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MGA Announces 50th Anniversary Meeting PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Emily Marthaler   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:54

Celebrating 50 Years of Bringing Midwestern Governors Together

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) announced today that it will be holding a meeting in Des Moines on September 26, 2012 to celebrate its 50th anniversary of bringing governors together to work on public policy issues of significance to the region. The meeting, America's Smartland - Deploying the Midwest's Entrepreneurial Spirit, will celebrate the collective strengths of the region and will address how the Midwest can better showcase itself to other regions and countries.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, current MGA Chair, will host the meeting as part of his agenda that focuses on promoting a positive Midwestern narrative. The Midwest is the crossroads for much of the nation's economic activity with a strong work ethic and climate for business and job growth that reflect a diverse mix of industries. Midwestern states are proud of their high-quality schools and colleges with tremendous research capabilities; a stand-out standard of living, which includes vibrant cities and towns, affordable housing, and cultural, recreational and sporting activities; incredible opportunities in agriculture and the biosciences; a robust freight industry and infrastructure; and four distinct seasons with breathtaking natural wonders.

"I am excited to welcome Midwesterners to Des Moines to take part in this 50th anniversary meeting of the MGA. The Midwest has a rich history and we can continue to build on our past strengths to ensure a promising future. I look forward to the discussions on the region's efforts to attract talent, leverage our competitive advantages, and nurture the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit," said Governor Branstad.

Jesse Heier, MGA executive director, said, "The Midwest has so many positive attributes to highlight, including the vast network of community colleges, our agricultural heritage, cutting-edge technologies in manufacturing and energy production, and is a great place to raise a family. In addition, our entrepreneurial spirit is one of our best kept secrets, which we intend to share at this meeting."


As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the MGA is also sponsoring a video contest to reshape how others perceive the Midwest. This effort complements Governor Branstad's initiative and will help the world learn about the tremendous strengths of the region through the eyes of Midwesterners.

The meeting, which is open to the press and public, will be taking place at The World Food Prize's Hall of Laureates. For more information on the meeting and the video contest, visit






The Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) is a nonprofit, bipartisan organization that brings together the governors of the region to work cooperatively on agriculture, economic development and energy issues of importance to the Midwest. The current members of the MGA are Gov. Pat Quinn (Ill.),Gov. Mitch Daniels (Ind.), Gov. Terry Branstad (Iowa), Gov. Sam Brownback (Kansas), Gov. Rick Snyder (Mich.), Gov. Mark Dayton (Minn.), Gov. Jay Nixon (Mo.), Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) and Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.).

Harkin Announces Iowa Schedule for August PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:36
Series of events focused on retirement, energy security and drought recovery

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced a week-long series of events across Iowa for the upcoming August work period focused on retirement security, drought recovery, and energy security.  A list of his public events follows.

Monday, August 6th – Fairfield/Keokuk
12:00 P.M.     Briefing and Tour of Energy Projects
Fairfield Arts & Convention Center
200 North Main Street

Senator Harkin will visit the City of Fairfield to tour some of the innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency installations they have pursued.  Mayor Ed Malloy will lead Harkin on the tour of their “Go Green” program, a citywide effort to save energy through conservation measures.  Media interested in attending should join the group at the Arts and Convention Center for this briefing and tour.

3:00 P.M.     Drought Recovery Event
Maple Long Farms
3129 243rd Avenue

Senator Harkin will visit Lee County farmers to see the impacts that the drought is having on Iowa agriculture.  He will take a walking tour of a corn field to explore the impact of the dry weather and then talk to area farmers who have also been impacted.  Harkin is a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Tuesday, August 7th – Fort Madison
10:15 A.M.     Tour Siemens Energy
2597 Highway 61
Fort Madison
**Media is invited to join the Senator outside of the building after the tour.

Harkin will tour this local wind turbine manufacturer to see firsthand how the Production Tax Credit for wind aids our energy security as a country, but also creates jobs locally.

3:30 P.M.     Davenport Industrial Park Rail Spur
601 Blackhawk Trail

Senator Harkin will dedicate a rail spur north of Davenport in Eldridge.  Harkin secured a $3 million grant in the 2005 surface transportation reauthorization bill for this project.  The cities of Davenport and Eldridge expect this project to increase local economic development and create jobs.

Wednesday, August 8th – Des Moines
1:30 P.M.    Des Moines Retirement Security Event
Des Moines Central Public Library Meeting Room
1000 Grand Avenue
Des Moines

Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, recently released a new report examining the retirement crisis in America and laying out a bold proposal to rebuild the private pension system.  The report comes after a series of HELP Committee hearings on retirement security that Harkin has convened over the last two years.   He is hosting a series of events in Iowa intended to start a discussion about the retirement crisis in our country.

Thursday, August 9th – Mason City
3:00 P.M.    Mason City Retirement Security Event
North Iowa Area Community College
500 College Drive
Muse Norris Conference Center, Room 180 B +C
Mason City

Similar to the Des Moines event, this is the second public discussion in the series on retirement security. 

Friday, August 10th – Des Moines/State Fair Day!
9:00 A.M.     Iowa State Fair

Senator Harkin will spend his annual day at the fair, touring the Agriculture Building, visiting the Iowa Pork Producers tent, and taking in the scenes.


Quinn Administration Releases Study: Without Pension Reform, Illinois Will Spend More on Pensions than Education by 2016 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:28

Property Taxpayers Far More Protected With Comprehensive Pension Reform That Includes Responsibility for School Districts Than Without

CHICAGO – August 5, 2012. Governor Quinn released data today prepared by the Illinois Office of Management & Budget (OMB) that shows without comprehensive pension reform, Illinois will spend more on pensions than education by Fiscal Year 2016. The budget office performed the district-by-district analysis based on current projections to examine the long-term funding challenges of the state if comprehensive pension reform is not enacted. The analysis was released just days after Governor Quinn called a special session dedicated to pension reform on August 17.

"Illinois cannot continue down this path at the expense of our children,” Governor Quinn said. “We must enact comprehensive pension reform that eliminates the unfunded liability to repair our pension system and give the next generation the education they deserve.”

Under current actuarial assumptions, required state pension contributions will rise to over $6 billion in the next few years if no comprehensive pension reform is enacted, which will continue to result in significant cuts to education. According to the analysis, continued cuts to education as a result of fast-rising pension costs will cost downstate and suburban school districts far more than assuming the responsibility to pay for their compensation decisions over time.

For example, if comprehensive pension reform that includes a phased-in normal cost realignment is enacted, downstate and suburban school districts would assume $49 million in new normal pension costs in Fiscal Year 2014. However, if no such reform is adopted, downstate and suburban school districts would instead see their budgets reduced by $152 million, according to current projections.

School districts would be far more protected from a property tax increase with comprehensive pension reform that includes the responsibility to pay for compensation decisions, than they would be without.

Every day that Illinois' pension crisis goes unresolved, the unfunded pension liability grows by $12.6 million. Without comprehensive pension reform, funding for key services such as education will continue to be squeezed out. Governor Quinn has proposed a comprehensive pension reform plan that eliminates the unfunded liability over the next 30 years and includes a phased-in normal cost realignment that would ensure school districts have a stake in the contracts they negotiate.

The complete analysis is attached.


Religious Embrace Helping Fuel Support for Gay Marriage PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:11

For the first time, a new poll shows more Americans “strongly support” same-sex marriage than “strongly oppose” it, a finding that could be attributed to changes occurring within organized religions, says a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher.

“For 2,000 years, religion has been the genesis of antipathy toward homosexuals, but now, three major American denominations have approved ordination of openly gay clergy,” says Paul Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of The Kairos (, a novel that imagines Jesus as gay.

“Gay has become the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he says.

The May survey of more than 1,000 adults found a dramatic reversal from earlier surveys: more adults now “strongly support” same-sex marriage rights (39 percent) than “strongly oppose” them (32 percent).  Over all, Langer Research Associates says, 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legalized – up from only 36 percent just six years ago.

“Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations have overturned centuries of tradition in welcoming openly gay clergy,” Hartman says. “There’s a growing realization that religion can and should help lead us all toward a more mature understanding and acceptance of minority sexual orientations.”

In 2012, he says, there is a new human rights landscape in the United States. He cites these additional recent developments:

• The U.S. military joined 43 other countries when it repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowed openly-gay service members.

• Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Three other states -- Washington, Maryland and California -- have same-sex marriage under active consideration. Eleven more offer “civil union”-type status for same-sex couples.

• A federal appeals court in Boston recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as “one man, one woman”), making consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain.

• Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the last nationally-respected scholars whose studies lent credence to “gay reparative” therapies, recently offered a retraction and apology to the gay community.

“Unfortunately, the occasionally hateful crowd still resonates with a very small group of people, including those headed by preacher Fred Phelps and congregants, who continue to make news as they picket the funerals of soldiers and celebrities,” Hartman says.

Western cultures’ condemnation of same-sex love appears to have originated from Judeo-Christian scriptures, but contemporary biblical scholarship amends old interpretations, he says.

“That’s why I wanted to tell a religion-based suspense story about homophobia,” Hartman says. “It addresses fear of all kinds, because in passage after biblical passage, scripture tells humans who are facing change, sickness, alienation, death, and everything else: ‘fear not.’  It applies to homophobia, as well.”

About Paul Hartman

Paul Hartman is a retired PBS/NPR station executive with a passion for biblical history. He is a Presbyterian elder, a lay preacher and a Dead Sea Scrolls aficionado. Hartman, a father and grandfather, confesses he is a lifelong fear-fighter.

Legislation to Protect Premium Cigars from FDA Surpasses Majority PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kyle Whalen   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:08

Washington, DC- Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) and Representative Tom Price (R-GA-6) have officially co-sponsored H.R. 1639, putting the number of cosponsors at 219 and surpassing the majority in the House of Representatives. The bill, along with its companion bill S. 1461 in the Senate, seeks to protect premium cigars from FDA regulation.


Thanks to the efforts of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), the Cigar Rights of America (CRA), and countless others, H.R. 1639 has surpassed a representative majority. This will encourage the bill's discussion in session and lead to potential enactment to protect premium cigars.


Industry-wide support from the IPCPR, CRA, retailers, producers, consumers and fellow premium cigar enthusiasts led to this distinctly bipartisan majority. The concentrated effort included significant grassroots support, online petitions and personal trips to legislators in D.C. and in their home districts to educate them on the importance of the premium cigar industry.


“The simple fact remains that premium cigars are enjoyed by adults, not marketed to nor affordable by underaged youth, and are simply celebratory in nature - not addictive.  The typical premium cigar smoker may smoke 1-2 cigars a week, or even less. If the FDA were to gain the jurisdiction over premium cigars they could potentially destroy this artisan industry,” said Bill Spann, CEO of the IPCPR.


Without these bills, the FDA could potentially have the authority to: ban walk-in humidors; limit advertising, including the very word cigar or tobacco; require manufacturers to submit their blends for testing; impose new fees; and nearly wipe out any flavored tobacco products at their discretion.


Spann later added “The struggle to protect premium cigars and premium tobacconists continues. We must continue educate the FDA and our legislators on the cigar industry and its importance.  There are 85,000 American jobs at stake in this storied industry.  In the current economy, our representative government should be doing everything in its power to protect jobs, not regulate them out of existence,” said Spann.


While this is a significant step in protecting cigars and mom-and-pop tobacconist shops throughout the country, there is still a need for action. The IPCPR urges tobacco enthusiasts to continue reaching out to their legislators to drive more support to these two bills, crucial to the health of the industry.


With the support of the representative majority, the IPCPR looks forward to the bill’s continued progress in the legal system.


This article was written by Kyle Whalen. Kyle is the Public Relations Manager for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and can be reached at   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . More information can be found online at



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