MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Democratic gubernatorial challenger Sen. Jack Hatch Wednesday will propose legislation to protect Iowa families dealing with epilepsy from prosecution if they bring medical marijuana into Iowa. Hatch is working with the Iowa Epilepsy Foundation. Its family support network has been funded by the state for the past five years. “What’s come out of that is medical marijuana,” Hatch said. “So we’re going to challenge (Gov. Terry Branstad) to think differently about medical marijuana, to put away the old fears." The proposal would apply only to Iowans who, under the care of an Iowa physician, bring medical marijuana into Iowa from states where it is legal, Hatch said. Now, because it is not legal in Iowa, some Iowa families are considering moving to states where medical marijuana is legally available. “There’s no reason for Iowa families to leave,” he said. “You can’t hear their stories without feeling their pain.”
SESSION AD INFINITUM?: A state senator already suing Gov. Terry Branstad to force the reopening of the Iowa Juvenile Home threatened Tuesday to keep the Legislature in session until he gets more answers about the closing of the Toledo school. “Branstad’s abrupt decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home created a number of problems,” Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said during a floor speech. “It is the Legislature’s job to help solve those problems. Specifically, we need to know what Gov. Branstad and his administration have done, are doing and are planning to do regarding this issue.” Sodders “is requesting extensive documentation on matters that deal with private mental health issues,” Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said. The Department of Human Service and Attorney General’s Office are reviewing the information. Sodders said the “session won’t end until we reach some sort of an agreement on what we do with these youth of Iowa.”
A REALLY BIG DEAL: Regulations expected from the federal Environmental Protection Agency this summer likely will force Iowa to develop a statewide plan to reducing carbon emission, a renewable energy consultant said Tuesday. “It will be a very big deal,” said Ron Binz, who as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission helped implement that state’s New Energy Economy initiative. He told a handful of lawmakers and others at a Statehouse presentation the regulations will not impose lower emissions standards on each power plant. Instead, they will set a target for a statewide reduction in emissions, perhaps 2 percent a year for 10 years or longer, Binz said. Later, he met with the Iowa Utilities Board. Binz said it’s unlikely it will make economic sense to retrofit Iowa’s coal-fired power plants to meet new emissions standards. Renewable energy, especially wind and solar, along with increased efficiency will be key to meeting the standard, he said. The upside will be opportunities to attract new industry and job creation and develop cheaper energy. Technology, he said, will further reduce the cost of producing wind energy. “You can’t say that about many resources,” Binz said. “Certainly not coal.”
FIREFIGHTER TAX CREDIT: Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders could see an increase in credits for their income taxes under legislation approved by the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday. House File 2076 doubles the available tax credit from $50 to $100 and expands those eligible for the credit to include reserve peace officers. The bill also includes full-time firefighters who also participate in a volunteer service capacity, for instance, in another part of the state. The committee approved the legislation, 23-0. Several lawmakers, including bill sponsor Rep. Quentin Stanerson, R-Center Point, said they hope the bill will help rural communities in Iowa grow their volunteer services.
FOUR LOKO: The producer of the flavored malt beverage “Four Loko” will change how it manufactures and markets its products under an agreement with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and a group of 19 other state attorneys general and the San Francisco city attorney. Phusion Projects of Chicago and its principals have agreed not to manufacture caffeinated alcoholic beverages and also agree to reform how they market and promote their non-caffeinated flavored malt beverages, including Four Loko. As part of the agreement, Phusion will pay $400,000, including about $18,000 to Iowa’s Consumer Education and Litigation Fund. The agreement stops the “false messaging” to consumers that they “can safely drink full super-sized cans of high-alcohol, fruit-flavored drinks with or without added caffeine,” Miller said. It sends a signal “that it’s not OK to base your business model on young people binge drinking.” The new settlement with attorneys general addresses Phusion’s practice of manufacturing, marketing and selling unsafe and adulterated caffeinated alcoholic beverages prior to the FDA’s November 2010 letter warning Phusion that caffeinated Four Loko is an unsafe product.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Iowa is a better place, our nation is a better place and the world is a better place because of one Iowa farm boy, one Iowa farm boy.” — Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, celebrating National Agriculture Day, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Norman Borlaug and the unveiling of the Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol.