Grassley has town hall meeting

After the town hall meeting, Sen. Charles Grassley spoke with Janet Andera.

Politicians can have senses of humor as Sen. Charles Grassley proved at his town hall meeting on April 20. After Tuesday’s snowstorm, he quipped, “I don’t come to northeast Iowa in January because I don’t like the snow!” Well, he found it, as did the rest of the area, as folks braved the sloppy side roads and wet main roads to ask questions of the senator.

He said it was spring break for Congress so he is making his annual pilgrimage to each county in the state to talk to his constituents.

The first question came from Ted Sobol, Chaplain of the Cresco American Legion #135. He wondered on the status of the VA Medical Center that was to open in Decorah this spring. Grassley did not have an answer, but asked an assistant to find out and by the end of the meeting had found the answer. Although the project had been pushed back, it was scheduled to open in September of this year in the old Wal-Mart building.

Several questions and remarks dealt with healthcare reform and healthy living.

Richard VanGenderen said, “I hate to see America held hostage by one profession (medical field). How do we the people get through to people on the hill?” He gave some examples of the high cost of medical care, including $1,000-1,500 for a 20 mile ride in an ambulance.

Grassley assured those present he voted against Obama Care.

He then responded a good solution would be by having incentives. He said the CEO of Safeway saw medical bills going up with his employees. He encouraged wellness in people by giving money, for example $2,000 to healthy, non-smokers; $1,500 to healthy smokers and $1,000 to overweight. Then, employees paid for medical care out of that money. He saw a decline in doctor visits because the employee didn’t want to use their own money for medical visits.

Loren Eastland of Riceville commented healthcare would go down if Americans and their children lived healthier lifestyles. “I’m 60-years old and overweight, but I don’t take any medication. I walk and eat right.” Grassley agreed saying he runs three miles four times a week.

Ted Kjos of Hawkeye REC thanked Grassley for voting for the rail reform and supporting FEMA funding. “Unfortunately, Iowa has (had the opportunity) to take advantage of FEMA from the flooding and storms last year.”

He asked the senator to keep funding for the rural utilities at the current level. He also asked about the CREBs program. Grassley answered the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program was dead until it came in a tax bill.

Dennis Ruffridge, a Vietnam Vet, asked the senator if he got any feedback from World War II vets about the help the U.S. gives countries such as Sudan and Japan.

Grassley admitted, “I get opposition to foreign aid.”

A comment from the floor was “They burn our flag and then they want a check.”

Grassley said other countries have offered to help with crises like the Louisiana oil spill, but they are turned down by the president.

After the meeting, Dave Sovereign, a member of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) explained his comment to and the response from Grassley about VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit).

At the present time, the companies who blend the ethanol receive 45¢ per gallon, which many in Iowa pass on to the consumer—not so in other parts of the country.

What ACE, National Corn Growers and other organizations want is for the incentive to be used for blender pumps. These pumps would be available at all stations (even in the rural area). The local station would be blending the fuel and have more options available for its customers—E0, E10, E15, E30 and E85.

Eventually, Sovereign hopes the 45¢ incentive would no longer be needed.

Grassley said some senators are crafting that legislation now and it will be heard in the next couple weeks.

Janet Andera asked about Cap and Trade, which Grassley said will not be an issue at the present time.

Neil Shaffer asked about the free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.

Grassley explained, “Congress has the authority over international trade but we ask the president to negotiate then he (presents) it to Congress.”

He thought something will happen in the next week or so.

Mike Praska asked, “What are we doing to retain education in rural schools?”

Grassley responded, “There isn’t much to do at the Federal level. Of all the money spent for Iowa schools, 94.5 percent is from state or local money.

Missy Hvitvid of NICC thanked the senator for his support of students.

He said, “Community Colleges isn’t just college. The most important word is community.”

Mel Buhr questioned Grassley’s ability to make fair votes when he has money coming in from organizations such as John Deere.

He says the money has nothing to do with how he votes. “No matter how we vote, you’re going to make some campaign contributor unhappy.”

Dave Johnson said, “I’m sick over how we are spending tomorrow’s money. QE2 (The Federal Reserve’s second round of quantitative easing) ends on June 30. Will there be a QE3?”

Grassley replied, “QE2 is a Federal Reserve policy. I think it’s a ponzi scheme!” He said the government can’t function with 22 percent increases in expenditures.

He commented on the Standard and Poor’s report which was released on Monday and said the credit rating for the United States was affirmed at AAA (the highest level possible) but that it was revising the outlook for this rating to “negative.”

“That report is a blessing in disguise. It takes something like that to get Congress to do something,” Grassley said.

Jim Hrubes of Lime Springs asked about gas prices. Grassley said the U.S. should be using more of our own resources than import from other countries.

Clem Donlan was concerned about the exports the U.S. has to Japan now that they are in trouble by the tsunami that hit. “We export to them and they’re bankrupt.” Grassley said the earthquake/tsunami will slow their economy for a year-and-a-half, but they are the third strongest economy in the world.

A person can get in touch with Grassley by going to his website http://www.grassley.senate.gov or “Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. Or you can watch C-SPAN, but I get tired of watching that myself!” He added he brags about answering every letter, so Iowans do get a response from the senator.

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