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Iowa News Analysis: June 26, 2008

posted on June 27, 2008 at 5:13 PM

Yeager: Kay, this is a story that I think would have been the majority of the news cycles for the month of June, the approaching smoking ban. We haven't heard much about it but it does into effect in less than a week. Is anybody happy about this one who was opposed to it? Has time healed any wounds with those that were against this ban?

Henderson: It seems as if salt has been poured in the wounds. I talked with a gentleman who came to Iowa in early June to talk with lawmakers about the ban. He owns a bar in Fort Madison. He's been fighting flood waters for the past eight days. He is still angry about the ban.

Yeager: Angry you're using, still?

Henderson: Angry, still very angry. There is a group of bar owners who have met with former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack who, by the way, is a lawyer, talking about suing the state. Their suit would be based on the predicate that they've created two classes of the same kinds of establishments, bars and restaurants and then bars and restaurants at casinos, and they're arguing that that is un-Constitutional.

Yeager: And they are seriously -- do they think they have any merit? I don't know if the former Governor told them they have merit for their lawsuit but we haven't seen any lawsuits filed. We thought we might.

Henderson: Yes, I would think that we may see a lawsuit at some point in the near future.

Yeager: One part of the question or the debate is how are you going to enforce it and what exactly are the rules? The Health Department is planning to meet soon.

Henderson: Right, tomorrow.

Yeager: What are they trying to hammer out?

Henderson: Well, one of the points of conflict has been whether patio areas adjacent to bars and restaurants can be smoking areas and there is some disagreement about how the department has written the rules whereby they have virtually prohibited most bars from having patios or beer gardens in which their patrons can smoke. There are some other sticking points in the rules, if you will. The school boards have raised an objection because it appears that the law and the rules as written would require them to put up new signs. Schools in Iowa and everywhere in the nation have been no smoking zones since 1994. But they think the law as written in the rules as promulgated would force them to put up new, larger signs at $6 a pop so it could cost school districts thousands of dollars across the state, perhaps at a time when they might be replacing books that may have been flooded.

Yeager: Sure, we can get into that in a moment. I want to get into that question about libraries but I also want to talk about the presidential race that's going on. Iowa, again, considered a battleground state. What was the big signal that that is truly the case?

Henderson: Two signals this week. One, Jackie Norris, a long-time Iowa political operative has been named state chair for the Obama campaign. A gentleman who I have never met and can not recall his name has been named the Iowa state director for John McCain's campaign. I'm led to believe that he is a recent college graduate who has been working on the McCain campaign for the past 18 months, has been traveling with Mr. McCain. It's a signal that Iowa is one of those "battleground" states which is a must win for either candidate to get to that magic number of 270 electoral votes.

Yeager: Electoral votes, that is, and we've seen plenty of math that puts that even. So, 7 electoral votes, which Iowa has, would be key. One person who works for the current president, Jim Nussle, a former Congressman, candidate for Governor is now the Director of Budgets, Office of Management of Budgets. What has been your conversation with him here in the last few days?

Henderson: I had an opportunity to talk with former Congressman Nussle earlier this week to talk about what this job is like and it has come to occur to him that there is a reason why former OMB chiefs have a hard time finding jobs in the private sector after they leave government, it's because they're basically Mr. No. They are the bad cop whereas everyone else in the administration is the good cop. They're the bad cop who is please don't spend the money. Anyway, the other insight that he had was the fact that, of course, he is the first Iowan since Henry Wallace to be in that inner circle, a part of the Cabinet and as such Iowa's Congressional delegation has been meeting with him and he was out here with the President when the President was touring Cedar Rapids looking at the damage in an area that he's very familiar with.

Yeager: Let's talk a little bit about the flooding here in the final minute, Kay. We talk about libraries. We're going to see here in a moment about the Cedar Rapids Library, several large libraries have lost but several small libraries have lost. What is the status of Iowa libraries in flood water damage territory?

Henderson: Well, there's been a lot of focus on the Cedar Rapids Library which, of course, was in the downtown area and where there were sort of Herculean efforts to move part of the collection to upper floors. There's still no power in downtown Cedar Rapids and that library is not going to open for weeks, if not months. But there are other libraries, for instance, Creston, Iowa and it wasn't necessarily because of flooding, it was because the area was inundated with eight inches of rain overnight. So, it's not necessarily rivers that have flooded, it's just that there have been these torrential downpours that have caused flooding in several areas of the state. And so you have instances in which people in a small town perhaps don't have great Internet access in a really small town and the library is the point of contact for them with the Internet. And so libraries are struggling trying to find other means by which to serve their patrons.

Yeager: We'll have to see how this one plays out as we determine what has happened as we dry out from the flood waters. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa, thank you for stopping by.


Tags: Iowa news smoking