Q: Is Jan Michael Vincent still living? If so, how old is he?
A: He died in February this year, age 73.
Q: If I get a passport to Australia can I bring back a pet kangaroo on that same passport?
A: Well, you can’t strap it in the seat next to you or put it in your backpack. You need a permit to export a live kangaroo, according to Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy, and there are specific guidelines for their transport. We think you’d also have to check with the U.S. Department of Agriculture about importing one, as well as whatever airline you were flying with.
Q: I just read in The Courier that former Gov. Branstad was found guilty of how he treated a former employee. It also said the taxpayers are responsible for paying millions of dollars to the victim, lawyers, etc. How can this be? Why doesn’t Branstad have to pay his own bills?
A: Taxpayers could end up paying more than $6 million for Chris Godfrey’s sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit between the $1.5 million jury award and attorney’s fees for both sides. Branstad was sued along with the state. The state used a private firm for its defense instead of the Attorney General’s office. Since Branstad was acting in his official capacity as governor when the discrimination occurred, taxpayers are on the hook for his legal fees, too. And since Godfrey’s lawsuit was successful, the law requires the state to pay his legal fees also.
Q: Are there other states besides Iowa that have paid out millions of dollars to settle multiple gender, sexual harassment and sexual orientation complaints from state employees?
A: Other states certainly have paid such settlements. For example, the California Department of Justice paid more than $1 million to employees who alleged they faced sexual harassment or workplace retaliation from 2011 to 2017. But we couldn’t find examples of a state with a run of big payouts such as Iowa has paid out in recent years.
Q: Can the Republicans chose someone besides Donald Trump for the next election?
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A: Sure. Former Massachussetts Gov. William Weld is currently challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Mark Sanford, the former congressman and governor from South Carolina, said recently he is considering a run. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich is still a potential 2020 candidate, but is considered unlikely to run. But since the president has an 87% approval rating among Republicans surveyed in the most recent polls, any primary challenge is a longshot.
Q: Are President Trump’s travel expenses to and from his campaign rally paid for by the taxpayer?
A: Since federal law mandates the president have Secret Service protection for all travel, those costs are assumed by the government.
Q: How much has Mexico paid on the wall?
A: Nothing so far.
Q: Can you explain campaign finance rules? How can an individual give $2,000 to a campaign, but the NRA can give $30 million?
A. Under federal campaign finance laws, “social welfare” organizations such as the National Rifle Association, The NAACP, Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club can participate in political campaigns as long as thier primary purpose is issue advocacy and not political advocacy. Such groups are not required to disclose their donors publicly.
Calls are taken on a special Courier phone line at 234-3566. Questions are answered by Courier staff and staff at the Waterloo Public Library.