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Local Editorials

REG expansion project is good for everyone

On Tuesday, I participated in a groundbreaking ceremony at REG Newton bio-diesel plant.  The ceremony celebrated an expansion of the facility and a significant investment in Newton – over $13 million dollars.

Much of this money will come back into the local economy in construction and engineering jobs.  It also will increase the value of the local plant by making an even better biodiesel.  That’s not only good for the folks at REG and a quality labor-force, that’s also good for farmers who supply the plant with a quality feedstock.

As every President since Richard Nixon has noted, America is addicted to oil, and in particular foreign oil.  That addiction comes with a tremendous price tag, creates complications in international relations, and harms the environment.   Policy makers have struggled with this situation for some time.  So when the Renewable Fuel Standard was passed in 2005 and updated in 2007, the federal government took a stand that the time was right to create policies that supported home grown renewable fuels, like biodiesel.

Their vision was that these fuels would help diversify our energy mix, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, provide economic opportunity for Americans, and in particular Americans here in the Heartland, while improving our environment.

The Federal government was not alone in acting.  At the state level, Iowa passed its own Renewable Fuels Standard, further incentivizing the use of renewable fuels right here at home.  And in 2011, my first year in the legislature, we increased support for biofuels by, among other things, moving the biodiesel incentive from B2 to B5. 

These were the right policies at the right time.  They provided a signal to the marketplace that renewable fuels were important, that the goal of energy independence was important, that supporting industries that support agriculture was important, and that creating jobs in the Heartland was important.

REG should be commended for responding to the call, for raising capital and making investments in people and technology and for making commitments to communities like Newton.

At the Capitol, every year, one of the first bills considered by the Legislature is setting the amount of aid schools will receive for the school year that starts a year and a half later.  It’s been the law in Iowa since the early ‘90’s when then Governor Branstad signed it into law. It gives school districts plenty of time to plan and use state resources effectively.

This week, the Iowa Senate approved a plan to increase school aid by 6% for the 2015-2016 school year.  Unfortunately, the plan – and Iowa law – will be ignored by the House majority party and Governor Branstad who refuse to act on school funding plans this year.  In a survey sent out last week, Iowa superintendents told us that we need to follow the law and take action quickly this year. They told us a 6% increase in basic funding for schools would be used to expand early literacy, boost student achievement, and reduce class size. 

We’ve raised expectations for our schools and students and it’s important for us to follow the law. We owe it to our students, teachers, and parents to make sure schools have time to put together a plan that will make sure every student gets the skills needed to land a good job.

I am proud to represent Newton, Baxter, Colfax, Kellogg, Lambs Grove, Mingo, Ira, Prairie City, and Valeria.  Feel free to contact me anytime via phone at 641-521-9260 or by email at Please visit my website at And of course, on Facebook, I look forward to accepting your friend request. 

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

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