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After digesting Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s Condition of the State address given on Tuesday morning the only word that comes to mind is milquetoast.

Additional words would also be bland, vanilla, meh….

It left me uninspired which is probably what Branstad intended. His desire since being coming back to Terrace Hill in 2010 is to be low-key, fly under the radar and avoid controversy at all costs.

Not that he is always successful, but there was no lofty vision communicated in his 22nd Condition of the State address.

There was nothing for conservatives to get excited about. He discussed a tight budget, but the budget he submitted still increased the state general fund to over $7.4 billion. He wants to increase funding to public preK-12 education by $145 million.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the school infrastructure and water quality funds and what the two have to do with the other.

He brings up his STEM initiative which in and of itself isn’t bad only if it doesn’t diminish the quality of civics education nor discourage students who do not want to pursue STEM fields.

He advocates picking winners and losers still, this time through a bio-renewable tax credit. It would be great to see the state improve its overall business environment and let the free market do its thing.

The only part of his speech that piqued my interest were his remarks about criminal justice reform. It is much needed, and unfortunately Governor Branstad has contributed to this problem.

By closing several mental health facilities he shifted those clients from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Corrections. That needs to be addressed, and unfortunately he didn’t.

I do appreciate his comments about juvenile delinquency records. I worked with juvenile offenders and high-risk youth for 13 of the 20 years I was in youth ministry. It frustrates me to no end how public juvenile delinquency records are. In most cases those should be completely sealed unless there is a clear public safety concern. Branstad said, “we must examine whether these policies are truly protecting the public, or simply blocking a path to future career success for impacted Iowans. A minor crime should not be a lifelong barrier to a successful career.”

I agree.

He added, “Juvenile records should remain confidential unless a judge specifically finds that disclosure is in the best interest of the child and the public.”

He did say disclosure could occur in “serious” cases, but I think judicial discretion should allow confidentiality in any case before juvenile court. The need for public safety doesn’t always require the entire public to know, but at times, just those who are directly involved.  There needs to be some very tight criteria specified when public disclosure is allowed, confidentiality should be the default.

So even in these remarks Branstad hedges and doesn’t provide a bold vision which is unfortunate.

No talk of defunding Planned Parenthood. There no discussion of tax reform. There are no spending cuts highlighted. Nothing. Milquetoast as expected.

So in that regard Branstad didn’t disappoint.

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