CLINTON — A Clinton firefighter died and another was critically injured battling a fire and explosion Saturday morning at an ADM grain facility in Clinton.
Killed was 33-year-old Lt. Eric Hosette, a 12-year veteran of the Clinton Fire Department who also served as the chief of the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department.
Injured was 23-year-old firefighter Adam Cain, who has been with the department just shy of two years.
Clinton Fire Chief Mike Brown said two shifts were involved in fighting the fire, reported at 8:45 a.m.
“The first shift went in and stabilized the fire somewhat ... and then about 8:45 a.m. there was an explosion,” Brown said.
Hosette was taken to Mercy Medical Center, Clinton, where Brown said the medical staff “did everything possible to try and revive him.”
“He was a fine man with a wife and young daughter,” Brown added.
Adam Cain was missing when “heroically” he was found, Brown said.
Cain was taken by air ambulance to University Hospitals, Iowa City. Brown described his condition as “very critical but stable.” Brown said he hoped to have good news about Cain’s condition some time today.
ADM spokesperson Jackie Anderson said in a statement at around 5:45 a.m. Saturday employees discovered smoldering material in one of the loading facility’s silo storage bins. The incident is under investigation. Anderson said ADM is assessing the damage to its facility.
During a news briefing Saturday night, Matt Brooke, Clinton city administrator, pointed to a photo of the ADM plant and the silo where the fire and explosion occurred.
“They were heroically battling a fire 100 plus feet off the ground when these incidents occurred due to explosion,” Brooke said.
WATERLOO — Getting a Veterans Administration health care claim filed is difficult. It’s even more difficult to do 20 years after retirement.
Tony French retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998 as a gunnery sergeant and lives in Janesville. Almost 20 years after his retirement he discovered during an appointment at the Iowa City VA hospital he had a tumor in his brain that could make him go blind.
“They were doing an MRI of my neck because my vertebrae were down to bone on bone on my upper neck,” French said. “The radiologist (saw) the tumor and said, ‘Hey, guys, you better look at this first,’ and the next thing I know I’m talking to a neurosurgeon.”
He went in for surgery July 18, 2017, in Iowa City to have the tumor removed, but the surgeon didn’t remove it. But French was not told he still had the tumor.
French was one of many veterans who saw John Henry Schneider, a neurosurgeon now serving a federal prison term. He was sued for medical malpractice, and his history of malpractice was revealed in a USA Today investigation. Schneider resigned from the Iowa City VA hospital after being questioned.
French was not made aware of Schneider’s history or resignation, but was called back in February to see a different neurosurgeon.
In March French found out his tumor hadn’t been removed.
“Nothing had been done,” he said.
He was told the neurosurgeons in Iowa City didn’t feel comfortable removing the tumor.
“With the unknown bone overgrowth and scar tissue that was left behind because of him, they didn’t want to do it,” French said.
French was sent to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for further treatment.. The VA has since accepted fault, and French is filing an administrative tort claim.
Filing his VA claim has been difficult for French, who still suffers symptoms from the tumor.
French keeps the lights dim in his house to ease his headaches.
After working with Kevin Dill, Black Hawk County Veterans Affairs executive director, French was able to get his claim processed.
“We started down that road of getting him service connected (claims) for some of his conditions from when he was in the Marine Corps,” Dill said.
Dill has also helped him file his tort claim.
French wants to make sure younger veterans get in to the VA to process their claims earlier than he did and learn from his story.
“These young kids need to get in there and they need to fight when their claims are denied,” French said. “Younger veterans need to know to get out and get signed up immediately for the VA.”
French was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1998 and didn’t visit the VA for a disability rating until 2011. His current VA disability rating is 80 percent.
A VA claim gives veterans a percentage of their monthly active duty pay after being discharged for a disability or injury received while on active duty. A vet’s disability rating determines how much pay the vet receives, which can be anywhere from 100 percent to 1 percent of their monthly active duty pay.
“I was out for a long time before I signed up because I was led to believe if I signed up and got disability rating I wouldn’t be able to work,” he said.
He’s had to take a lot of time off as his tumor was treated.
Many pain medications aren’t an option for French, a recovering alcoholic.
“I don’t want to take addictive stuff,” he said.
Money troubles have compounded his problems. He recently had his water service disconnected because he’s struggling to pay his bills.
“I’ve been selling cows and construction equipment,” he said. “I’m getting real close to filing for bankruptcy.”
A fundraiser and Gofundme page have helped French take care of some of his bills, but he intends to pay it all forward.
Tammy Green helped put on a fundraiser for French on Dec. 4.
“We’re trying to help him to keep him staying in his home,” Green said. “Somebody should be coming forward and helping him.”
DES MOINES — Some Iowans who receive Medicaid would be subject to work requirements under legislation Republicans may propose during the upcoming legislative session.
Republican leaders say the work requirements would apply to “able-bodied” adults and would help employers who say they have difficulty finding workers in a state with historically low unemployment.
“I think that’s something we need to look at, mostly because we need more people in our workforce. And if there are people that are able-bodied on those programs that we can bring into the workforce, I think that’s something we should definitely look at,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican.
Because Medicaid is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, states must receive federal approval for work requirements.
Seven states have received approval to implement work requirements, and eight states have requests pending, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a national nonprofit group that analyzes health care policy.
Most work requirements or proposals call for 80 hours of work per month, and except those over a range of ages from 50 to 65 years, according to Kaiser.
Republican leaders do not have a specific proposal, but Whitver and Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer expressed interest in exploring the issue.
“We genuinely need people in the workforce. And if there’s a way to do that to where we can get people the skills they need to be more productive and have some opportunities that they don’t have today, I think that’s worth considering,” Upmeyer told Radio Iowa.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said she is content to use a carrot instead of a stick approach by helping any unemployed Iowans — whether they’re on public assistance programs — find a job through her education and job-training program Future Ready Iowa.
But Reynolds said the state cannot afford to fund individuals who can work when employers are looking for help.
“Here’s the deal: We can’t pay people to stay at home. If they’re able-bodied and they don’t have any dependents they should be working,” Reynolds said. “But we’re going to try the approach where we’re going to try to identify them and then help work with them and provide them a safety net and support system that they need to help them get the skills and then to match them up with a job. So I’m focused on that right now and really implementing Future Ready Iowa.”
More than 60 percent of adult Medicaid enrollees work, and just 6 percent not already employed would not likely qualify for an exemption, according to Kaiser.
First in a series of stories on the upcoming Iowa Legislature’s 2019 session.
DES MOINES — Supporters of the Iowa Legislature’s sweeping expansion of gun rights expect the movement to continue this year with actions to amend the state’s Constitution and revive a debate over whether to scrap gun permits — a measure sidelined last year after a Florida school shooting.
After Republicans clinched control of the state lawmaking agenda in the 2016 elections, lawmakers passed House File 517, a major expansion of gun rights in Iowa. The law created a “stand your ground” self-defense provision, forbade local governments from passing their own gun restrictions, extended the time period for permits to acquire handguns and made confidential the names of those who had permits, among many other changes.
Actions begun last year to further expand gun rights will continue this session, which starts Jan. 14.
Chief among them are efforts to change the Iowa Constitution to add language from the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, and to adopt a “constitutional carry” law that generally would allow a law-abiding citizen to acquire and carry a gun without a state permit.
In the last session, both the House and Senate approved a resolution to add the “right to bear arms” to the Constitution. Both chambers now must approve the same resolution a second time — either this year or in 2020 — before it goes to Iowa voters to decide.
The resolution says:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”
Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said passing the measure again will be a top priority this session.
“I firmly believe we will see it come forward again this year, and I do expect it to pass,” he said. “I’ve had conversations with colleagues in both the House and Senate — between rank-and-file members and with leadership in both the House and Senate — and I believe (the constitutional amendment) is a priority, and I know it’s a priority of mine, and we will be moving that forward, hopefully in a very timely fashion.”
Forty-four other states have adopted similar amendments to their constitutions, and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said she expects Iowa will follow suit.
“It will pass the second legislative cycle and go to a vote for the people,” she said. “That’s the appropriate place for it to land.”
Critics of the measure have expressed concerns over its “strict scrutiny” language, which they believe could sharply limit judicial powers and prevent lawmakers from enacting reasonable firearm restrictions.
“I support codifying or adopting the U.S. Second Amendment in Iowa law, but that amendment isn’t actually confirming the Second Amendment,” said House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City. “This amendment goes beyond what is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”
Supporters, on the other hand, say the language would provide guidance to the courts and discourage activist judges from imposing their own views when interpreting laws.
“When we’re talking about an individual, fundamental right, which is the right to keep and bear arms — and in translation, the right to self-defense — we want to make sure that any future legislation and any future judiciaries do not overly restrict that right on a whim,” Windschitl said. “We want to make sure that individual fundamental right has the highest protection, just as the right to vote, the right to free speech, the right to free assembly.”
Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, called the measure redundant.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “Most normal people don’t think it’s necessary. We already have the Second Amendment. … And adding this amendment would make it even harder on the courts to side with anything that could, in Republicans’ opinion, weaken or diminish the Second Amendment.”
Bisignano also called the amendment a “political tool” put forward to please the gun lobby.
“It’s a great political tool for Republicans,” he said. “Anything they can do to make it look like they’re doing more for the gun lobby, where they draw a great deal of their support, they’ll do and that’s what they’ll continue to do.”
Another bill expected to make a reappearance during the upcoming session is the proposed “constitutional carry” legislation, which would remove the general prohibition on carrying weapons without a permit and repeal the duty to carry a permit.
The legislation also would repeal Iowa’s permit to acquire handguns and replace it with a duty to comply with federal law for obtaining guns, which includes a background check.
Senate File 2106 was slated for action last February, but was pulled from the Senate Judiciary Committee just after a teenage gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Windschitl said he supports refiling the bill for consideration this session, but added that passing the constitutional amendment legislation should be the priority.
“I am a supporter of the concept of permit-less carry, which is also known as constitutional carry, but I also believe it is immensely important to get the constitutional amendment … on the ballot and passed by voters before we move down that path,” he said. “We just don’t know what may happen without those protections in the state constitution.”
Although Windschitl indicated he supported the bill, he wasn’t sure it was necessary given how efficient the state’s current system is.
“We have already moved so close to constitutional carry with our ‘shall-issue’ system and the revisions that we made with our omnibus bill back in 2017 that it is a very streamlined, state-of-the-art system where citizens don’t face a high degree of burden,” he said. “Again I am an adamant supporter of it, but I also believe that the Freedom Amendment needs to come first before we move down that path.”
Reynolds appeared to have lukewarm feelings about the constitutional carry bill, stating she didn’t plan to advocate for its passage but “would take a look at it.”
“I am a Second Amendment advocate. I believe in the right to bear arms and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do to protect those liberties. … (But) I’ll have to see it in its final form,” the governor said.
In February 2018, she had said she “felt very strongly that we should keep” Iowa’s current gun-permitting law.
Opponents worry that the bill could endanger public safety.
“We see this as a major repeal of background checks in Iowa law and something that would go against the interest of public safety,” said gun control advocate Charlotte Eby told Legislature during the last session.
Eby was representing the group formed by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was severely wounded by a gunman who killed six in 2011.
“We also think this opens the door to unchecked sales of handguns and pistols and would make it easier for dangerous people to obtain guns easily,” she added.
A lobbyist representing religious groups also spoke against the measure, and Tim Coonan of the Every Town for Gun Safety Action Fund said his group opposed the bill because it sees the background check system as “effectively necessary.”
Bisignano said he believed the bill would be brought forward again this session.
“The real debate will be whether (constitutional carry) means concealed carry or open carry,” he said. “But again, it just keeps pushing the line further and further, because the gun lobby is trying to get to a place where there is no restriction of any kind.”
Bisignano said he did not plan to support either legislative measure.
“I support the Second Amendment and I support people’s right to bear arms within boundaries,” he said. “But there are people who take it over the top and that’s where I start to draw the line.”
James Q. Lynch of The Gazette contributed to this report.