Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. June 16, 2015
License kiosks are another way to simplify government services
With time at a premium in our modern society, people are always looking for more expediency and convenience.
Even though most of us don't have to renew our licenses all that often, it always seems like an inconvenience when that time rolls around. Standing in line at a licensing station just doesn't appeal to a lot of folks.
Fortunately, renewing or replacing an Iowa driver's license recently became a lot more convenient.
Paul Trombino, director of the state Department of Transportation, joined Gov. Terry Branstad on June 8 in announcing 24 self-service kiosks have been set up around the state in libraries or 24-hour retail businesses.
The Waterloo Public Library recently had such a kiosk installed. Amy Rousselow, the marketing manager at the library, said the kiosks are beneficial for people with nontraditional hours.
"It's another service (the library) could answer," Rousselow said. "Sometimes people don't have two hours to stand in line."
The cost of the project is $1.1 million and is being paid for through road-use tax funds. It's an expansion of a pilot project at four Iowa locations, where about 10,000 Iowans renewed their licenses during a two-year experiment that started at the 21013 Iowa State Fair.
In addition to libraries, the new locations include Hy-Vee stores and a Kum & Go store in a mix of urban and rural areas.
"Iowa DOT's self-service kiosks were designed with customer security and ease of use in mind," Trombino said. "They utilize a touch-screen technology to allow the customer to enter their information, include built-in cameras which allow users to update the photo on their driver's license or ID."
If a user finds the need for personal assistance, they will need to visit an Iowa driver's license issuance location.
Potential kiosk users must have a valid Iowa driver's license or ID card; be at least 18, but younger than 70 years old; be a U.S. citizen and an Iowa resident; have a license or ID card that has not been expired for more than a year and is less than 180 days from its renewal date, and not have any medical or vision conditions that impact the ability to drive.
Uses of the kiosks will receive a paper copy of their license. The plastic version will be sent to their home address.
This is an excellent way to simplify a necessary government service. Just as the four pilot program kiosks proved popular, we expect this expansion to be very well received.
The Des Moines Register. June 18, 2015
Democrats protect their jobs in trade vote
It's easier to reject trade agreements than see the benefits for Iowa, globe
U.S. House Democrats delivered a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama when they defeated a foreign trade bill he has aggressively pushed. Worse, they signaled the party's retreat to a dangerous course toward protectionism that would hurt agriculture and industry.
The Obama administration has negotiated a tentative trade agreement with 11 Pacific nations that collectively represent 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product. These countries, including Japan and Vietnam, hold promise for increased trade in goods and services that would benefit both them and the United States.
The deal began to unravel in the House, however, after it came under attack from unions and Democrats who think the proposed agreement does not go far enough to protect U.S. jobs, and wages and working conditions overseas.
Democrats have also criticized the secrecy surrounding the agreement.
The administration insists negotiating in secret is necessary to protect trading partners' domestic concerns. Members of Congress have had access to the text of proposed agreement, however, and it will be made public before Congress takes a vote. As Bloomberg News pointed out in a June 12 editorial, "The negotiating process has been unusually transparent ... as government representatives have published online its negotiating objectives, an outline of what's been agreed to, and updates through blogs and news releases."
What Democrats who voted against the trade agreement really don't like is being blamed if American workers lose their jobs to foreign trading partners. As one member said, unions will be around long after Obama is out of office. It is easier to vote against trade agreements than to make the case that expanding global trade is better for the U.S. economy in the long run by raising wages abroad to increase the buying power of our trading partners.
The value of open markets is well understood in Iowa, a state that has long prospered as a global leader in the export of agricultural products, as well as manufactured goods. Iowa companies exported more than $15 billion in goods and services last year, from corn and hogs to tractors and aircraft parts. Iowa's export business supported more than 107,000 jobs, Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and a member of the World Chambers Federation General Council, wrote in a recent Register guest opinion.
Protectionist policies may sound good in the abstract, but they do not achieve the intended goals. America has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to developing countries that offer lower wages and poor working conditions. Those jobs will not be coming back, with or without trade agreements, in part because human factory workers are rapidly being replaced by automation in this country. Throwing up barriers to trade will not change that, and it hurts U.S. exporters by encouraging foreign countries to erect their own barriers.
It's not clear how, or if, Congress can resurrect the trade legislation. Republican leaders in the House are now in the position of working with the Obama administration to do that, but they will need more Democrats to come to their senses.
How Iowa's delegation voted
In the Senate: Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted to give the president "fast-track" trade authority and for assistance for workers affected by trade, which were passed as a single measure on May 22.
In the House: The fast-track and trade adjustment assistance measure were split into two bills. Republican Reps. Rod Blum, David Young and Steve King voted for "fast-track" authority, which passed; Democrat Dave Loebsack voted against it. On the trade assistance, which wad defeated, Blum and Young voted yes, King and Loebsack voted no.
Sioux City Journal. June 17, 2015
Iowa must fight EPA proposal on RFS
Iowa's congressional delegation is gearing up for another lobbying campaign in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Good for them.
Created in 2005, the federal RFS requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuels. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to lower the RFS for this year and next year by a combined nine billion gallons below the levels set by Congress because it doesn't believe the biofuels industry can meet the more aggressive targets.
"EPA has to be given some credit for attempting to get the RFS back on track by increasing the renewable volume obligations over time, but the frustrating fact is the agency continues to misunderstand the clear intent of the statute — to drive innovation in both ethanol production and ethanol marketing," Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, told the Des Moines Register.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, echoed Dinneen.
"It's Christmas in May for Big Oil," Grassley said in a statement following the EPA announcement. "President Obama's EPA continues to buy into Big Oil's argument that the infrastructure isn't in place to handle the fuel volumes required by law. Big Oil's obstruction and the EPA's delays and indecision have harmed biofuel producers and delayed infrastructure developments."
We join in support for keeping the RFS at levels set by Congress and believe the industry will meet them if RFS uncertainty is removed. In addition to creating jobs and economic activity for agriculture states such as Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, the renewable fuels industry is helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the nation and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.
In a statement last week, Grassley encouraged Iowans to comment on the EPA proposal.
"The EPA doesn't have a good idea of what's happening in biofuels," Grassley said. "... The EPA needs to hear from the people who produce ethanol and biodiesel every day and have the will and the capacity to produce even more."
The EPA will take public comments on its proposal through July 27 and expects to make a final decision this fall. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday, Iowa's congressional delegation pushed for a public EPA hearing on the RFS in our state.
"They're going to say they're in Kansas City (a public hearing is scheduled for June 25 in Kansas City, Kan.), but Iowa, anyplace in Iowa, is the center of ethanol production and that's where they should be," Grassley told Radio Iowa earlier this week. "Why they aren't, I don't know."
We join members of our state's congressional delegation in calling for a hearing in Iowa and urge them to remain aggressive in support of the RFS. Because Iowa ranks first in the nation for ethanol production and second for biodiesel production, no one state would suffer the impact of EPA's misguided proposal more than ours.
Fort Dodge Messenger. June 18, 2015
The decades-long dream moves forward
Highway 20 four-laning project is on track for 2018 completion
The news keeps getting better regarding the more than five-decade-long dream of turning U.S. Highway 20 into a statewide, four-lane thoroughfare.
On June 9, the Iowa Transportation Commission approved a five-year plan — known as the 2016-2020 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program — that includes a commitment to finish four-laning Highway 20 by 2018. The plan also moves forward a number of other important road projects that will significantly improve Hawkeye State roadways.
While nobody loves higher taxes, the added revenues that this year's 10-cent per gallon fuel tax increase have generated and will produce in the years ahead have made a more aggressive road improvement strategy possible.
Turning Highway 20 into a four-lane roadway spanning the state has been in the works for too long. Making the completion of the project as soon as possible a priority is crucial to the economic progress of northern Iowa. The growth of the biofuels industries already so important to our region will be strengthened by an enhanced transportation system. Having top-notch roads, however, also helps boost the prospects of a wide array of business ventures. It is a crucial ingredient of the game plan for keeping our state prosperous in the 21st century.
"The commitment by Gov. Terry Branstad, the DOT commission and staff to complete the final 30.5 miles as a four-lane on an expedited calendar is welcomed by all," said Shirley Phillips, the president of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association. "Association members and Iowans along the corridor share in excitement over a final date for the completion of a four-lane Highway 20 across Iowa."
The Messenger heartily concurs. The dream of fully upgrading Highway 20 is on target to become a reality. That's very good news for northern Iowa.