Grassley accepts invite to Crestwood

By Marcie Klomp

Every year, Sen. Charles Grassley visits all 99 counties in Iowa. He has done that since he was elected to office in 1980. Thanks to the enterprise of a sophomore from Elma, Kim Weigel, Grassley had his largest crowd ever for his annual meeting in Howard County.

Weigel had heard some students from Waverly-Shell Rock had invited the senator to speak at their school, so she tweeted him to visit Howard-Winneshiek when he got a chance. That chance came on March 25 when he spoke to members of the public along with 425 high school students.

Weigel commented, “It was really awesome that he could work coming to our high school into his schedule. I asked him to come because I’m interested in politics and I thought it would be helpful to talk to him. I think everyone in our school learned something from him. It was a great plan to do a question and answer forum with the entire high school. It was a wonderful experience.”

Grassley mostly addressed the students when he opened his meeting. “I like to go to high schools because then I get to interact with young people like you. The rest are town hall meetings.” He went on to say it was nice to be invited to speak at Crestwood by Weigel.

He gave a short background of his life saying he is 79 years old and was raised in the Dyke/New Hartford area. He was a farmer, and his grandson, Patrick, is also in politics.

All the questions asked by students showed a knowledge or concern for what is happening at the state and federal level.

How does the sequester affect Iowa? Grassley said it is an automatic across-the-board cut. Eighteen months ago it was set to take place March 1 when $85 billion was coming out of the government budget. He did explain that only five percent of money used in schools comes from federal government the rest is state and local.

What are your views on Internet censorship? Grassley explained SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) has the government interfering. The act was first set up to protect copyrights. “People are using the Internet to steal. People outside the United States are able to steal other people’s property. We want to protect private property.”

He added part of it was to make sure music and movies were not pirated.

“Originally I was for it.” He said in Congress one group wants more government involvement. “I’m in the other group that wants less government involvement.”

Gay marriage. Is it constitutional or not constitutional? “The argument will be made this week [week of March 25] in the Supreme Court. The decision will not be made until June. Marriage has always been under state law. Not federal law. I’d like to see them keep it this way.”

Grassley added, “I’d say this for a lot things. Our country from New York to Cresco from Florida to Maine [is different]. It’s wrong to make laws that makes us all equal. The Constitution was written to protect you from the government.”

What are your views on legalizing marijuana? The question got a few laughs, but Grassley contended, “That’s a question I hear frequently. I’d divide that into medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.”

He said medical marijuana should be approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) with regards to safety and effectiveness.

For recreational use, “I’d have to be shown it isn’t a gateway to harder drugs.”

How many petitions are needed to override a law? Grassley noted there aren’t any steps under federal government other than “talking to me.” He added several states, including California allow issues to be put on the ballot for the resident to vote on.

With school shootings, will there be bans on assault rifles? The Iowa senator stated, “After break, Senator Feinstein will offer and amendment to ban guns. I will vote against it, and I think it will be defeated.”

What about security in schools? Grassley answered that Sen. Boxer of California wanted to re-establish a bill to allow schools to get a grant for police protection at schools. “I think things in Chicago are different than Cresco. Let the local schools make the decision.”

Social Security. Grassley pledged, “We have a responsibility to the next generation.” Getting things accomplished starts with a proposition. The president has to be involved. He explained Social Security is a hot topic, so it was not addressed so close to re-elections.

What do you think of Roundup-ready soybeans? Genetic modification is the latest science in seed production, Grassley admitted. “The FDA and EPA approved their safety, and I support [that].”

Will you run for re-election in 2016? “You need to ask me that again in a couple years. By then I will be 81, and if I can, I probably run for re-election.”

Grassley added at this point in his life he is fairly healthy. He runs three miles four times a week. If he does run, he would want to fulfill his term.

Contraception? For those over 18, the government should not interfere with birth control issues is Grassley’s feelings on it.

Can the Iowa legislature do anything about gas prices rising rapidly? He answered “No, and I don’t think Congress can either.” He responded that with an increase in supply, prices will go down. “We could drill here and drill now. It’s dumb to import oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, countries where they want to kill us.”

What issues do constituents write about the most? Grassley answered: 1. Gun control—About 70 percent are against it; 2. ObamaCare; 3. Education—Change the “No Child Left Behind” policy; and 4. Farm Bill.

Why hasn’t the Farm Bill passed? It passed the Senate last year but was too sensitive to be acted on in an election year.

Racial Equality? “I believe in it,” said Grassley. He added the constitution protects the people, now, where in the past it was not upheld.

Abortion? “Between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life, I’m Pro-Life,” Grassley affirmed.

Welfare? “Society has always taken care of people who have problems. Years ago it was the county, then the state and about 60-70 years ago the federal government. Sometimes it’s made people totally dependent on help.” Now, he added, there is a limit of how much time a person can be on welfare, two-and-a-half years at one time or five years for a lifetime.

Why not have drug tests for welfare? “I haven’t made up my mind on that. Although several states have adopted that,” the senator answered.

Affirmative Action? Grassley said everybody who is qualified and available should be in the pool for getting an interview, but the person should be hired on merit.

Undocumented Illegal Immigrants? Congress will be working on this in the next couple of months. He said the border must be secured, and employers need to check Social Security numbers. He also thought there should be increased penalties for hiring illegals.

Are you in favor it fixing the national debt? Grassley answered with a resounding “Yes! We have to get rid of the deficit we have year-to-year.” He said that starts with a balanced budget. “You oughtta be irate at the legislature that we’re spending more than is coming in. You oughtta demand we pass a balanced budget.”

What about cuts in Planned Parenthood and Head Start? Head Start will probably be affected by the two percent growth. Grassley added, “I support Planned Parenthood for planning. Not for abortions.”

Comments on Rand Paul’s filibustering for 13 hours? He wanted to get the president to say drones would not be used to kill Americans on American soil. He accomplished his goal for the president to admit he didn’t have the right to do that. Grassley continued, “Why did it take 13 hours for the president to answer that?” The senator said he had sent that same question to the president in letter form months ago.

What about the death penalty? “Do you ever change your mind on something?” Grassley questioned back. “I voted to abolish the death penalty at the state level in 1965. I also voted to re-instate it at the federal level 15-20 years ago.”

At the end of his time at Crestwood, Principal Tim Felderman presented Sen. Grassley with a Cadet Country poster and pom-pom to remember his visit.

Anyone can follow what Grassley is doing by going to his website at http://www.grassley.senate.gov or check him out on Facebook and Twitter.

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