Why state leaders needed to step back from work requirements

Why state leaders needed to step back from work requirements

Gazette Column
State work requirements for Medicaid recipients appear to be scuttled, at least for this year. That’s a good thing because research and experience show the numbers don’t add up for participants or for taxpayers. The bill passed by the Iowa Senate, Senate File 538, required the Department of Human Services to petition the federal government for permission to implement Medicaid requirements beyond those already in place at the federal level. Those new stipulations centered on work requirements. Specifically, “able-bodied” recipients would need to work or volunteer a minimum of 20 hours each week, and government officials would need to make larger investments in software and staffing in order to track the changes with the increased veracity required by the bill. Sticks of chalk sit around a partially completed drawing of the…
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Iowa Republicans prefer to lie in private

Iowa Republicans prefer to lie in private

Gazette Column
Iowa House Republicans are behaving like children who have something to hide. Because they do. Last week, the Iowa House Public Safety Committee took up House File 481, the misnamed “sanctuary city” bill. Not only did members choose one of the smallest rooms in the Statehouse for the meeting, but Chairman Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, reserved nearly all the seats for GOP clerks. As Gazette political reporter James Q. Lynch noted in his article, such staffers do not typically attend committee meetings. Baudler said it was an attempt to maintain order as lawmakers again discussed the possibility of withholding untold swathes of state funding from local governments that do not go above and beyond what federal immigration law requires. Although GOP lawmakers want to frame this bill as a law-and-order measure…
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Iowa House bars school lunch shaming

Iowa House bars school lunch shaming

Gazette Column
Feeding kids linked to academic achievement, economic productivity Members of the Iowa House unanimously voted this week to protect Iowa school children from shaming — and give communities an economic edge. House File 2467 directs school districts to feed children, even those with meal accounts in the red, while continuing to pursue parents for payment. Alternate meals remain permissible, if the alternate is available to all students and not only those with negative meal account balances. It’s an effort to end what’s known as “shaming” of children whose parents and guardians don’t or can’t pay. Across the nation, and here in Iowa, students have had lunch trays taken from their hands and dumped into trash cans while other students watched. For some students in the Cedar Rapids area, this happened…
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Iowa Legislature is ignoring red flags

Iowa Legislature is ignoring red flags

Gazette Column
Debate on bill, amendments aimed at preventing gun violence denied Wary lawmakers in Iowa and around the nation insist ongoing debate about gun violence should center on mental illness, and not guns. So why is legislation aimed at temporarily removing guns from people in crisis being ignored? Iowa Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, made headlines this week for killing his own amendment, a red flag law he’d attached to a bill concerning mental health. The bill, which came out of the House Human Resources Committee, added provisions for involuntary commitments and hospitalizations and provided rules about how behavioral health information is disclosed to law enforcement agencies. Staed’s amendment would have allowed concerned family members and close friends to petition the court for a temporary weapons injunction against a person who…
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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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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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Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Featured, Gazette Column
Legislative page program should be paused until Statehouse culture changes Each year the Iowa Senate, House and Legislative Services Agency employ high school juniors and seniors as pages. Unless persistent and significant workplace culture questions are answered, 2018 should be an exception. It’s been nearly five months since an Iowa court found that Kirsten Anderson, a former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staff member, was wrongfully terminated hours after she reported sexual harassment. It’s been more than a month since the state settled the case without an appeal, agreeing to pay Anderson and her attorneys $1.75 million from the state’s coffers. To date, no one has been held accountable. [caption id="attachment_1419" align="alignleft" width="500"] A portion of the Iowa Senate GOP's internal investigation report atop a picture of the Iowa Statehouse.[/caption] Perhaps…
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Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Gazette Column
Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday. Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true. Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was…
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State won’t force my daughters

State won’t force my daughters

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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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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