This Week in Politics: Adam Gregg's mission to boost Iowa's rural economy

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This Week in Politics on KSFY. We're on the road tonight. We begin at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines for a conversation with Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg, a native of Hawarden, Iowa. He has a job he never thought he would have and now he has a task that will put him to the test.
In May of 2017, a little known former policy advisor to former Iowa governor...now Chinese ambassador......Terry Branstad was named to the post of Acting Lieutenant Governor by the state's newly sworn in governor, Kim Reynolds.
Adam Gregg was raised in the northwest Iowa community of Hawarden and his grandfather Glenn told us last may that his grandson was up to the task. "There will be a lot of people who say he's too young but he's going to be quite an asset to us all I think before it is over and done with."

Within days of being named iieutenant governor, Gregg was back in his hometown with his new boss. "I am so thankful to have this opportunity."

And now eight months later. Adam Gregg is still pinching himself. "You could not have plotted this out. Even if you wanted to. To think of the dominos that had to fall. I'm somebody who is a religious person. To me its a God thing. No one could have set up these dominos and knocked them all down in just the right way for me to have this incredible opportunity."

Gregg says never in a million years did he think Donald Trump being elected president would lead to Iowa governor, Terry Branstad being named Chinese ambassador which would elevate former lieutenant governor Kim Reynolds into the top job...and that she would choose him as her second in command. "There's higher powers at work in this and I'm honored and blessed to have been chosen for it and I'm going to make the most of it."

Already he has a big job ahead of him. As the Iowa Legislature begins the work of dealing with clean water policy and the work still to come of having make budget cuts because of lower state revenues, Gregg has been asked by Governor Reynolds to begin working on a plan to bring economic prosperity to rural areas of the state.
And Gregg says he believes that begins with making sure all parts of Iowa have accress to high quality broadband.
He says that one aspect is more important than people realize. "When we look at making sure that there is opportunity and prosperity in rural Iowa..one element of that is making sure that young people see that there is opportunity in rural Iowa. Consider that a place where they can live. But high speed internet connectivity has become an absolute expectation of people my generation and below and so if we want them to consider opportunities in rural Iowa they absolutely have to be connected."

And the longer is takes to conect iowa's rural area to that high speed internet, Adam says the furhter behind those areas will be if they want to attract any type of new businesses and the jobs that would come with them. "It's getting more and more critical as the economy changes. Think about the changes we have had in just the past 10-15 years in terms of how ubiquitous it has become to have basically a high speed, high powered computer in your pocket it terms of your smart phone. And that trend is going to continue as move into the internet of things. as we get to the point where our refrigerators are connected. Where our cars are increasingly connected to the point where we're moving towards ultimately driverless vehicles. That all requires high speed, high capacity internet connectivity."

But while Gregg is trying to boost the opportunities for rural Iowans, there is another issue he is facing as well. And it's an issue we know all too well in South Dakota; the idea of workforce development. Gregg tells me right now in Iowa there are tens of housands of open jobs...positions that are going unfilled....in both urban and rural areas....because the people with the right skills aren't there. "There are on any given day nearly 60,000 open positions in the state of Iowa right now. In many different fields. Many different skill levels. Many different wage levels and many of those are throughout rural iowa. And some of this is about connecting people to those opportunities and helping them realize that those opportunities can be in their hometowns."

So what Adam Gregg faces right now is a true balancing act; bringing newer, better and much faster technology to rural areas so new businesses will pop up creating new jobs while at the same time making sure if those new jobs do appear....that the right people will be there to fill them.
The acting lieutenant governor tells me this is the equation that needs to be solved.
The future of smaller communities, like his own hometown of Hawarden, depend on it. "We really care about making sure that there is prosperity in every corner of our state and you might say it's because we come from those corners. We'll never forget those places."

We thank Iowa Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg for his time.

Last Tuesday night, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress.
KSFY Political Analyst Vernon Brown gave us a break down of the president's speech and tells us there's something the president said about immigration that really caught his ear.

"The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age."

The president's first State of the Union address made an impression on our KSFY Political Analyst, Vernon Brown. "Probably the best speech I've heard him give. Lofty language. Very conventional. Very traditional. Very presidential."

But it was while the president was outlining a proposal for immigration reform that he said something that struck a chord with vernon. "It's time to begin moving toward a merit based immigration system. One that admits people who are skilled, who want to work who will contribute to our society."

To hear the president explain this part of his proposal, no longer would people be able to come to the United States simply out of an effort to attain freedom that may not be available to them in their homelands.
Under this proposal, any seeking to immigrate to the United States would need to be able to show a discernable talent or ability that the U-S is lacking.

"What happened to we'll take your tired, your poor, your hungry? That was not part of the message at all." Brown says he believes what the presdient has in mind flies in the face of 242 years of American history and images of places like Ellis Island, where people from other lands came to the United States because they know they would have freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the freedom to come to a new land and make a go at a new life.
What President Trump outlined during the State of the Union is a system where anyone coming to the U-S must be able to prove they would be a success immediately.
Vernon Brown says his family history shows sometime....it takes a while to achieve that level of success. "You know we are not in South Dakota very far removed from our immigrant heritage and I think back to my families. Poor Norweigans who didn't have any skills other than scratching seeds in the dirt. Would they be able to come into our country today and make a way for their citizens and their future offspring? I don't think so based on what I heard."

Vernon Brown says is also concerned him that President Trump did not specifically discuss the important of the American farm economy to the overall economic health of the nation.

Checking some political headlines tonight beginning with the race for South Dakota governor.
Republican Kristi Noem says if she is elected governor she will oppose any attempt to raise taxes in the state.
While South Dakota has no state income tax, we do have property taxes and sales taxes and Noem says she would fight any proposal to hike those taxes up.

Meantime her Republican rival Marty Jackley has unveiled what his camp calls the "Destination South Dakota" tourism initiative.
The five point plan includes taking steps to increase South Dakota's Pheasant population while investing in what his campaign calls "recreation infrastructure".
Jackley also says there will be a campaign to encourage visitors to spend an extra day in South Dakota during their vacations.

Meantime Democrat Billie Sutton says his gubernatorial campaign is doing well financially, announcing this week that during a 7 month period in 2017 his camp raised more than $871-thousand dollars.
A campaign spokesperson says Sutton's camp is also working to keep more money on hand now by spending less than his rivals.

South Dakota lawmakers will again be looking at the idea of legalizing the production of industrial Hemp in the state.
Under the bill, anyone wanting to grow hemp would have to be licensed by the state Department of Agriculture and undergo a background check.
The bill would restrict how much THC could be allowed in the product....that's the active ingredient in Marijuana.
Supporters say it would boost the ag economy. Governor Daugaard is on the record as saying he opposes the idea.

In the Iowa House, a measure to reinstate the death penalty in the Hawkeye State has fizzled out.....at least for now.
The chairman of the House Public Safety Committee says there are not enough votes to send the measure to the full house for debate.
Iowa abolished the death penalty back in 1965.