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Sharecropper’s grandson Braley fights for plain-speaking federal government

4/17/2013

Politicians looking to yarn folksy images often talk of being plain-speaking, just-folks fellows.

Bruce Braley, who grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa, takes that angle a step further. He authored a bill requiring Washington bureaucrats to dispense with what Braley, a Waterloo congressman, calls “gobbledygook” and deliver information in clear English.

Braley’s Plain Writing Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, forces government agencies to assemble forms and public documents in simple, easy-to-understand language.

All federal agencies are graded to see if they are meeting the requirement.

“My staff and I constantly monitor how each federal agency is doing,” Braley said.

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Braley added, “It’s having an enormous impact and could save the federal government billions of dollars.”

He said it’s one thing to have an honest debate over the legitimacy of a regulation.

“It’s another if you don’t even understand what you’re being asked to do,” Braley said.

Braley has introduced follow-up legislation, The Plain Language in Government Regulations Act, which would require federal regulations to be written in straightforward language.

“It probably could have one of the most profound impacts on businesses and people who interact with the federal government,” Braley said.

The lone Democrat in a 2014 election for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by veteran Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, Braley campaigned extensively in western Iowa in recent days. He met with a dozen active local Democrats at Sam’s Sodas & Sandwiches in Carroll — where he delighted in downing one of the Beef Industry Council’s Top 10 burgers of the year. Braley also sat for a 40-minute interview with Cityview.

No Republican candidate has announced for the seat, although U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has said he’s more than 50-50 on a possible bid.

For his part, Braley is not expected to have any serious primary opposition and announced the endorsements of all of Iowa’s 26 Democratic state senators and most of the Iowa House Democrats, as well as a fundraising effort milestone of $1 million. Harkin is firmly in Braley’s corner.

“I think most people who have experienced both sides would tell you that the opportunity to avoid a primary, to focus on putting your campaign structure in place, and preserving your resources for the tough general election is always a benefit, so that’s what we’re hoping happens in this case,” Braley said.

Although not officially in the race, King already has sought to cast it as a battle between King on the side of “liberty,” and Braley running as an advocate for a “dependency.” Braley strongly disputed King’s terms of political engagement.

“Steve King and I grew up in very similar backgrounds,” Braley said. “He grew up in western Iowa. I grew up in eastern Iowa. My parents grew up on Iowa farms during the Depression with very little. My grandfather was a sharecropper. I worked on the farm with both of my grandfathers when they were in their 80s. I’ve had a job since I was in second grade. I never had an allowance growing up. I’ve always paid my own way through college and law school and as an adult. I am not in Congress to promote a dependency agenda. I am in Congress to lift people up and give them the same type of opportunities to live the American dream that I’ve had living here in Iowa my entire life.”

Braley and King part ways on a number of high-profile issues — notably immigration reform.

In recent interviews, King said that if China could build a 5,500-mile Great Wall centuries ago, the United States surely could construct a workable structure on its 2,000-mile-long southern border.

burns doug 12-10-25“I think it’s just an example of him being out of touch with reality,” Braley said. “That’s not what the experts at the border are asking for. They’re asking for technology, human resources and infrastructure to help them do their jobs. And they say, ‘We don’t need a border fence that covers the entire border of Mexico. Where they need it the most, they’ll tell you, is in high-population areas because they use it to funnel people who are crossing the border into a specific area where they can use high-technology, including eye imprinting and a host of other things, to make sure that dangerous people aren’t crossing our border.” CV

Douglas Burns, a co-owner of The Carroll Daily Times Herald, is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist who offers columns for Cityview.

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