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This is what democracy looks like

This is what democracy looks like

Gazette Column
Hundreds of area residents who took time this past snowy Saturday morning to attend a League of Women Voters’ Legislative Forum also should take a moment to pat themselves on the back. It was a job well done, and all participants — residents, lawmakers and organizers — deserve kudos for creating and being part of such a civil political display. Despite inclusion of hot-button issues like abortion, state finances and gun rights, Democratic and Republican lawmakers sat side-by-side and answered questions while people listened — a refreshing exercise of democracy that has lately become the exception instead of the rule. And, given the most recent national revelations, such events may serve as a cure for our political dysfunction. [caption id="attachment_1945" align="alignright" width="500"] Local members of the Iowa Legislature answered questions…
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More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

Gazette Column
Pro-gun legislation in the Iowa Statehouse has succumbed to a barrage of bullets. Unfortunately, this is not a metaphor. The nation’s latest mass shooting, this time at a Florida high school, contributed to the demise of an Iowa bill aimed to loosen gun-permitting regulations. Instead, lawmakers want school districts to adopt security plans that address “active shooters” and other disasters. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who managed Senate File 2106, said the untimely and unnecessary deaths of 17 Floridians “apparently changed the optics.” Well, it’s about damn time. [caption id="attachment_1934" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Students, friends and family gather at the memorial crosses at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., to remember those where were killed and injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)[/caption]…
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Feminine hygiene product drive began with dignity

Feminine hygiene product drive began with dignity

Gazette Column
As Iowans extend a helping hand to those in need, feminine hygiene supplies are too often forgotten. A local group is stepping up to help. Members of the Cedar Rapids National Organization for Women are collecting pads and tampons to help support homeless and incarcerated women and girls. “The idea for the feminine hygiene product drive followed discussions on initiatives like the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act,” said Bailey Mendenhall, chapter president. “Throughout our last few meetings we had been discussing legislative solutions, as well as other organizations’ efforts to assist women abroad and at home with access to these products. We decided that we should be doing something right here, within our own community.” The women learned that there is a near constant need for feminine hygiene products in local transitional housing…
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Nothing to love about food deserts

Nothing to love about food deserts

Gazette Column
Trump administration budget aims to slash SNAP by $213 billion It’s Valentine’s Day, and I hoped to write a column appropriate for a love and indulgence holiday, however contrived. But that’s mentally difficult when new Trump administration proposals promote food deserts and scarcity. On Monday, the administration announced its plan to slash food assistance for low-income families and replace it with a “Blue Apron-type program.” “What we do is propose that for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of, and I don’t want to steal somebody’s copyright, but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash,” said Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney during a policy briefing. The Trump administration plans to cut…
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Family planning services thin under Iowa GOP program

Family planning services thin under Iowa GOP program

Gazette Column
Despite Republican promises to the contrary, changes to family planning services has resulted in less access that will cost Iowans more. Last spring, Iowa Republicans crafted a new family planning program funded only with state dollars. They did so for the sole purpose of excluding providers that perform abortions or are part of a health network that does. Although abortion providers could accept public money under the previous program that was primarily funded at the federal level, none of the funds could be used for abortion services. The state’s new rules not only resulted in the expected exclusion of Planned Parenthood, but of other significant health care providers like the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the statewide UnityPoint network. Promises of expanded access haven’t materialized, according to a…
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Iowa Republicans are devaluing women – again

Iowa Republicans are devaluing women – again

Gazette Column
Iowa Republicans are once again making clear that they value the potential of pregnancy more than they value women. Their latest missive is Senate Study Bill 3143: “An act relating to the prerequisites for and prohibition against an abortion related to the testing for, and following the detection of, a fetal heartbeat, providing for a repeal, and providing penalties.” A nearly identical bill, HF2163, was introduced in the Iowa House: “An act recognizing the rights and protections accorded each life from the moment of fetal heartbeat detection, prohibiting the performance of an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, providing for licensee discipline, and providing a repeal.” Both bills basically state that, once a fetal heartbeat is detected by ultrasound, a pregnant woman cannot legally obtain an abortion. Doctors who defy the…
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Iowans memorialized as face of opioid epidemic

Iowans memorialized as face of opioid epidemic

Gazette Column
Seven Iowa men are featured on a national map that has become a living memorial to the thousands of Americans lost to opioids. The Iowa list of victims is noticeably incomplete. From 2002 to 2014, as many as 1,239 people died from a prescription opioid overdose in Iowa, according to the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center. And, in each year since, the state has witnessed an increase in the number of people lost in opioid-related incidents. In 2016 — the year the seven men featured on the map died — there were 180 opioid-related deaths across the state. The Iowa Department of Public Health has projected 201 such deaths for 2017. The online map, developed in 2016 by ESRI engineer Jeremiah Lindemann, relies on users to add images and…
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Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Gazette Column
How will it cost taxpayers if the Iowa Legislature approves, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signs, a bill targeting so-called sanctuary communities? Let’s count the ways. The bill, Senate File 481, earned 32 votes and a nod of approval in the Iowa Senate last year. This week, it received a 2-1 vote in a House Public Safety subcommittee — despite law enforcement officials from across the state lobbying and speaking against it. The proposal must still advance through the full committee before it can be brought to the House floor. If approved by the Iowa House without any changes to what the Senate approved last year, it would be sent to the Governor’s Office where it could be signed into law. On Thursday night, the Reynolds-Gregg campaign used the bill as a fundraising plea, falsely…
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Layperson standard for emergency care is under attack

Layperson standard for emergency care is under attack

Gazette Column
Hundreds of Americans who recently sought treatment in emergency rooms have had insurance claims denied, leaving them owing thousands of dollars in medical bills. Is this the next health care battle in Iowa? Those with denied claims live in Missouri, Georgia and Kentucky and are insured by Indianapolis-based insurance giant Anthem. In Iowa, the company operates as Amerigroup, which provides Medicaid managed care. A letter, sent last year, spells out Anthem’s new emergency room policy in bold, blue text: “Save the ER for emergencies — Or you’ll be responsible for the cost.” Those with denied claims believe the insurance company is making decisions based on medical diagnosis instead of problems that led to emergency care. A 27-year-old Kentucky woman, for instance, sought care for what she believed to be potentially lethal…
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Theology as advocacy on death row

Theology as advocacy on death row

Gazette Column
Intersections luncheon features former Wartburg professor A former Wartburg College professor returns to the Hawkeye State this week to tell the story of a friend and theology scholar who was put to death by the state of Georgia in September 2015. And she has some questions. Jennifer M. McBride was board of regents chair in ethics, assistant professor of religion and director of peace and justice studies at Wartburg, a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Waverly. She now is associate dean of doctor of ministry programs and continuing education, and assistant professor of theology and ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. McBride first met Kelly Gissendaner — at the time, the only woman on Georgia’s death row — while directing a theology certificate program for the Atlanta…
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