Iowa Public Television

 

Senate Democratic Coleader Mike Gronstal

posted on January 17, 2006

Borg: SPEECHES AND APPLAUSE GIVE WAY TO HARD-NOSED DEBATE. IOWA'S 2006 LEGISLATIVE SESSION IS UNDERWAY, AND WE'LL QUESTION SENATE DEMOCRATIC COLEADER MIKE GRONSTAL ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, JANUARY 13 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE FIRST WEEK OF THE 2006 LEGISLATIVE SESSION HAD THE TRADITIONAL CEREMONIAL EVENTS FROM THE OTHER TWO BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT. ON TUESDAY IN HIS CONDITION OF THE STATE ADDRESS, GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK CHALLENGED LEGISLATORS TO DEVELOP A CAN-DO SENSE OF COMMUNITY IN SETTING HIS VISION FOR IOWA. AND THE FOLLOWING DAY, STATE SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE LOUIS LAVORATO CALLED FOR MORE COUNTY COURTHOUSE SECURITY IN PRESENTING THE STATE OF THE JUDICIARY. NOW LEGISLATORS, WITH THE POWER OF THE PURSE, PURSUE THE POSSIBILITIES. WELL, LAST WEEK AT THIS TIME, WE DISCUSSED THOSE POSSIBILITIES WITH REPUBLICAN HOUSE SPEAKER CHRISTOPHER RANTS OF SIOUX CITY. AND TODAY THE DEMOCRATIC COLEADER OF THE IOWA SENATE, MIKE GRONSTAL OF COUNCIL BLUFFS, JOINS US. WELCOME BACK TO "IOWA PRESS."

Gronstal: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE TABLE, TWO FAMILIAR FACES AT THE STATEHOUSE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND STATEHOUSE REPORTER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR GRONSTAL, WE ASKED THIS SAME QUESTION OF SPEAKER RANTS LAST WEEK. GIVEN THAT THIS IS AN ELECTION YEAR, GIVEN THAT THIS LEGISLATURE IS ALMOST EQUALLY DIVIDED, WHY SHOULDN'T WE EXPECT LITTLE TO BE DONE?

Gronstal: BECAUSE IOWANS DIDN'T ELECT US TO USE LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES. WE COULD NOT BE MORE EVENLY DIVIDED IN IOWA IN TERMS OF THE PARTY -- THE RELATIVE PARTY STRENGTHS OF BOTH PARTIES. AND IOWANS EXPECT US TO FIND A WAY TO WORK TOGETHER. AND, YOU KNOW, LAST YEAR WHEN IT WAS ALL SAID AND DONE, WE HAD A PRETTY GOOD SESSION. WE MOVED FORWARD ON ALL OF THE AREAS THAT WE TOLD VOTERS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL WE'D MOVE FORWARD ON: JOBS, EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE, PUBLIC SAFETY. WE DEALT WITH ISSUES IN ALL OF THOSE AREAS AND MOVED IOWA FORWARD, AND I THINK ALL OF US WERE FAIRLY PROUD OF THE RECORD LAST YEAR. SO I THINK THAT'S WHAT IOWANS EXPECT. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD LOVE TO SEE US DISSOLVE IN PARTISAN GRIDLOCK. I THINK WE CAN BE A MODEL FOR THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. I'M TIRED OF WASHINGTON STYLE POLITICS, AND I THINK WE CAN REALLY HAVE A SUCCESSFUL SESSION.

Glover: IN A SENATE WHICH IS DIVIDED 25/25, BOTH PARTIES HAVE TO AGREE BEFORE AN ISSUE CAN COME UP FOR DEBATE, WHICH MEANS YOU HAVE VETO POWER OVER MANY ISSUES.

Gronstal: AND IT MEANS SENATOR IVERSON HAS VETO POWER OVER MANY ISSUES AS WELL.

Glover: TWO ISSUES WHICH ARE GETTING SOME BACKING, SOME PEOPLE WANT TO DEBATE, REINSTATING THE DEATH SENTENCE AND WRITING THE STATE'S BAN ON GAY MARRIAGES INTO THE CONSTITUTION. WILL YOU SAY NO TO BOTH OF THOSE?

Gronstal: I THINK WE'LL WAIT AND SEE ON THE -- ON THE ONE ON GAY MARRIAGE, I THINK WE'LL TAKE A WAIT-AND-SEE ATTITUDE ON THAT. AT THIS POINT IN TIME, THAT ISSUE IS GOING BEFORE THE COURTS. ON THE DEATH PENALTY, LET'S BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS. EVERYBODY KNOWS, YOU GUYS BOTH KNOW, THERE AREN'T THE VOTES TO PASS IT IN THE SENATE, THERE AREN'T THE VOTES TO PASS IT IN THE HOUSE, AND THE GOVERNOR WOULDN'T SIGN IT. WE ARE NOT A DEBATING SOCIETY. WE'RE A LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER THAT IS THERE TO PASS LEGISLATION AND MOVE IOWA FORWARD. IF YOU'VE GOT A PIECE OF LEGISLATION THAT HAS NO CHANCE OF PASSAGE IN EITHER CHAMBER -- AND I'D TELL YOU THAT CHRISTOPHER RANTS, IF YOU REALLY PRESSED HIM, WOULD ADMIT THERE PROBABLY AREN'T THE VOTES TO PASS IT IN THE HOUSE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WHAT'S THE DEMOCRATIC AGENDA? TWO-PART QUESTION: WHAT'S THE DEMOCRATIC AGENDA; AND WHAT, AT THE END OF THE DAY, WILL THIS LEGISLATURE BE REMEMBERED FOR?

Gronstal: WELL, I'M HOPEFUL THIS LEGISLATURE IS REMEMBERED FOR TWO THINGS. ONE OF THEM IS IN THE AREA OF RENEWABLE FUELS. I THINK WE HAVE AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY THIS YEAR -- AND I THINK THE ISSUE IS KIND OF POLITICALLY RIPE: THE DISRUPTIONS IN THE SUPPLY LAST SUMMER, GASOLINE PRICES OVER $3 A GALLON. WHEN YOU LOOK AROUND THIS STATE, IF YOU DROVE AROUND IT THIS FALL AND SAW OUR FARM FIELDS AND BEGIN TO COMPREHEND THAT WE ACTUALLY HAVE THE CAPACITY -- YOU KNOW, 25 YEARS AGO WE IMPORTED EVERY DROP OF FUEL INTO THE STATE OF IOWA. WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO BE ENERGY INDEPENDENT.

Yepsen: JUST RENEWABLE FUEL?

Gronstal: RENEWABLE FUELS... ETHANOL, BIODIESEL, EVEN BIOMASS. WHEN WE WERE TRAVELING BEFORE THE SESSION STARTED, CEDAR FALLS MUNICIPAL UTILITY, THEY ARE TAKING CORN STALKS AND COMPRESSING THEM. SO THAT'S ONE -- AND USING THEM TO REPLACE COAL. THIRTY PERCENT OF THE COAL, THEY BELIEVE THEY'LL BE ABLE TO REPLACE. IOWA IS ON THE VERGE OF SHOWING THE REST OF THE WORLD HOW WE MOVE TO A RENEWABLE ENERGY ECONOMY.

Borg: THERE ARE OTHERS WHO THINK, PERHAPS, THAT VIDEO LOTTERY IS WHAT THIS LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO BE REMEMBERED FOR. WHAT WILL THE LEGISLATURE DO?

Gronstal: ACTUALLY THE PREVIOUS LEGISLATURE WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR TOUCH PLAY MACHINES. THE PREVIOUS LEGISLATURE THAT AUTHORIZED THAT WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR THAT. BUT, DAVID, ON YOUR QUESTION, THE OTHER ISSUE... PARDON ME. THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY WE MET WITH THE INSTITUTE FOR TOMORROW'S WORK FORCE, AN INSTITUTE WE HELPED ESTABLISH LAST SESSION IN THE LEGISLATURE ABOUT TOMORROW'S WORK FORCE, AND THEY CAME TO US ON WEDNESDAY AND ASKED US TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT TEACHER SALARIES. AND THEY SAID, "IT'S AN EMERGENCY; WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT TEACHER SALARIES." AND THEIR RECOMMENDATION WAS $150 MILLION THIS YEAR AND ANOTHER $150 MILLION NEXT YEAR TO GIVE OUT INTO TEACHER SALARIES.

Yepsen: GO BACK TO DEAN'S QUESTION. THE PULL TABS, THE VIDEO LOTTERY, THAT'S A HUGE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE THAT HAS EXPLODED IN THIS STATE. WHAT, IF ANYTHING, WILL THIS LEGISLATURE DO ABOUT THAT QUESTION?

Gronstal: I THINK IT'S HARD -- IT'S ALWAYS HARD TO PREDICT EXACTLY WHAT WE WILL DO. THIS ISSUE HAS BEEN HIGHLIGHTED, FRANKLY, ONLY IN THE LAST COUPLE MONTHS WHERE IT'S REALLY -- WHERE IT'S REALLY KIND OF BEEN RAISED AS AN ISSUE AS THESE MACHINES HAVE PROLIFERATED. AND I CAN'T TELL YOU I KNOW WHAT THE CONSENSUS IS IN THE LEGISLATURE. PEOPLE FROM COMMUNITIES WITH EXISTING GAME FACILITIES, WITH CASINOS, RIVER BOATS, OR TRACKS, PEOPLE FROM THOSE COMMUNITIES ARE GOING TO GET SIGNIFICANT PRESSURE FROM EMPLOYEES OF THOSE PLACES TO DO SOMETHING. I THINK -- I'M TRYING TO KIND OF FULLY ANSWER YOUR QUESTION. I THINK IN THE END THE LEGISLATURE IS LIKELY TO PUT SOME LIMITATION ON THE NUMBER OF MACHINES. I THINK WE WILL PROBABLY COME UP WITH SOME BETTER REGULATION OF THE MACHINES AND WE WILL STRUGGLE THROUGH THOSE ISSUES.

Borg: GRANDFATHER IN THOSE THAT ARE ALREADY OUT?

Gronstal: THERE ARE A ZILLION POSSIBILITIES ON THAT. AND THERE ARE BUSINESSES NOW THAT DEPEND ON THE REVENUE FROM THESE MACHINES, AND THEY HAVE EMPLOYEES AS WELL. SO THE LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO STRUGGLE WITH THIS ISSUE. IT IS NOT AN EASY ISSUE. IN THE END I'M GUESSING -- I'M GUESSING. I THINK IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE THE VOTES ARE THERE TO COMPLETELY OUTLAW IT. I'M GUESSING IN THE END THAT THE LEGISLATURE WILL AT LEAST FOR A PERIOD OF TIME PUT SOME LIMITATION ON THE NUMBER OF MACHINES.

Glover: THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE HAS SUGGESTED THAT ED STANEK, WHO IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE IOWA LOTTERY, MISLED THE LEGISLATURE, AND HE'S NOT RULED OUT THAT HE SHOULD BE FIRED. HAS HE MISLED THE LEGISLATURE?

Gronstal: WELL, I WILL SAY I HEARD SPEAKER RANTS'S COMMENTS LAST WEEK. I CAN'T SAY I WAS DUPED. STANEK WAS PRETTY CLEAR AND HE BROUGHT LEGISLATORS IN THAT WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT THESE MACHINES WOULD DO. AND HE ASKED WHAT THE LEGISLATURE WOULD DO IN RESPONSE TO HIM. AND I WAS VERY CLEAR WHEN I MET WITH STANEK TO THE EXTENT HE COMES IN AND COMPETES WITH EXISTING GAMING INSTITUTIONS THAT HE WOULD GET PUSHED BACK FROM THAT INDUSTRY AND FROM EMPLOYEES THAT WORKED FOR THAT INDUSTRY. SO I WAS PRETTY CLEAR WITH HIM. AND I KNOW TECHNICALLY THEY ARE NOT SLOT MACHINES. OKAY, TECHNICALLY, BUT THEY SURE QUACK LIKE A DUCK.

Glover: AND ANOTHER ISSUE THAT'S GOING TO FACE THIS LEGISLATURE INEVITABLY -- AND EVERYBODY SAYS YOU'RE GOING TO DEBATE IT -- IS TOUGHENING PENALTIES FOR SEX ABUSE. THE BILL YOU PASSED LAST YEAR HAS SOME HOLES IN IT, SO YOU HAVE TO DEBATE IT AGAIN THIS YEAR. WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO END UP ON THAT?

Gronstal: I THINK IT'S -- I'M NOT SURE THE SPECIFICS OF WHERE WE END UP, BUT HERE'S THE CONSENSUS THAT HAS DEVELOPED OVER THE LAST YEAR SINCE THE LAST SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE. WE NEED TO FOCUS ON NEW PENALTIES AND NEW CONTROLS ON THE OFFENDER POPULATION THAT'S MOST LIKELY TO REOFFEND. THAT'S WHAT WE NEED TO DO, KEEP THE FOCUS -- IN OTHER WORDS, SPEND OUR CONTROL DOLLARS AND OUR PENALTY DOLLARS ON THOSE MOST LIKELY TO REOFFEND. SPEND SMARTLY ON CORRECTIONS. SO I ACTUALLY THINK THAT'S A CONSENSUS WITH BOTH PARTIES, REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS, SAYING WE'VE GOT TO LOOK AT THOSE KINDS OF OFFENDERS THAT ARE MOST LIKELY TO REOFFEND AND EITHER LOCK THEM UP LONGER OR, FOR THOSE THAT DON'T END UP LOCKED UP LONGER, MONITOR THEM MUCH MORE CLOSELY.

Glover: SO YOU'RE GOING TO PUT IN PLACE SOME KIND OF A SYSTEM TO FIGURE OUT WHO THE WORST GUYS ARE.

Gronstal: THAT'S RIGHT. THAT'S RIGHT. AND THAT'S NOT EASY. THAT'S NOT EASY TO COME UP WITH.

Glover: IT'S NOT CHEAP.

Gronstal: IT'S NOT EASY. IT'S NOT CHEAP. BUT IT'S CHEAPER THAN FOCUSING THE EFFORTS ON EVERYBODY WHEN, IN FACT, THERE ARE SOME SEX OFFENDERS THAT AREN'T AS LIKELY TO REOFFEND.

Yepsen: LET'S TALK ABOUT WHERE WE PUT THE BAD GUYS. THE GOVERNOR HAS SUGGESTED WE MIGHT NEED A NEW PRISON IN THIS STATE. WILL THE LEGISLATURE APPROVE SUCH A THING?

Gronstal: I SEE NO REASON TO DRAG OUR FEET ON THAT, BUT I ALSO SEE -- I ALSO SEE SOME RESISTANCE IN THE LEGISLATURE TO COMMITTING TO IT THIS YEAR. THE CORRECTIONS BOARD HAS SET OUT SOME OPTIONS, BUT EVEN THEY DIDN'T REALLY MAKE A RECOMMENDATION. AND SO IT MAY TAKE A LITTLE LONGER TO GET TO AN ACTUAL RECOMMENDATION. HERE'S MY VIEW OF CORRECTIONS. WHETHER WE NEED A NEW PRISON AT FORT MADISON, THAT'S A VERY NARROW QUESTION, YOU KNOW, DO WE NEED TO REPLACE THAT AGING FACILITY. WHEN YOU DEAL WITH CORRECTIONS ISSUES AND YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT SPENDING, YOU KNOW, $80-, $100 MILLION. I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE'RE NOT JUST LOOKING AT ONE PIECE OF IT, THAT WE LOOK AT OUR CORRECTION SYSTEM FROM TOP TO BOTTOM AND SAY --

Yepsen: ALL RIGHT, SENATOR, ANSWER YOUR OWN QUESTION. WILL YOU LOOK AT IT?

Gronstal: ABSOLUTELY WE'LL LOOK AT IT. BUT SAY, YOU KNOW, HOW MANY MAXIMUM SECURITY BEDS DO WE NEED, MEDIUM, MINIMUM? WHAT LEVEL OF FACILITIES DO WE NEED AT THE COMMUNITY, SINCE 97 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE THAT GO INTO PRISON EVENTUALLY GET OUT? WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE WE DEAL WITH THEM WHEN THEY GET BACK TO THE LOCAL LEVEL. SO I'D LIKE TO SEE A COMPREHENSIVE SET OF RECOMMENDATIONS, NOT JUST IN ISOLATION THIS ONE PRISON.

Yepsen: BUT WILL YOU DO THAT THIS SESSION, A COMPREHENSIVE LOOK?

Gronstal: I'M WILLING TO DO THAT. WHAT I SENSE IN THE LEGISLATURE IS SOME RESISTANCE AND SOME SUGGESTION THAT MAYBE WE OUGHT TO TAKE A LITTLE LONGER TO MAKE OUR DECISIONS.

Yepsen: SO YOU KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD.

Gronstal: RIGHT.

Glover: THE CORRECTIONS BOARD HAS SAID --

Gronstal: THAT'S NOT MY INTEREST BUT THAT'S WHAT I'M SENSING IN THE LEGISLATURE.

Glover: THE CORRECTIONS BOARD HAS SAID, AND AS YOU MENTIONED, THEY DID NOT COME UP WITH A RECOMMENDATION OF WHAT YOU OUGHT TO DO. THEY CAME UP WITH SOME OPTIONS. AND THEY SAID THEY'RE GOING TO GO BACK AND LOOK AT IT AGAIN, BUT IT COULD BE MONTHS BEFORE THEY COME UP WITH A RECOMMENDATION. AND IN EFFECT, THAT PRECLUDES THIS YEAR'S LEGISLATURE FROM DOING SOMETHING, DOESN'T IT?

Gronstal: PROBABLY.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT -- THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM MILLER WAS ON THIS PROGRAM, AND HE SUGGESTED THE STATE NEEDS TO PUT A LOT MORE MONEY INTO DRUG TREATMENT. WILL THE LEGISLATURE DO THAT?

Gronstal: I -- I -- I'M VERY HOPEFUL THAT THE LEGISLATURE WILL TAKE A BETTER LOOK AT WHAT WE'RE DOING IN TERMS OF TREATMENT. WE HAVE SOME INCREDIBLY EFFECTIVE PROGRAMS OUT THERE. DRUG COURTS IS ONE OF THOSE. I'D LIKE TO SEE DRUG COURTS GO STATEWIDE. YOU CAN'T GO TO GRADUATION OF PEOPLE -- THEY HAVE GRADUATION CEREMONIES FOR PEOPLE THAT FINISH DRUG COURT. YOU CAN'T GO TO ONE OF THOSE THINGS WITHOUT BEING DEEPLY MOVED BY THE PEOPLE THAT -- BASICALLY THEY'RE TOLD: YOU'VE GOT A ONE-WAY TICKET TO PRISON, BUT WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE YOU USE THAT TICKET RIGHT NOW; AND IF YOU GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, WE WILL CANCEL THAT TICKET TO PRISON. YOU GO TO THOSE GRADUATIONS AND YOU BEGIN TO REALIZE IT'S NOT JUST THIS ONE GUY OR ONE WOMAN THAT'S INVOLVED IN METHAMPHETAMINE, IT'S THEIR WHOLE FAMILY AND THEIR WHOLE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS. SO WE HEAL A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE WHEN WE DO THAT KIND OF TREATMENT, AND WE SAVE -- AND WE SAVE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

Yepsen: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS $17 IN NET NEW MONEY. WILL THE LEGISLATURE PROVIDE $17 MILLION IN NET NEW MONEY FOR DRUG TREATMENT?

Gronstal: I THINK IT'S DIFFICULT TO SEE US GET INTO $17 MILLION, BUT I'D LIKE TO SEE US DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.

Glover: IN HIS CONDITION OF THE STATE SPEECH THIS PAST WEEK, THE GOVERNOR ASKED THE LEGISLATURE TO SPEND $30 MILLION A YEAR TO INCREASE TEACHER PAY FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. YOU SAID TEACHER PAY IS AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT ISSUE. CAN YOU COME UP WITH THAT $30 MILLION A YEAR? CAN YOU EXCEED IT OR WILL YOU FALL SHORT OF IT?

Gronstal: AS I SAID, WE CREATED THE INSTITUTE FOR TOMORROW'S WORK FORCE.

Glover: RIGHT.

Gronstal: THEY CAME TO US -- AND THIS IS MARV POMERANTZ AND DOUG GROSS. THEY CAME TO US AND SAID --

Glover: SENATOR, WE UNDERSTAND WHAT THE ARGUMENT IS.

Gronstal: -- AND SAID WE NEED $150 MILLION FOR EACH OF THE NEXT TWO YEARS. I THINK -- I DON'T THINK $30 MILLION IS ENOUGH. I THINK WE'VE GOT TO MAKE A CLEAR COMMITMENT. LOOK, I'M WEARING A PURPLE TIE. A WHOLE BUNCH OF -- A WHOLE BUNCH OF TEACHERS ARE GOING TO GRADUATE AT UNI THIS SPRING, AND I THINK WE'VE GOT TO SAY TO THOSE KIDS THAT WE IN SHORT ORDER ARE GOING TO GET TO THE NATIONAL AVERAGE ON TEACHER SALARIES AND TAKE A VERY SIGNIFICANT STEP.

Glover: AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHERE WILL THIS LEGISLATURE END UP?

Gronstal: I'M HOPEFUL WE'LL END UP ABOVE $30 MILLION.

Yepsen: AND THE OTHER THING THAT THE GOVERNOR ASKED YOU TO DO IS SPEND $15 MILLION A YEAR FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS TO ENHANCE PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS BY BRINGING FOUR YEAR OLDS INTO THE SCHOOL AID FORMULA, IN ESSENCE MAKING FOUR-YEAR-OLD PRESCHOOL STATEWIDE. WILL YOU DO THAT?

Gronstal: I -- I'D SAY THERE'S SIGNIFICANT INTEREST IN DOING THAT, BUT I'D ALSO SAY ANOTHER THING THE GOVERNOR SAID WAS HE WANTS PARENTS TO BE CHILDREN'S FIRST AND BEST TEACHERS. AND SO WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ALSO HAVE PROGRAMMING FOR BIRTH TO ONE. I MEAN BIRTH TO THREE PROGRAMS GENERALLY, BUT BIRTH TO ONE. ALL OF THIS EFFORT AT EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION CAME OUT OF SOME BRAIN RESEARCH AND THE PRAIRIE PRESCHOOL PROJECT. AND IF YOU REALLY LOOK AT THOSE PROJECTS AND AT THE BRAIN RESEARCH, WHAT IT TELLS YOU IS, YOU KNOW, YEAH, 90 PERCENT OF KIDS' INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY IS DETERMINED BEFORE THE AGE OF FIVE. MAYBE 80 PERCENT BEFORE THE AGE OF THREE. MAYBE 75 PERCENT BEFORE THE AGE OF ONE. IF YOU DON'T MAKE SURE THAT PARENTS ARE CHILDREN'S FIRST AND BEST TEACHERS, YOU'RE MISALLOCATING RESOURCES. SO WE'RE INTERESTED IN DEALING WITH EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. BUT I'D SAY WE WOULD -- WE WOULD ADD TO THE GOVERNOR'S FOCUS, AND WE MIGHT WANT TO PUT MORE OF THAT MONEY INTO THE BIRTH TO THREE PROGRAM.

Yepsen: SENATOR, YOU TALKED ABOUT SEVERAL IDEAS. ALL OF THEM COST MONEY. LET'S TALK ABOUT HOW YOU PAY FOR THIS. THE CIGARETTE TAX. WITHOUT GETTING INTO THE MERITS OF WHETHER WE SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT RAISE THE CIGARETTE TAX, WILL IT BE RAISED? AT THE END OF THE DAY, WILL THIS LEGISLATURE INCREASE THE CIGARETTE TAX?

Gronstal: I'M STILL HOPEFUL THAT IT WILL.

Yepsen: THE SPEAKER SAYS NO WAY IN THE HOUSE.

Gronstal: AND THE SPEAKER HAS SEVEN MEMBERS THAT SAY THEY SUPPORT A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE. FOR A DOZEN YEARS SENATOR IVERSON SAID NO WAY TO A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE. LAST YEAR 38 SENATORS VOTED FOR A CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE. I THINK SOMETHING CAN BE CONSTRUCTED ON THAT. YOU SAID DON'T GET INTO THE MERITS, BUT THE FACT THAT YOU RAISE CIGARETTE TAXES DOES SAVE LIVES AND STOPS KIDS FROM SMOKING.

Yepsen: AND THE BEER TAX, THE GOVERNOR ALSO SUGGESTS RAISING THE TAX ON BEER. YOU SAID AFTERWARDS YOU WEREN'T REAL EXCITED ABOUT THAT.

Gronstal: I'M KIND OF HOT ON THE CIGARETTE TAX, AND I'M KIND OF FLAT ON THE BEER TAX, OKAY? AND THE REASON IS IOWA IS THE HIGHEST -- ONE OF THE HIGHEST IN THE REGION ON BEER TAX AND WE'RE ONE OF THE LOWEST IN THE REGION ON CIGARETTE TAX. I THINK YOU HAVE -- I THINK YOU HAVE TO BE AWARE OF THE COMPETITIVE WORLD OUT THERE. AND IN PARTICULAR IN A STATE WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE THAT LIVE IN LARGE TOWNS ALONG OUR BORDERS, JUST GETTING PEOPLE TO BUY THEIR BEER IN ANOTHER STATE ISN'T MUCH OF A SOLUTION.

Borg: WHEN WE ASKED YOU EARLIER WHAT THIS LEGISLATURE IS GOING TO BE REMEMBERED FOR, YOU SAID ACTION ON RENEWABLE FUELS. I'M INTERESTED IN WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, BECAUSE THERE ARE SEVERAL IDEAS ON HOW TO DO THAT: INCENTIVES TO RETAILERS; EXPANDING ETHANOL PRODUCTION; MANDATE THE USE OF ETHANOL. WHAT?

Gronstal: I THINK THOSE ARE ALL GOODS IDEAS, AND I THINK WHAT THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS IS ABOUT IS GETTING 150 PEOPLE TO TAKE A LOOK AT THOSE IDEAS, COME UP WITH -- COME UP WITH WHAT THEY'RE WILLING TO GO ALONG WITH. I DON'T -- I'M NOT OPPOSED TO AN ETHANOL MANDATE, BUT I KNOW SOME PEOPLE ARE. I'M ALSO NOT OPPOSED TO LOOKING AT OTHER MECHANISMS THAT WILL GET MORE OF THIS SOLD. HERE IN POLK COUNTY THERE'S A HUNDRED THOUSAND VEHICLES THAT CAN USE E85, 85 PERCENT ALCOHOL. ADDING THAT LAST INCREMENT, WE'RE AT ABOUT, LET'S SAY, 75 PERCENT ON E10 NOW, 10 PERCENT ETHANOL. PICKING UP THAT LAST 20 OR 25 PERCENT FOR 10 PERCENT ALCOHOL IS NOWHERE NEAR AS IMPORTANT AS MAKING SURE A WHOLE BUNCH MORE PEOPLE START USING E85. A HUNDRED THOUSAND -- PARDON ME, 13,000 CARS HERE IN POLK COUNTY; ONE STATION THAT SELLS E85.

Yepsen: BUT WHY SHOULD THE TAXPAYERS OF IOWA SUBSIDIZE CASEY'S AND KUM & GO, WHICH ARE RATHER PROFITABLE CORPORATIONS, BY PROVIDING THEM TAX CREDITS OR DIRECT CASH INCENTIVES TO RETROFIT PUMPS? WHY IS -- ISN'T THAT CORPORATE WELFARE?

Gronstal: LISTEN, I'D SAY THAT'S EXACTLY WHERE GOVERNMENT COMES IN. YOU HAVE A CHICKEN-AND-EGG PROBLEM, WHERE WHO'S GOING TO BUY A DUAL FUELED VEHICLE. WHO'S GOING TO BUY ONE IF THERE ARE NO STATIONS THAT SELL IT, AND WHO'S GOING TO PUT IN A PUMP IF THERE ARE NO CARS TO BUY IT? IT'S A CLASSIC CHICKEN-AND-EGG PROBLEM, DAVID. IT'S PRECISELY THE KIND OF PLACE WHERE GOVERNMENT INTERVENES IN THE MARKET. BUT LET ME TELL YOU WHAT WE DO RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW WE SUBSIDIZE A WHOLE BUNCH OF OIL WELLS IN TEXAS. THAT'S WHAT WE DO RIGHT NOW.

Borg: WHY? HOW?

Gronstal: NATIONALLY WITH HUGE SUBSIDIES TO THE OIL INDUSTRY. IN A STATE LIKE IOWA THAT DOESN'T HAVE A SINGLE OIL WELL IN IT, WHY AREN'T WE FOCUSING ON WHAT WE CAN ACTUALLY PRODUCE? SO THERE ARE HUGE SUBSIDIES. NOW OIL DEPLETION ALLOWANCE --

Yepsen: SO IOWA IS GOING TO GET --

Gronstal: -- DRILLING AND EXPLORATION CREDITS. THERE ARE HUGE SUBSIDIES TO THE OIL INDUSTRY. WHY ARE WE --

Glover: SO BECAUSE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOES IT, IOWA SHOULD WEIGH IN AND GIVE SUBSIDIES TO BIG COMPANIES TOO.

Gronstal: CHICKEN-AND-EGG PROBLEM. IT'S PRECISELY THE PLACE WHERE GOVERNMENT CAN STEP IN AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND GET US OVER THAT CHICKEN-AND-EGG PROBLEM AND GET A DISTRIBUTION NETWORK STARTED IN THIS STATE. AND ENCOURAGEMENT -- WE'VE GONE FROM -- WE'VE GONE FROM THE MID FORTIES ON E10 -- WE'VE GONE FROM THE MID FORTIES TO THE MID SEVENTIES IN TERMS OF WHAT'S SOLD.

Glover: LET'S SWITCH GEARS FOR A SECOND. ANOTHER ISSUE THAT EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT AT THE STATEHOUSE, BUT THERE APPEARS TO ME TO BE SOME BROAD DISAGREEMENT ABOUT, AND THAT'S HEALTH CARE. THE GOVERNOR WOULD LIKE TO RAISE THE CIGARETTE TAX AND USE A PORTION OF THAT MONEY TO CREATE A REINSURANCE POOL TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES WITH CATASTROPHIC CASES. REPUBLICANS WANT TO TALK ABOUT HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS. AT THE END OF THE DAY, DON'T ARGUE THE MERITS. AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHERE WILL THIS LEGISLATURE END UP?

Gronstal: I CAN'T ARGUE THE MERITS?

Glover: NO.

Gronstal: AT THE END OF THE DAY -- WELL, FIRST OF ALL, ANY OF THOSE MECHANISMS ARE NOT SILVER BULLETS. IF ANY OF US HAD REAL SOLUTIONS TO THESE PROBLEMS --

Glover: YOU'D BE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.

Gronstal: YEAH, I'D BE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT; I WOULDN'T BE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR. WE CAN DO FUNDS ON THE MARGINS. WE CAN HELP SMALL BUSINESSES POOL --

Glover: AT THE END OF THE DAY --

Gronstal: -- THE NUMBER OF LIVES -- AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE WILL PASS TWO OR THREE MEASURES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS. ONE PIECE -- ONE PIECE IS JUST APPROPRIATELY FUNDING OUR OWN MEDICAID PROGRAM. THE SECOND BIGGEST DRIVER OF HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUM INCREASES IS THE UNDERFUNDING BY STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF CARE WE REQUIRE PROVIDERS TO PROVIDE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, AREN'T YOU POLITICIANS RAISING EXPECTATIONS OUT THERE WITH PEOPLE THAT YOU'RE GOING TO SOLVE A PROBLEM THAT YOU KNOW THAT YOU REALLY CAN'T? I MEAN AT THE END OF THE DAY --

Gronstal: DAVID, I JUST SAID THERE ARE NO SILVER BULLETS ON THIS!

Yepsen: THEN WHY DO YOU LEAD PEOPLE TO BELIEVE THAT WE CAN SOLVE ALL THESE HEALTH CARE PROBLEMS?

Gronstal: LISTEN, EVERY TIME I TALK ABOUT HEALTH CARE -- EVERY TIME I TALK ABOUT IT, I TELL PEOPLE THERE ARE NOT MAGIC SOLUTIONS TO THIS. WE CAN DEAL WITH THIS THING IN SMALL WAYS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. WE CAN DEAL WITH IT IN WAYS THAT KEEPS COST FROM INCREASING AS VASTLY. I'M NOT PROMISING ANYBODY THAT THEY'RE GOING TO SEE THEIR INSURANCE PREMIUMS GO DOWN. I'M NOT PROMISING THEM THAT BECAUSE, YOU'RE RIGHT, THERE AREN'T BIG SOLUTIONS TO THIS PROBLEM.

Borg: I WANT TO FOCUS JUST A LITTLE BIT ON A SEGMENT IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, MAYTAG/WHIRLPOOL MERGER. TWO OF YOUR FELLOW DEMOCRATS, SENATOR HARKIN AND CONGRESSMAN BOSWELL, WEIGHED IN AND ASKED THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION TO LOOK INTO THAT AND OPPOSE IT BECAUSE THEY'RE AFRAID THAT THE BUYOUT NOT ONLY MEANS BUYING OUT, IT MEANS TAKING JOBS OUT OF IOWA. IS THERE SOMETHING THE LEGISLATURE --

Gronstal: AND ALSO BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT IT WILL LEAD TO CONSOLIDATION IN THE INDUSTRY AND THAT IT'S BASICALLY ANTITRUST THAT -- SO IT ISN'T JUST ABOUT THE JOBS IN IOWA. IT'S THE FACT THAT WHEN YOU RUN ALL OF YOUR COMPETITORS OUT OF BUSINESS OR YOU FIRE ALL OF YOUR COMPETITORS, THAT'S THE ISSUE THEY'RE DEALING WITH AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL. WE ARE -- I'D JUST SAY WE ARE VERY OPEN TO WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY OF NEWTON AND TO WORKING WITH MAYTAG TO TRY AND KEEP THAT PLANT OPEN. THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS -- THAT'S AN EXAMPLE. AND WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING, BUT THAT'S AN EXAMPLE OF ONE OF THE REASONS WE CREATED THE IOWA VALUES FUND IS TO DEAL WITH THOSE KINDS OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND TRY AND KEEP IOWA BUSINESSES RUNNING AND PROFITABLE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT.

Gronstal: WELL, I --

Yepsen: THE SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION IS ASKING -- SAYS THE GOVERNOR IS ABOUT TO SIGN AN EXECUTIVE ORDER APPROVING THEIR ABILITY TO COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN WITH THE STATE CHILD CARE PROVIDERS. SO PART-TIME CHILD CARE PROVIDERS OUT THERE WILL ENTER INTO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. NUMBER ONE, IS THIS A GOOD IDEA? AND NUMBER TWO, WHY DOESN'T THE LEGISLATURE GET INTO THIS?

Gronstal: TRADITIONALLY THE LEGISLATURE HAS NOT GOTTEN DIRECTLY INTO ORGANIZING DRIVES WITH UNIONS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT EXECUTIVE ORDER THE GOVERNOR IS GOING TO SIGN. I WOULD SAY THIS, CHILD CARE WORKERS IN THIS STATE ARE DRAMATICALLY UNDERVALUED.

Yepsen: ISN'T THERE A DANGER, SENATOR, IF CHILD CARE WORKERS ORGANIZE NOW UNDER THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER AND THEY GET A BIG PAY RAISE FROM THE STATE, ASIDE FROM THE FACT IT RAISES COST TO THE STATE, WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GET A REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR WHO WANTS TO, WITH A STROKE OF A PEN, DO AWAY WITH IT? THEN WOULDN'T THEIR PAY BE CUT?

Gronstal: AND I DON'T KNOW THAT THE GOVERNOR, WITH THE STROKE OF A PEN, CAN DO AWAY WITH A UNION THAT'S GOTTEN BARGAINING RIGHTS.

Glover: SENATOR --

Gronstal: I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATION RULES ARE.

Yepsen: BUT YOU DON'T SEE A ROLE FOR --

Gronstal: WELL, I'M SURE SOME WILL TAKE A LOOK AT IT. I HAVEN'T SEEN THE EXECUTIVE ORDER. I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S IN THE EXECUTIVE ORDER, AND I DON'T KNOW THE --

Yepsen: BECAUSE WHEN YOU ENTERED INTO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES, YOU APPROVED CHAPTER 20. WHY WOULDN'T THERE BE SOME LEGISLATIVE PART OF THIS?

Gronstal: WELL, THE LEGISLATIVE -- AND THERE MAY BE, DAVID. I JUST DON'T KNOW. I DON'T KNOW THE NATURE OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER.

Glover: SENATOR, EARLIER WE TALKED ABOUT THE POTENTIAL THAT GAY MARRIAGES COULD POP UP IN THE LEGISLATURE. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE POLITICS OF THAT. A LAWSUIT CHALLENGING THE STATE'S LAW ON BANNING GAY MARRIAGES HAS CALLED SOME IN THE LEGISLATURE TO SAY LET'S PUT IT IN THE CONSTITUTION. THAT'S A BAD ISSUE FOR DEMOCRATS, RIGHT?

Gronstal: WELL, LET ME SAY THIS: THERE ARE LAWSUITS FILED EVERY DAY IN IOWA, AND JUST BECAUSE A LAWSUIT IS FILED DOESN'T MEAN IT HAS SUCCEEDED. I MEAN THAT'S NUMBER ONE. OUR FALL BALLOT WOULD BE 200 PAGES LONG IF WE RESPONDED EVERY TIME SOMEBODY FILED A SUIT AT DISTRICT COURT. I DON'T THINK WE NEED TO RESPOND KNEE-JERK TO THAT KIND OF ISSUE. AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT -- I DON'T THINK THE REASON -- I THINK THE REPUBLICANS PERCEIVE THIS AS A GOOD POLITICAL ISSUE. YOU KNOW IOWA PASSED A STATE LAW THAT SAID MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN.

Borg: I JUST WANT TO CLARIFY SOMETHING BEFORE WE LEAVE HERE. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. YOU SAID EARLIER, "I'D BE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. I WOULDN'T BE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR." YOU LEFT THE IMPRESSION YOU'RE RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR.

Gronstal: OH, I APOLOGIZE. NO, NO. NO, I'VE MADE MY CHOICE ON THAT. I'M NOT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR.

Borg: AND THEN THAT'S IT. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. I WANTED THAT CLARIFICATION. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," WE'LL CONTINUE OUR FOCUS ON THE IOWA STATEHOUSE WITH A LOOK TO THE CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR. AND ONE OF THE CANDIDATES FOR THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION, THAT'S CONGRESSMAN JIM NUSSLE, WILL BE HERE. HE'S ACTIVELY ASSERTING HIS VIEWS ON STATE ISSUES AS HE CAMPAIGNS IN IOWA AND THEN REPRESENTS ALSO THE STATE'S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IN WASHINGTON, D.C. YOU'LL SEE "IOWA PRESS" WITH CONGRESSMAN AND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE JIM NUSSLE AT 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING AT 11:30. NOW IN CLOSING, IT'S WITH SADNESS, UNDERSCORED BY GRATITUDE AND GREAT RESPECT, THAT WE NOTE THE PASSING OF ONE OF THE GIANTS IN MEDIA MANAGEMENT. DAVID KRUIDENIER DIED EARLIER THIS WEEK IN DES MOINES AT THE AGE OF 84. AT VARIOUS STAGES IN HIS CAREER, MR. KRUIDENIER WAS PUBLISHER AND PRESIDENT AND CEO AND CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD AT "THE DES MOINES REGISTER" AND "DES MOINES TRIBUNE." HE GUIDED THE COWLES CORPORATION'S SIGNIFICANT EXPANSION IN THE 1970S AND 1980S AT A TIME WHEN THE COMPANY WAS ENHANCING ITS POSITION AND PRESENCE AMONG THE NATION'S MOST RESPECTED NEWSPAPERS. MR. KRUIDENIER WAS MORE THAN A FAMILY PATRIARCH AND ASTUTE BUSINESSMAN. HE WAS KNOWN FAR AND WIDE AS A CIVIC VISIONARY WHO TRULY CARED ABOUT THE COMMUNITIES HIS NEWSPAPER SERVED. HE WAS A DETERMINED AND GENEROUS PATRON OF CIVIC PROJECTS. IOWA BENEFITED BECAUSE OF MR. KRUIDENIER'S COMMUNITY COMMITMENT AND LEADERSHIP IN FULFILLING THE VISION OF THAT COMMITMENT... AND HE IS GREATLY MISSED. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

Tags: Congress Democrats Iowa