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Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Gazette Column
The new National Health Security Preparedness Index is out, and Iowans continue to lag behind in plans for the state’s most vulnerable. Across most of the 139 measures used to compile the index, Iowans fare well with rankings at or slightly above the national average. Iowa gets an overall score of 7 out of 10 — the same score it’s had for the past three years. But while Iowa has stagnated, other states have improved. The 7 that placed Iowa above the pack in 2014, now puts it in the middle. Drilling further down, it’s apparent that there is one section in particular where Iowans are lagging behind. Index authors labeled it as “Community Planning and Engagement Coordination,” which includes actions taken to develop and maintain supportive relationships among government…
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Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Gazette Column
A funny thing happened in the wake of last year’s presidential election. No, it wasn’t that more women signed up to serve as foot soldiers on the political battlefield. They’ve always been there — marching, dialing and door knocking. The humorous part is how some are now surprised, how those individuals have forgotten or never understood herstory. According to common belief, women are not generally political leaders. We’re told that politics is too nasty a business for most women, or that most women simply aren’t capable of grasping the nuances of public policy. But that only holds true if “being politically active” is defined as giving major speeches or running for elected office. Women have — for more years than I’ve been walking the planet — served as the backbone…
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State won’t force my daughters

State won’t force my daughters

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past several years I’ve searched for a way to get my oldest daughter to move back to Iowa, and ways to keep my younger daughter in state. Thanks to the Iowa Legislature, I’m putting those plans on hold. There’s been plenty of “progress” this session that’s contributed to my decision. A full-throated denial of local control stands out, as do limitations on workers’ rights. But the final straw came this week when lawmakers decided that if my daughters become pregnant the state can force them to continue the pregnancy and give birth. It’s a decision that sickens me to my very core, and not just theoretically. I was one of those women who learned that a very much wanted child would not survive. I had to make the…
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An opportunity to care for Iowa’s kids

An opportunity to care for Iowa’s kids

Gazette Column
Before the General Assembly comes to a close lawmakers need take notice of new school lunch policies in the southwest. Legislators in Texas and California have filed bills to address “school lunch shaming.” New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed her state’s anti-shaming bill into law earlier this month, making it the first of its kind in the nation. “Study after study tells us that hungry students can’t keep up in school to meet their potential,” Martinez noted in her message to lawmakers. “I am pleased to sign Senate Bill 374, which ensures that our children will never go back to class hungry after lunch, even if their parents fail to pay outstanding bills for their meals.” The New Mexico effort, dubbed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act, was especially…
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How much can your city afford?

How much can your city afford?

Gazette Column
State lawmakers are putting your city between a rock and a hard place. Either way, you’ll pay. Senate File 481, which targets so-called “sanctuary” communities, was revived this week, earning a mostly party line vote (32-15) in the Iowa Senate. If the bill becomes law, every law enforcement agency in the state will be required to honor any and all verbal or written immigration detainer requests from the federal government. Further, every agency across the state will need to develop written policies by the start of next year to detail how their local officers will take on the added responsibilities of federal immigration law. Agencies and local governments that do not fulfill these mandates will be subject to civil lawsuits that can be initiated by anyone, including federal government agencies…
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Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
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Some more ‘woman’ law suggestions

Some more ‘woman’ law suggestions

Gazette Column
Since it appears Republicans in the Iowa Statehouse have run the gamut of nationally-promoted bills restricting the ability of women to be productive and healthy members of society, here are some suggestions for the remainder of the session. DIRTY WATER FOR ADULTERESSES The Bible, in the book of Numbers, details a process by which men can know if women have engaged in illicit affairs. The man should bring the woman to a member of the clergy, and that clergyman should have her consume “the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal.” Afterward, the clergyman creates a mixture holy water and dust from the floor, forces the woman to swear she has not cheated and then makes her drink. If the woman is lying, “her belly shall swell and her…
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Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Gazette Blog
As much as I need to stop thinking about the Washington Post story on Social Security disability benefits reprinted in The Gazette on Sunday, I’m having trouble letting it go. As the youngest child of elderly parents — my mother went to the doctor for concerns about menopause only to discover she was pregnant with me — I grew up on Social Security dependent benefits. So, in addition to my parents’ Social Security retirement checks, our family received a little more than $200 each month earmarked for me. In order to better make ends meet, my father and mother worked odd jobs. Until bone cancer made it impossible, my mother took in sewing projects. My dad mowed lawns and did handyman or mechanic work when he could find it. During…
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Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Atheist, humanist invocations planned at Iowa Statehouse

Gazette Column
This month the Iowa Statehouse moves closer to its “people’s house” nickname when first an atheist, and then a humanist, offer invocations from the well of the House chamber. The General Assembly has a long-standing tradition of invocations, which are brief meditations or prayers. It’s become routine for lawmakers to invite people from around the state to offer these morning speeches, marking a solemn beginning to the legislative work day. Throughout the years, a variety of religious and community leaders have spoken. Christian denominations hold the lion’s share of these appearances, but legislators also have heard from Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, and one Wiccan priestess. And now two secularists will join their ranks. This Wednesday, Manchester native and atheist Justin Scott will lead the ceremony. Then on April 17, Roxanne…
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Let facts guide child neglect, abuse policies

Let facts guide child neglect, abuse policies

Gazette Column
Seventy percent of the roughly 1,600 children who die in the U.S. each year from abuse or neglect are under the age of three. Those most likely to die from neglect or at the hands of an abuser are infants not yet a year old. These and other statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And sadly, according to national officials, many more cases go unreported. Because of that, in 2014, the agency estimated that one out of every seven children will experience some form of abuse or neglect. This is the type of information Iowa lawmakers should use when considering new or expanded prevention laws. Instead, a well-intentioned update of Iowa’s Safe Haven law that allows infants to be voluntarily relinquished at hospitals and other…
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