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

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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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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Stalking law changes need to go further

Stalking law changes need to go further

Gazette Column
Iowa Senate members took a significant step last week to improve Iowa’s lackluster stalking definition, but more should be done to align the law with technological realities. Senate File 468 passed unanimously (49-0) on March 21, and is now before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill updates the definition of criminal stalking by loosening a requirement that victims must personally fear bodily injury or death. If the bill is approved, the definition would include what would cause “what would cause a reasonable person” to feel frightened or terrorized for herself or immediate family members. In addition, electronic surveillance is explicitly noted within the statute as an action that can constitute stalking. Sen. Kevin Kinney, an Oxford Democrat and retired deputy sheriff with a wealth of experience combating human trafficking and…
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GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

GOP lawmakers create Saturday conflict

Gazette Blog
Some Eastern Iowans hoping to hear from both of their state legislators this Saturday will need to figure out how to be in two places at once. For decades the nonpartisan Linn County League of Women Voters has set aside one Saturday morning each month while the General Assembly is in session for a legislative forum. All area lawmakers are invited to come together, provide individual updates and answer questions from the public. That tradition will be broken this Saturday. Linn County’s Republican lawmakers — Rep. Ken Rizer, Rep. Ashley Hinson, Rep. Louis Zumbach and Sen. Dan Zumbach — have partnered with Farm Bureau to schedule a separate forum at the same date and time as the long-standing — and I cannot stress this enough — nonpartisan League forum. [caption…
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Lawmakers need a reality check

Lawmakers need a reality check

Gazette Column
Before lawmakers set blazes with their torches or run women out of the state with their pitchforks, they need to consider why late-term abortion exists. I had a late-term abortion. A routine ultrasound midway through the pregnancy showed significant and multiple neural tube defects. The worst was anencephaly, which is an absence of brain, skull and scalp. It happens in about 1,300 pregnancies each year in the U.S., and is always a death sentence. I won’t rehash my personal story here, since I’ve written and spoken extensively about it in the past. What I most want to convey, what I want readers and lawmakers to truly understand, is that because late-term abortion was an option, our family was given an opportunity to have other, healthy children. A piece of legislation…
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Lawmakers are wrong to rely on bubble

Lawmakers are wrong to rely on bubble

Gazette Column
Raise your hand if you’ve been blocked on social media by an elected official. If my feed is any indication, quite a few Iowa hands just flew into the air. “My friend, so I thought, Rep. (Name Removed), deleted me as a friend on Facebook last night. I was having an open and civil discussion about the collective bargaining bill and he began deleting comments from myself and other state employees,” wrote one poster. Another note read, “Rep. (Name Removed) is blocking anyone that tags him on Twitter.” The representative’s Twitter account was deleted shortly afterward. Several other examples exist — 45 at my last count — but these two suffice. [caption id="attachment_488" align="alignleft" width="300"] (Social Media Photo Illustration by Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)[/caption] Maybe some of this deleting and blocking…
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GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

GOP bills give ‘Big Gov’ a hug

Gazette Column
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice John Forrest Dillon is looking down — perhaps from atop the pillar of his namesake fountain in Davenport — reading proposals by the Republican-controlled Legislature and smiling. Justice Dillon, for readers unaware, is credited with Dillon’s Rule: “Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control. ” Dillon served on the Iowa high court from 1864 to 1869; the rule named after him is derived from two 1868 opinions. In Iowa, Dillon’s Rule was shelved in 1968, when the state constitution was amended to grant cities home rule. Additional…
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Extreme measures rarely last

Extreme measures rarely last

Gazette Column
In politics, there’s at least one thing you can always count on: Power exists on a pendulum. Public sentiment is always shifting. For years this inconvenient fact kept most politicians, and especially the dominant political parties, tilting toward center. They’ve understood that whenever massive force is applied in one direction, the back swing is as equally severe. Iowa’s Republican Majority is brazenly testing fate. [caption id="attachment_411" align="alignleft" width="640"] Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, gives opening remarks Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at the start of debate on Senate File 2. The bill ends a long-standing federal-state cooperative program for family planning, and creates a solely state-funded program. The new program, if approved, will exclude health providers that provide abortion services. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a party-line vote and will…
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