that he's looking at that he may or may not sign. Which bill is it? And what are his thoughts?

Henderson: It is the bill that expands the subjects which may be discussed during union management negotiations among state employees, local government employees. The Governor is not tipping his hand as to whether he'll sign or veto this law. What he only said today was that there is no counter bill that will answer and resolve all of the warring factions on this so it's down to that bill. He's still not telling us what he's going to do.

Yeager: Alright, we'll find out more. Kay Henderson from Radio Iowa, thank you very much.

Tags: CIETC Iowa news PTSD veterans